I’ve had the honor of sharing my backwards approach to being a solopreneur with all of you for the past six months, and now I’m here to tie up the key lessons I’ve learned over that time.
I’ve been sharing a few of them with you along the way, and I hope that my experience has aided you in your transition from a 9-5 to self-employment.
If you’re thinking about jumping headfirst into being a solopreneur, or you’re at the beginning stages, here are the biggest lessons and takeaways from my journey.
Lessons #1: Embrace Experimenting
I began my career as a freelance writer simply because I was already blogging and it seemed logical at the time. However, after several months of writing, I began to feel exhausted. I learned I wasn’t alone after speaking with a few other freelance writers. When I found out others, that I looked up to, were also struggling and trying to branch out, it gave me the courage to diversify my work.
I decided I wanted to be a virtual assistant, so I started offering services outside of writing. Being a VA means wearing a bunch of hats on a daily basis, and it’s been a huge learning experience. I wouldn’t recommend being so diversified you drive yourself nuts with all the different tasks you have to complete, but don’t be afraid to try something new if what you’re doing now isn’t working or doesn’t feel right.
Maybe you already know your purpose and calling, but a lot of solopreneurs start out with a few small ideas and figure it out along the way. That’s okay. Things tend to work themselves out! We’re all on the same type of journey — to figure out where we ultimately want ourselves and our businesses to end up. We’re always evolving, and our business and our interests must evolve, too.
Lesson #2: Be Patient and Have Faith
Because we require a more immediate source of income, some of us must gradually work our way up to focusing on our own businesses. The truth is that you can’t expect to be an overnight sensation when you start from scratch. It takes time to establish your portfolio, get marketing experience, and expand your network.
Those that side hustle have an advantage as they can (hopefully) make the leap and have all of this in place. I didn’t have this opportunity before I quit my job. I did it a bit backwards. The one stumbling block I’d like to point out here is that you should make sure you’re prepared to deal with periods of rejection, receiving no responses, and making (what appears to be) little to no progress.
When I was around month 3 of being my own boss, it felt like I hit a wall. I had friends assuring me that it can take up to 6 months to really hit your stride, and they were absolutely right.
If you feel like you’re in a lull now, have faith that if you continue to be persistent, you’ll find work. Whether you make your own opportunities or they come to you via your network or marketing tactics, there are more than enough jobs to go around.
Lesson #3: Avoid Perfectionism
As a perfectionist, I don’t say this lightly, but it’s true. Your desire to have everything turn out perfectly will hold you back, just as much as fear will.
There have been many pieces I’ve written that I haven’t been 100% happy with, but what am I going to do? Re-read it and re-write it 10 times? Chances are, your energy is best spent elsewhere — not on something that is (likely) a finished product.
We all judge our own work more harshly than the work of others. If you’re having serious doubts about your work, get the opinion of a close friend, accountability partner, family member, or colleague.
You need to know when to let go and move on to the next thing, especially when you have limited amounts of time (and let’s face it, we could all use more!).
Lesson #4: Don’t Undervalue Yourself
I know pricing can be tricky to tackle, especially when you’re brand new. Don’t be afraid to ask others what they charge to get a feel of what average rates are. (Of course, you should also know how much you need to earn to make a living!)
Just because you’re a “beginner” doesn’t mean you have to charge the lowest rates possible. Charge what you’re worth. Remember, if you price yourself too low, then prospective clients are going to wonder if you’re bringing any value to the table.
One of your jobs as a solopreneur is to make price a non-issue. Find a way to show, and prove, how much you’re worth. Focus on offering solutions that people need.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a raise. The more time you spend working with a client, the more valuable you become. If your clients are happy with your work, and you make their lives easier, then they will want to continue working with you.
Lastly, aim for clients that can afford you. This is the best tip I can give you as far as pricing! Stop wishing that clients pay you more money, and start finding the ones that are more than willing to see your value.
If you’re a freelance writer, blogging on behalf of a corporate entity is going to pay more than being a staff writer on a smaller blog. Go for the clients with bigger budgets who don’t mind paying for quality.
Lesson #5: Push Past Fear and Just Start
I know I’ve said this one before, but it absolutely bears repeating. I was stuck for so many months because I was afraid to put myself and my work out there. As creatives, we become very attached to and protective of our work. It can hurt to hear criticism sometimes, and we tend to withdraw and hide our masterpieces away in the shadows where no one can find them.
But that’s not going to get us anywhere. It’s better to make something, even if it ends up being embarrassing years later, than to sell out on your creativity. We all start somewhere, and we must go through this process to become better.
Think of it this way: whenever you write a post, whenever you draw an image, whenever you paint a scene from your mind, you’re creating something from nothing. You’re giving life to your ideas, and your ideas have the ability to inspire others.
That isn’t something you should keep under lock and key. I guarantee you that someone out there will appreciate your work. Just start.
Lesson #6: Trust Yourself and Others
Even though being a backwards solopreneur has been extremely challenging, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I learned so much about my strengths, my weaknesses, and my resolve through building a business this way. That knowledge is invaluable, and I know that if I ever return to the “traditional workforce,” I have more value to bring than I did before.
As for what I would do differently, I wouldn’t be afraid of investing in myself and I’d hire a business coach right off the bat to help me get started. No chance of procrastinating that way.
I’d ask for advice from others sooner. Learning from others is something we should all make a habit of.
Lastly, I’d build up my support network more. Starting my freelance journey after moving to a new area made things more challenging, as I didn’t know anyone here. Don’t isolate yourself!
Lesson #7: Don’t let your business overtake your life
This is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way. My work has taken over my life. Well, I did it on purpose because my work made me happy, and I definitely needed to work through some personal issues (and was trying hard to avoid). If you think you’re small and approach business that way, you’ll most likely stay that way. Planning allows you to see beyond the present and see what you can become if you desire to progress. It also assists you in determining how to get there.
Make time to pursue other interests. Make plans to meet up with buddies. Take a break from your company’s social media pages. Allow yourself frequent periods of time to entirely disconnect from your work. Many people opt to be self-employed or create their own business in order to get greater flexibility. But, no matter how much you enjoy your job, there is so much more to life. Of course, you want it to work out, for you to be successful and achieve your objectives. But what’s the point if you don’t have anything else to do with your life?
Thank you for reading and being a part of this journey with me. I hope I’ve been able to inspire some of you to take the leap, and please know that if you ever need words of encouragement or advice, leave a comment and I’ll respond.