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Choosing Your Solopreneur Workspace: Cafe vs. Coworking Space vs. Home Office

Since 2013, I have been a digital nomad, traveling full-time while building a location-independent digital marketing business and blog.

Because I’ve built my business from the road and haven’t slowed down since, I’ve worked from countless homes, cafes and coworking spaces. They have all had an impact on my productivity and motivation in different ways.

I want to share those experiences with you, fellow solopreneur -- so you can decide what might work best for you. Here’s what I like (and dislike) about each of these options.

Workspace Option 1: Home Office

Working from home is the default option for most solopreneurs. Some of us have designated home offices while others hang out on the couch, work from the bed or even camp out at the dining table. It’s the most flexible and private workspace you could ever ask for.

The Pros

  • It’s cheaper to work from home as you have no office rent to pay.
  • There’s no commute involved, saving you time, energy and expensive fuel money.
  • You are free to set up and customize your workspace however you like.
  • It’s completely private. (And as a bonus, you can turn up to work in PJs.)

The Cons

  • It can get lonely when you’re not working or interacting with people on a day-to-day basis.
  • It’s easy to get distracted by household chores. Kids, pets and TV also challenge your concentration.
  • The lines between home and work become blurry. Your home ceases to be a place for relaxation and you find yourself in work mode, 24/7.
  • There is a tendency to overwork and burn yourself out.

My Experience
While living in Vietnam, my primary workspace was at home as we had solid internet and a great desk. However, I did get antsy after a few days of working from home and realized I liked the energy of having other people around me. To combat isolation and burn out, I would mix it up by going to coffee shops a few days a week and this was a welcome break from home.

Workspace Option 2: Coffee Shop

Working from cafes is a great way to get out of the house and stimulate yourself in a different environment. With the growth of WiFi-enabled cafes around the world - the ‘coffice’ is a trend that solopreneurs have embraced with open arms.

The Pros

  • The coffee, naturally.
  • Free WiFi. Especially great if you’re on the go and need to clock in a few hours of work or check a few things.
  • The background noise in coffee shops is known to enhance productivity and concentration. I’m not making that up.
  • You can rotate and go to a new coffee shop each time. Changing up your work environment can often boost creativity.

The Cons

  • WiFi can be unreliable in cafes. Plus, if you’re sharing it with a lot of other people, it can be slow, too.
  • Sharing WiFi also comes with some digital security concerns.
  • At some cafes, you can’t just stay all day. Sooner or later they’re going to want you to leave. Even if they don’t mind that you hang around all day, what about when you need to go to the bathroom? Who is going to keep an eye on your stuff?
  • Being able to find a spot near an electrical socket isn’t always easy.

My Experience

Cafes are great for short bursts of work. However, I can’t imagine myself hanging out in a coffee for a full 6 to 8 hours of work. While living in Chiang Mai, I would work out of cafes about three times a week. I got a lot of writing done as I found myself very stimulated by other people’s energy around me (or maybe it’s just the caffeine?).

Workspace Option 3: Coworking Space

Thanks to the growing number of freelancers, solopreneurs and remote workers, coworking spaces are popping up all over the world. These office-but-not-really spaces usually aim to capture the flexibility of working from home, minus the isolation.

The Pros

  • They are designed for work. You will have access to quality WiFi, desk space, wall sockets and, if you’re lucky, they’re ergonomically designed for comfort.
  • It’s a welcome solution to beating isolation as you meet and interact with other entrepreneurs and freelancers. In fact, you could even meet potential collaborators for your business as solopreneurs are often looking to partner with other solopreneurs.
  • Seeing other people around you working hard often motivates you to kick into high gear on goals, too.
  • Because they’re designed for work, they’re usually less distracting and quieter than a coffee shop (no eavesdropping on other people’s juicy social lives) or even your home office, where household tasks and other errands can often be a concentration-killer.

The Cons

  • Most will require a membership. Depending on where you’re located, some can cost a pretty penny.
  • Sometimes it can start to feel like you’re going to an office (with a commute). You probably became a solopreneur for the freedom, and a rigid office-going schedule can seem like the antithesis of this freedom lifestyle.
  • While some spaces have the option to reserve conference spaces, for the most part, you never have complete privacy as you’re working with several other people in the room.

My Experience

I’m currently living in Mexico and I work from a coworking space almost every day. I have a lot going on with my business so I find the need to be in an environment that forces me to be productive -- so this is perfect. I love this spot but I occasionally get over having to come to the “office” and on those days, I recharge by working from home.

So, what is a solopreneur’s ideal workspace?

The simple answer: the one where YOU feel most productive and get the most out of your working day. That being said, we all have different styles of working, and respond differently to various environments. It’s important to experiment with workspaces to see what works best for you. Here are some ideas of how to do just that:

  • Build an office space -- yes, with a desk! -- in your home to inspire productivity if working from the dining room table or your bed doesn’t always cut it.
  • If staying home every day is slowly sending you crazy, try mixing it up a with a coffee shop visit every few days.
  • If the coffee shop environment is entirely distracting but you enjoy the hum of people, consider using an app like Coffitivity that creates the ambient noises of a coffee shop but allows you to work from the comfort of your home office, instead.
  • Perhaps you enjoy the discipline of having to be somewhere every day to get your work done: invest in a coworking space to ramp up your productivity and meet other solopreneurs, too. Most spaces will offer “open house” days or a discounted day pass so you can give it a go before committing.
  • Or, if you’re like me and like being stimulated by different workspaces, you could just leave it open and change it up every few weeks/months depending on where you’re at in your business. The change in environment often boosts creativity and prevents you from becoming bored with your space.

