Shop Talk: Outsourcing

Welcome to Shop Talk, where we chat about everything from the business processes and procedures you swear by to how you handle tough situations (like letting go of a client) to what gets you up on Monday morning. Give us a sneak peek into your business and let yourself inspire (and be inspired by!) our community.

You consider yourself a resourceful, intelligent business woman. You know that all answers are just a Google search away. So, do you spend your time finding the answers to your questions (like how to code in CSS or how to use Quickbooks) or do you outsource these parts of your business, knowing that someone else can do it more efficiently?

Call for Responses: One Woman Experiments

We're all about finding new, better ones of getting things done in business. We are looking for daring women to experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. Aptly named One Woman Experiments, these mini experiments will not only (hopefully) improve your own business, but also inspire other One Woman Shops to test-drive new strategies.

Some topics we're interested in exploring:

  • Does adopting the five.sentenc.es email philosophy change your email process for the better?
  • Does using the Pomodoro technique improve your productivity and concentration?
  • What happens when you adopt the ideas from The 4 Hour Workweek?
  • Does working from a coworking space improve your business (productivity, networking, etc)?
  • What happens when you take on a bunch of pro bono clients (does it lead to good business developments)?
  • What happens when you declare email bankruptcy?
  • When happens when you take a week off from social media?
  • What would happen if you sold a product or service using a Pay What It's Worth model?
  • Your idea!

Interested? Please email us with the experiment you're interested in conducting. We'll get back to you with a decision on whether we'd like you to write the piece for the site. If we say yes, here's what  we'll need from you:

  • a 150 x 150 px headshot
  • A 3-4 sentence bio in third person
  • 1-2 paragraphs responses to the following:
      • What is your experiment and why?
      • Tell us your methodology (length of experiment, what you'll measure, etc)
      • How did you feel when you adopted the new practice? Were you more productive/sane/happy? Metrics are great- like "I was able to do x% more in the same amount of time"
      • Any revolutionary/surprising insights?
      • What was the toughest/best part of your experiment? Do you think you'll stick with it?

P.S. Looking to contribute to One Woman Shop in other ways? Be sure to check out our Call for Responses section!

Name Your City

name your city

We are so happy to have some great community members spread all across the country and even the world! Nothing would make us happier than hearing about you grabbing a quick cup of coffee with another One Woman Shop or planning a meetup for your area. We wanted to get the ball rolling by inviting you to share a little about the city that you live in- if you see someone else from your area, don't hesitate to reach out to them! Having an online community is amazing, but nothing beats meeting face-to-face.

So, share with us your city and, in case anyone is traveling there any time soon, we want to know: your favorite restaurant, your favorite coffee shop, your favorite night time activity, your favorite neighborhood to hang out in, and your favorite off-the-beaten path hangout.

The one rule: if you get together with another One Woman Shop, you have to send us a photo 🙂

Want to meet even more solopreneurs and freelancers in your area? Help us spread the word:

Photo credit

Motivation Monday: Create a Board of Directors

By now, everyone knows the benefits of having a mentor (right?!). But have you ever considered having a Board of Directors for your solo business? Corporations have them and non-profit organizations have them, so why not you?

Let's face it, it can get overwhelming running a business on your own- sometimes you want feedback on your latest website, a new perspective on your branding, an outsiders' view of how to handle a difficult client, or just the knowledge that someone out there is dedicated to your success.

Some considerations:

    • Will you officially ask people to join your Board of Directors or will you keep it to yourself?
    • 6-8 people is generally a good size- too many more and there's too many cooks in the metaphorical kitchen. Too few and there likely won't be enough diversity
    • Consider reaching out to people who work with, are familiar with, or are in your target demographic- they'll be better equipped to help you effectively
    • Think about the various areas of your business, like marketing, financial, legal, manufacturing, writing, etc and find someone who is stellar at it: the insanely organized person who has a system for everything, the person who has a way with words, the person who can put together a cohesive brand strategy that perfectly captures your intentions
    • Think about the complementary personality traits that you’ll need. For example, it might be beneficial to have both a person who will cheer you up and a person who will give it to you straight
    • Make it worth it for your Board of Directors by offering to write them a recommendation on LinkedIn, connect them with your network, or promote their work on your social media accounts. And remember that a handwritten note goes a long way in this digital age!
    • This is probably not the right time to cold-email someone for the first time. Reach out to people you have an established relationship with

Want a template for reaching out to your future board AND an easy-to-use spreadsheet for creating your future board? Just enter your info below:

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Do you have a personal Board of Directors? If not, how do you plan to find one?

