So You Wanna Be a…Professional Speaker

i want to be a professional speaker

You’re ready to start your solo business — you’re craving the freedom, the versatility, and the chance to put your passion into play — but you’re not quite sure where to start. You’ve come to the right place. In our So You Wanna Be a… series, we highlight entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses doing what they love.

This month, we’re chatting with three professional speakers — Jess Ekstrom of Headbands of Hope, Alexia Vernon of Alexia Vernon Empowerment, and Nicole Belanger of Nicole Belanger Media — to get their inside advice on how they got their speaking careers started.

So you wanna be a professional speaker? Here’s what you need to know…

Tell us exactly what a person in your role does.

Jess: When I was in college, I started a company called Headbands of Hope. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 to childhood cancer research. I started getting calls from universities to come speak to their students about taking action in college. I signed on with an agency called CAMPUSPEAK and have been traveling around the country ever since speaking to students and some corporations as well.

Alexia: As a professional speaker, I have the opportunity to inspire and transform people with my message. From keynotes, to TED-style talks, to corporate trainings, to retreats, I get to create epic experiences that show people opportunities they never know existed, help them reframe limiting beliefs and behaviors, and transfer their insight into action.

Nicole: As a speaker, my role is to create a safe, enjoyable space for audiences to reflect, to help them learn something new about themselves or their work, and inspire them to act based on those newfound discoveries.

How did you get your start? What are other ways someone else can get started?

Alexia: I was somewhat thrust onto the speaking circuit in college after winning the Miss Junior America competition. After graduate school, I worked as a training and public speaking professor, and I began to use public speaking as a means for developing my coaching business prior to focusing on public speaking and speaking coaching as a business. For someone looking to get speaking gigs, I recommend pitching one's self for online opportunities (i.e., podcasts and tele-summits), self-producing webinars (where you make compelling offers to enroll in your upper-level programs), and applying to speak at industry events as well as building relationships with meeting planners and event organizers (and then submitting to speak).

Nicole: I consider my "start" to be my second TEDx talk in March 2014. I was actually a late addition to the roster, having originally been invited to give a "mini talk". The event organizer who reached out to me had gotten to know me through my work in the community, which gave her a sense of my experience, my personality, and my interests.

The most important piece of advice I can give to someone is this: do interesting things in your community or industry. This not only makes you more visible, but also gives you the essential material you need in order to have something interesting and valuable to talk about.

Also, let people know that you are available for speaking engagements! If you have a website, put together a simple speaking page that lists your the topics you are available to speak on and any past speaking engagements. Then, share it out regularly on social media!

Jess: Even though I didn't speak professionally in college, I tried to practice as much as I could. I gave campus tours and I also taught fitness classes. Almost every day I was getting up in front of hundreds of people and talking. That helped me become more comfortable and confident in my speaking. Even if you're not in school, I recommend finding a way to get in front of people, even if it's just raising your hand in a meeting.

Is there a certain kind of person that would thrive in your role?

Jess: When people think of motivational speakers, they probably think of someone who is really inspiring and internally reflective. That may be the case, but in order to get booked, you also have to be an entertainer. You could have a great story and an inspiring message, but if you can't deliver it in a way that captivates the audience and makes them laugh, then you won't get booked. It's not just about your story, it's about your delivery.

Nicole: I wouldn't say that you need to be an extrovert to be a speaker (some of the most compelling talks I've heard have been from introverts), but I would say that you need to be able to read the energy of a crowd and quickly respond to it. But, most importantly, you need to be willing to get up on that stage and speak honestly from the heart. Your willingness to be vulnerable is directly proportionate to the impact you will make on your audience.

What do people need before they can get started in your industry?

Nicole: Self-awareness. The reason that I was able to immediately jump on the TEDx opportunity by pitching a topic and a talk outline is that I had a keen understanding of my life story and the lessons that I have drawn from my experiences. I believe that compelling talks -- even the most technical -- center around stories, from which a speaker can then pull insights, lessons, and nuggets of information that will inspire and empower their audience.

Alexia: There are certainly some key materials that can help, including an effective speaker's page (editor’s note: here’s a great resource) on one's website -- ideally with a description of 3-4 talks/presentations, a speaking headshot, speaking footage, and testimonials from audiences. I also HIGHLY recommend becoming top notch both at sculpting one's content into a great talk (or keynote, training, etc.) and developing one's delivery skills.

Jess: It's 100% necessary to have video footage of you speaking. Even if you speak for free at an event, rent some audio and recording equipment and film it. Even better, film testimonials of people at the end talking about how great you are. You can write all of your keynotes and messages down on paper, but it's rare anyone will actually book you unless they see you talk.

How do you currently seek out clients or customers? What are some ways you've considered seeking out clients or customers that you haven't tried yet?

Jess: I attend a lot of conferences to speak and network. I would say about 90% of my bookings come from personal connections I make at conferences or just daily life and the other 10% come from internet marketing. The best way to gain new clients is by recommendation and referrals. If you did a talk and the school or company gave you great feedback, ask if they wouldn't mind recommending you to another organization.

Nicole: Currently, I rely mostly on word-of-mouth for booking speaking engagements, as well as inquiries through my website's speaking page. I also keep a mental list of conferences that I would like to speak at. Every now and then, I visit their websites to see if they are taking speaker submissions. If there is a conference that I am particularly eager to participate in, I will personally email the organizer with a proposal of a talk that I would like to share at their event, specifically tailoring it to their audience's needs and interests. Remember -- you'll never get what you don't ask for!