Fortunately you have the freedom to choose and customize your workspace according to your needs. It’s just another perk of this awesome solopreneur life.

Where do you like to work from and why? Tell us about it in the comments.

A 12-Step Recovery Program For the Fully-Booked Online Service Provider

Jean’s coaching business is small but successful. She works with 5-7 clients every day, then spends time catching up on social media, emailing, blogging, invoicing and other business matters.

Her to-do list is never-ending, but she has what everyone in the online teaching industry desires -- the state of being “fully booked.”

There was a time when “fully booked” was a phrase every online business owner coveted. Whether you’re a coach, an online teacher or a service provider, at some point Michael Port’s book was on your desk, and you wanted to “book yourself solid” for months on end.

And then, because (if you’re like me) you followed Michael’s every word, you indeed experienced what the “fully booked” means: several clients a day, follow up calls, invoices, social media and email marketing (no time to train anyone to outsource those), new clients, new projects (maybe), blogging or vlogging -- all in that disrupted order, running the cycle without breaks.

Let’s pause. When we look up the term “fully booked” the first illustration comes from the hotel and restaurant industry to mean “no rooms or tables available at a particular time or date.”

One thing that our “fully-booked” heros forget to tell us is that we’re human beings, not restaurants and hotels and we cannot book all available hours we have in the day and give them to clients.

I find it ironic that the technology that “frees us” from the daily drudgery of business matters doesn’t help with the “fully booked” dream with to-do lists that don’t end.

I believe there’s a better way to work, make a living, and best serve the people with whom you work -- without “fully-booking” your human capacity.

In order for this to happen though we need to start with some fundamental, mindset-shifting exercises.

In this post, I offer my 12-step recovery program for the fully-booked online coach, teacher, and other service-based business owner who finds themselves in the trap of no more time available.

Step 1: Acknowledge that you’re a business owner first.

“Oh, I’m not a business owner. I’m just a teacher.” If this is you, don’t run a business -- go work for a school. But if you want to work for yourself, call yourself what you are.

The difference between a hired employee and a business owner?

A business owner focuses on the system, realizing that providing the service is only a part of the entire puzzle whereas a “just an XYZ” tries to ignore the entire system, thinking that the service alone is going to be enough to make the business sustainable.

Step 2: Identify your main strength and develop it into your superpower.

We’ve all thought at some point that we can do everything. We’ve exhausted ourselves working on projects we didn’t like and we’ve wasted our creative energy without making an impact.

Niching down isn’t some basic, feel-good advice designed to make us miserable. It’s our thriving code.

In Opted Out of the *Real Job* we write, “...focusing on a real problem puts you in a position where you can solve the problem -- and that’s how you opt out of the illusion of helping people and move into the reality of helping people. Which one do you prefer?”

We begin impacting clients only when we use our superpower, not our average skillset.

Step 3: Identify your dream client and connect with her only.

When I started working online in 2009 I used to think that I was skilled enough to work with anyone. I believed that if a client didn’t like me, I could change that. I believed “the client was always right.”

That mindset brought nothing but turmoil and disappointment. We’re not a “Walmart-type” business. Hence we can only work with specific clients to ensure transformative results.

Step 4: Focus your content to help your dream client solve a specific problem.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It’s easier to add to what we already have than to focus on what works, dig deeper into it, and eliminate all the confusing noise. Eliminating the noise and focusing in on what matter takes courage and security in our brand, but it allows us to offer services that make a greater impact.

Step 5: Use automated software for client work.

Some of us resist setting up automated booking buddies because we want to provide the “special human touch.” So we dig ourselves into a hole of being overwhelmed with email and client onboarding process.

I use Acuity Scheduling and highly recommend it as a one-stop solution that allows clients to book, pay, fill out a questionnaire, and get automatic reminders. The opportunities for automation are endless, really.

Step 6: Delegate before you’re ready.

We’re afraid to delegate. It’s our baby, and people can mess things up. We think it’s not a big deal. We never have enough money to delegate.

But when you do have *enough* money you won’t be able to afford to train someone and wait until she learns your process. Waiting will cost too much. So rethink your budget now. Delegate draining tasks.

Step 7: Recruit your fans.

The best people to work for you are your fans. You can find some hired workers on crowded marketplaces, but it’s likely not the best long-term strategy. The people who comment on your posts, engage in discussions, or respond to your emails -- start there when looking for someone to work for you.

“When people realize that they are not a cog in a machine, an easily replaceable commodity, they take the challenge and grow. They produce more than you pay them to, because you are paying them with something worth more than money.” - Seth Godin

Step 8: Identify the 1:1 people and everyone else.

As coaches/online service providers, we think everyone needs the 1:1 format of what we offer, but it’s not true. Some may not be in a position to hire us, but finding a way to engage with and transform them in a one-to-many format is something your business can benefit from.

Step 9: Create one product/program to help your audience members achieve their goals independently.

In the spirit of the one-to-many formula, create one product to offer to people who aren’t ready to invest into working with you. Can you offer a book? A series of videos? A short online course? A program?

I love Breanne Dyck’s post on how to (finally) create a product. (It made me realize writing a book isn’t as scary as you may think, especially if you have a blog.)

Step 10: Set up boundaries to your “fully-booked” schedule.

