5 Things I Wish I Had Known About Being A Solopreneur

Posted on July 11, 2016.

This is the second in a series from guest blogger, Jessica Fox, on the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship.

When I started out as a freelance writer, it was partially by accident.Growing up and all through college (where I majored in communication), I’d written stories and journaled regularly.

When my mom and I opened a bridal shop, including a blog on our website seemed natural. At that time, blogging was on the newer side, and our shop’s blog became a huge component in our SEO, directly affecting sales and store visits.

After the boutique closed, I was lost.  Not knowing what else to do, I kept blogging. Within a couple months, I was asked to ghostwrite an English bridal designer’s blog. It’s still incredible to me that life delivered a second opportunity to do something I loved while also earning a living.

Since that first freelance writing contract several years ago, things have evolved.  I picked up more blogging work and have been engaged to write web copy, product descriptions, newsletters, blog entries, personal essays and more for a variety of industries, ranging from weddings and interior design to business consultancy and equestrian. 

In the process, I’ve learned things about being a solopreneur which would have been HUGE to know when I started. 

So, today I’m paying it forward by serving up my top five tips:

Perception Is Reality. In the beginning, when people asked me what I did for work, I’d murmur “freelance writing” and then rush to explain that I wasn’t a real writer. They wouldn’t find my byline in The Washington Post or anything. Big mistake. In diminishing myself, I lost the opportunity to sell my services and contributed to an internal narrative in which I was an imposter.  This made earning new business harder because I effectively told myself and everyone else I was not to be taken seriously.  Don’t do this. Whatever it is you do, say it with the same amount of confidence with which Babe Ruth pointed to the outfield when he called his shot.

Show Me The Money. It’s super tempting to lunge like a ravenous moray eel toward any work (unpaid, underpaid, or otherwise) that passes your way.  Resist the urge.  Yes, you might need to build a portfolio or pay the rent, but you have to think about the long game. Clients that don’t value your worth now will not magically transform into those that do. While a little pro bono goes a long way, don’t make it a habit. Value your time. Value your knowledge. Know your worth.  Balance that against what the market will bear and quote your terms.

The Five Ws. There’s a reason SBA loans require a business plan. Knowing who, what, why, where and when are essential if you intend to be successful.  Ask yourself: Who is your ideal client or customer? Why do they need you? How will you reach that customer? What sets you apart? How will you cultivate customer loyalty? What is your overhead? How much do you need to earn? If you answer all those questions and develop a  strategy, your road to successful solopreneurship will be much smoother.

Get Out There.  I loathe networking. At first, I avoided it like a vampire does sunlight.  Now, I wish I had started sooner because all those squandered opportunities for new and interesting projects are enough to make me weep. Also, I would have eaten many fewer PB&J sandwiches. People are more likely to refer and engage those with whom they have a connection.  Think of it this way: in marketing, you want your brand to be top of mind. As a solopreneur, this is done in large part through shaking hands, making small talk and forging a connection with potential customers.

Learn To Say No.  Exhausted and overwhelmed is not a good look, and I guarantee it will show in your work. If you’re lucky, others might not see it, but when the fates conspire, poor quality output may result in an unhappy or lost customer. Nobody wants that.  I don’t like saying no to a project, and it’s true that a couple weeks of nonstop hustle never hurt anyone, but it’s not sustainable forever.  So, learn your limits, respect them, and learn to communicate that in a way which leaves the door open for future engagements.

Jessica Fox is a freelance writer currently living in Los Angeles, CA where she writes as much as possible to feed her increasingly voracious horse-habit. You can find her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gtmochi )  or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/jessequestrienne/).