Weekly Finds

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds- where we scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we think will help your business- and maybe even your life!

one woman shop weekly finds

If you're thinking that you absolutely must differentiate yourself in order to succeed in business, think again. Here's why you can win without differentiating (as long as you're awesome).

Ahh, so refreshing: Lisa of Elembee fills us in on one of her biggest takeaways from Designer Vaca: that we're all faking it (yes, even those One Woman Shops you think are flawless...).

We are thrilled to hear this one: Facebook finally lets you edit posts after you publish them. If you're ever had to delete and recreate a Facebook post, you'll appreciate this decision.

Which is better for goal-setting: small, gradual changes or big, sweeping ones? The Happiness Project answer: it depends! 

You may have seen our Facebook post, but we laughed when we read these words on Amanda Abella's blog: "I think it was Ali Brown who once said if you want all of your stuff to come up you should forget therapy and just start a business." Nothing could be more true!

Are you working on building your email list? Here are 41 tips from Ramsay of Blog Tyrant. Some seem obvious but there are some interesting ideas in there, like redirecting commenters to your email list page after they comment or using a plugin that only targets new visitors.

On our to do list: install the Add New Default Avatar plugin, per the advice of Allyssa from The Barn Blog.

What posts did you love this week?

P.S. If you liked this post, tweet it out!

10 Ways You Know You’re a Fit for the One Woman Shop Community

one woman shop on ipad.

One Woman Shop was created for female solopreneurs and freelancers. That may sound like a pretty defined target demographic, but there are a ton of women who fit into the category of One Woman Shop. We could define our "ideal" community member by demographics like age, location, or industry, but these things mean so little to us...the world is flat, age is but a number, and we'll wager a bet that every One Woman Shop shares at least some of the same struggles and glory moments.

So instead, we wanted to share 10 ways to know that you'll fit right in here:

  1. You love a good pun, a well-placed curse word, and a unique new vocab word equally
  2. You're pragmatic and matter-of-fact with a touch of idealism (and maybe even some unreasonableness -- in the best way)
  3. You're all about exploring new strategies and thrive on personal development, but at the end of the day, you believe in just getting shit done
  4. You consider yourself professional -- with plenty of silliness thrown in
  5. You present your full self to your clients and customers, but know when to keep overly personal things personal
  6. You stray away from being overly cutesy, but aren't afraid to acknowledge -- and own -- that you are indeed a woman
  7. You sometimes get jealous of other One Woman Shops you see, but are learning to channel your envy effectively to propel yourself forward with your own business
  8. You may have a set schedule or a flexible schedule, you may work insane hours, or you may take advantage of not having to put in 40+ hours per week -- no matter your choice, you believe in making your business your own
  9. You have firm beliefs but recognize that most things in business -- and life -- aren't black and white and that there's always room for interpretation and difference of opinions
  10. You thrive on learning best practices from others but know that trusting your intuition is the most important

P.S. Don't worry if you don't relate to all of these -- everyone is different (see #9!). But we usually find it safe to say that no matter your age, location, or industry, if you were nodding along to most of the above, One Woman Shop membership is for you.

Business Myth: You Have to Pick a Niche

One Woman Shop business myths

Welcome to Business Myths. Here's the deal: we often hear business "truths" and accept them as true without stopping to question them. We're chatting with solopreneurs and freelancers who have learned the hard way that these commonly accepted facts may not, in fact, always be true. In this case, Carlana shares the story of how she learned the hard way that focusing in on a niche isn't for everyone. 

Give us a bit of background on your business

It’s 2010 and my virtual assistance practice is all I dreamed it would be. Things were so great that I occasionally found myself in the position of being able to turn away work. It seemed like all the hard work I had put in since I started in 2007 was netting great results. I was happy, business was thriving and I kept busy with a range of marketing and business support services I was offering.

Sounds great...what happened then?

As a consummate learner, I was on so many lists and following so many people that at times the message was conflicting and quite confusing. Then I listened to a webinar with a marketer that I greatly admired; this marketer was advocating niching. She felt that it was the best way to grow your business and preserve your sanity. Hmm….. It seemed as of late, everyone was talking about niching. Maybe the universe was sending me a signal? I was spread a bit thin at times providing a range of complementary marketing services when most people seemed to be focusing on just one area. I spoke with other colleagues who had decided to niche after years of being what at that time seemed to be a dirty title- a Generalist VA. They felt that it was the best thing they could have ever done for their business.

So you decided to pick a niche?

I mulled it over and thought that niching was probably the best thing to do. After all, if others were succeeding at it, why wouldn’t I? I released some clients from their contracts, stopped taking on certain work and just focused on a specific niche.