Even though there’s no assigned rule that helps us figure out when we reach our “fully-booked” mark, I believe each one of us knows when we stop giving our best to our clients.

When you turn from a human coach into a coaching machine, or a human (insert-expertise-here) into a (insert-expertise-here) machine, you know you’ve reached your limit. Set up your boundaries that will keep you from getting there.

Remember what Greg McKeown reminded us of in Essentialism: Set your priorities, or someone else will.

Step 11: Build your referral network.

Join professional forums (editor’s note: like One Woman Shop!) to build the network you need to create partnerships and refer work to your partners. New brands will thank you for the referral, and you will minimize your overload.

Step 12: Take breaks to foster your creativity on a regular basis.

Somewhere along the way we got busy and stopped being creative. We told ourselves “we’re not the creative type,” and it became our comforting story. And yet it’s creativity that helps us find the most unique solutions to solve our clients’ problems.

So find the time to be creative. If you’re too busy to do that, it’s hard to create anything customized because customized takes creativity.

My advice to you: Become available

We don’t have to be busy all the time to feel like “we’re working hard.” We don’t have to fill someone else’s work quota to validate ourselves. We don’t need to be fully-booked on someone else’s terms to prove that our work is valuable.

I propose that we strive to become available. It’s an oxymoron for someone who has chosen to opt out of the standard, 9-5 job and its demands, but it doesn’t take us long to realize that the same standards we ran away from still rule our days.

To paraphrase Brené Brown, let’s not wear our busyness as a badge of honor. Try being available for a change. It’s the key to recovering from the fully-booked syndrome that’s stifling the sanity of coaches and other online service providers, everywhere.

Shop Talk: A Crash Course in Opportunity Cost

solopreneur

solopreneur

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.

We talked last week about the joy we get from applying a principle from another field or industry to our businesses. We've said it once and we'll say it again: We're nerds. (Who really like Planet Money.)

We bet you're out there, busting down the sunk cost fallacy like warrior ninjas. We couldn't be more proud.

Today's mission, should you choose to accept it: Embrace the concept of opportunity cost.

Put simply, opportunity cost is "A benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else." Furthermore, "The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in attempts to ensure that scarce resources are used efficiently."

Take the opportunity cost of going to dinner with a friend. You can't use that money on anything else and you can't get the time back. But maybe you had an incredible time bonding, you ate delicious food, and you feel less stressed now. Totally worth it, right?

But now imagine that you accepted a gig with a terrible client. It's boring work, you're not learning anything new, they're paying you diddly squat, and it leaves you feeling drained.

Instead, you could have been going through a course to increase your subject knowledge; working for a higher-paying client; doing an exercise class to get that post-work out high; or having a coffee meeting with a potential collaborator.

We know that sometimes in life and business, you have to do things that are less-than-desirable to make ends meet.

But remember this: The minute you say yes to one opportunity, you ensure that, for the time being, your resources (brain power, money, energy, and time) are unavailable for any other possibility.

The solution? Before taking on any opportunity, think about the monetary and non-monetary costs associated with it. Could your available resources be directed to a better opportunity?

Think about this, too: For every minute or hour you spend cleaning, cooking, or working on certain pieces of your business likely not related to your expertise, you're giving up time and energy that could be spent on more high-value activities. (Yes, we're giving you justification for hiring a cleaner, meal prep service, and/or a VA. You're welcome!)

Your days, back in your hands.

Get instant access to 5 Days to Reclaiming Your Time, a free email course with the mindset shifts + action steps you need to get started in reframing your relationship with time. Sign up below!

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Coffee, Cozy Socks…and a Free Bundle? (Solopreneur Success Bundle Giveaway!)

Do you ever feel like as a solopreneur, you have a one-track mind? You spend every waking minute working on your latest and greatest idea, you jot down notes in your Evernote as you're falling asleep, and you try your best to focus on your mimosa brunch when you're really thinking about your sales funnels, creative copy, and launch strategy. It's an exhilarating feeling, as long as it doesn't take over your life too much.

...And it's something your non-solopreneur friends may never truly get. Luckily, you've got a community of fellow nerds here at OWS.

Well, as you may have noticed, our one-track minds are focused on the Solopreneur Success Bundle, which goes live at 12:01am on Monday, September 18. But who's counting?

motionmailapp.com

And speaking of things your non-business friends may never understand: Your excitement over insanely affordable access to 18 insanely valuable products from some of your favorite online creators. ($99 for more than $1,700 of value? Word.) 

But...what if you could get all of that and more for free? For the next two-ish weeks, you can. We're giving away the following three prizes:

  • Grand prize: One Solopreneur Success Bundle ($99 value, but really worth over $1,700)
  • Winner #2: One Target gift card ($30)
  • Winner #3: One Starbucks ($15)

Why these prizes? We want you to be fully caffeinated (thanks, Starbucks!) with a giant mug in hand and cozy socks on your feet (hey, Target!) when you open up your Solopreneur Success Bundle. All you have to do is help spread that word that the Bundle is coming. The more you share? The better chance you have of winning! But the giveaway is only live until next Friday, September 1st, at 11:59pm EST -- enter today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: In order for your points to count, you must manually perform each entry item that you claim points for. Rafflecopter does not automatically perform the action for you!

P.S. Want to do more than just spread the word about the Bundle now? You can earn cash money when you sign up to be an affiliate for the Bundle. See our call for affiliates here!

