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.
It’s Valentine’s Day. Stores are decked out in pink and red; flowers picked over; movie theatres packed. (Though we suspect that might be all the ladies eager to see 50 Shades on the big screen…)
Whether you look forward to this day of love or absolutely dread it, we can all agree on one thing: there are some One Woman Shops out there that are seriously worth crushing over.
This week, we opened the floor to our One Woman Shop members, giving them space to gush over the solopreneurs and boss ladies they admire most. Here’s what they said:
“We are the Treasure Hunters exists thanks to Marianne of Free Range Humans. She’s the first person I found online several years ago who was championing creating a life and business, on your own terms, rather than needing to fit any pre-determined linear path. I was in the corporate world at the time and her stuff was illuminating. (It still is.)” – Sara Moss, @ispytreasure
“My crush this Valentine’s Day is Regina of byRegina.com. I consume everything she reads, creates, and sells. Why? Because she puts her heart and soul into what she produces and is genuinely interested in helping others learn her process, tips, and ideas.” – Carrie Smith, @carefulcents
“Secondarily, my vote is for Steph Halligan of Art To Self. (Who’s also my real life friend!) Her daily notes have inspired me to start up hand-lettering and give me a daily boost of motivation to love myself and my creative expression.” – Carrie Smith, @carefulcents
“I have two: XO Sarah, because her blog is helpful for developers/bloggers, she’s a badass aerialist, and her Sunday Blog Love emails always have awesome links. Then Becky Kinkead because her design course is great, and she seems like someone who’d be fun to work with!” – Tiffany Breyne, @tiffdotcom
“Helene Scott is fabulous! She blows me away with the amount of value she provides – even just in her free training & YouTube Vlogs. She gives real & practical action steps that help you infuse YOU in your brand. I also have to add Hilary Rushford. She is so authentic and transparent when sharing tips for growing your Instagram following. (Editor’s note: Put those into practice!) And, of course, all the dance parties are awesome.” – Julienne Mascellino DesJardins, @julmasdes
“I’m crushing fellow One Woman Shop member Brittany Berger. I love how her personality shines through her blog!” – Ebonie Townsend, @_ebtownsend
There you have it — and this is just the short list. One Woman Shops are rocking the online world in 2015 — let’s show them some love!
Which One Woman Shops are you crushing on this Valentine’s Day? Sing your heart out in the comments below!
There are few things that strike fear into an entrepreneur. Networking. Taxes. Tech glitches on launch day. And asking for help. After all, we’re in charge of everything – doesn’t that mean we’re supposed to be the expert on everything?
Nope. Not at all – the pressure is off.
It can be tough to fess up when something isn’t your strong suit and humbling to ask for a helping hand, but reaching out for support isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength.
Asking for support will require effort and vulnerability on your part, but before deciding to stick it out on your own, consider the impact of not asking for help: hours spent slogging through trial-and-error; not having energy or time to create new content or connect with potential clients; the added expense of bringing in a pro to save the day after something goes wonky. Or worse – being stuck in the status quo, and not moving your business forward. Facing risks like these, asking for the help you need trumps stubborn independence, every time.
Read on for three steps to getting the support you need to help your business thrive.
First thing’s first: figure out what you need help with. Get clear on what will move you forward, and what you can’t do yourself. It’s important to fill this list with intentional and strategic activities.
A good place to start is your to-do list. If an item has been making multiple appearances, yet never getting crossed off, it’s a good candidate. Whether it’s fear, skill set or lack of time that’s preventing you from getting it done, that can be overcome. Another good place to find items you need help with is in your future plans. What big, exciting services or products are you bringing into the world? Do a quick brainstorm of all of the moving parts associated with each of them, and circle the ones that aren’t in your sweet spot.
With your list of ‘help me!’ items in hand, begin compiling a resource list of people who have the needed skill sets. Think of it like building your business’ go-to team. Look towards your friends, family, and colleagues (both online and in real life). Start with going through your social media contacts and jotting down which areas of expertise jump out at you. It’s not about delving into profiles and portfolios just in case they’ve got a secret super power you haven’t noticed before. Most of us have a stand out specialty that will be top of mind. Still have something you can’t find a resource for? Tap into your second circle of connections. Know a gal who knows a gal? Ask for an introduction or referral. [Editor’s note: the One Woman Shop directory is a great place to start your search for talented solopreneurs.]
The final step is to reach out and ask for the support you need. This involves clearly expressing what you need help with, outlining expectations, and aiming for an ‘easy yes’ for the other person. Let’s see how those wrap up into your request.
