Should you use “I” or “We” when talking about your business?
What do you put on the “About” page of your website or social profile?
I get asked these questions frequently by my clients.
My advice is always the same: The most important thing when running a one-person business is to be authentic. It may have been different thirty years ago, but in today’s world there is no shame in being a brand of one. So own it… turn what could be seen as a negative, into a positive.
How do you do that?
A focused mindset
A targeted niche
It’s all about mindset.
Don’t think about that big company selling products or services in your category as your competition. They are not! Figure out what makes you unique as a one-person business, and focus on that. This is your USP (unique selling proposition). That might include personal service, one-on-one relationships with the CEO (you!), fast customer response, customization & personalization of products or services, etc. You get the idea.
Then target the customers who value these features.
The customers who value your uniqueness are the ones who are willing to pay more for it. Those are your “ideal” or “most profitable” customers, and you need to be laser-focused on meeting their needs in a way that that big company cannot.
Build a Brand of One
Own the fact that you’re a one-person business, and build that into your brand. Here are some ideas for potential brand attributes that celebrate the “solo” in solopreneur:
a personal touch,
Access to the business owner (you) rather than dealing with subordinates
Fast, personalized customer support
Top-notch customer service
Responsive to feedback
Ability to meet custom requests
In-depth knowledge of your target customer microcosm (the more focused you are, the more you can be an expert!)
Focus on Your Microcosm
Your brand of one is what differentiates your micro business from those larger companies in your space. Large companies market to an ecosystem, a broad customer base – they have to, because of the inherent overhead costs they have. You can focus your brand on a microcosm – a subset of the market that you know really, really well, and customers that value what you offer.
Now back to those questions that I started with…
Does a Solopreneur Need a “Brand”?
Your brand is you: what makes you unique (in terms of the value you deliver to your customers)? What adjectives best describe your business and your approach to your work and your customers?
Brand is much more than your logo or the look and feel of your website. In fact, those things are much less important than your USP (unique selling proposition): What is the one thing that is unique about you or your business that will convince customers in your microcosm that they should buy from you.
Is your Business “I” or “We”?
If yours is truly a solo business (you don’t even have any part-time or outsourced help), then my recommendation is to avoid using “We”. “We” is not true, and comes across as insincere to anyone who knows that you’re a solopreneur. Don’t try to be something you’re not… instead own what you are. At the same time, depending on your target market, sometimes using “I” comes across as too informal or in some cases even unprofessional in the eyes of your potential customers (again, depending on your market). In that case, try to phrase your copy without using either “we” or “I”. Refer to “the store” or “the company” instead. For example, you might write “new products have been added to the store”, or “the company delivers leading-edge services in…”.
However, if your business uses any labor other than yourself, whether employees, contractors, part-time help, or just family members who help out, then it’s okay to use “We” if that seems best.
Your “About” Page is Important
Studies show that the “About” page is usually the second-most visited page on any website, after the homepage. Having a good “About” profile is also an important part of your business social media presence.
Your About page should strike a balance of business professionalism, with your unique personality and flair. The exact balance will depend on your target market and what they expect (a lawyer’s website is going to need to be more “professional” than that of an artist, for example).
This is the place to really describe your “Brand of One”. Yes, talk about your business and what products or services you provide. But also tell your own personal and professional story – what brought you to start this business? What is unique about your business? What is your own background in your space?
You may have read the articles about lifestyle business that show a glamorous life of travel and laptops on the beach. Believe me, that’s not the reality for most solopreneurs! Being a solo business owner or solopreneur is not easy, it’s often lonely, and there’s no one else to make the hard decisions, hold accountable for mistakes, celebrate wins, or commiserate with about losses.
Despite the challenges, solopreneurship can be very satisfying (I should know – I’ve been a fulltime solopreneur for the past seven years).
Many business guides for the new or aspiring entrepreneur tell you to start with what you are “passionate” about.
But how important is “passion” really when starting a new business? Is the owner of the dry cleaners on the corner really passionate about clean clothes? Does the convenience store owner dream about stacking boxes of soda?
Passion (what you enjoy doing) is only one of the trifecta of ingredients for a successful startup. The other two are skills (what are you good at?) and financials (what will make money?).
So, yes, passion is important. As a solo business owner, there won’t be anyone to tell you to get back to work. You’ll need to be self-motivated, even when things are going badly and/or you don’t enjoy the specific task that needs doing. It’s much easier to be self-motivated when you are passionate about what your business stands for, or really enjoy the topic or focus of your business.
But passion certainly isn’t everything. I may be passionate about opera, but if I can’t sing and I can’t think of any way to monetize it, then it’s not going to make for a good business.
Ideally, a good lifestyle business idea should be a combination of:
activities that you really enjoy, or a mission that you’re passionate about,
skills that differentiate you from your competition (or that you can learn to do better), and
opportunities to earn money in a scaleable way.