How do you normally work with clients or customers?

Alexia: I have corporate clients who I present keynotes and trainings for, provide mentorship to entrepreneurs and thought leaders seeking to develop their speaking careers (through private coaching and masterminds-meet-transformational retreats, or MasterTreats), run several face-to-face communication and leadership development programs, and I have two digital speaking programs (and more coming!) including Your Spotlight Talk.

Nicole: Keynote talks and in-person workshops (the smallest I've done was 5 people and the largest was almost 200).

How did you decide how to set your pricing when you were starting out?

Alexia: I make all of my speaking decisions based on my business goals. If an opportunity is purely transactional, for example a keynote or corporate training, it's a multiple 4 or 5 figure fee (depending on the scope of work). If I am speaking and have the opportunity to enroll audience members in my own programs, then I make sure that the audience is the right fit and right size to say "yes" to my offer - and the fee I get becomes significantly less important.

Jess: At first I was really confused by how expensive speakers are. In my mind, people were paying huge sums of money for only an hour of their time. But one of my speaker friends explained it to me in that the client isn't just paying for the one hour you're speaking on stage. They're paying for every moment in your life that got you to that point. So now when I'm charging a client, I know that they're paying for all the lessons and stories I've been through in order for me to be a speaker, not just the time on stage.

Nicole: Oof, this was a tough one for me. As a woman and a former non-profit worker, I have had to overcome a number of limiting beliefs about my worth and my ability to earn money doing things that come naturally to me. I will never forget the first time I made four figures giving a talk -- I waited a whole week before cashing the cheque because I was convinced that they would somehow realize that they had made a mistake and ask for their money back! (They didn't.)

That aforementioned gig was my very first keynote talk. I hadn't yet established pricing, so I chose to ask them about their budget, and, once I had that information, named a price that I thought would be fair for all involved. Now that I have been speaking for a year, I have a handful of what I call "base talks" that I customize based on a client's needs, but if I am being asked to develop an entirely new talk on a different topic, I will take that into account when I give them my quote.

What are some great resources for people looking to learn more about your industry?

Alexia: I'm pretty fond of my programs, Your Spotlight Talk and Your Spotlight Workshop, wink wink. Through my action-oriented videos, templates and cheat sheets, group coaching calls and membership community, I enable anyone interested in speaking the opportunity to develop the know-how at a price point she can afford. Two of my favorite books are Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds and Transformational Speaking. They really get to the heart of how to not just speak, but to do it in a way that transforms lives.

Jess: I love watching TED and TEDx talks, just like the rest of the world. But think about the ones you really liked or the ones where you hung on every word. What about that talk resonated with you? Was it their personal stories? Their humor? Their audience engagement? If you can start to understand why you like certain speakers more than others, you can better learn the traits yourself.

Nicole: I highly recommend this phenomenal blog post from Scott Dinsmore, the Founder of Live Your Legend and a TEDx speaker whose talk was viewed over 1 million times: 3 Rules to Giving a TEDx Talk that Gets Over 1 Million Views.

What is something that someone getting started in your type of business would be surprised to hear?

Jess: Speaking isn't just about your story, your delivery or your messages. It's about solving a problem. After hearing your talk, what is the audience walking away with? What did you fix or change? You could have an awesome story about how you saved an elephant and rode it into the sunset, but if there's no application then you're not serving your audience. When you want to speak, don't just think about the topic, think about the issue you're solving.

This post contains affiliate links for resources mentioned by those we interviewed. Anything you purchase will net us a bit of money, which helps us further our mission of supporting One Woman Shops across the world.

Secrets of Solo Business Mompreneurs

Solo Business MompreneursSolopreneurship is an amazing thing. We pour our hearts, souls, and every ounce of hustle we have into building the business of our dreams -- one that both fulfills us financially and emotionally. We work day-in and day-out, often from dawn to dusk (and sometimes from dusk to dawn…) to make it work so we can enjoy the freedom and the choice that come from being our own boss.

But there’s a certain kind of One Woman Shop that often goes underappreciated: the mompreneur. The ladies hustling to make the baby that is their business work, while also taking care of their real babies, whether they’re two months, two years, or 20.

Seeing that we’re just a few days away from celebrating moms the world over, we thought it was a perfect time to chat with a few of our fellow solo business owners -- who just happen to also be mompreneurs -- and ask a simple question:

What are your must-haves for successfully managing motherhood and your solo business?

Here’s what they had to say:

"Be brave: ask for time, space, support, and babysitting from your family, friends, and community; try a short and sweet daily meditation practice; add a little movement and nature to your day; read empowering books; and approach it all with self-compassion and humor. I could name specific tips and technology but, truly, I create by using these simple practices in tandem." - Julie Fiandt, Create in Tandem

"My monthly planner (both paper and digital), byRegina’s Epic Blog calendar combined with my WordPress editorial calendar, and a (kiddo-free) scheduled planning day each month to automate my recurring tasks and get administrative work done. I became a solopreneur so I could stay home with my (now three-year-old) son and the only way for me to stay balanced is for me to keep a healthy dose of realism." - Desiree Jester, A Place to Nest

"My must-haves are intuition and action. I successfully manage motherhood and my business by acting on my intuition without delay. No second guessing, no doubt, no fear." - Lisa Ball, Mompreneur Assistant