Get Specific: Asking for ‘help with your website’ is far too broad. Narrow it down to the specific action item you need help with. “Can you please help me come up with a great headline for my sales page?” is much better.
Outline Expectations: What kind of support do you need? A quick email? Phone call? A done-for-you tweak? Spell out how you’d like to receive help, and what your timeline is. “I have a few ideas, and would appreciate your thoughts via email or Skype. My launch is scheduled for 4 weeks from now.”
Easy Yes: Your chances of receiving help are greater when you bring down the barriers to someone saying yes. Consider their schedule, how long helping you will take, and the strength of your connection to them when asking for support. “I know you’ve got a full week, but am hoping that you’d have 15 minutes to hop on the line and help me through this. I’ve attached the ideas I’ve come up with, and your input and perspective would be very much appreciated.”
Shifting your mindset is key in taking these three steps. It requires understanding that admitting blind spots and asking for help makes you a stronger business woman, capable of tackling – with the help of your go-to team – whatever life or business throws your way.
Support is a Two-Way Street
Now that you’ve unlocked the keys to asking for support, be open to offering assistance, or stepping up when someone has the courage to ask you for help. The impact of helping others will be more valuable than you can imagine. As solopreneurs, contributing to the success of others is just as important as making sure our own needs are met. After all, we may be one woman shops…but we’re certainly not in it alone.
A couple weeks ago, I contributed a post to One Woman Shop called Five Lessons Learned in my First Six Months as a Freelancer. Several people told me that they found the insights to be helpful (yay!) but the part I got the most questions about was the “Create an Inspiring Workspace” section. Specifically, how I managed to do it on the cheap.
First, full disclosure:
I already had a room in my home dedicated to a home office. It used to just be a room that stored my huge collection of jewelry and happened to have a desk. But at least I had a few basics to start!
The cost did not include my brand-spanking new laptop.
That’s not a rented dog in the picture. She is a real-live corgi named Ginger and she’s the official office greeter.
But everything else was definitely scored for free or at a ridiculously low price. Other than saving money, my main goal was to make my office a representation of my personality and things I love. And here’s how I did it:
1. Get Comfortable.
One of the myriad perks of having a home office is getting to create a space that perfectly suits your tastes and comfort. That means choosing your own office chair instead of putting up with the backache-inducing one the company gives you. I chose one with a hard back from Ikea – it’s cute, inexpensive, and forces me to have good posture.
Create some ambiance. If you’re anything like me, you have close to a million candles stashed in a cupboard somewhere, and they’ll instantly turn your office into an ultra-soothing space. Bring in fresh flowers from your garden or spring for the $5 bouquet at the farmers’ market. These are things that cost nothing or very little, and help to create a desirable atmosphere. And less stress means better work, right?
2. Get Creative.
Spotlighting your unique personality in your office requires some creativity and even a bit of soul-searching. What are the things that inspire me? Which colors make me smile and feel more awake? How can I show off my quirks? Not all people love knick-knacks, but I personally enjoy tchotchkes and display them freely. To give my office a boost of individuality, I cruised garage sales, flea markets, resale shops, toy sections at craft stores and discovered forgotten treasures in my basement. For example, I found the plastic dinosaurs in a $1 bin at Michael’s, painted them silver, and voila! An ideal cross between chic and kitsch.
3. Get Shopping.
When I first set up my office, I made a list of my necessities. A file cabinet. A bookshelf. Places to sit and brainstorm. I do have my fair share of items purveyed from Target and Ikea, but scoring truly great deals usually requires scratching beneath the surface. Do some research and check out places in your area that are off the beaten path. That’s where I scored this circa 1970s school desk. I ventured into a local warehouse that sells cast-offs from the university, and this desk was only $5. But it adds a whole lot of personality.
4. Get Lighting.
As One Woman Shops, we have been known to work into the wee hours. That’s how it goes sometimes when you’re a solopreneur! For us, good lighting is a must. Light can help you feel more alert, prevent eyestrain, and create a cheerful feel on cloudy days and dark nights. Ikea is famous for their statement lighting, like this pendant lamp in my office.
5. Get Inspired.
In my opinion, an inspiration board in a solopreneur’s office is a must — something you can look at to remind yourself that you’re on the right path and will get creative juices flowing. Go through some memory boxes, photo albums, old magazines, or go to Etsy for awesome visuals. My favorite thing on my wall is a painted picture of a flower my mom made when she was eight. Free, fun, and it inspires me to keep going.