The word “scaleable” is important in that last bullet, particularly for a solo business. I’ll be writing more about it in another post. “Scaleable” earnings mean that the business can grow even with a limited amount of resources (time, money) that you’re able to put into it. Non-scaleable earnings are things like one-on-one hourly consulting work (dollars per hour of your time) since there’s always going to be a cap on how much you can charge on an hourly basis, and how many hours you’re able to bill out on a weekly basis.
Some people may refer to “passive income”, but the truth is that growing a business is never passive, so I prefer to use the term “scaleable income”.
There are many opportunities for the solopreneur, from freelancing to ecommerce to writing. If your focus is to do it the frugal way by bootstrapping your business with no outside funds, then you have a lot of options available to you if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Here are just a few possibilities to think about. But the final decision is yours alone: what do you enjoy doing? what specific skills or experience do you have?
Freelancing is a great option if you want the flexibility of working from anywhere, but like to be part of a virtual team or do work for other people. Specialties include graphic design, coding, web design, social media management, writing or editing. A good place to start is to take a look at a freelancing site such as Upwork to see what types of projects are available.
Selling on Amazon, eBay, etc
It is easy to set up a seller account on sites such as Amazon and eBay and list a few things for sale. All you need is a Paypal account and/or credit card to get paid. However, the challenge is in finding the right items to sell at the right price, taking great pictures, writing excellent descriptions, and getting traffic to your items.
Your Own eCommerce Store
Whether you sell your own products that you make, or resell items at a profit, you can quickly set up your own website to sell from using PayPal or Stripe. The biggest challenge will be to get visitor traffic to your store (assume conversion rates of only a few percent, so you need at least 100 visitors daily to make sales every day). This is where writing comes in (see below): even if your website is sales-focused, you need to be constantly adding new content via a blog or articles that will bring in search engine traffic.
Selling Digital Products
There are many things you can create and then sell that don’t involve having to send a package in the mail: create your own app or software, write an ebook, sell your photography or web templates – the list goes on.
Blogging or Writing Online
If you enjoy writing, then setting up a blog or informational website might be a good option for you. You need to make sure you’re adding new top-quality content regularly (at least weekly), posting it to social media, and participating in other online communities where your readers might hang out.
Where most bloggers and website owners fail is being able to bring in a large enough volume of visitor traffic to make any monetization option successful. Whether you sell your own informational products (eg, ebooks), link to affiliate products (eg, Amazon) or use PPC ads such as Google AdSense, you need a lot of traffic to earn a living from this option.
I highly recommend the SBI (Solo Build It!) platform to help you build an online business with traffic, and not just a blog which no one reads. I have a few SBI websites and I’m very happy with all the tools they provide – those sites get a lot more traffic than others I have hosted elsewhere! You can check out SBI here.
As a solopreneur, you can start to feel that you have so many different hats to wear that it’s impossible to perform any function in your business particularly well. There are client deliverables to finish, customer orders to fulfill, inventory to organize, blogs to write, social media posts to get up, and on it goes…
With all the to-do’s fighting for your attention, your mind gets pulled one way then another… before you know hours have gone by and you haven’t gotten any of it done! Does this ever happen to you?
It happens to me too. What is the best way to get my mind back in focus? A walk in the woods…
My path to solopreneurship was driven by a combination of necessity and a desire for self-fulfillment. I’d had a successful career in tech marketing strategy, working at companies like Intel and Gartner Group. But I was becoming tired of the cubicle 9-5 being constantly surrounded by people (I’m a natural introvert), and as the mother of a young son I wanted to spend more time at home with him. But could I afford to do so?
The realization came when I sat down one day to see how much money I was really spending on working for someone else: commute costs into the city every day, coffee and lunch, professional clothing, school before/after care costs, babysitting costs, and all the extra expenses we tend to incur for the sake of convenience when there isn’t enough time to do it all: takeout food, housecleaning services, dog walkers, salon services, etc. Despite a six-figure salary, the percentage going to all these extra expenses was still astounding. Clearly, I couldn’t afford NOT to work from home.
That was five years ago.
I’d love to say it was easy, and I quickly reached the same income as my 9-5. In truth, it was a lot harder than I’d expected, but more satisfying than I’d anticipated as well. I think the biggest challenge was knowing where to focus my time and energy for the maximum results, and not getting distracted by the next new shiny thing. When you’re working for yourself, new ideas and opportunities come up all the time, and it’s tempting to go after them. But each new project takes more time to mature than you realize. Focus is the friend of the first-time solopreneur!
In my next posts, I’ll go into more detail on ways to develop focus and scale as a solopreneur, what worked for me, and what is still work in progress, so stay tuned!