"I’ve found that is it essential for me to 1) know my priorities, 2) have a good handle of how much time I can spend on my business and the corresponding, realistic output I can demand from myself (currently loving the Pomodoro technique to maximise my time), and 3) have clear boundaries with my son over when Mama’s work hours are. (Shushing the Mommy Guilt that may crop up whenever I have to say no to that sad puppy dog face!)" - Joy Ycasiano-Dejos, Mommy Proofing Coaching

"For me, it's a constantly updated to-do list. Because I know that I may only have 10 or 15 minutes in which to get a quick work item done, I have to have a really clear, prioritized menu of tasks available at my fingertips. I use the Bullet Journaling method to keep my to-do list organized and up-to-date." - Amy Simpkins, Life Architecting

"I'm still figuring things out since my baby is only eight months old, but I couldn't do it without my husband's support. He takes care of baby when he gets home from work so I can have all afternoon to work and makes sure I have everything I need to focus on getting things done." - Lilly Garcia, LillyGarcia.com

"My email, Google calendar, and Facebook are indispensable for managing my mompreneur life. They keep me organized and focused in regard to scheduling, blog ideas, communication with others, and client work." - Jennifer Lopez, Live Simply, Live Thrifty, Live Savvy

"My iPhone -- if it is not in my phone calendar, it does not happen; Dropbox -- I can see my files on the go whether I am waiting at sports warm-ups or in the dance lobby; my planner from Target -- I need to visually SEE what the heck is going on, too! Finally, peppermint pedicures -- It is one of the things I do for myself where no can talk to me. I don't take my phone and I just relax in the moment." - Sang D, http://www.Sangtastik.com

"Reliable humans! Since welcoming baby, I've added a team member to my business and regular baby care at home, both of which I consider indispensable." - Laura Simms, Create as Folk

"Designated office/work time and reliable child care to help make that happen. As a mother of three, knowing when I can answer emails, add items to our online shop, and correspond with clients and colleagues is a must. Knowing that the kiddos are well taken care of sets me at ease and therefore helps make a happier, more productive work environment." - Veronica Staudt, Vintage Meet Modern

"While I rely a lot on tools like Wunderlist and Pocket to help me keep track of to-dos and resources, my true must haves are flexibility and community. Children are constantly growing and changing, and I try to build some wiggle room into my schedule while still remaining reliable for my clients. And I love my community of mompreneurs to bounce ideas off of, relate to, and be inspired by." - Nikkita Cohoon, nikkita.co

"Focus. I manage my day with the​ WIN concept -- “What's Important Now.” It's all about fully ​dedicating your precious attention to the task in front of you​, no distractions. That way you know whatever you've done, you've done well and with intention." - Melissa Bolton, TheMogulMom.com

"You know the saying “it takes a village”? Well that is definitely the case here, and a few go-to apps help too. First, I’m very, very lucky to have a husband who is willing to take on a good share of the parenting and household management. We use Cozi for scheduling, to do lists (we keep a permanent “travel prep list” for our road trips) and shopping lists. For my solo business, I use Redbooth plus a couple of paper planners (Passion Planner and The Day Designer). Gotta go, my turn for bedtime routine!" - Rachel Formaro, Blu Pagoda

"My biggest tip is having a good support system, I couldn't work on my business without my husband sharing our family responsibilities. I also separate work stuff from home stuff. I have set working hours, during which I ignore the house (ok, I might do a load of laundry, because as we know, there is always laundry!), and when my son and husband are at home, I work really hard on focusing on family stuff. I'd also be lost without my Filofax planner, which helps me to keep up with everything." - Francine Clouden, Callaloo Soup

"I am a runner and making time to run helps to keep me mentally fit, and allows me to have much needed me-time for about an hour every morning. We spend so much time worrying about our clients, families, and other responsibilities, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of just making time for yourself." - Nancy Laws, Afro-Chic Mompreneur

"Two things: 1. You don't have to answer e-mails in the evening or late into the night. Put down the phone and make some time to snuggle with your babies. This is sometimes hard to do, but I love the snuggle time. 2. Schedule your work day around your children. I wait to start my work until my son is ready and off to school; I then take a break to pick him up from school. That way we get some special time together." - Katie Radke, KR Creative Designs

A huge thanks to the mompreneurs sharing their secrets with us!

Fellow mompreneurs: what’s on your must-have list? Tell us in the comments below.

One Woman Shop Member Spotlight: Brittany Stoess

Brittany Stoess

Welcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what's going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today!

Today's Spotlight is on Brittany Stoess, graphic designer and store owner at Adventure & the Wild.

Tell us about yourself and your business - what do you do + who do you serve?

My name is Brittany Stoess. I run Adventure & the Wild, a graphic design and lettering service. My focus is on nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals who are taking risks and creating real change in the community around them. I offer several brand identity packages (logo, blog/website design, print materials, etc.) as well as custom work for individuals and special events. I also run a shop where I sell art prints of my designs!

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

Instagram! My business is very visual, so Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase my work as well as my life, which has led me to several client opportunities. Plus, it makes me appreciate how insanely talented + creative people are! I am constantly inspired by the content I see in the Instagram community.

If you had to describe yourself or your business in one word, what would it be?

