by Matylda Chmielewska on 23 Jan, 2019 ~10 minutes read

It’s almost exactly one year since I joined the team at the LiveChat Partner Program to work on its content strategy and initiatives. I’ve realized early on that most of the successful LiveChat partners are solopreneurs or small business owners. I wanted to create content that could be both valuable and helpful to them.

To discover the best approach, I’ve plunged head first into reading blogs on entrepreneurship, the business community, and on starting from the ground up. I’ve analyzed hundreds of articles and connected with multiple LiveChat partners.

As I was doing it, one thing has quickly become crystal clear to me: starting on your own requires a different mindset from the very beginning. The marketing industry is extremely competitive, so how you build your own thing and in which ways you decide to sustain it will matter in the long run.

For today’s post, I’ve spoken with experience marketing experts to check what aspects of running your own business you should remember about when you’re a business newbie. I’ve also asked them about one thing that surprised them about running a company of one.

Let’s dive in for tons of solopreneurship business advice!

alt - wesley-bush

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

When you’re starting out, other business owners are so generous with giving you their time. When you first start a business, there are so many things you don’t know but need to figure out as you go. If I ever needed a second opinion, I’d just ask another business owner and was able to save myself so much time to figure out how to grow my business. If you’re starting your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to other business owners. We’ve been through a lot of the same challenges and are more than willing to help each other out.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

If I was to tell a friend who’s just starting out the best way to succeed, I’d break it down into these four steps:

  1. Start broad. Go out there and help people do projects you’re competent in but not necessarily an expert.
  2. Find great and fun. Narrow down your specialty based on what you’re exceptionally good at and enjoy doing.
  3. Filter. Pay special attention to who you love working with and who you can deliver enormous value to. Bonus points if you can find both these qualities in your ideal client.
  4. Build an audience. Now that you’ve identified your service offering and ideal client, find more of these people and help them whether that be through content or communities.

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What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

When I first started my business, I was surprised by the number of people who genuinely want to help–especially when you’re flying solo. I started connecting with other one-man-band business owners on Twitter, and they became a huge support system for me. So much so, that I created a Slack channel for us to chat about what we were struggling with, work through problems, and pass-on job opportunities for each other. I expected other business owners to “stay in their own lane”, as such (especially with my own business being a potential competitor to theirs), but people genuinely want to see other people do well.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

My advice would be to build your own support network. Keep close family and friends in the loop so they can give suggestions when you’re stuck, and find other people in the industry to build relationships with–even if they’re technically your competitors. Not only does it keep you sane and less lonely, but gives you the potential to get feedback from other people. Who knows, one of their ideas might be the step you’re all ready to take next, but a faster way to do it!

alt - meredith-overmyer

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

I was surprised at how much of the difficulty of running your own business is mental and emotional rather than technically difficult. The biggest lesson was learning to face rejection, and learning to be alone a lot. In comparison—things like sales, writing proposals, project management, bookkeeping—are all a breeze.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

I’d encourage someone just starting out to connect with a community of people with different levels of experience. There are hundreds of online articles and resources on ‘how to start freelancing’, and those are great, but they aren’t a substitute for personal connection.

alt - kayla-hollatz

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

When I started my first online business, I didn’t know how important it was to build your business model for sustainability and what that actually looked like. My first year of full-time entrepreneurship was a bit of a rollercoaster because I was in constant client acquisition mode with the way my packages were structured, priced, and marketed. After my first year, I ditched the first business model and designed another one that I still have today about three years later. It gives me a mix of stable recurring revenue with one-off projects I really love to work on. My recommendation would be to build your business with the long-term vision in mind.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

Even if you work in a creative industry, you need to become comfortable with numbers and selling. I used to shy away from these areas of business because they didn’t come as naturally to me, but working on my financial mindsets and improving my sales techniques have made the biggest difference in my business growth.

alt - val-geilser

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

I’ll give my answer to 2 questions in one reply.

