When diving into creating a brand for your solopreneurial venture, one of the first pieces of bringing your idea to life is defining your brand’s core values.
We’ll admit, it can seem trivial at first; you’re excited by your new idea whether it’s your first business or a new side project, and you’re ready to run full steam ahead into the action!
But if you side step this important foundational element, whether you’re starting from scratch or picking up something that already has shape, you’ll quickly realize that you’re building on shaky ground.
Or even worse, compromising the most important things to you: family time, free evenings, or cell-phone free days. You may take on clients whose work you don’t value, and your solopreneur career could quickly lack meaning and your passion will fade.
Or maybe you’re already there, you’ve built your brand and you’re making it work, but not in the way you initially envisioned.
Thankfully, it’s never too late to define (or re-define) your core values, so whether you’re starting with a blank slate and a fresh idea, or you’re a seasoned solopreneur who needs a shift in direction, this is foundational work we can all benefit from (we certainly did when taking on the adventure of becoming the new co-leaders of One Woman Shop).
First, let’s start by getting clear on what core values are and what they do for your business.
When we talk about core values, we’re going to assume that the basics of humanity are automatically layered in there. (Think integrity, kindness, respect.)
When we refer to your core values, we’re talking about the unique values that are applicable to the nature of your brand and the people you serve.
For example, with community being at the forefront of One Woman Shop’s brand, one of our core values is diversity (in the types of solopreneur businesses our members run, their professional backgrounds, their ages and life stages, and their cultures).
Yes, we cater specifically to women solopreneurs, but there are so many layers that extend beyond that label, and we want to see them all represented because that diversity is what enriches the community.
What being clear on these unique core values does is it gives you a directional for all of your products and services, your messaging and communications, visuals, operations and systems structures, as well as your future goals for growth or maintenance because you’re able to ask, “does this decision make sense with or support what I claim my core values to be?”
Identifying Your Life Values and Priorities
Now we would be remiss not to address the fact that we’re talking about your brand as if it’s this external entity, but the reality is, you might be reading this thinking, “But I am my brand.”
As a solopreneur, especially one who is in creative work or relies heavily on being the face of your brand, you may have core values that relate specifically to the people you serve (like our example of diversity), but more often than not, some of your brand’s core values are a mirror reflection of your own.
Or, they should be, because as a solopreneur, defining your own version of success and getting clear on the ways your business needs to act is vital for doing the work you love that also supports your life rather than taking it over.
To use our situation as another example, when we decided to embark on co-leading One Woman Shop, one of the reasons we jumped in is because we both held the core values of flexibility.
We’re both at stages of life (moms to young children) that require having flexibility, and we also enjoy having the flexibility that comes from being able to connect with women in our community from all over the world, yet lead it remotely.
Would it be fun to have a membership community with in-person events or retreats? Absolutely!
But does that fit our core value of flexibility for our lives right now? No.
To circle back to our definition of core values being about the people you serve…flexibility is also a value our community members hold high on their priority list.
And chances are the people you’re hoping to attract with your business are also people you find common ground with, and that common ground is often your core values.
When looking to identify the core values for your life that fit with your goals for your brand and business, these questions may be helpful to ask:
- What is the end result I want out of running my own solopreneurial venture? What is the itch it’s scratching or the solution it's providing for my life?
- In which areas of my life am I looking for my brand/business to support me in?
- What activities do I need to engage in or feelings do I need to have to make me feel fulfilled in this solopreneurial endeavor?
- Where are my boundaries between life and business where I don’t want the two to intersect or give way to each other?
Finding Core Value Alignment
So, now that we know what core values are, what they can do for your brand and business, and how to fit your life values and priorities into the big picture, next comes the alignment phase.
And here’s the kicker: you’re always in the alignment phase.
Because core values aren’t static.
Some will remain cemented into your brand’s foundation, but others will evolve along with the seasons you move through and new goals you set.
And whether those core values stay the same or evolve with time, there will inevitably be new decisions to be made that require leaning on those core values, which is why it’s crucial to define them from the get-go and re-evaluate them with each new stage of life and business.