Adventurous. My business name is no accident 😉 Here’s the thing: I believe that everyone is living out their own adventure. Whether that is in business, a nonprofit, or a personal venture, we are all doing hard things. We’re taking risks, creating change, and exploring new territory. We’re all figuring this out as we go.

Adventure & the Wild is a design service, absolutely. That’s what I do. But more than that, I want it to be a place you can find encouragement and support for whatever adventure you’re on. I don’t want to just provide a one-time service; I want to develop a long-lasting relationship and work with you to create something incredible. You are doing amazing things; I’m here to provide the visuals to express that.

What is the #1 lesson you've learned since being in business on your own?

Doing the work takes time. I know that seems mind-numbingly obvious, but recognizing and accepting that has made all the difference for me. Design can be really, really tedious work. I tend to underestimate how long things will take to complete, so when what I assume will take 30 minutes ends up taking 2 hours, I start feeling very down on myself and overwhelmed, which in turn makes me want to shut down completely. When I finally realized that no, I’m not totally incompetent -- that it’s normal to take this much time -- it was like a breath of fresh air.

How has running a business changed you?

Starting a business is intimidating. It forces you to stretch yourself and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve learned to take a lot more risks. Pushing myself to go for it, even when I’m not feeling particularly brave, has made me much more confident. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I am now more likely to acknowledge the fear, and then keep pushing past it and doing the scary things anyway.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

I recently revamped my brand identity packages, and am super excited about them! I love working with businesses/individuals to create a visual brand that accurately conveys their mission + who they are. I have several options + price points to choose from, so if your brand needs a little refreshing, let’s chat! Find out more info at adventureandthewild.com/services.

Also! I launched a print shop last month, and am offering OWS readers a 10% discount through the end of May! Use code OWS10 at checkout.

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Brittany!

So You Wanna Be a…Personal Stylist

soyouwannabe_blog

You’re ready to start your solo business -- you’re craving the freedom, the versatility, and the chance to put your passion into play -- but you’re not quite sure where to start. You’ve come to the right place. In our So You Wanna Be A… series, we highlight solopreneurs who’ve built successful businesses doing what they love.

This month, we’re chatting with three personal stylists -- Monica Barnett of Blueprint for Style, Conni Jespersen of Art in the Find, and Nicole Longstreath of The Wardrobe Code  -- to get their inside advice on how they got their solo businesses started.

So you wanna be a personal stylist? Here’s what you need to know...

Tell us exactly what a person in your role does.

Conni: A wardrobe stylist is a multi-faceted job. Most of what I do involves behind-the-scenes movement before the actual event or appointment with a client. A wardrobe stylist can do everything from organizing and styling a photo shoot/editorial to shopping for or with a client. The role requires you to pick up and drop off clothes for photo shoots, organize dressing rooms, racks, and closets, and build solid relationships with women who need help with style and organization. It's the job of a stylist to help empower women to feel motivated and confident about their wardrobe every day!

Monica: As a wardrobe stylist and image consultant, I'm part psychiatrist, part clairvoyant, and part shopper. I work with individuals and companies to understand what they want to say with their style message, and then work toward creating that visually using clothing and accessories.

Nicole: I teach the modern working woman how to define her style and build a wardrobe around the person she's destined to be.

How did you get your start? What are other ways someone else can get started?

Conni: The obvious road to start out is attending a fashion-based college to obtain a degree in fashion. But if you have a degree in another field, like I do, use that to your advantage and assist someone who is already established. It’s a great way to build knowledge, experience, and skill. Another idea is to attend night classes at a community college to slowly earn a degree, while interning, assisting, or working in a field closely related to what you want to do. (That's what I did!)

Monica: I started very organically by styling friends, and discovered that I had a natural eye for putting things together. It morphed into a career after leaving a six-figure consulting gig out of necessity. I wanted to help people feel good and I know that when you look good, you feel good and that can change the game! I think a great way to start is to "start where you are" and get exposure to the different facets of fashion -- and read, a lot (which I openly confess I don't do enough of).

Nicole: I got laid off from commercial interior design for the second time in three years, so I decided to start my own business. I had already been working on the side with a few friends, and it seemed like the perfect time to go out on my own!

Is there a certain kind of person that would thrive in your role?

Conni: An extrovert would thrive in this role! You have to love working, networking, and collaborating with people and be confident in your style in order to help people with theirs. A lot of what you're doing in building relationships. Styling is not about ownership but about teaching others how to rock their own personal style in their own way. You have to be competitive but not pushy. Be willing to listen, look around, and see what's happening out there then give it back to women in a way that women will feel empowered to do it themselves!

Monica: Someone who is creative and has tenacity because it isn't all sunshine and fun. It requires a business mind to think a few steps ahead, build alliances, and brand appropriately. You truly have to have a passion for what you do because people see/feel and feed off of it!

Nicole: You have to be able to see different types of style possibilities for different people. It's not enough to simply dress your clients up in trends.

What do people need before they can get started in your industry?

Conni: Obtaining a credential or degree in fashion is encouraged but not required. Taking courses in the fashion industry is helpful because you'll be more apt to understanding the in's/out's of the fashion industry.

From an entrepreneur perspective, securing a business license & domain name for your site/blog were first. Most cities have places you can go for free business advice. In San Diego, there is a non-profit called Score, that gives free business/finance advice for new entrepreneurs. (They helped me a lot.)

Nicole: People who want to get started need an interest in fashion and some sort of creative professional background, since there is a pretty substantial customer service component of the business. You're not just a "creative" - you're a designer who creates wardrobes for clients.