4 Simple SEO Tips to Optimize Your Content and Attract Your Ideal Client

Using SEO effectively can seem like a headache. Keywords? Links? Content marketing? I’ve been there. If you’re a small business owner, you have enough on your plate, and learning about SEO can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

But SEO is so much more than a marketing strategy. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is simply helping Google understand your site so that you can easily connect with people who are already seeking the solutions you offer. It’s a necessary foundation for your brand or business, not an online “trick” that requires endless research.

In fact, according to Search Engine Land, SEO is considered one of the most cost-effective digital marketing practices to grow your business. And, let’s face it -- you've likely invested hundreds to thousands of dollars on designing your brand and developing your website, but is it worth the investment if no one can find it?

Here are four quick ways you can utilize SEO to find your dream clients and elevate your business in an authentic, non-salesy way.

1. Keep a list of Frequently Asked Questions from your target audience.

Keep an ongoing list of questions that continuously pop up among your target audience. You could find these questions in Facebook Groups, past client consultations, in replies to your email newsletter, or even while taking a class at the gym.

Use these questions for content inspiration. Answer them on an easy-to-access landing page or turn them into blog posts. Pay attention to the specific language your potential clients use and the way the questions are asked. Word questions and your answers in a way that you could see your clients Googling them. If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, you can see which Google searches have led people to your website, and form questions out of those phrases.

2. Take time to use categories and tags effectively.

When it comes to that "tags" box you see when creating a blog post in WordPress, do you fill it with related terms you think of on the fly? Don't worry; you're not alone. But it's time to get organized! Think of categories as the top level, main topics of your blog. Then think of tags as supporting keywords. Choose 5-6 main categories and only a handful of tags for each category. For example, a main category could be "Fitness" and supporting tags could be "muscle recovery," "at home workout," and "activewear."

3. Use Yoast and fill in your metadata.

Metadata is mostly behind-the-scenes data that helps a search engine understand and rank your site. The preview text that appears in search engine results when someone sees your site link is comprised of metadata. Take a few extra minutes to fill in the title tag, meta description and alt tags of your posts. The Yoast SEO plugin makes these updates, and therefore upping your SEO game, much easier.

4. Audit and update your old content.

If you’ve had a blog for more than a few months, chances are you already have a ton of content. In order to make sure your website is working for you, and not the other way around, go through your old content and see which posts and pages could be improved.

Find which posts are your best and make sure they’re properly tagged and categorized. Edit any content that is outdated or no longer relevant. Auditing your content will make sure your site is full of high-quality, valuable content for your readers. For more ideas, check out my post on 50 ways to give an old post new life.

SEO doesn’t have to be so hard

For many solopreneurs, SEO remains an elusive concept that’s just out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. The four quick tips above are just a few examples of how you can optimize your site for search engines and make it easier for more of your ideal clients to find you.

Content might be king...

but it doesn't have to rule your world. Drop your email below to get even more great tips on content as a solo business owner!

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Launch Like a Pro: 8 Steps to Beta Test Your Online Course Idea

Online courses: The possibility (and profitability) that comes with creating one can have a huge impact on how you run your solopreneur business.

In fact, most entrepreneurs and professional bloggers today agree that online courses are an important element for any solopreneur who wants more time to innovate, wants to be seen as an expert in their field, and who wants to shatter the revenue ceiling by creating a product once that can be sold many times over.

As an instructional designer that worked for over a decade at universities and corporations and more recently with entrepreneurs, I’ve launched hundreds of online courses and educational programs in a wide range of topics. Throughout these diverse launches, I’ve found that one of the single most effective steps in having a successful online course launch that brings many of the aforementioned possibilities (and profits) is to beta test your online course first.

There are countless benefits to beta testing, or piloting, your course, including:

  • Getting to know your students more intimately before launching to a bigger audience
  • Witnessing the transformation that your course content actually causes in other people
  • Collecting case studies or testimonials
  • Determining how much interaction will be needed from you during the Big Launch
  • Getting cash flow in order to make additional purchases for the Big Launch
  • Increasing your profit margin during the Big Launch

As I’ve begun working with entrepreneurs, however, I’ve noticed that a surprising few add this critical phase to their course creation process. By skipping this beta phase, you might find that you have devoted all of your energy for days, weeks, or months building a product that nobody actually wants. I’m going to guess you don’t have time for that. Am I right? Keep reading to find out how to beta test your online course to validate your idea and launch like a pro.

How to beta test your online course in 8 steps

While there are no hard and fast rules for establishing successful pilot courses, I’ve found these eight steps to be quite effective:

1. Define your goals.
I don’t know who said it first, but one key to business is to “fail fast, fail cheap, and fail often.” Your beta test period is your opportunity to do just that, but you will need to define goals before you can decide if your course idea succeeded or failed.

Determining goals for your beta launch will depend on what success looks like for you. Are you hoping to get a certain amount of people to purchase, to make a certain amount in revenue, or to collect a set amount of feedback or testimonials? Take a few minutes and write specific goals you can use these to determine whether your beta test succeeded -- and if you should continue with the Big Launch.

2. Define and build your beta audience.
Since the beta phase is a time to check and validate your course idea without spending a whole lot of time or money, you may choose to select an audience that you already have access to.

For example, if you host a podcast, run a community, or have an email list, then reach out to this audience -- or a subset of it -- first. If you don’t have an audience, consider partnering with someone else and working with them to pilot your course.

