What Is a Lifestyle Business?

A lifestyle business is a small business whose main goal is to meet the lifestyle needs of the owner(s).

How is that different from a startup? Typically, a startup has growth goals beyond just supporting the founder’s lifestyle needs. The ultimate goal of most startups is to grow into a larger business or achieve a similar high-value exit such as a merger or acquisition (although most do not achieve such high goals).

Examples of lifestyle businesses might be:

  • An individual freelancer, coach, or consultant,
  • A “micro” business (typically fewer than five employees),
  • A solo online business,
  • A “side gig” business, such as selling from home on an online marketplace like Etsy or Ebay,
  • A small family business,
  • Running a blog, being a social “micro” influencer, etc

Keep reading this article about lifestyle businesses on my website, SoloBizGuide.

Time Management for Solopreneurs

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Effective time management is critically important for success as a solopreneur. When you are the only person responsible for all the “jobs” in your business, it can feel like you are being pulled in a thousand different directions and focusing on any one task is impossible.

But focus is critically important also.

So how can a solopreneur balance focus with the necessary multi-tasking?

The key is prioritization and time blocking. This lets you fully focus on a particular task without distractions, during the time you have allocated to it. Let’s cover each of these in turn.

The 4 Rules of Prioritization

There are always a thousand things to do in a solo business. And most entrepreneurs are also idea people, so you’re probably continuously coming up with new exciting things to add to your to-do list.

Here are some rules to follow to help you prioritize that ever-growing list.

Rule #1: Write it Down

You can’t focus with a thousand ideas and to-do’s floating around in your head. Believe me – I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work!

As soon as you think of something, whether it’s a new idea or something that needs doing, simply make a quick note of it, and get back to the task at hand. You can write it down on a Post-It note, add it on your phone or computer, make a note on your calendar or notepad – whatever works for you. The important thing is that it’s out of your head and onto “paper” that you can re-visit at a later time. This allows you to get back to focus 100% on what you were doing.

Rule #2: Don’t Get Distracted by Greener Grass

That’s especially critical for thoughts that come into your head that seem more important than what you’re working on right now (unless it truly is urgent, of course!). It’s easy to get distracted by the “Greener Grass” effect: The horse in the paddock always wants to eat the grass that looks greener on the other side of the fence.

The “Greener Grass” effect is the #1 reason why a solopreneur may be busy all day but feel like they accomplish nothing.

Rule #3: Make a List

On a regular basis (but not more than once per day) review and prioritize your list of to-do items.

Realize that you won’t be able to accomplish all the ideas that come to you. That’s why prioritization and focus are so important. But don’t throw anything out. If it’s written down and “on the list” then it’s available if you have time for it in the future, and it won’t keep popping back into your mind distracting you from what is a priority right now.

Rule #4: Choose a Task Management Method

How do you prefer to manage a to-do list? There are many different task management apps, calendar approaches, or a simple pen-and-paper to-do list. What works for one person may not work for another, so choose a method that works for you and stick with it. But don’t make choosing a task management process another distraction from focusing on priorities that help grow your business! What’s important is that you have a method, and you stick with it for a period of time – you can always refine it as you go.

Time Blocking

The second key component of effective time management is Time Blocking. This involves blocking off time on your calendar to take care of the specific tasks that you have identified as the priorities for your business. During each block of time you focus on just that one thing – don’t let other tasks or distractions interrupt you.

Personally, I like to use a variation on the Pomodoro method, which involves interspersing “sprints” of focused work blocks (set a timer for 25 minutes) with brief “breaks” (5 minutes) to give your mind a rest and transition to the next block of work. After four such “sprints” you can take a longer break (say 30 minutes) before starting over again.

Your Time Management Approach

I think the best time management approach for a solopreneur is to consciously choose a method that works for the way you work and think. This is different for everyone. But hopefully this has helped you give your own time management needs some thought, and gives you some ideas to try that will help balance the need for Focus and Multi-Tasking that is a reality for every solopreneur.

What time management approaches do you find work best for you? Leave a comment below!

Writing a Marketing Communications Plan

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A marketing communication plan (or marcom plan) is a plan to communicate your marketing messages to your target customer audience. You can have the best strategy and positioning in the world, but if you don’t effectively communicate it to your target customers your business will fail regardless.

Check out this article to learn what makes a strong marketing communications strategy and plan, and how to easily put one together for your business.

Keep reading.

Tips for Finding your Ideal Customer

In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of Focus for a solopreneur.

Focus is all about knowing who you are serving (your ideal customer) and what they need, then delivering that to them.

So how do you figure out your ideal target customer?

In this article on my Software Marketing Advisor website, I talk about how to identify your target customer, and how to use that information to improve your marketing.

Focus & Consistency

What is the key to success for an online solopreneur?

Unfortunately there is no guaranteed key to success… But I do believe there are two important necessary ingredients: FOCUS and CONSISTENCY.

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Focus = being frugal with your energy

The first necessary ingredient for solopreneur success is Focus: knowing your target customer and end goal, and focusing on those business activities that get you there.