How do you currently seek out clients or customers? What are some ways you've considered seeking out clients or customers that you haven't tried yet?

Conni: Most of what I've done so far has been word-of-mouth or advertising tips/style services on my blog. Networking has been the greatest way of building a client base. When meeting people, I love to chat about what I do, exchange business cards, and reach out to them again after we've met. I have yet to try advertising in print as a method of building customers. I am just not sure how effective it would be for me.

Monica: Currently, I do mostly referrals and use most introductions to share what I do and get people excited. I have considered advertising in certain magazines but haven't done it yet partly because it's expensive but also because I'm not sure it will provide the type of clients I need at this juncture.

Nicole: I create content that my ideal client wants, but can't seem to find from other sources. Establishing myself as an expert and flying my flag on certain opinions has attracted an audience that feels connected because we share ideas.

How do you normally work with clients or customers?

Conni: Mainly I work with clients 1-on-1 but there are also fun events that I participate in where I am giving style tips to small groups. I also offer virtual styling online when a client lives out of town/state. This is an affordable option for people who need a stylist but don't need a whole overhaul of their wardrobe!

Nicole: The majority of my clients go through my online course, Style Mastery. We have an online library of materials, a private Facebook group, and we do twice-monthly live calls. I also do have a few clients I work with locally in Orange County.

How did you decide how to set your pricing when you were starting out?

Conni: I was once told by someone that it's easier to lower your prices later than it is to raise them. When I was deciding how to price my hourly rates/packages, I took the following into consideration.

  1. what I would need to make in a day to live
  2. what a "client" who would hire me could afford

Monica: I backed into my pricing originally based on what I wanted to make. Over time, I have changed the model to price slightly higher than the competition and to focus on dollars per hour.

What are some great resources for people looking to learn more about your industry?

Conni: In the fashion industry, there are networking groups you can join such as FGI (Fashion Group International). It's a great idea to start networking as soon as possible to know what is going on in the community. Other style resources are WWD (Women's Wear Daily), which is an online and print publication that is the know-all of style forecasters, and style.com.

Monica: My favorite blogs are Cheetah is the New Black, whowhatwear.com, and Le Catch.

What is an industry-specific tool that you couldn’t live without?

Nicole: Polyvore. (Editor’s note: Polyvore is a “community powered social commerce website” where you can curate products and create collages.)

What is something that someone getting started in your type of business would be surprised to hear?

Conni: I don't know if it's surprising but collaborations with others in your field will broaden your knowledge and experience. A lot of what you'll do in the beginning involves free work on your part to show what you know. Collaborations will not only widen your community but it will exercise your creativity! Be in it to help others, not just yourself.

Nicole: Women will invest in everything else in their life before they invest in themselves (which is a shame!). To convert a styling client, it's best to find women who already have a specific reason why they want to define their style. Otherwise, you're constantly convincing them how and why they're worth the investment. I still do a bit of that with clients, but they need to have mostly come to the conclusion on their own already.

Ready to get started? Connect with our experts via Twitter:

P.S. Liked this post? You’ll love seeing a day in the life of Nicole Longstreath!

Business Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

business isn't one-size-fits-all

Ever feel like every business guru, expert, or ninja wants to sell you on the idea that there’s one solution to all of your solo business issues?

Here at One Woman Shop, we don’t believe that business - or life - is one-size-fits-all. Though we’ve slipped, we try to always steer clear of using phrases like “you need to,” “you should,” or “your whole business will fall apart if you don’t…”

For example: we believe your daily schedule is all your own. Maybe you wake up at the crack of dawn (we both do!) or maybe you sleep until 11am -- because you can.

We’ve run a post called One Woman Experiments: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, but the post is exactly that: an experiment. Not a rule or a requirement, just a neat little look into one woman’s adventure with waking up earlier. Nowhere in the post does it mandate that you, too, need to set your alarm clock for two hours earlier from now on.

Why? Because business is not one-size-fits-all.

Just like your schedule, your marketing strategy is all your own. We’ve got a post coming up about why Cristina is an Instagram convert. Will we encourage you to reconsider Instagram as a marketing platform if you’re staunchly against it at the moment? Heck yes. But will we say that your business needs an Instagram strategy or that you’re making a fatal error by not using it? Nope.

Why? Because business is not one-size-fits-all.

Likewise, how you choose to structure your business and the clients you take on is all your own. Firmly believe that picking a very specific niche is important for your success? We’re here to help you brainstorm the specific characteristics of your ideal client, down to their bra color and favorite movie. But if you’ve made a proactive decision that niching isn’t for you (you little multipassionate, you), like Carlana and Sara have, we’re going to support you, too.

Why? Because business is not one-size-fits-all.

The people you surround yourself with -- and the community you build -- through your business is entirely your choice. If you’re looking for a business coach who will yell obscenities at you (no seriously, some people want this), we’ll direct you to that kind of tough-love personality. If you’re looking for a more gentle, hand-holding approach, we’ve got you there too. Either way, we think it’s about knowing yourself and your preferences.

Why? Because business is not one-size-fits-all.

You didn’t start your business to live up to someone else’s expectation; to be someone else’s employee; or to run it the way someone else tells you you should. Make it your own.

What one-size-fits-all-businesses myths have you been told?