3. Create your timeline and outline content.
Consider keeping a short timeline. From what I’ve seen in the corporate world, the average pilot course is about 30 days, but it’s good to stay flexible during a beta launch. A successful pilot course usually strikes a balance between structure and experimentation. Be prepared to cut it short or expand the test phase as you experiment with what works.

As you plan the timeline, prepare a brief outline of what content will be covered as the beta progresses.

4. Create course materials.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to create the course materials that you will use during the beta launch. Some creators choose to build out the entire course prior to piloting it, while others choose to meet live with their beta testers each week to get feedback before continuing creation.

Whichever you choose, this is also the time to create any Facebook Groups, Slack channels, presentations, pre-recorded videos, or anything else that will be used to teach -- and collect feedback -- during the pilot.

5. Price and soft launch your beta course.
This is probably the piece that most people worry about when it comes to pre-selling their courses: the actual soft launch.

This involves packaging up your course idea, your promised results, providing an outline of the content to be covered, pricing your course, and creating a sales page that people can use to pay for and enroll in your beta. (Yes, I do recommend that you sell your beta course, even at a discount. This adds value to the experience and is the only way to truly know if people will be open to paying for your Big Launch.)

Does the thought of selling your beta test scare you? Don’t let it: Make it clear to your audience that this is a pilot; a pre-launch; a test course. Although they will expect value, they will not expect perfection.

6. Collect feedback.
Feedback from your students can be extremely valuable during the pilot phase. It can be used to determine what people are willing to pay, the most feasible length, or the additional training videos or worksheets that you need to create before launching your course.

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to implement these suggestions unless you’ve captured this feedback in some way. Many course beta testers create Facebook Groups, or record webinars and video chats to capture this feedback. Be sure to prepare succinct questions to ask your betas to collect the information that will prove move valuable to you in your Big Launch.

7. Document results.
When purchasing a course, there are very few elements that are as convincing as seeing proof of the results promised. The pilot course is the perfect opportunity to gather these results.

Are you promising an increase in blog traffic; an increase in revenue; a faster, easier way to get the results they want? Have your pilot students document before and after pictures, graphs, screenshots...any proof points that show their results, and secure their permission to use them as testimonials and case studies for your Big Launch.

8. Evaluate your pilot.
Based on your original defined goals, you can determine if your pilot course was successful or not. If the beta is successful, prepare to relaunch the course with the new insights you received from the pilot. And even if the beta is not seen to be successful, there may be even more useful lessons on how to improve or refine your future initiatives.

Launch like a pro

Once you have completed these steps, or some version of this, you’ll be able to gain a good pulse on the type of student that’s best suited for your course, the amount of time an average dedicated student will need to complete the activities, and what results might be expected -- all fantastic information for nailing your Big Launch.

The benefits that come when you beta test your online course don’t end there, though. With targeted feedback to improve your course, you’ll likely be able to raise your prices, launch with raving testimonials, and secure confidence that your course will have a real transformational impact on the lives of those who take it.

P.S. If you create it, will they pay for it? Get even more on beta testing here.

Unplugging: Your Key to Disconnection as a 24/7 Businesswoman

unplugging

unplugging

You can see from the title that this is all about disconnect. Don’t take that the wrong way. I don’t mean disconnect between people -- interpersonal connection makes the business world go round.

This here is specifically about a different kind of disconnect.

Disconnection: Turning your digital connection off. You know...unplugging.

(That means phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, emails, Tweets, Facebook, Trello, Slack, and anything digitally business-related.)

If this jars against every business particle of your being, don’t worry. Take a deep breath. It’s not so frightening.

Remember: Your solopreneur venture won’t go bust overnight if you take a time out and get a great night’s sleep.

It seems simple on paper, but we all know the lure of email and Trello; the power socket right next to your bedside table where you charge your phone; the promise of client interaction and the certainty of a future in business.

Is it possible to switch off and disconnect from the digital sphere for a while and not lose momentum? What harm can a quick email at midnight do?

Take my example. I’m blessed/cursed with a brain that never shuts off, particularly when I’m trying to go to sleep. (I suspect plenty of you have the same encumbrance.) Apparently the best time to come up with new blog ideas and social media campaign plans is when my head hits the pillow.

Because...“reasons”, as Twitter would say.

Typically, when these ideas would strike, I’d roll over, grab my phone and note them down in Wunderlist. During my hasty scribbling, I’d see my email ping.

“Maybe it’s a client. I should just check that out quick.”

I’d read the email and my overactive grey matter immediately constructed a response, so I’d reply there and then. While I was writing that, I’d start making a plan to resolve the issue. I’d think about who else I had to email to make it happen. I’d remember something else and fix that too.

You can see the trend here. I wasn’t losing hours on YouTube or scrolling through Pinterest -- I was being productive. But I was still losing hours that my body and brain needed to disengage and heal.

Being a solopreneur can consume your life, pixel by pixel. All hours are working hours. It’s the downtime we struggle to fit in, not the hard grit.

My addiction to work nearly broke me. I was plagued by headaches at all hours of the day. Everything hurt and sometimes it would evolve into a full body shut down with violent nausea, photosensitivity, horrific pain and general incapacity. I’m predisposed to migraines anyway, but they were spiralling out of control.

My perma-headache also meant I never got any sleep, so I tossed and turned, checked my emails, suffered my headaches and wondered when the pain was going to end.

I’d read somewhere that blue light affects your circadian rhythms and had dismissed it as another bubble-wrap response to the human condition. It couldn’t have that much of an effect, surely?

