There’s something we mentor our coaching clients and members on nonstop here at One Woman Shop: that you, as a solopreneur, are your first and foremost client.
It seems that without that constant reminder (that everyone needs), it’s easy to keep working in your business and forget that you deserve to work on your business. And it leads to your business often falling by the wayside.
But lately, we’ve seen another reason that it’s important to see yourself as your primary client: because it might just be what you need to get you past that persistent imposter syndrome that digs its claws in and just won’t let go each and every time you’re trying to create something new.
The question you’ll likely be asked
When your inner naysayer does decide to pay you a visit while you’re in creation mode, here’s what you’ll probably hear the most:
“Who do you think you are…”
…to be creating this workbook?
…to be teaching this subject?
…to be coaching these clients?
Fill in the blank with whatever illustrious doubt your imposter syndrome instills in you.
Then, keep this in mind: often times, you’re exactly the person who needs it.
One of my (Sara’s) favorite authors of all time, Ann Patchett, shared this sage advice in a NY Public Library podcast episode (that was an enlightening, inspiring, and hilarious conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert): “Write the book you want to read.” Likewise, Liz Gilbert preaches in her book, Big Magic, that we need to create for ourselves, not others.
So when you’re questioning who you are to create this, and who in the world is going to listen to what you have to say, be selfish — and create what you need.
Cristina built a 16-page outline for Building Your Online Community nearly overnight because it’s something she’d preached and coached on but knew we could better implement at One Woman Shop.
I, Sara, created Kickstart Your Content because I’ve helped others build effective content strategies and killer blogs, but couldn’t seem to kickstart my own.
And we both went heads down creating our latest product, The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, because if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past year of intense work at One Woman Shop, it’s that we need all the help we can get when it comes to taking care of our well-being and staying sane as solo business owners.
Put your work to use
The beauty of this approach is this: Not only does it get you past the mental barriers of believing that you’re unfit to create what you’ve set out to build; it also truly solves a problem you have. So once you’re over the hump of creating what you need, practice what you preach and use it.
Go through the lessons of your e-course; hunker down with the workbook; do the work. Not only will you better your business (your #1 client), you’ll also improve what you’ve created when you put it into action.
Take that, imposter syndrome. Who am I to create my next product or service, you ask? The perfect candidate, indeed.
Your turn: What do you tell that pesky imposter syndrome when it’s holding you back from creating?
By now, you’ve probably heard of theSkimm, the startup run by friends and business partners
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg. In case you haven’t: It’s a daily email that rounds up news from around the world in a bite-sized, snarky format. If you’re not yet convinced, keep this in mind: Oprah reads theSkimm every day, they’ve received $6.25 million in funding, and in just two years, they hit 500,000 subscribers.
How does this relate to your solo business, even if you aren’t necessarily looking for venture capital or a business partner?
Here are a few lessons from Carly, Danielle, and the rest of theSkimm team that you can apply to your solo biz:
Make opting in the obvious choice
Shaming your readers? Probably not the best idea. Gently poking fun at them? Gold mine. theSkimm does this by making people feel silly for not opting in. When you land on the site, a pop-up appears with two choices: to click the sign-up button or to click the button that says “No thanks, I prefer to be miserable in the morning.” Kinda makes signing up seem like the obvious choice, right?
theSkimm markets itself very clearly as a daily email delivered to your inbox at 6am EST. Their tagline is “We read. You skimm,” which notifies potential subscribers that they should expect an easily digestible format.
We’re not saying you should send out a daily email to your community (in fact, that seems like a completely unnecessary undertaking for a solo business owner!), but you too can capitalize on this transparency in your business. We sought to create consistency by scheduling The Hot Seat, our weekly “talk show,” every Wednesday so that people know exactly where and when to find us. Another common example? Marie Forleo followers know that every Tuesday, Marie will post a new episode of MarieTV.
Telling people what to expect isn’t limited to scheduling. Marketing a blog post as a “primer” or “101” instantly tells people that it’s basic, introductory content, just like titling a YouTube video “Quick Tip” indicates — you guessed it — that it’s a short video.
