Unicorns are iconic. Emblematic. They symbolize the effortless realization of dreams.
The thing is, dreams are real, but unicorns are not.
That seems like a despondent note to start on, but it’s actually kick-start positive.
Having dreams is healthy. It gives you goals and ambition — a driving force for all that you do. It reassures you in the face of failure and encourages you when you’re out of ideas. Solopreneurs often have no one to rely on but themselves. We all need an inner unicorn.
But business success isn’t magic, no matter how much we might wish it to be. Reality has a nasty habit of making dreams slow and difficult to realize.
Here’s your first reality check: Nothing is impossible.
Businesses are bedfellows with the Internet now. It’s almost impossible to launch a business without a website to match.
Getting your dream domain, setting down a design (either yourself or with a professional) and launching it makes it all official.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your product ready to go yet — having a mesmerising landing page and opt-in form is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Work on amassing a stellar email list. Spread the word about your product. Send your loyal subscribers some high-quality newsletters or mini e-books with actionable, unique takeaways. Write a blog to underpin the product.
Is this quick list a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? 100%.
Think of it as laying the groundwork for your main product. You wouldn’t leap into a marathon without any training. If you build up a solid audience then market your product well, the launch will be far more lucrative and you’ll see a positive ROI much quicker than delving into a cold market.
Ongoing: Love your stumbles
Learning from your mistakes is one of the best qualities in any business person, particularly a solopreneur.
As a one woman shop, you can’t handle everything all at once without occasionally slipping up. Take the falls on the chin, make a note, and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Likewise, figure out what does work and stick to it.
Ongoing: Pen Pencil and paper
People change as they grow. You might suddenly want a tattoo, or a cat. Your dream of a skyscraper studio apartment might morph into a cottage with land to keep miniature donkeys.
Dreams can change, too. They might shift into something bigger, something with a new end game, targeted to a different market.
That’s okay. That’s natural.
Don’t feel you’ve failed. Pencilled dreams can be rubbed out and altered, whereas dreams written in pen are final and can only be crossed out.
Keep an open mind. There’s more than one way to achieve success.
Ongoing: Value your critics
That might seem self-destructive, but your naysayers act as free consultants.
It might be difficult to see the faults in your program because you’ve invested so much of yourself into it. An outside opinion could actually be beneficial.
There’s a difference between someone trying to cut you down and someone trying to cut you a break.
Listen to them. Think of what your product will look like if you implement their changes. Don’t be too proud and reject outside help, whether in the form of assistance or criticism.
View critique as a free screening. If any glaring errors are found, you’ll be glad you listened to your cynical friend.
Ongoing: Embrace your inner unicorn
Be bold. Be brave. A unicorn is a mythical creature that has stood the test of time, despite being literally impossible.
You can do the same. Know the difference between dreams vs. reality in business, then be like a unicorn and never give up on that dream. It might take a little longer than a day but you’ll get there so long as you stick to your plan, maintain your work ethic, and learn as you progress.
Keep a clear head and a focused goal. Don’t be afraid of change and criticism.
And know that when — not if — when you get there, you deserve every bit of it.
Let’s hygge-fy your business. What exactly does that mean? Hygge is a Danish word and Nordic ethos that evokes a cozy, safe sense of home — and it’s a phrase taking the world by storm, for good reason.
In fact, this Nordic mentality might just be able to help you run a better business, solopreneur. Read on and prepare to be inspired.
How can you adopt the hygge mentality in business?
Hygge (pronounced “hooga”) translates most closely to “coziness” — but a cozy, safe sense of home doesn’t have to be taken literally. Hygge is an ethos that can apply to life, home, business, selling, and more.
Here are a few ways you might use the hygge concept to inspire your business:
Reach people where they are at their most genuine. How does your brand intersect with what people really believe? If you always appeal to people’s business side, rather than their personal beliefs, or vice versa, you might be missing out on some great customer relationships.
Build an honest sales and marketing strategy. Try to get people to feel empowered about using your product or services, rather than bully or persuade them into it.
Practice self-care. Knowing when to switch off and snuggle down brings hygge to our personal self. Your brand (and you) could probably do with doing this every now and then.
Sold on incorporating hygge into your business? Here are some other Nordic-inspired business mantras that might inspire you and your one woman shop:
The Nordic countries live very balanced lives. They advocate for local produce, natural products, and enjoy healthy lifestyles that allow plenty of space for personal growth and exercise.
This balance, both personal and professional, is crucial. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:
Balanced lives make for better business decisions. Being stuck on a hamster wheel of stress makes for uninspired entrepreneurs and uninspiring products. Learn how to disconnect to reconnect. Thanks to their short summers, Nordics embrace their summer to the max and go out into the wilderness to play and relax.