One Woman Experiments: Coding With Skillcrush (Part I)

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines! This experiment in web development is currently being embarked upon by OWS head-honcho, Sara Frandina.

I’m a multipassionate. I don’t believe in confining yourself to a niche; I aim to learn as much as possible about many different things; and I sure as hell don’t ever find myself bored.

Being a multi-passionate, to me, means constantly evolving and trying new things. I’ve learned to overcome my fear of public speaking and won a campus-wide contest. I’ve learned to speak fluent Italian and traveled there as part of a full-immersion program. I’ve researched carboys and the best oak to use as I learn to make wine.

My Type-A personality lends itself well to learning, sticking with something, and getting pretty good at most things. (I’m not bragging. It’s a blessing and a curse.) But there’s one thing that’s been on my bucket list for far too long now, that I simply have not been able to grasp: coding. (Web developers: you have my undying envy + awe.)

Learning to code as a One Woman Shop

I’ve putzed around with the self-teaching route for coding. When I launched my business in late 2013, I even set out to build my own site. As a copywriter + editor, it was a complete mindset shift from the creative, free-flowing words to the rules-laden, no-room-for-error world of code. But still, even after embarking upon the process and keeping the best notes possible, I just wasn’t getting the hang of it.

A lot of that came from being a One Woman Shop who really needs to spend the majority of my time doing the things I’m good at to keep my business growing -- and therefore not being able to devote consistent time to a “non-essential” skill like coding. But the desire to learn to code hasn’t escaped me -- especially as I have client after client ask me how to put the web copy I write to its best use.

So when one of Cristina’s online contacts connected One Woman Shop to the ladies at Skillcrush suggesting we collaborate, it seemed a match was made in heaven. What’s Skillcrush? Oh, just a company that aims to teach tech skills to people who are complete newbies in a non-invasive, self-paced way. (And it’s a company built + run by a team of women -- even better.)

Learning to code, the Skillcrush way

Skillcrush has designed what they call Career Blueprints: comprehensive, three-class plans that you purchase as a package. They currently offer Blueprints for Web Design, Web Development, Freelance WordPress Development, and Ruby on Rails Development.

I know what you might be thinking: how is Skillcrush any different than the classes I can find, most likely cheaper, on Skillshare, Udemy, and the other online learning platforms that we love? Now that I’m nearly two weeks into the first module, let me count the ways:

Structure

The thing I lacked most in teaching myself to code was structure. Even going to frequent Girl Develop IT classes put on by our local chapter just didn’t provide the structure needed to learn, implement, and keep learning. With Skillcrush’s Blueprints, you have set lessons to follow -- whether you do it for an hour daily, as they suggest, or at your own pace -- and a road map for where you’re going. Suddenly, I understand the pieces of what I’m learning and how they’ll all work together.

Support

The community around the Skillcrush Blueprint is amazing. Not only do you have the support of your teachers, but you have constant access to fellow students running through the same program you are. They’ve built the Skillcrush community via Mightybell (basically a social intranet), which takes some getting used to, but it’s fantastically active.

Syllabi

The Blueprint is fantastic in that I know what’s coming next -- and the lessons drop into my inbox every day, so I don’t have to remember to go log in and check them out. I’ve just dipped my feet in the water with the first monthly module, HTML and CSS, and I’ve got a full four weeks of lessons to help me fully immerse myself and put it into practice before the syllabus calls for the next modules, JavaScript and jQuery, and Ruby, Git, and Sinatra. Do I even know what half of those things mean at this point? Nope. But that’s the beauty of the guided syllabi -- I’ve got the path laid out for me.

Why this is truly an experiment

Skillcrush makes some big promises: on the landing page for the Web Developer Blueprint, it tells me that I’ll have “everything you need to know to become a kick-a$%, take-no-prisoners, digital native.”

After years of trying to learn, I’m excited to see how true that is. And with the structure, support, and carefully-thought out syllabi, I’m dedicated to taking my hour each day to see it to fruition. Will it be perfect? I doubt it. Will I struggle? For sure. But that’s the purpose of this column: so you can learn from my mistakes and see if Skillcrush is the answer to your tech-savvy dreams.

Stick with me -- I’ve started off strong and now I need you to hold me accountable. I’ll be sharing the ins-and-outs of learning to code with the Skillcrush Web Developer Blueprint over the next three months!

PS - Skillcrush isn’t just a pay-to-play learning site. I’ve encountered countless fantastic resources via the Skillcrush blog to help me in both learning to code and learning to excel as a solopreneur.

PPS - Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links + Skillcrush has comped the Blueprint for me as part of this One Woman Shop Experiment. (Aren’t they awesome?) That being said, everything I share is made of up my candid, honest opinions as I move through the Blueprint.

One Woman Shop Member Spotlight: Robin Reetz

One Woman Shop Member Robin ReetzWelcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what's going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today!

Today's Spotlight is on Robin Reetz, digital journalist and copywriter at Second Floor Flat.
 

Tell us about yourself and your business - what do you do + who do you serve?

I’m Robin Reetz – a freelance writer, content manager, social media manager, copywriter – the list goes on! I’m a content gal with a background in magazines and women’s media, and I have a particular interest in indie designers and makers. I come from a fashion background and once owned a small jewelry business, so I love finding new designers and supporting them in any way possible.

Are there any things commonly accepted as truths in the business world that you flat out disagree with?