Running a business means you’re surrounded by people yet you can still feel really lonely. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who support you, who have your back, and who you can learn from. Form your own virtual “mastermind” of sorts by asking others who are doing what you do if they want to join in. Be sure to ask people who intimidate you too! Then find a way to communicate regularly - Slack or a Facebook group is great for this - and support each other. Share things you’re working on, be open and vulnerable, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way. Your tribe will help you grow in ways you can’t imagine. For me, it’s a non-negotiable for true business success.

alt - claire-atkin-first-mountain

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

The first thing that was surprising was how supportive other people in the industry were. Other B2B SaaS marketers were happy to support First Mountain and welcome me into B2B marketing communities. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I launched and was pleasantly surprised. The second thing was how much control I had over who I worked with. It’s important to me that anyone I work with is ultimately helping people get back to face-to-face sales. If small business owners are trapped at their desk working through excel or administration, or being on the phone all the time, there has got to be a better way for them to operate. I work with companies who are helping small business owners leave their computer more often to go meet with clients and customers in person. This filter would be really hard to apply if I was working for another company, and I love being able to let my values guide who my clients are.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

If you’re just starting out, talk to people who have done it before! Message others, and take courses with the best in the business to connect with them. I’m also happy to have newcomers email me if you’re doing B2B SaaS, I’m here to help anyone in the business.

Photo: Jon McMorran

alt - georgiana-laudi

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

I’ve struck out on my own twice in my career, the first time as a freelancer and more recently, as an advisor and trainer. Both times, what struck me was the incredibly important role “community” played in my success.

My first venture as a freelancer was in 2009 when Twitter was just becoming popular. Those of us who were active locally would find any excuse to get together in person. I started running local events for women looking to break into tech. It was this local community that supported me and gave the courage to quit my job and attract more client work than I knew what to do with.

Years later, in early 2017, when I decided to leave my cushy VP gig, I went to my online communities to announce my resignation and look for new connections. I found them in spades. I’ve met and get to work with the most incredible people, this time, across the globe.

These communities, though they looked very different each time, had a bigger impact on my business than I could have imagined.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

Find your crew. Being a part of local and online communities can be huge for your business, but sometimes you’ll experience things that you don’t feel comfortable going to just anyone with. In these moments, being a solo-operator can be incredibly isolating and lonely, it can be enough to make you doubt your business altogether. Your close friends and family may not have the perspective you need to help in those moments either.

This is when having a small group of like-minded business owners to go to can make all the difference. I was lucky enough to find this group and it has changed my life. Though we’re all over the world, these women (in my case) inspire me every single day. I admire them professionally and as humans, and trust that I can go to them with anything. We amplify each other’s businesses, yes, we hold each other accountable, yes, but most importantly, we support each other through the crazy ups and downs. Find your crew.

alt - katelyn-bourgoin

What were you most surprised about when you first started running your own business?

One of my biggest learnings is that “marketing isn’t sales.” That might sound obvious to you, but as a marketer, it was a tough pill to swallow. I thought I’d have no problem landing clients in the early days. I knew how to drive traffic and gather leads. But actually talking to people, face-to-face, and convincing them to buy? That was another story. I quickly realized that I needed to invest time to learn sales skills. Marketing will get you 90% of the way there, but you still need great sales skills to close the deal.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a solopreneur?

Whoever gets closer to the customer wins. If you want customers to choose YOU over competitors—and keep choosing you—then you need to know your customer better than anyone else. You need to understand their challenges and pain points. You need to know what they’re trying to get done and what they want the future to look like. The companies that win the long game aren’t just “customer focused.” They’re “customer obsessed.”

Over to you

Phew, that’s a lot to chew on and I’m really hoping that you’d find today’s article helpful!

I’d love to hear more about your approach to running a business in the comments below. What methods have you used? What worked, and what didn’t?

About the author:

Matylda Chmielewska

I’m a content marketer with a passion for ‘doing things that don’t scale’ and a life-long learner. When I’m not writing new posts or researching more topics, I’m probably either running or listening to podcasts (or doing both of these things at once).

Are you interested in discussing any subjects I’ve written about in more detail? Would you like to be featured on LiveChat Partners blog as a guest contributor? Let’s connect via email or on Twitter.

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