Create an instantly recognizable brand
You’ve probably heard more about branding than you care to know. (No? Then check out our Personal + Professional Branding theme!) But it bears repeating: your images, your colors, your tone, and your formatting should be recognized by your community no matter where you happen to be, online or off — your site, on social media, in the comment areas of other blog, or while giving a live presentation.
We’d wager a guess that any Skimm reader could tell you their signature color (Skimm Blue, as they call it), a few of their memorable subject lines (like Gobble Gobble in honor of Thanksgiving and Espresso Yourself), some of their frequent categories (Quote or Word of the Day, Repeat After Me, Skimm Reads), and their classic first line, “Skimm’d” which is always completed with both cheeky and relatable examples like “over Pillsbury cookie dough,” “watching the Emmys” and “from bed.” They even have a name for their “language”: Skimm-ese.
Capture your own signature pieces and rock those babies anywhere and everywhere.
Speak to your audience
It’s immediately obvious whenever you interact with theSkimm — on their site, on their Instagram account, or in their actual emails — who their audience is: busy millennial women who want to stay up-to-date on world events but don’t necessarily have the time or energy to seek it out. How do we know that’s their audience? They tell us — through that shade of Skimm Blue we mentioned and through references to white wine, “Law & Order: SVU” marathons, Equinox gym memberships, and the US Open.
How can you do this in your solo business? We’ll assume you know who you’re speaking to. Make two lists: one list of things that you identify with and another of things you constantly hear about from your community. In an actual or figurative Venn diagram (love us some Venn diagrams!), find the overlap. This is a version of the method we used to create some of our most popular offerings, like our Solopreneur Sanity Handbook (from conversations about productivity and self-care) and our Location Independence Month (from conversations about the desire of so many in our community to be able to travel and run a business simultaneously).
Make people feel included + incentivize sharing
We personally can’t stand the Mean Girls-inspired graphic circulating on Instagram that says “You can’t sit with us.” We’re opposed to references to exclusion and love the opposite approach: inclusion. theSkimm makes people feel included — and therefore, more inclined to share — in several ways: by mentioning all reader birthdays and by encouraging people to become Skimm’bassadors.
We do the same by allowing people to carry the #OneWomanShopBaton on Instagram, providing a badge that our members can put up on their sites, offering opportunities for members to be featured in the Member Spotlight, and choosing a Member of the Week at random, not to mention special little treats like a chance to win a Starbucks gift card (for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, of course) if you send out a tweet on our behalf.
Find creative ways to loop your community into your mission — and then make it easy for them to showcase their participation by creating Swipe Files of the content you want them to send out, including pre-drafted Click to Tweets, for example.
For goodness sake, make it fun
We imagine it’s a bit of a challenge to make serious world news both informative and fun, but theSkimm does just that. Likewise, teaching people about WordPress, for example, could be incredibly dull, but Shannon of WP+BFF does it in a fun, relatable way. Talking to people about productivity + self-care, like we do in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, could feel heavy-handed and boring, but we do our best to make it relatable with personal anecdotes and examples.
How can you make things just a bit more relatable, digestible, and yes, flippin’ fun for your community of clients, customers, and collaborators today?
Welcome to Shop Talk! While we love providing you with jam-packed, actionable posts, we also wanted to share quick, thought-provoking snippets here and there — from our brains to yours.
Often in life and in business, we’re so intimidated and overwhelmed by something that, instead of breaking it into actionable chunks, we give up altogether.
Learning a language? You’ll never be completely fluent, so why start?
Learning to code? There are too many programming languages out there and you’ll never be an “expert,” so why even bother?
Becoming a champion meditator? An hour, let alone a week, of silence sounds like hell, so why waste your time?
Feeling fit and comfortable in your body? You have too much weight to lose, so what difference will a few pounds make?
What if you were to start with a few minutes per day of French on Duolingo? Or one module from CodeAcademy each morning? Or the shortest Calm meditation each evening? (Hint: It’s two minutes.) Or an intense 15-minute HIIT workout from YouTube in the middle of your day to wake you up and burn some calories?