It’s very easy to spread your energy across many different ideas (I do it too!), without any one area getting enough focus to have an impact. As a solo business owner, it’s vitally important to focus your efforts to achieve results with the limited energy and resources that you have as one individual.

Consistency = being frugal with your time

The second necessary ingredient is Consistency: follow the straight line path to achieve your goals by being consistent in your business activities on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis.

You have limited time, so make the most of it by having a regular schedule of activities that you do every day or every week. Each action builds on the actions of the previous days. That is how you have an impact as just one person.

That means posting to your blog or channel regularly (if you commit to weekly or daily, then stick to it), listing new items for sale in your store every single day, sending a client proposal out every day, or making twenty cold calls or emails every day. Your exact goal(s) will depend on your business and the product or service that you offer, but know what those daily goals are, make a list, and check off your list EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It’s easy to get discouraged and decide you need to try something new. And sure, sometimes it is necessary to pivot. But remember: Strong businesses aren’t built overnight, but if you really know your target customer and what they need, you price your product or service right, and you’re Focused and Consistent every single day, then over time you WILL see the impact of your efforts.

7 Steps to a Marketing Strategy

As a solopreneur it can be really hard to find time for strategy. After all, you’re already wearing multiple hats. Sometimes strategy feels like an afterthought.

But doing marketing without strategy is like trying to build a home without an architect’s house plan. You can hire the very best carpenter, electrician, and plumber, but without a plan you’ll probably end up with a mess.

The same goes for marketing. Sure, you can find a great graphic designer, web developer, content writer and social media manager. But if you don’t have a strategy you can waste money and time very quickly without any results to show for it.

Follow these 7 steps to develop your marketing strategy.

Notice this starts with understanding your Market and your Customer, not your Product.

The first four steps help you build a detailed picture of your ideal customer.

Then understand their needs and pain points… That allows you to properly message your Product to serve their needs.

Finally, the communications strategy is just about identifying the best way to reach your ideal customer where they are looking for solutions.

Learn more about the Seven Step Strategy here, where you can also download my ebook on the 7 Step Marketing Strategy Process.

Audience versus Channel

As a solopreneur, your niche Audience will determine the Channel you use.

Today I want to talk about the difference between Audience and Channel.
I see an awful lot of people I work with confuse the two, and there’s really a big difference, particularly when you’re a small business owner or a solo business owner.

You really cannot forget the importance of your Audience.

A lot of people, when they think about a new business idea, they think “Okay, this is what I want to sell”, or “I have this idea for a product or service”, and then they immediately think about Channel: selling their product on Etsy, or starting a consulting business and selling services in person to local small businesses…

They are thinking Channel.

But you can’t think about Channel until you know first and foremost who your Audience is. Audience is the most important thing.
What do I mean by that? Really what it comes down to is Focus: it’s so important to be laser focused on your ideal target customer – having a detailed image (Persona) of the ideal person for your product. Who’s the perfect person that you envision using it? If you’re offering a service – who’s your ideal client? Who are the ones not only that can use your service, but who are going to be super excited about it, who can’t wait for your new product or service. Who are going to be the brand ambassadors because they love it so much?

As a solo business owner there is nothing more valuable than your time and your focus. So know who your ideal customer is, and always be delivering and speaking to THAT person. This is just so important.
You might think that because you have a service or product that works for anyone, why shouldn’t you try to appeal to absolutely everyone? And that sounds great at the beginning, because that does sound like that makes your audience larger. Isn’t it better if your potential audience is larger? But the truth is it’s actually not, which I know sounds contradictory.
As a solo or small business owner, if you try to target absolutely everyone… there’s no way you can compete with the big companies out there. There’s no way you can compete with the brands who have access to big budget marketing and advertising.

So how can you compete as a solo business owner or a small business? It’s by really knowing your niche, really knowing who that ideal customer is. Get in their head… Know what they want… Know what they care about… Deliver that to them.

Never forget that your business is to serve that Target Customer. Make your audience believe that you care about them and their needs. That is what will differentiate your small business from the big brands.
Really only after you know exactly who your target Audience is can you then start thinking about Channel. Because then you can say… Okay, my ideal target customer is this person – where are they online? Are they buying things on Etsy? Are they buying freelance services on UpWork? Are they on Google searching for something and if they are then what keywords are they using? Are they on YouTube? Are they looking for videos on how to do whatever it is they want done, or how to solve a particular problem? Then that’s where you need to be. But until you know your Audience you don’t have enough information to decide on the right Channel.
Also, don’t necessarily limit your business to a single Channel. And definitely don’t define your business by the channel. Don’t say “I have an Etsy business” or “I am an UpWork freelancer”. It might be that those are your primary platforms, but first and foremost think of your audience, think of everything that they need and want, and then give that to them. So instead, describe your business as “I deliver XYZ products to ABC customers” or “I solve XYZ problem for ABC clients”.
Give your target customers (Audience) what they need and want (Products), where they are looking for it (Channels).
So you might have a product that you sell on Etsy, but maybe there’s a service around that product that you can sell on a freelancing platform, and then maybe you also have your own website where you have ebooks that provide helpful tips for that same audience, etc.