Wrong.

Consider this: Disconnection isn’t a matter of personal habit. It’s a matter of health and wellbeing.

Eventually my 24/7 brain and crippling headaches brought me to my knees. Pain medication wasn’t taking the edge off and I didn’t want to get addicted.

At my wits end, I figured I’d try ditching my phone (and blue light) for just a little while. I wasn’t producing any worthwhile work in that condition so I wasn’t losing anything.

You might’ve guessed, but the cure was almost miraculous.

I still get headaches but they’re so infrequent that I forget them. I am falling asleep quickly when it used to take three hours. I am sleeping soundly and not waking through the night. I am powering through my work every day, all the way up to bedtime, but I have a golden rule:

Once I’m in bed, the phone turns off and I don’t touch it again until I rise the next day.

Everyone is different and electrical blue light will affect everyone to varying degrees. Some gadgets are designed to eliminate blue light, which is fantastic up to a point.

But that means you’ve still got your business brain on when you’re in bed, the one place in the world you need to relax entirely and recharge yourself (figuratively speaking).

Turn your phone off. And your computer. And your tablet. (I see you trying to squirrel it away.)

I’m not saying burn all your electricals, pack up, move to the forest and become an off-the-grid spoon whittler. We’re solopreneurs and every client is in some way digital now. We can’t work (for long) without social media and the internet.

However, we’re also human and we aren’t designed to function 24/7. Working for yourself is great, but you need to be able to enjoy it or you’ll lose motivation, determination, and heart.

Clients also deserve a little more credit. They understand the world is round and timezones don’t always sync up. If they really have a problem with you sleeping, maybe they aren’t a client worth keeping.

Your business truly won’t end if you don’t respond to emails immediately.

You also get the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes. When working on a blog, I’ll write a draft, abandon it for at least a few hours, and revisit it. Re-engaging with my work with a different mindset shows me where I can improve and what needs changing. This applies to any kind of work.

Getting sleep, even if only for a few hours, will condition you for the day ahead. You’ll be happier, healthier and more productive.

The better you feel, the better your work will be. The better your work is, the better you’ll feel.

The only missing component is getting some shut-eye, and if all it takes is switching your phone off for a few hours, it’s very much within reach.

P.S. Rest does not equal rust.

Planning For the New Year: Conducting an Audit of Your One Woman Shop

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

For many, it is! There are presents to wrap, carols to sing, vacations to take...no matter how you spend the holidays or what you believe, this time of year can be downright magical.

But for the solo business owner? This time of year can also be nothing short of overwhelming. It's time to wrap up your year-end financials, close projects, send out client notes and gifts, and...plan for the entire year ahead.

Take a deep breath, fellow solopreneur. We highly recommend starting in a place that'll set you up to build an informative plan to work with in the new year: With an audit of your One Woman Shop.

One Woman Shop Audit

ˈɔːdɪt/
noun: A comprehensive inspection of your solo business' past year + planning (financial, content, + strategic) for the upcoming year. Best when performed with coffee or wine in hand.

While we can't run our futures entirely based on our pasts, it would be foolish to plan for the new year without understanding what worked and what didn't in the current year. That's the beauty of an audit: Picking apart what made this year fly by for you will help you decide what you need to keep, stop, and start in the new year.

Where to start

Create a working document and write all of the areas of your business on it -- i.e. finances, marketing, revenue streams, collaborations, and content.

For each area, pull up the necessary information you need to make informed decisions. Maybe it's your income tracking document, your numbers on month-over-month social media growth, your Google Analytics website stats, or your SendOwl account outlining your top-performing affiliates.

Then, break each of those overarching areas down into pieces so you can ask yourself:

  • What worked?
  • What didn't work?
  • What do I want to keep for next year?
  • What should I cut, if I'm being brutally honest?

Some of our best tips for a successful audit

1. Use zero-sum principles

It's tempting to tell yourself, "Well, last year I spent $2,500 on Facebook Ads, so that's a good amount to budget for next year."

Hold that thought. Instead, try following zero-sum principles, where you wipe the slate clean and start from zero. Looking at every single budget line, to-do item, and project from the perspective of zero encourages you to more honestly assess exactly what you'd be willing to spend on that task/item/piece of software, etc. today. For example, when you start with a Facebook Ads budget of $0, it forces you to evaluate what worked and what didn't, so you can focus on new strategies rather than repeating last year's efforts.

2. Build in accountability

Maybe it's as simple as letting your accountability group know that you're working on an audit and would love for them to check in with you, or maybe it's meeting in a coffee shop with a fellow biz owner to work on your audits together. Whatever you choose, being accountable to someone else can force you to prioritize your audit.

3. Be ruthlessly honest

There might be aspects of your business that you feel personally invested in that aren't actually generating results. Now's the time to detach yourself emotionally from the stats and focus on what's actually working, and why.

While you're being ruthlessly honest, be sure to clearly define what's a necessity, what's a "should", and what's simply nice to have. Now, we're not saying you cut everything that's not a necessity -- after all, being a solo business owner means setting your own rules -- but it is important to be honest about the things you're doing just because you feel like you should, as well as those things that might be nice but just aren't worth the time or investment you're giving them.