Those are my tips! Now go out there and find those free or nearly-free things that stir your soul.
Recently, I celebrated the six-month anniversary of opening the doors on my freelance writing business. I consider the day my LLC was approved to be my business’ “birthday.” And like any new parent, I have experienced joy and “What the $%#$ am I doing?” moments in equal measure.
Although my experiences in the publishing industry encompass a near-decade, this is the first time I have gone out on my own full-time. I’m sure many of you will agree that starting a chapter as a solopreneur is thrilling, daunting, exciting, testing, freeing, and challenging all at the same time (see emotions described above).
With my fresh perspective of the freelance world, I’d like to share some of the insights and epiphanies I’ve gleaned from my first six months for fellow One Woman Shops to learn from.
1. Learn to love a routine.
Although organization and orderliness is imperative in a freelancer’s career, we freelancers also tend to be a creative lot that thrives on the unexpected. Those unplanned moments are fabulous for inspiration, but leaving a workday to chance won’t always bode well for your business. Start your morning with a daily yoga class. Poach those eggs. Get dressed. Discover the routine that works best for you, and stick to it. Don’t turn on Gilmore Girls and get sucked in. (Cough, I have a friend who does this, cough…)
2. Overcome your fear of self-promotion.
Freelancing requires gumption, patience, and of course, talent. But in today’s digital age, it also requires bragging in the best sense possible. If you won’t talk yourself up, who will? I share my latest published work on Facebook and announce blog posts on Twitter without giving it a second thought (but not to the point of clogging peoples’ feeds). Marketing, especially free marketing, is oxygen to a solopreneur.
3. Don’t rely on coffee alone.
I wasn’t a regular coffee drinker before I started my business, and now I find myself making frequent trips to the Keurig. Coffee is good, but what’s even better is a midday walk in the sunshine with my dog or lighting a peppermint-scented candle. Solopreneurs are famous for burning the midnight oil — especially when just starting out — so find your ideal energy boosts.
4. Create an inspiring workspace.
Some freelancers are content to type away at a kitchen table or park themselves at a coffee shop. Personally, I’m all about creating atmosphere, so when I first started my business, I overhauled my home office. And I pretty much did it for free. I made an inspiration board of words, images, and photos. I bought a castoff office cabinet from the local university for $5. I set up an extensive library of publications I plan to pitch to. Now my office says, “Someone successful works here.” (It also might say, “Boy, someone sure likes bright colors.”)
5. Be authentic.
When I began this journey, I knew that my top priority was to be authentic in everything I do. Across my social media channels, website, and my dealings with clients both virtual and in-person, what you see is what you get. Authenticity builds a foundation of trust more than canned words ever will. When you put yourself out there, put your whole self out there — quirks and all. It will pay off in your career and for you personally as well.
These are a few of the major discoveries I’ve made in the early stages of my journey that I hope can help fellow solopreneurs. I like to think I must be doing something right because this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my professional life. If we were all together in real life right now, this would be the time we would high-five each other and bask in our mutual solopreneur awesomeness.
How many “productivity hacks” have you encountered or read about lately? They’re prevalent for a reason: every solopreneur is out to do the same — get more done with less, and make the most of our (seemingly limited) time.
The truth is, there are truly great methods out there — the Pomodoro Technique, unplugging, taking breaks, you name it. And different things work for different people. But there’s one trick I’ve witnessed that has worked time and time again for countless solopreneurs.
The key: batching
I’m sure you’ve heard of it before: batching. But what exactly does it mean?
The term “batching” simply means focused blocks of time spent on one task.
Multi-tasking is no longer the be-all, end-all for productivity that it was once thought to be. In fact, multi-tasking is actually a costly habit to form. Instead, adopting a batching process promotes getting your mind into a state of flow, where a singular focus leads to increased productivity.
When batching works best
While batching can be used for any to-do list in your personal or business life, I find that batching works best for me when I have a pretty hefty list full of either diverse tasks or clients.
As a copywriter and editor, I find it particularly helpful when it comes to adopting voices. Singularly focusing on one client means I can adopt their voice through-and-through for a set amount of time. Making a rule that I won’t check email or write social posts during that time keeps me from attempting to switch between the client’s voice and my own.
Even just hopping over to email to respond to something “real quick” means a mindset shift, and a break in your state of flow. Getting back into the groove of that client’s work takes at least 15 minutes. Those quarter hours add up quick!
