I was recently a presenter in a Telesummit and even though I had a specific topic to present on, the hosts also felt it would be appropriate to talk about some of the biggest challenges and mistakes that I faced (and still do face today) along my path to solopreneurship!
These are the same issues that EVERY solopreneur faces at some point or other in their business so, in case you missed my presentation, I thought I'd share those challenges and mistakes with you here in the hope that you can learn from them, and also know that you are not alone.
Challenge/Mistake #1 - Creating Balance
The main reason I started my business in the first place (way back in November 2001) was so that I could choose my own schedule - I had two young children at the time and needed to have a very flexible schedule that would allow me to be around for them, particularly during school holidays.
In the beginning it was easy to maintain this schedule, but as my practice got busier, client work started to take over. I needed to go back to the drawing board and create balance.
One of the ways to achieve this was to diversify ... i.e. move away from providing just one-on-one client support and move into something that I also love to do - teach! By creating a business where the majority of my income comes from teaching and consulting, I can choose when I offer those training programs. For me that means having a training schedule that runs September thru June - similar to the academic school year. This gives me a lot of down time during July and August when my children are on school holidays. And by creating a training schedule that follows the academic school year I can also plan around other school holidays too.
Challenge/Mistake #2 - Taking on the WRONG Clients
I know that this is something a lot of business owners do, particularly in the early stages of starting their business. They are so desperate for clients that they're willing to take on anyone who waves their credit card in front of them, even though they know in their hearts that this may not be the right client for them. And yes, I too have done this during the early years of running my business.
The challenge here is to recognize that the client is not a good fit for you and be confident enough to say so ... easier said than done! One way to overcome this is to draw up an ideal client profile and use it as a checklist for when you're having your initial conversation with a potential client. If they don't meet your ideal client profile then you'll know immediately and you'll be able to say no, and in turn make space for that perfect client who is just around the corner.
Challenge/Mistake #3 - Not Creating Strong Boundaries
There will be times in your business (in fact there will be many times) that a client challenges you in one way or another, and you cave in and accommodate them even though you know it's the wrong thing to do. Examples of this are granting a discount on a product once the discount period has expired, dropping your fees to get the client, or scheduling regular phone calls outside of your normal business hours. Bending your boundaries in this way will only lead to resentment and will prove a lot more harmful in the long run.
A solution to tightening up your boundaries is to create firm policies about how you operate and what you will or will not tolerate in your business and put those policies into writing - either as a page in your Terms & Conditions or uploaded to your website. That way when a client does try and push your boundaries you can gracefully remove yourself from the situation and direct them to your policies page.
Challenge/Mistake #4 - Not Having a Clear Vision
It's so easy to become distracted by 'bright shiny object' syndrome that you move haphazardly from one project to another, never completing anything and having a business that is all over the place, which just leaves you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Decide what it is you do for your clients and how you provide the solutions to their problems, and then map out a clear path for how you are going to deliver this.
You may be able to manage this on your own, but more often than not you will need the support of someone who has trod the path before you, who can see the wood for the trees, and who knows the pitfalls. Invest in a product, program, coach, consultant, or mentor that will help you achieve your goals. You will get there much faster.
Challenge/Mistake #5 - Following the 'Shoulds'
It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you should be doing something in your business even though in your heart you don't feel it's the right thing to do. We have so much information coming to us these days that when you see other people successfully running their businesses you think that you should be doing what they're doing and you'll be successful too!
Remember, this is YOUR business and you can run it in whatever way you like (and, no, I'm not being arrogant when I say that!). Just because someone else is having an enormous amount of success running their business in a particular way doesn't mean you should be doing the same thing too! You are you, and your clients will be drawn to you because you are you, not because you are trying to be someone else.
Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches online solo service professionals how to create the essential online marketing and office organization systems needed so that they can create a more streamlined, systemized, and automated online business. Check out http://www.officeorganizationsuccess.com for fr.ee how-to articles, resources, tips, and tools, and sign up for your fr.ee "Office Organization Success Toolkit".