5 Things to Know about Going Out on Your Own

Untitled designThis month I celebrated a very special milestone – one year in business for myself. Here’s what I learned as a solopreneur:

You’ll Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends

Sure, it’s nice if they occasionally treat you to Starbucks, which will almost certainly be off your budget that first year of business, but you’ll be surprised just how much help your friends and acquaintances are willing to provide you. From referrals to administrative assistance, friends are friends for a reason and don’t be embarrassed to take them up on their offers.

But it’s not just your friends, many professional connections are willing to help as well and here’s why:

  • Everyone likes a scrappy success story. Think about the movie Rudy where a diminutive guy landed a spot on the Notre Dame football team out of sheer hard work and determination. In the end, it was his peers that helped him get bench time and suit up for a game.
  • Most people want to do what you’re doing. They want to say good-bye to that corporate sentence they grudgingly carry out each day.  Seeing someone successfully shrug off “the man” makes everyone smile.

Say Good-bye to Work/Life Balance

Many people leave corporate America to have a better quality of life. You will – most likely – have greater flexibility in your work hours if you become a solopreneur. However, you’ll work longer hours, with less pay (at least initially).

But before you say forget about it, the beauty of working for yourself is that even though you’re working more hours, it feels like less. The passion you have for the job you do feels more like an enjoyable activity than work.

Not once this year have I woken up dreading “going to work.” How many of you can say that?

You Gotta Be Hungry

I asked a few very valued people for advice when I thought about going out on my own. The best advice I received came from Frank Kenny and I can still hear him say those words, “You gotta be huuuungry.”

He meant you have to want to be self-employed. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and want to succeed more than anything. You must give up the security of a good paying job for absolutely nothing other than the idea that you can do it. Going out on your own is not for the weak of heart. It takes intestinal fortitude and knowing that you might fall behind in your bills before you start turning a profit.

Well meaning friends will forward you job opportunities but to be successful you have to stick it out. You have to put in your time and you gotta want it to work and work hard to do it.

Steal if You Have To

When word gets around and you start getting more work, you’ll be able to turn work down or refer it to some of your other solopreneur friends, but in the beginning you’ll probably need to take everything you can. By doing this, you’ll ensure you can pay your bills and you’ll begin to make a name for yourself. But the work schedule is up to your clients and not to you so there will be days when you’re buried and days when you spend hours surfing the web trying to dig up work.

On your busiest days, you’ll need to steal time every minute you have it. That means working while you’re cooking or while the kids are watching TV. It means taking your work with you where ever you go – reading something for a client in carline as you pick up the kids or from the waiting room at a doctor’s office. You will need to use every minute you have so steal them from where you can.

You Get Paid for Your Time Until You Don’t

Time is money and unlike a job working for someone else, no one is paying you to sit around. When you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. Keep this in mind when you’re tempted to use your work day to run a load of laundry. Yes, you’re working from home but cleaning house is not your job, unless you run a maid service and you are a paying client. Someday, maybe you can look to producing a product that will get you out of the exchange of time and money but for today, work comes first.

A few last words of advice for those of you considering a big jump:

  • Have some savings. You’ll sleep better at night.
  • Tell everyone what you’re doing specifically in terms they understand. Your industry vernacular might not be theirs.
  • Get rid of the fear and just do. The timing will never be perfect. Just trust that the road that led you to this point did so for a reason and believe in yourself.

If you’re thinking about going out on your own, or have done so, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Your Website is now Your Organization’s Membership Chair

Open up and let members in with a great website and good content.If as a student you ever joined a club, you probably based your decision to join as much on the club’s reputation as you did anything else. Who was in the club, what people thought of the club, and what interaction you had with other members of the club, all contributed to creating the club’s reputation in your mind.

Today we don’t have the whispers in the high school cafeteria to help us make up our decisions. We base it on something a lot more concrete like a website.

Your Website is Your Membership Director

How often do you find yourself researching an organization online before you reach out to a membership person?

If you don’t provide good, accurate information people won’t join.

Recently, I looked into joining a club that had different chapters all over town. Each chapter held its meeting on a different day. I had a very small window in my calendar and wanted something that would meet on a Thursday night. No such luck. I decided not to join because they didn’t offer a meeting that worked with my schedule.

I based this decision on the information I read on their website. I sent an email (from information obtained on their website) to verify it but no one ever got back to me.

A potential member lost

Turns out, according to a flier I later saw, they did have a chapter that met on Thursdays. I ended up going to the next meeting and joining but the ending may not have been a happy one. Had I not seen the information in a flier and relied solely on their website, I would’ve given up on them.