This isn’t really a truth that I’d like to debunk but instead something that I very strongly believe in, which is to be nice and to be fair. The best jobs and professional relationships I’ve had are ones that are friendly. While I’m definitely not advocating that we turn all of our business relationships into personal ones, I do believe that playing nice with colleagues, clients, and partners usually leads to positive, long-lasting relationships. There is a line and it’s important not to cross it, but in my experience, being as nice and civil as appropriate in the workplace can take you a long way.

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

Instagram, always and forever. Aside from the fact that it’s just plain fun, I love how easy it is to be open and share visual pieces of your life on Instagram. I’ve made genuine friends from my Instagram community, which is something I couldn’t see happening as easily on other social platforms. The only issue is avoiding what I call Insta-envy and not letting your feed rule your life. Instagram can be completely habit forming in a very bad way.

If you could do just one piece of your business forever, what would it be?

This answer feels narcissistic but here it goes – if I could do one piece of my business forever it would be writing personal narrative pieces. Technically that’s more part of my brand building rather than my business, but over the past 6-7 months I’ve begun writing personal pieces on my blog and found it’s helped me tremendously, personally and professionally. Aside from helping me develop my writing style and find my voice and style, I’ve also learned to express myself in ways I hadn’t before and have built a community. If anyone wants to pay me to express my feelings on a regular basis, well, you know where to find me! (A few favorites of mine: The Move, The Good Girl Syndrome, Losing Your Cool.)

What's your one piece of advice for new solo business owners?

If you aren’t extremely disciplined and motivated by the work that you’re doing, don’t go out on your own. Whether you’re starting out as a freelancer or starting your own business, without those key qualities the work just won’t happen at the level it needs to. Not everyone has these qualities, so it’s important to know yourself, your work habits, and the atmosphere you work in before your start on any type of solo project.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

As I mentioned above I’m very proud of my blog, Second Floor Flat, which I started when I was an expat in London. I’m in the process of moving back to the States and am continuing to use the blog as a platform to express my experiences and draw attention to some of my favorite independent designers. Follow me there, and let me know what you think!

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Robin!

One Woman Shop Member Spotlight: Desiree Jester

Desiree JesterWelcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what's going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today! Today's Spotlight is on Desiree Jester, blogger and website designer at A Place To Nest.

Tell us about yourself and your business - what do you do + who do you serve?

My name is Desiree Jester. I design and develop websites at A Place To Nest. I create online homes for people with as much warmth, character, and personality as their own real life homes reflect. I mostly work with bloggers, coaches, and photographers, but I love working with small businesses, too. My favorite clients are the ones who have done the DIY route and are not afraid to get in there and really learn what they want, but are now looking for something that fits themselves and their readers like a glove; something that just works without having to think about it. I love clients that have a strong sense of themselves and know what image they want to convey to their audience.

What's one thing people might not know just from reading your website and following you on social media?

I am the oldest of seven children and my youngest brother is 13 years younger than me. Because of growing up in a big family, I know how to get my voice heard, I can organize a crowd like a pro, and I still cook for an army, even though there is only my husband, my son, and I in the house. I seriously loved growing up in a big family and would not trade it for the world!

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

My favorite social media platform by far is Instagram. I found Instagram right after I got pregnant with my son and I quickly found it to be a great way to connect with other people who were going through the same things I was and had the same interests. Beyond just looking at pretty pictures (although I love doing that too and love making my pictures as pretty as possible) I love the sense of community that I have found there over the last three years. My baby has grown up with their babies and it is there that I found my first few clients. There is a strange vulnerability in sharing pictures of your life unscripted with others, but I have found it to be the catalyst for much deeper connections than I have had on any other platform.

If you had to describe yourself or your business in one word, what would it be?

I think the one word I would love to describe my business would be Home. I want my business to create true online homes for people. I work with many people whose business is almost solely online. Those people do not have the advantage of meeting people face to face and letting their personalities shine through. They have to rely on the technology that is being used to contact them. When you log on to a website that I have created for someone, I don’t want you to see “Desiree” stamped all over it. I want you to see the person whose online living room you just walked into. I want you to see their personality, their quirks, and to be able to get to know that person by looking around their “house.” I want you to get a sense of who that person is through their website. That is my goal whenever I sit down to design for someone.

How has running a business changed you?

I definitely have a tighter grasp on time management. 🙂 Really though, I have grown so much in confidence, and in being able to set healthy boundaries. I am definitely what you would call a fixer. I love solving problems and coming up with solutions for my clients. In the beginning of my business journey, I did way over and above what I initially agreed to (for free of course) because I wanted to please my clients. I have learned though that working like that leads to burnout and my clients not getting my best work. Now, I set realistic expectations and don’t mind saying “I can definitely do X work for you, but it will set our timeline back X amount of time and will cost $X.” My clients still feel valued because I give them clear options that they can decide on, and I am not giving away my time and energy for nothing.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

I recently launched my brand new site, with a bunch of new website packages for all budgets and timelines! Please stop by and check it out. My favorite new service is my 1 Week Website Warrior package: with one week and for $500, you can have a warm, personalized, and professional looking website launched to the world!

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Desiree!

One Woman Shop Member Spotlight: Sara Moss

One Woman Shop member Sara MossWelcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what's going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today! Today's Spotlight is on Sara Moss, editor for solopreneurs.

Tell us about yourself and your business - what do you do + who do you serve?