4. Put everything on the calendar

We know from experience how easy it is to make an overly ambitious launch/content/event calendar. That's why it's crucial to look at all of the activities you did in the current year, by date, as well as the things you planned to do that didn't get done. When we did this for One Woman Shop, we noticed a few things:

  • We overestimate what we can get done in one month. Lesson: Plan by the quarter for big projects, instead.
  • Everything -- even the "smaller" projects -- takes longer than we think it will. Lesson: Build a longer runway for projects and leave room for the unknown.
  • Many of our weekly/biweekly tasks were not directly related to our overall goals or revenue streams. Lesson: Paring down our consistent activities into those that, a.) we enjoy doing, and b.) directly support our goals and/or revenue streams will help us free up time for other priorities.

When you're doing this, start with the big projects/launches, and work your way down to the daily/weekly/bi-weekly consistent activities you do, such as scheduling your social media or writing your blog content. For the visual peeps in the house, calendarizing everything, even just in a list in a Google Doc, can be uber helpful in realizing where you tend to overbook yourself.

5. Take the essentialist approach

As Greg McKeown taught us in Essentialism, if you don't determine your priorities, someone else will. Doing your audit and being honest about what needs to stay and what needs to go is your way of taking control of your priorities. As you do this, be sure to persistently as yourself: "How can I scale down to maintain my sanity and prevent overwhelm?"

Being particular about your priorities is one way to be proactive in preventing the overwhelm that plagues so many solopreneurs, threatening burnout as the year wears on.

Hindsight is 20/20

This is the perfect time to take advantage of that hindsight. Block off a few mornings or a full day, build in some accountability, and make your audit happen. It's the perfect way to set you up for smart planning for the new year.

Then tell us: What are your top tips or resources for performing a biz audit?

3 Uncommon Cures for Imposter Syndrome

cure imposter syndrome

cure imposter syndrome

Do you ever wonder, “Am I worthy?” Do you question whether your work or blog are ‘good enough?”

I know I have at various points throughout my life...but my decision to become an entrepreneur seemed to kick these insecurities into overdrive.

I’d love to tell you that this feeling goes away, but the truth is that imposter syndrome will rear its ugly head over and over again when you’re your own boss.

If you’ve experienced this at all, I have good news: You’re human and you’re on the right track.

No one is exempt from imposter syndrome.

That’s why it’s so important to face it. Because if you simply let it do its thing, imposter syndrome will kill your business.

It’s hard to believe that imposter syndrome didn’t exist (at least by name) prior to the late 1970s when it was identified by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Their research showed that many high-achieving women experienced something called the ‘imposter phenomenon’, which meant that “many tended to believe they were not intelligent and that they were over-evaluated by others.”

The scariest part when it comes to imposter syndrome is that it can keep you stuck and prevent you from taking action on important projects.

But it doesn’t have to be a “normal” part of solopreneurship; nor does it have to be the death sentence it can feel like.

I’m here to help you identify the ways imposter syndrome shows up for you, then develop an action plan to help you move past it faster next time. Because I believe the feelings of imposter syndrome are actually a promise of, or a prerequisite to, the great things yet to come.

4 simple steps to identify imposter syndrome in your business:

Develop a confidence meter. When you have confidence in yourself and your abilities, you’re less likely to feel like a fraud. The greater amount of confidence you have in your work, the easier it’ll be able to spot moments of imposter syndrome.

Kick comparisonitis to the curb. One sure fire way to discredit your expert status is to look at what others are doing. Remember: Only you can set benchmarks for you. You have no idea what that person went through to get where they are and you would be better off devoting that attention to your own business. (And any time spent looking at others can be done strategically.)

Check your self talk. Are you labeling yourself as a failure based on someone else's success? If you find that you’re bashing yourself more than usual, chances are imposter syndrome is right around the corner.

Recognize your wins. Imposter syndrome tends to show up when you’re upleveling. This is also known as an upper limit problem. As you challenge old habits, grow, and expand, part of your mind will try to keep you safe by trying to convince you not to take risks or halt your development.

Uncommon cures for imposter syndrome

I have good and bad news now.

The bad news is that you can’t prevent imposter syndrome entirely. Even the best mindset teachers experience it.

The good news is that I’ve identified three strategies that are both helpful and easy to implement, to help you move past it quicker next time it shows up:

1. Connect with your friends

One of the key reasons why imposter syndrome creeps up in solopreneurs in particular is because we tend to work from home or in isolation more than others.

Even though you work from home, it’s important to have some sort of contact with others.

Here are a few of my favorite activities to connect with my friends:

  • Co-working days. Just having a change of scenery and a bit of company can be enough. Get out for a coffee chat or arrange a virtual coffee chat.
  • Role playing. Try hopping on the phone with your accountability buddy or friend and telling her some of what’s floating around in your head. Sometimes the simple trick of sharing your self talk out loud can help you identify the lies you are telling yourself more easily.
  • Instant/text messages. Sometimes meeting in person or hopping on the phone aren’t the best or most convenient options. If that’s the case, you can turn to instant/text messages. I used this trick the last time I was experiencing imposter syndrome. Just sending a quick message with my fears and concerns to someone else allowed me to boost my mood and reminded me that I could do anything. I went on to deliver my first live talk with great success.

2. Create your affirmations, then write them down

Psychologists have found that affirmations can help shift one’s self esteem.

But, sometimes just saying your affirmations doesn’t work. If this is the case for you, try writing them down.

Here’s a fun exercise: Break out your journal or a sheet of paper and write down 3-5 affirmations to combat your top fear.

For example, “I am worthy.” “I am successful.” “It’s ok to ask for money for my services.” “I am worthy and deserving of success.”