This isn’t all hypothetical — I (Cristina) have committed to doing about 10 minutes per day of French on Duolingo. I’ve gone from knowing about two phrases (like “J’aime Paris,” because of those shirts that everyone used to wear all of the time in middle school or “C’est la vie” because…B*Witched) to writing and speaking complete sentences and even having mini-epiphanies. (Pret a Manger, the restaurant chain? That means “ready to eat.” I know, my mind was blown too.) Meanwhile, Sara put off meditating for over a year because 20 minutes was way too scary. Committing to five minutes per day in the month of December has made it a regular part of her routine now.
The point? You can see very obvious improvements with a daily habit of just a few minutes.
Choose your “time of least resistance,” and get started. We cover this in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook: It’s the amount of time that you feel able to commit to following through on without much resistance. It’s not a shortcut; it’s a firestarter. Think to yourself: Am I willing to work on this blog post for 15 minutes? If that feels like too much but 10 minutes seems doable, you’ve got your time of least resistance. If 45 minutes at the gym feels completely overwhelming, ask yourself if 35 minutes seems more manageable. Yes? Do that.
And if your time of least resistance is 30 seconds (say, enough for one new word per day)? Bam — start there.
If you know me IRL (in real life), you’ll know that I often think in blog posts — I see a pattern in my life or the lives of friends and family and suddenly, a short and actionable blog post writes itself my head (kinda like the Matrix, but with words instead of numbers).
This situation is no different. I began noticing that often I and others don’t act in accordance with what we say we want. We tell ourselves and those around us that we really really want to (insert alleged desire here — be a digital nomad, be in a relationship, make speaking engagements part of our business, etc.). Yet our actions don’t align with what we say. We don’t make plans to sell our things and start an online business, we don’t go out and socialize in the hopes of meeting a great partner or get on Tinder, and we don’t set up a speaker page on our website or send out pitches to local groups asking if we can speak to them for free to get more practice.
So, I encourage you to think of something you say you really want. Maybe it’s to get fit, feel more calm and in control as you run your solo business, or to finally get your first ebook written. Now, think about what steps would be required to get you there — like committing to 30 minutes of weight training three times a week, meditating for five minutes per day, or setting aside time to write when inspiration hits.
(Side note: often, taking that first step requires deciding to tenaciously choose action instead of sitting around waiting for motivation to tap you on the shoulder.)
But first, decide if you really want it
Now, this right here is the most important first (and last, as the case may be) step: decide if you want this thing badly enough to work for it. Maybe, if you’re being honest with yourself (which is my favorite new phrase, especially during coaching — so many of my questions now start with “if you’re being honest with yourself…”), you don’t want this thing you say you want.
Maybe the idea of the nomadic laptop lifestyle is appealing but you’d actually rather stay in one place. Maybe you’d rather work on your business than spend time dating right now. Maybe you’re lured in by the glamour of public speaking but writing blog posts and interacting on social media is really more your style.
And that’s absolutely fine! The important thing is to begin to acknowledge when you’re not acting in accordance with what you say you want.
What to do when it’s not that easy
Maybe it’s a bit more complicated than a quick decision. Let’s say that there’s something big standing in your way. Maybe you really want to write for The Huffington Post, but you’re scared of rejection. You want to build your email list, but you’re afraid of looking desperate by sending cold outreach emails. You really do want a boyfriend, but you’re scared of feeling vulnerable. All of these are legitimate fears that often aren’t solved with a snap decision. If there’s something bigger standing in your way, acknowledge that obstacle and start working to remove it or lessen its influence on your life (coaching and therapy are two potential paths).
Most importantly, begin to align what you say you want with your actions — starting today.
P.S. It wasn’t until after I finalized this post that I realized a lot of the phrasing I use above is based on a conversation with my sister, a behavioral therapist for kids with autism, about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). If you’re looking for an interesting read, check out the ACT Wikipedia page.
You already know the value of a good conference. Not only will you gain invaluable insights from expert speakers at your sessions, they’re also a great way to connect with other solopreneurs who could turn into lifelong friends (or business partners!). If you’re like most solopreneurs, you’re itching to go to the conference everyone in your industry is talking about.
Unfortunately, you might not have enough time or money to make it happen.
Travel and hotel expenses, the cost of closing up shop for a few days, and the tickets for the conference itself all add up to a hefty chunk of change. On top of that, most conferences only cover one or two topics. That leaves multi-passionate solopreneurs making tough decisions about which conference will be most worth their while.
