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.
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.
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:
Focus on your Audience first (target customer persona), then Channel second.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Do you base your business decisions on your customer feedback and input?
Or do you go with what you think they “should” want?
This article on Market Orientation will help you better listen to your customers and use that input to guide your solo business planning. It’s an important skill to have, and helps you be frugal with your focus, delivering what your market really wants and needs.
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”.