The Nordic aesthetic is all about harmony: balancing local materials with ergonomic design. Embrace this same simplicity in your product development – less is sometimes more. (Wasn’t it Coco Chanel herself who told us to get ready, and then remove one item?)
Bring a dialogue with the natural world into your business. What green values can you get behind? Do you fully understand the materials you work with? Be explicit and open with customers about your choices.
Nordics know all about being a #girlboss.
Living in egalitarian societies, Nordic women are encouraged to stand up and speak confidently about their aspirations. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:
Remember that seeking confidence is often a lifelong journey. Don’t become disheartened when you find yourself doubting and questioning yourself. Focus on shifting your internal monologue so that you aren’t putting yourself down, and remember to be kind to yourself in your quest for confidence.
The famous Nordic aesthetic is all about muted tones and textures. (Think: natural shapes and colours on a white, light-filled background.)
This aesthetic goes beyond just style – minimalism is a habit you can adopt to keep your life clean and decluttered. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:
Keep your office and digital space clean and uncluttered. Being more minimalist will allow you to take back control of your life.
Selling online? Design a store that fits a minimalist aesthetic. Customers will appreciate a high-end, streamlined design that gives your products more space. Shopify has some awesome Nordic-style minimalist themes; or, you could get a freelancer to make one completely bespoke for you.
No English equivalent exists for this Finnish word, but sisu is all about striving and succeeding against all odds.
Rooted in a stubborn and defiant mentality, embracing grit is something all entrepreneurs need from time to time. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:
Dig deep when the time calls for it.
Don’t get snowed under by other people’s expectations. Persevere and move through the hard stuff with style and grace.
Sisu isn’t necessarily about being stoic. Sometimes it’s okay to admit that something is hard…but that you’re going to get through it, anyways.
Nordic communities know when it’s time to pool resources and knuckle down for the tough season ahead.
Embrace cooperation to make the most out of the people around you, and forge new collaborative relationships. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:
Don’t always see other suppliers as outright competition. There’s usually enough space in the market for everyone. Conferences and knowledge days are a great way to get together and discuss industry trends.
Share the love and you’ll get more back.Give back to the community around you with insightful emails, supportive membership groups (like One Woman Shop) and plenty of old-fashioned social media interaction.
Last, but not least: Quality
Quality over quantity is (sometimes) the way to go.
Nordics can’t compete on volume, so they tend to opt for quality instead. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:
Focus on what you do best, rather than trying to frantically run after growth or new ideas. By refining your current offering (and perhaps upgrading it), you’re going to develop new products and business ideas in a much more cost-effective way.
Build a VIP version of your product or service. Offering an exclusive version of what you do can encourage people to spend more with you.
Focus on stating clear value propositions. It’s okay to be more expensive that your rivals if you’re actually offering more. Just make it clear to customers why (and what) that is.
Embrace the hygge mentality in business
Nordics have learned how to carve out successful societies in harsh, unforgiving conditions. When you feel like life or business is getting you down, connect with your inner Nordic spirit.
These values are for everyone and can be endlessly adapted. It’s all about taking something you connect with and making it work for your business.
Tell us below: What Nordic principles are striking your chords?
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.
For several months back in the spring and summer, I tossed around the idea of going to Central America for a few months to work remotely and travel on my own. I wasn’t in a particularly good place personally and I felt like I needed a change of pace and a change of scenery– basically, I needed to hit the reset button in my life.
Every single one of my family members and friends fully supported the idea, but I distinctly remember deciding one day that I wasn’t going to go. Traveling alone wasn’t for me and I didn’t want to leave my life behind. I decided I was fine with settling.
Obviously, my final decision turned out a bit differently or I wouldn’t be writing up my story for a contest on getting gutsy!
After hours spent comparison shopping for flights– which, in retrospect, was probably an avoidance technique– I bought a 3-month ticket to and from Costa Rica with the understanding that I could change it if I wanted to come back earlier or if I got hooked on solo travel and wanted to stay longer (spoiler alert: I’m now traveling “indefinitely”).
In some ways, I feel like a fraud claiming my actions as gutsy. Sometimes my travel life feels so easy that I have to pause and remind myself that I am traveling alone through foreign countries while speaking a different language– and THAT alone is gutsy.
Eating blood sausage in the market in Granada, Nicaragua is also gutsy. Cracking jokes in Spanish with my friend from Barcelona is gutsy. Running One Woman Shop remotely with a business partner based in New York is gutsy. Going to Zumba class, even when I felt like an awkward teenager at a high school dance, is gutsy (when I left town, my Zumba instructor told me I was much “less rigid” than I was in the first class!). Learning to manage the constant cat-calls is gutsy. Living with a Nicaraguan family for a month and a half is gutsy.
I learned that getting gutsy doesn’t have to mean feeling stressed or fearful. You can live a gutsy life filled with calm and and contentedness– two things I feel now that I haven’t felt so much in years.
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%.