So these are just a couple of points to keep in mind when it comes to Audience versus Channel:

  1. Focus on your Audience first (target customer persona), then Channel second.
  2. Don’t define your business by your Channel (eg, “I have an Etsy business” or “I am a Youtuber”), but define it by your Audience, and deliver what they need across multiple Channels.

Need some help figuring out your target audience, or narrowing down your marketing channels? Feel free to contact me.

Marketing Plan Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid these five most common marketing plan blunders:

  1. Not having an up-to-date marketing plan! Fix this easily with our Marketing Plan Template package – download here.
  2. Not knowing your marketing strategy, which results in “shooting in the dark” when doing marketing.
  3. Not making effective use of the internet and digital marketing.
  4. Focusing too heavily on a small number of big-budget marketing items, such as tradeshows or glossy brochures.
  5. Not tracking your marketing results.

Read more here: https://www.sevenstepsmarketing.com/marketing-plan-mistakes.html

Create Your Go-to-Market Plan

A successful launch can be a critical ingredient to the long-term viability of your product or service. Here are some ideas to help you plan a successful launch to really boost your product or company’s success. You can also use our Go-to-Market Toolkit to plan your go-to-market strategy for launch.

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Having a strong go-to-market or launch plan will not only help ramp your sales once you do launch. It can also give you a feel for the marketplace. The reaction of potential customers to your product pre-launch marketing can help you complete final tweaks or positioning of your product before launch rather than scrambling after.

The Go-to-Market Toolkit includes a go to market strategy template, “How to Launch Your Product” guide, checklists and go-to-market plans that you can use to make sure your new product or service introduction is as successful as possible.

These are just some of the benefits for your Go-to-Market plan:

  • Easily create a professional plan to launch your product or service.
  • Save time by using our templates – the hard work is done for you!
  • No more headaches not knowing how to plan your marketing.
  • Free up your focus for important product development tasks rather than worrying about promotion.
  • Target your messages to the best prospects and channels to maximize your launch impact.

Click here to check out the Go-to-Market template.

Can You Be Your Own Boss?

Have you ever wondered whether to be your own boss?

Almost everyone who has or has ever held a job, has thought about what it would be like to work for themselves, with no boss to tell them what to do.

Be your own boss? Sounds perfect! When can I start?

But the reality is not quite that simple… being your own boss does not mean that you get to do whatever you want whenever you want (unless, of course, you are independently wealthy already). It also doesn’t mean that you can only do those aspects of your business that you love.

When you’re working for yourself, there will always be grunt work, whether you have a boss telling you to do it or not.

So what does it take to be a successful solo business owner?

Keep reading to learn the skills needed to successfully work for yourself, and how to get started as a Solopreneur.

Do You Have Solopreneur Skills?

These are the skills needed to be your own boss:

  • dedication, patience & consistency
  • drive
  • self-discipline
  • ability to focus & prioritize, while also having the flexibility to pivot to meet customer demand
  • leadership skills – even if you don’t have employees, you have to be able to make decisions and “lead” your business
  • self awareness – know yourself (be realistic), and know how to combine your passion & your skills, while protecting your business from your weaknesses
  • stress management skills
  • ability to set your personal emotions aside (if a customer doesn’t like your product or your work, it’s important to listen to their feedback, just try not to take it personally).

How to get Started as a Solopreneur

If you think you have the skills needed to be your own boss, then here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Know your Goals

Think about why do you want to be your own boss? What do you hope to get out of your solopreneurship journey? What aspects of your work are important to you?

Make a list of your goals for your business and your work life (keep it short). This should guide your planning.

2. Know your Skills

Think about your past jobs, your hobbies, education, or other activities. What did you enjoy doing? What aspects were you particularly good at? What did you NOT like, or were not good at?

3. Figure Out your Finances

What is your personal financial situation? how much money do you NEED to earn? how can you downsize, if needed? how much money will you need to start your business?

4. Put an Initial Plan Together

If you’re bootstrapping your business, you may not need a lengthy, detailed business plan. But you should know the basics of your business’s finances, who your customers will be and how you will find them.

5. Seek Out your Community

As your own boss, you will no longer have the proverbial “water cooler” or office chit-chat and support. Know yourself and your own needs, and seek out local groups or online communities that you could participate in instead.

6. Get Customer Feedback

Realize that you may no longer have a traditional boss, but instead you have to sometimes make your customers or clients your boss. At the end of the day, your business is serving the needs of your customers: know what they want, and deliver that exceptionally well.

To get started, seek out individuals who represent your target customer and gather their feedback, interview them, and ask questions.

7. Find a Mentor

When you’re your own boss there’s no one to bounce decisions around with, and no one else to give you advice or support. An experienced mentor or coach can help guide you as you plan and manage your solo business.

I provide solo business coaching and have worked with hundreds of small businesses and solopreneurs over the past 25 years. You can learn more here.