If you’re a member-based group, your organization’s website is now more important than your membership chair.

You can be sure some people will always prefer to do their legwork online outside of talking to someone.

 I didn’t bother to call because I didn’t want to be recruited. I just wanted to know if they had a group that met on the night I was free. If they did, I’d join. If not, oh well.

Right now, don’t wait, ask yourself:

  • Is my website up-to-date?
  • Does it depict me in a flattering light?
  • Can people get the information they need easily?
  • Am I giving them a reason to return?

If you answered no to any of these questions, I can help. Contact me today.

Don’t let potential members disqualify themselves on erroneous information. Give them what they need and welcome them in.

 

Photo credit: fiat luxe via Flickr

Your Business Story Must Match your Actions

Your business story is a promise you must deliver on.

 If you’re telling a story about the business and it doesn’t hold true in the interactions your customers have with you, don’t bother with the creative exercise.

A story is more than just your About Us Page. It needs to be part of every communication and action. Think of it as the base of your soup. You can add all sorts of things that will alter the flavor slightly but deep down it should still be the same base and this base should be communicated to every member of your staff.

Boil it down to the simplest of terms.

Then make sure your staff knows:

Our story is about …”superior customer service.” ….”best quality on the market”…”fastest delivery time anywhere.”

Knowing your story with help your staff make decisions that benefit the business and the customer.

 

When Stories are Just That

My windshield had a crack in it. Coincidentally, I was at the mechanic. A glass company approached me to fix it. I scheduled an appointment. They failed to give me a card. I failed to ask for one.

On my scheduled day of service it poured all day. I had no way of contacting them. I went to their website for contact information.

They boasted about excellent customer service and a worry-free process. I called the number. It was a personal voicemail, recording in an unprofessional way. I hung up and double checked the number.

I reached out to the mechanic, who tracked down the person who signed me up. We rescheduled for the following week. No suggestion about how inclement weather should be handled. Nothing but an appointment.

The next day, as I worked from home, the windshield guy showed up. According to my calendar, he wasn’t due for 5 days.

They assured me they would take care of all insurance claims (remember the worry-free process claim?). Two days later I realize they filed the claim but forgot to give my insurance company any details on their business, leaving me having to provide all of the information anyway.

While things turned out fine, albeit a little aggravating, my experience does not match their story of great customer service and doing it all for me. Because I don’t believe their story, and marketing claims, I don’t trust them and will most likely not refer friends there.

If you want your business to excel, and receive word-of-mouth referrals, you must make sure your business story resonates throughout the entire customer experience.

If not, it’s just creative writing.

Writing Can’t be Multitasked

Writers write at Wild Acres Retreat in North Carolina #writing

 

I started off this month at a summer camp for writers in North Carolina. While it was respectfully entitled a “writer’s workshop/conference” it felt a lot like summer camp – having a roomie, eating meals together, and geeking out over writing.

Every one of these writers was serious. They weren’t dabblers. Some had been published multiple times, some still working towards it, but all of us were honing our craft.

The one piece of advice that sticks out is writers write.

  Writers write. –Overheard at Wild Acres Writers’ Conference

You won’t ever get your blog post done if your derriere’s not in the seat. Writing is NOT a multitasking assignment. The only way to get it done is to do it.

But I understand writing is time-consuming. Even for someone like me who feels drawn to do it, I struggle to do it outside of work. My unfinished novel feels very unloved and ignored most days.

While I can’t help get you in the seat (hiring me to write for you is one way around that), I can help make things easier for you once you’re there. Here’s an article I wrote recently about how creating a content library can help you become a more efficient content producer.

 

Guest Blogging for Associations

One of my good friends is married to a chef. People are always telling her how lucky she is because her man cooks. But I had to ask…does he cook at home? or does he give his restaurant customers delicious meals and then pop in a frozen pizza when he gets home?

She laughed and said, no he cooks for his family too and we’re his guinea pigs on new dishes.

So it is for the blogger.

I’ve been spending a lot of time “cooking” elsewhere and have ignored serving it up here on the Tell Your Story blog, so I thought I’d share a few of my writing projects recently.

In addition to these guest blogging gigs, I’m also working on a fiction book about a would-be scientist and his great discovery. More about that later.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you find value in these.

For Associations:

3 Things Your Association Should Never Automate

 

What makes your online community special?

 

Attracting Millennials Through Storytelling

 

How to tell your association's story. #storytelling