And then I saw my business take a terrible tumble. You see, it never dawned on me at the time to follow my gut or do what I felt was right for MY business. Everyone was advocating niching because some felt that it appealed to clients who liked to work with someone that had mastery in certain skills and felt that a Jill-of-all-Trades Virtual Assistant really did not bring value to their business. I never stopped to consider the fact that my clients loved having their entire needs met under one roof- apparently they never got the niching memo.

I struggled for almost a year in my niche. I felt very lost and frustrated. The clients were coming but oftentimes they were not my ideal client. I felt like the joy was being sucked out of my business. I mean, I was supposed to be doing what the experts advocated and it should be working. The sad reality is that I failed to look at so many factors that went into making such as drastic move. It’s almost embarrassing now when I consider just how naïve I was to not carefully consider such a move.

Oh yikes! So what did you learn and how did you turn your business around?

Now I know that niching is not cracked up to be all that it’s supposed to, at least for me. After struggling and being unhappy with my business for almost a year, I decided I needed to have a second look at what went wrong in my business. They say tough times call for tough measures and I took some tough ones. First, I took my website offline for almost 5 months. Not having to look at it helped to clearly catch a vision of the type of business I wanted to re-launch. Secondly, I stopped listening to every guru and pundit in the blogosphere. I started unsubscribing in droves from lists I had been following and stopped buying so many business books.  It was time to shut out a lot of the noise and messages and listen to my inner voice. I was confident that I had the skills, the savvy and the know-how to reinvent my business again and I promised this time I would do it my way. I’m not saying that I don’t take advice or consider the contributions of others, but I don’t have to take them on board.

Great advice. So how are things now?

Fast forward 2 years and I have managed to rebuild my business to something I am proud of and that is distinctly me. I seriously just follow my own rules. I don’t tweet or do social media as everyone advocates or thinks I should considering the services I offer but I spend my times in online communities where I prove my value and consequently find clients. I don’t blog unless I have something I feel worth sharing. I just do ‘me’ now and I have found it works even better than before my big crash. I’m blessed that I am in a position to work with people who I feel are a good fit for me while embracing my various skills and passions. The fact is I am a multipassionista. I have many passions and interests and they often cross over in the work I do and the services I offer my clients. What I discounted is the fact that many clients appreciate a multi-pronged approach to their business. They don’t want to hire a specialist for each and everything and they are happy to not have a specific label for me, rather choosing to see me more in a partner role.

Carlana charles virtual assistantCarlana Charles is the Principal of CarlanaCharles.com, a virtual assistance practice that provides a range of marketing and business support services as well as freelance writing and blogging. You can find her on TwitterFacebook, her business hub or her book review blog.

Shop Talk: Your Mantra

Welcome to Shop Talk, where we chat about everything from the business processes and procedures you swear by to how you handle tough situations (like letting go of a client) to what gets you up on Monday morning. Give us a sneak peek into your business and let yourself inspire (and be inspired by!) our community.

We all love pinning inspirational quotes on Pinterest, right? You may have a quote board with hundreds of inspirational pins, but we want to know: which business mantra do you read when you're feeling unproductive, full of self-doubt, or tired of being a solopreneur?

Webinar Recap: Behind-the-Scenes of One Woman Shop

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Weekly Finds

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds- where we scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we think will help your business- and maybe even your life!

weekly finds

Not convinced about the value of Twitter for your business? Here are 100 facts and figures from Social Media Today- and why they matter to your business.

Nervous to reach out to a busy expert in your field? That's okay, as long as it pushes you to prepare appropriately. Selena Soo shares the dos and don'ts of getting noticed by industry VIPs.

We're suckers for Alexandra Frazen's helpful fill-in-the-blank templates on her blog- especially this one: a reality check on creating a complete business model for your business (hint: "working on a novel" isn't it).

Launching a new product or service? Don't just stick to the same old, same old Facebook posts. Amp it up a notch with these tips from Rise to the Top. Our favorite: provide tons of behind-the-scenes content (by the way, have you registered for our behind-the-scenes webinar?).

Headed out of town or away from your business for a few days? Zoe Rooney wrote a post that's jam-packed with tips for returning to an inbox that's not too overwhelming- follow her system.

Are you a sucker for learning new ways to effectively Google search? Then you will have a nerdgasm (thanks to Amy Chick for this phrase!) over on Google Inside Search, which gives you a look into Google's search engine. Don't forget to learn some time-saving new tricks while you're on the site!

Remember when The Busy Trap article came out in the New York Times? If you needed even more reasons why the busy trap is no good, here are five pitfalls of busyness.