Luckily there’s another option for those of us who are eager to learn: build your own conference.
Building your own conference is the perfect option for solopreneurs who are limited by time, location, or money. Affordable online classes make it a snap for you to put together personalized sessions that will help you grow your solo biz.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to creating your own one-of-a-kind conference.
1. Set a conference budget and schedule
Your conference will never be a success if you don’t treat it like it’s a big deal. That means creating a budget and blocking off time in your schedule well in advance.
You’ll save a lot of money by building your own conference, but even a DIY conference comes with costs. Crunch the numbers and decide on your budget before you start signing up for classes.
Once your budget is in place, decide how many days you’ll need to spend away from client work so you can focus on attending your conference. Traditional conferences run from Thursday through Saturday, but maybe you’re at the top of your game on Mondays or you want to dedicate an entire week to your conference.
As soon as your dates are set, notify ongoing clients that you’ll be unavailable those days. Don’t forget to block off that time in your Google calendar or online scheduling software!
2. Choose a theme
Building your own conference allows you to focus on many facets of your multi-passionate business. You no longer have to worry about wasting money on a conference with a narrow focus. But that doesn’t mean you should sign up for any random class that catches your eye. A successful conference will always have a goal.
Decide what you want to accomplish with your conference. Once you know how it will impact your business, you can choose a theme to help you stay on track. For example, maybe your conference theme is to learn how to land more clients. The following classes would all help you achieve that goal:
Beyond Social Media: Meeting Your Ideal Client in Real Life
Copywriting 101: Connecting with Your Readers
Creating a Website that Sells
From Blog Reader to Paying Customer in 8 Simple Steps
How to Price Your Services (Without Giving Your Clients Sticker Shock)
3. Choose your classes
Now for the fun part! There are plenty of options for affordable classes taught by experienced instructors who know their stuff. Check out these platforms to find classes that match your conference theme and budget.
Udemy and CreativeLive each offer both paid and free courses for students at all levels of learning. With a vast catalogue of courses available on demand for each, you’re sure to find a few that fit your needs.
Skillshare is the perfect choice for solopreneurs on a budget. Choose from free online access, or take your learning offline with an $8/month premium membership.
TED and TEDx Talks live up to their motto “ideas worth spreading.” These educational videos from experts are short and free — not to mention they cover every topic under the sun. Perfect for the solopreneur on a time crunch!
Remember to keep your conference theme in mind while browsing class options. If an interesting class or podcast episode doesn’t tie in, put it on the back burner for now. You’ll get more bang for your buck by focusing your energy on a single goal.
4. Build community
Conferences are a great way to connect with other solo biz owners. You don’t have to miss out on networking opportunities just because you’re DIY-ing your conference!
Send a quick email to other solopreneurs to see if anyone else wants to build their own conference alongside you. Even if you take different classes, you can plan to check in with each other on Twitter or Google Hangouts to share what you’re learning.
You can also create a hashtag to document your conference and invite your readers to follow along. (Editor’s note: might we suggest #BYOConference?!) Your fans will love to see a blog post, video, or live Periscope recapping everything you learned!
What type of conference will you create to boost your biz? Share it with us in the comments!
When we chose Motivation & Inspiration as our March theme for our 2015 editorial calendar, we have to admit: we were struggling to think of anything completely revolutionary.
Then, we received a guest post pitch from Jennie Mustafa-Julock aka Coach Jennie aka The Audacity Coach. The title? Motivation is a Solopreneur’s Worst Enemy. Yeah. Since we know business isn’t one-size-fits-all — and we like to mix things up here at OWS — we published Jennie’s post ASAP, then invited her to join us for a Google Hangout so she could tell us about her unconventional approach to motivation.
In this 45-minute video, we chat about:
What Jennie believes you need instead of motivation or inspiration
Why she believes the Law of Attraction is pure crock
Who “Hilda” is and how to tell her to get the hell out (hint: we all know her and we apologize to anyone named Hilda)
This month, One Woman Shop was all about motivation and inspiration for solopreneurs. Between staying productive with our March playlist and considering different takes on motivation, we also created a fun Pinterest board of visuals to keep you inspired.