I’m the sort of deep-thinking introvert who takes great pleasure in solitary contemplation and creation (this surprises people sometimes) but when I’m with like minds — bam! — let’s talk and collaborate, baby! It helps that I’m a ‘scanner’, have travelled quite a bit and love to learn so I’m generally comfortable conversing with anyone.

My work is driven by my love of language and attention to detail. I’m an editor for solopreneurs — helping passionate people tell powerful stories in business. I give e-books, e-courses and email opt-ins the lustre they need to impress and build credibility with each business owner’s ideal clients.

I’ve been a professional writer for 15 years and editing is something I’ve always enjoyed. Good editing is invisible because it allows the writer to shine.

What's one thing people might not know just from reading your website and following you on social media?

I can play one song on the piano and one on the flute. I learnt them both as a teenager. Can I play these instruments, per se? Nope. I daren’t mention these songs by name because my mum is likely to read this and I think she still has flashbacks!

If you could do just one piece of your business forever, what would it be?

At heart I’m a storyteller so I’d have to say crafting content. I adore the freedom of writing in my own style and using design elements in a way that engages people. It took me a long time to realise that’s why I’m deeply attached to my website; the making of it has been very deliberate — it’s my artwork (and has involved a crazy-steep learning curve!). It’s always thrilling when someone says, “I love your site.” In the same vein, creating e-books takes me to a sweet little pocket of paradise.

What does community mean to you?

The true reflection of a cohesive community, for me, is one where you are identifiable (no anonymity) and feel at home being you. There’s no pretence or façade and other community members will celebrate AND commiserate with you, whichever way your life is leaning at the time. It’s precisely why I sought out OWS, I knew there would be others who could relate to the beauty and the grind of being your own boss — being able to talk openly about both is important. While it can be rewarding, it ain’t all unicorns and rainbows.

What's your one piece of advice for new solo business owners?

Following on from my comment about community — it’s important to find a supportive, knowledgeable entrepreneurial group where people are at a variety of stages in their business. You need the combination of beginners’ camaraderie and guidance from others a few steps ahead. Outside that group (which may take a while to find), be selective about who you ask for advice and be discriminating about which lot of unsolicited advice you’ll heed. Is the advisor doing (or have they previously done) what you’re seeking to emulate? Are you a similar personality type? There’s no magic formula or shortcut to actually putting in the work but there’s no shortage of people who want you to think otherwise.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

Okay, if you’ve had ‘finish my e-book’ or ‘update my opt-in’ on your to-do list for ages, let’s get it spruced up and out into the world so you can impress your current and prospective clients. I’ve got your back. Check out my Work with Me page to see exactly how I can help. Overwhelm be gone! (Sign up to grab my free e-book, A Compass and a Quest: an adventurer’s guide to direction and focus while you’re there.)

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Sara!

One Woman Shop Member Spotlight: Katie Radke

One Woman Shop member spotlight: Katie RadkeWelcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what's going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today! Today's Spotlight is on graphic + web designer Katie Radke.

Tell us about yourself and your business - what do you do + who do you serve?

I am a graphic and website designer. I offer services to small business owners and creative entrepreneurs. Some of the services that I offer are logo design, business cards, brochures, postcards, stickers & labels, letterhead & envelopes, website design & development, blog makeovers, and so much more. I have just come out with some new website design packages and a branding package as well.

I started my business five years ago while working a full-time graphic design job. I continued to grow my business and then decided to get a new job closer to home that would allow me more time to work on my business. I worked at my corporate job during the day, came home and took care of my family, and then worked on my business at night. The summer of 2013 I asked my boss if I could cut my hours to part-time to accommodate my growing business and surprisingly she said yes! Last February I was able to go full-time at my own business and I got a storefront downtown. Dream. Come. True.

What is your favorite social media platform and why?

My favorite social media platform is Instagram because as an artist, I am a very visual person. I love to see beautiful artwork pop up in my feed and I have connected with so many awesome artists & designers there. I am also a mixed media artist and I like ATC (artist trading card) swaps. I have found some great swap partners on Instagram. I like to post photos of projects that I am working on and of course, I don’t forget the hashtag. #webdesign #vinyldecals #weddinginvitations

If you had to describe yourself or your business in one word, what would it be?

Determined. Because this is what I have wanted for so long. I have dreamed of being a graphic designer ever since I was in high school. I went to college for this. I worked in the field of graphic design and worked my way up from cutting film in pre-press to designing ads, to designing magazine covers and layouts, to owning my very own business. I have learned so much along the way and I will continue to stay determined and learn as years go by.

What does community mean to you?

In a professional sense, community means connecting with a group of like-minded people who share your interests and understand what it is that you are working towards because they are working towards the same thing. They are there to ask advice, cheer each other on, support and encourage and so much more. I have found a great community of freelancers online and they have been so amazing!

What is the #1 lesson you've learned since being in business on your own?

I have learned that there will be bumps along the road, but that is absolutely normal. What matters is how you handle it. Just keep moving forward and do not give up. Always remember that there will be better days.

How has running a business changed you?

Running a business has made me more confident. Believe it or not, years ago I was very shy. I am not shy anymore and I have learned that if you want to succeed, you have to go out there and get it. I am very proud of how far I have come and continue to dream big for the future.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

I have just put together some brand new website design packages and I have a freebie that is available once you sign up for my newsletter. The freebie is my top 5 SEO (search engine optimization) tips.

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Katie!