How you can apply batching to your day
Batching can be applied in a slew of different ways. Here are a few ideas:
– Client tasks and projects
– Content creation for your own business (blog posts, newsletters, etc.)
– Collaborative projects
– Writing and scheduling social media posts
– Reading and responding to emails (Tim Ferriss has been doing this for years.)
– Setting up and improving the logistical processes for your business
You can batch your list out either by the actual type of task (i.e, writing), or by the client. In my case, it certainly works better to batch by client, then further batch by the type of work. So with clients for whom I write blogs posts, newsletters, and social posts, I first batch out a block of time to work specifically on that one client, then within that time, I batch the blog posts, then the newsletters, then the social posts.
Make your list, check it twice… then attack it by batching!
Take a look at your list and divide it out by either task or client. Then get out your calendar and batch out blocks of time.
Stick with it, not matter how hard it gets, for three weeks — after all, a new habit takes a minimum of 21 days to adopt, on average. Keep track of what you get done with an app like iDoneThis. Watch your productivity skyrocket.
Batching leads to greater productivity, which leads to happier clients, and a One Woman Shop with more time to read, play, relax, or hey, take on more clients. Not bad, eh?
It strikes us that when your solo business is chugging along- your email list is growing, people at chomping at the bit to work with you 1:1, your latest product launch sold out, your feed of Twitter mentions is constantly filled with new names and faces- it’s pretty easy to see your worth as a business owner. You have constant reinforcement that people see value in your work and are willing to hand over their hard-earned cash to get a piece of it.
But during slow periods in your business, it can be a bit harder to value yourself. We asked members of the One Woman Shop community to weigh in on what they do to remember their value during slow times. Here’s what they said:
When times are tough, I remember my value by reflecting on my relationships with friends and family. It helps to remind myself that business isn’t everything!
I think my blog really helps with this. Even if I don’t have a wait list of clients at the moment, I usually still get engagement via Twitter and blog comments. It’s encouraging to hear that what I write for the blog is connecting with other creatives, even if the money isn’t exactly rolling in at the moment.
I actually have all of my students in my Copywriting Course create an “I’m Awesome” list before the course starts. It’s 100 reasons why you kick ass and deserve to earn bundles of cash for doing what you do. You can refer to this list whenever you feel doubtful!
I keep a Google Doc of testimonials, emails, tweets, etc. from clients and colleagues. When I’m having a tough day or going through a dry spell, that file reminds me how much I have to offer. It’s very motivating!
The interesting thing is that I discovered by value in the slow times. In the booming times, I was still very much on the same hamster wheel as when I was a 9-to-5-er. But it was in the slow times that I actually got to think about what I really wanted to be doing and how that would align with what people need. So now my focus is on creating value first. And I’ve found that the money is never too far behind.
If there’s one lesson that keeps getting drilled in to my head in business, it’s this: there’s at least one person out there who doesn’t already know everything you have to teach.
Friends and family can attest to the fact that I freak out before every speaking engagement because I’m nervous that all of the attendees will already know everything I plan to talk about.
And you know how many times that’s been true, at least to my knowledge? Zero. Even the individuals in the audience who seem the most likely to be bored by my content often tell me in person or via Twitter how much they learned.
But even if your client, customer, or reader does know everything? They probably need reminders. For example, I know about 90% of what Nathalie Lussier talks about in her 30 Day List Building Challenge, but I sure am thankful to learn the new 10% and to be reminded about the other 90%.
We often catch ourselves thinking that Google is always the answer. But it’s not- and here’s why that’s a good thing for you and your solo business.
It’s true that pretty much every question can be answered on Google (in fact, we just talked about our love of Googling the other day). Googling “How do I set up email reminders for myself” pops up Boomerang, Memo to Me, NudgeMail, and several other relevant email management tools.
Googling “how to pair boots with a dress” results in tons of advice from Harper’s Bazaar, MSN, SheKnows, and many others about how to wear boots with dresses.
Googling “how to integrate MailChimp with Google Analytics” shows some pretty handy tutorials on how to do just that.
So, yes, all of these answers are on Google- but what if your target client or customer had no idea that there were external add-ons to help them manage their email? Or that pairing boots with dresses was a cute option? Or that you could connect MailChimp and Google Analytics to get more advanced data?
Then they wouldn’t be Googling those things. But if you’re in front of them telling them about these things, they’re going to more likely to follow you, trust you, and hopefully even hire you when they need someone who specializes in productivity and systems, a wardrobe stylist, or an SEO expert.
Keep that in mind next time you feel like your content creation or curation is all for nothing.