See pins you think would fit great here? Leave us a comment below or on Pinterest and we’ll add you as a collaborator on the board!
After checking your email on your iPhone for any emergencies, you finally decide to crawl out of bed and start the coffee. While the coffee pot steams and sputters, you’re opening up your laptop for another day of solopreneurial bliss. You pour yourself that first cup and begrudgingly sit down to officially start your morning.
For one reason or another, you are just not feeling “it” this morning. Perhaps if you check your email again, something in there will motivate you to get to work. You delete two or three junk emails, reply to one message real quick, mark all the other client messages as new so you can respond to them later when you’re fully caffeinated. Then you promise yourself that you will also get back to the dozen or so newsletters that you’ve not read yet later because surely there is information inside that you absolutely need. Maybe it’s just too early.
Email feels overwhelming, so you move over the Facebook. Much more fun. You post a few comments here and there until you stumble upon a genius quote that inspires you. It’s so good that you just have to share it. But what to do with it? Should you share it on your personal Facebook timeline? Or maybe create a graphic for Pinterest? Ooh yes! And then you could put the graphic on Instagram and then link it to Facebook and Twitter. Yeah. That’s what you do. It’s so pretty!
Dammit. Coffee got cold. Time for a refill.
Okay. It’s been almost an hour since you got out of bed and you’re still not feeling motivated. After beating yourself up for what you haven’t done yet, you finally bust out your to-do list and ask yourself a seriously dangerous question: what do I feel like doing?
Why Motivation Sucks
If the scenario above resonates for you, then you are probably using motivation as your go-to productivity strategy – and it’s the worst strategy imaginable. This is where you hope that some external pressure (read: motivation) will come along and prod you into action. While it does feel good, motivation is completely unreliable. Motivation relies on your emotions and your emotions are constantly changing. And as a solopreneur, you simply do not have the luxury of waiting to feel working on your top priorities.
You need to get shit done! Immediately, if not sooner.
Want to radically upgrade your day-to-day productivity? Here’s the big secret:
Ditch motivation and choose tenacity (aka willpower) instead.
Here are three tenacity tips to help you get started:
1. Stop Learning
When we become solopreneurs, the first thing we do is become students of all things entrepreneurship. How many ebooks and bootcamps and programs and infoproducts on entrepreneurship have you purchased?
Now, how many of these programs have you actually implemented?
This stuff is inspiring and motivating and oh-so-easy to buy into. I get it. But most of these things end up in a dusty folder on your desktop.
Enough already! Stop buying new programs and downloading new opt-ins. Implement all you’ve already learned from the dusty ones. You know more than you think you do.
2. Launch a Consistent Activities Plan
Most solopreneurs I know work in constant project-mode, moving from one project or launch to the next with little happening on a consistent basis.
To stoke your tenacity, build and execute a solid Consistent Activities Plan. Develop a list of things you need to do daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, and quarterly to grow and upgrade your business. These are not things you want to do when inspiration strikes; these are hard and fast commitments that you will do whether you feel like it or not.
3. Build in Solid Accountability
When you work in a job-job, there is accountability around every corner. You’ve got bosses and coworkers and sometimes even your bosses’ bosses with defined expectations and clear deadlines. When you run a solo biz, all that built-in accountability is gone and it becomes far too easy to let yourself off the hook.
Add some serious accountability into your life by drawing on the strengths and support of others. This may mean hiring a business coach, joining a mastermind group, working with an accountabilibuddy, or a combination of the three. More than just personal cheerleaders, accountability partners are there to track your progress, keep you inspired, and ensure that you don’t quit. Perhaps you don’t need a whole team of people – like mine – and just one person will do. Everyone could use someone to push them along towards their short-term goals.
Let go of your need for motivation and choose to do something that propels you forward today – starting right this minute – whether you feel like it or not.
Oh, music — what would we do without you? You’re our companion while we’re at our desks typing away; while we’re on the move to a cafe; while we’re sweatin’ it out when we finally make it to that spin/yoga/salsa class.