When you feel or hear that imposter syndrome lurking about, revisit that sheet of paper and read them, then recite them out loud...on repeat.

3. Catalog the good

I like to use social media to combat imposter syndrome.

Here’s how: I’ve created a Pinterest board devoted to imposter syndrome and I look at it whenever I need to boost my confidence or find inspiration. I’ve also created a private board, called smile, where I keep screenshots of my client testimonials. That way I can see how I’ve helped my clients and own my expert status. Create your own rainy day file and put it somewhere you can easily reference it.

Now: Create your action plan

Now you know exactly what steps you can take the next time your imposter syndrome shows up. But, will you?

The truth is after reading the cures, one of these four thoughts likely floated through your mind:

“It’s too easy.”
“It won’t work for me.”
“Whatever. I’m just not ready.”
“I’m waiting for a sign.”

I want to encourage you to notice these thoughts for what they really are -- lies. The three unlikely cures for imposter syndrome are too easy not to implement, and they can work for everyone.

As I write this post, I’m thinking, “Who am I to write a post about imposter syndrome? I’m just not ready.”

To push past this, I asked myself two questions -- part of my affirmations:

What would I do if I were ready?
When will I be ready?

Since my answer to the second question was, “I don’t know”, I decided to go ahead and implement my answer from the first question (and I just did it).

If I had allowed those thoughts to get the best of me, you wouldn’t be reading this post.

Embrace imposter syndrome

You are expert enough, good enough, and ready enough to take on (and conquer) whatever journey lies in front of you.

It’s your constant desire to be better that is going to fuel your creative inspiration and set you apart from everyone else.

You are unique. You are valued. And, it’s impossible to fake that.

Use the Comparison Trap to Help You Build a Better Biz. Here’s How.

comparison trap

comparison trap

The comparison trap is a universal one. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t fallen down the slippery slope and had a moment (or two) of jealousy from coveting someone else’s career success.

And let’s face it — no matter what career stage you’re in, there will come a time where comparison will creep in. We are living in a hyper-connected time, and consequently, a comparison-soaked culture.

It’s far too easy to check your social feeds and see the latest and greatest accomplishment from your dearest competitor. One could argue that a simple solution to the comparison trap is to stop following the feeds. But social media isn’t the problem — it’s our own internal mindset that constantly makes us feel like we’re not stacking up.

Time for a mindset makeover.

Instead of counselling on how to avoid the comparison trap, why not flip the script and use the trap to your benefit?

For someone who’s in the beginning stages of their freelance career, comparison is a constant. I spend way more time than I’d like to admit creeping the success of others. At first, it was competitive research — after all, isn’t getting a pulse of the industry good business practice?

But when you’re so wrapped up in someone else’s accomplishments, fear eventually steps in and paralyzes. Instead of asking myself: “What do I need to do to get where they are?” I would simply sit and think: “There’s no way I’ll get to that level.”

Talk about deflating.

In the beginning, you often don’t know just who you are in relation to your business. Figuring that part out can be your hardest challenge. So, in comes the silver lining of the comparison trap...

The best part of the comparison trap

Avoiding it is not the answer. You’re already hard enough on yourself and this shouldn’t be another source of stress.

I’ve recently become a fangirl of Tara Gentile — she’s the founder of Quiet Power Strategy®, which offers hands­-on training and support for idea­-driven entrepreneurs. In this recent interview she did on the ConvertKit podcast, she shares the secret to flipping the comparison trap into something good for your solo biz.

The secret benefit? You can use it to build your brand identity.

To have solid brand definition means knowing what’s out there in the market, and thus comparing yourself to others has the potential to actually bring value to your business.

How?

The comparison trap can help you discover your uniqueness.

What normally happens when we’re constantly looking up to someone and propping them on a pedestal?

Besides starting to feel ultra inferior, we tend to emulate them, to blend into the mix. We think if we can just be like them, we can have success like they have.

But, what if we turned the trap into truthfulness? Instead of trying to blend in, why not use the comparison to unearth what makes your brand distinct?

To compare is not to despair

Jealousy and envy are considered “ugly” feelings — if we’re feeling them, it’s usually in secret and we often beat ourselves up for feeling that way. But all emotions, even envy, have a purpose. If you’re feeling jealous about someone else’s success, the emotion may simply be pointing you towards what you value most.

And what you value most is an integral element to defining your business brand.

Like it or not, there are many female solopreneurs or side hustlers out there who do what you do.

At the end of the day, we all help other businesses, in one form or another:

  • Grow their bottom line,
  • Build their brand,
  • Craft compelling content, or
  • Connect with their communities

But it’s what makes you different as a business person that will get you noticed, and ultimately, sway those other businesses to choose working with you.

By looking at others — your role models, your competitors, even your industry friends — you can consciously define your brand against the rest, helping you hone in on a more concrete brand identity.

Turn the comparison trap into your truth

The journey of growing a business and brand is often full of self discovery, which is why the conversation of entrepreneurship easily intertwines with personal growth. When you start to figure out who you are and what you represent in relation to your business, it can be the very thing that helps you gain the traction you were missing before.

The comparison trap doesn’t have to get you down. Comparing yourself to others opens yourself up to discovering what fits you, and what doesn’t. Choose to use it to gain perspective, and you might just come to appreciate the trap you previously loathed.

How can you turn the envy from comparing yourself to others into enlightenment about your brand? Leave a comment below to let us know!