Music is a huge part of the solopreneur life. It keeps us company; it pumps us up; it provides the ambient noise we need to focus. Here at One Woman Shop, dance breaks are frequent during our half-day jam sessions, and music is constantly playing as we each hunker down to get shit done. (Pardon our French — we told you, music pumps us up!)
When I made the leap and quit my corporate job to become a full-time freelancer four years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. There was only one thing I was 100% certain of: come hell or high water, I was going to do work that I loved on my own terms.
The first year and a half seemed to float by with few hurdles and hardly any effort. I had a decent roster of clients, managed to match my former full-time monthly income, and every week, new opportunities and referrals would show up in my inbox — all before having a website and without a marketing strategy to speak of.
It didn’t occur to me that I’d have to work to keep this momentum going.
I was brimming with pride at this “hustle” that seemed to happen so naturally for me. Things weren’t perfect just yet; but for the first time in my life I was free of any doubts that I could actually have the business and life of my dreams.
Needless to say, the pride quickly faded into emptiness, as I grew less and less motivated by the work I was doing. The money, though good, wasn’t good enough anymore; and I could feel myself growing resentful of the clients that I had once loved (although I knew the problem was really me). I let the fear of not knowing what would happen next stop me dead in my tracks from doing anything about it.
Then all at once, everything changed.
Both of my major contracts — my two main sources of income — were cut abruptly and I had nothing to soften the blow.
One month I was pretty much on the top of my game. The next month, I was shit out of luck.
The following year seemed to drudge on as fewer opportunities became available. I took on temp jobs and small projects to help make ends meet, and felt like a failure for not knowing how to get better clients on my own.
When the chance of a lifetime came around to be in a year-long mastermind program with a high-profile coach, I thought for sure this would be the big break I needed to turn things around. So I scrambled to make the investment, but still couldn’t quite afford the payments, and ended up dropping out of the program after only a couple of months.
By this point I was completely burnt out. Ashamed. Embarrassed. All I could think was how screwed up everything was and how it was all my fault.
I was right.
It took a while for me to realize what I was doing wrong. And as it turns out, my mistakes weren’t much different than the ones many solopreneurs make when they’re first starting out. Here’s what was happening:
I jumped in feet first with my business without really knowing what my business was. Instead I just assumed that, because I wanted it badly enough, all the details would somehow work themselves out.
I counted on the initial success I experienced to continue forever, rather than doing the work to create the things that would move my business forward (and couldn’t understand why the opposite was happening!).
I accepted whatever opportunities came along that would pay me well enough, rather than focusing on a niche that I wanted to serve.
I had created a business model with an inconsistent income stream and had no other system of earning that could sustain me (and also, I had no clue what a “business model” was).
I was unrealistic about my money and made unwise investments in services and programs that, while valuable, were not feasible for where my business was financially at the time.
Worst of all, I hid from the truth and suffered silently in shame, rather than doing what was necessary to support myself and get the help I needed to get my business on track.
But let my story be the official alert to help you avoid the same disaster. Here’s what I wish I knew:
Learn how your business and money will work
Don’t invest in any other programs or services until you have a handle on this part first. Get help to understand not just how much money you need to make in order to survive, but also how you’re going to make your money, based on the kind of business you have.
Understand that “nothing will work unless you do” (Maya Angelou)
This is especially true when it comes to building a business. Opportunities won’t always just show up out of thin air, and eventually you will have to work at bringing in money. So rather than put it off, create a plan to attract the clients — and the freedom — you want right now and do the work to make it happen.
On that same note, be very clear about what you want in your business
Define how you want to show up and who you want to serve. Otherwise you’ll just be running yourself into the ground doing work that doesn’t motivate you for clients you aren’t excited about.
Connect with communities that you can go to for answers, advice and support
Don’t shame yourself out of asking for help or sharing what you’re struggling with. Some of the biggest, most important breakthroughs of your career can come from your setbacks and challenges. But keeping them to yourself — suffering through them alone — will only delay your success.
Fellow One Woman Shops: even if you’ve started on a similar path, I’m here to tell you there is still hope. Turning things around will take some time and require some unusual adjustments. But know that in every setback is a lesson that’s meant to push you towards the bigger purpose you are meant to serve. Your job is to pay attention. Learn the lesson. And keep moving forward.