One of my biggest struggles this past year as being a solopreneur, has been making the mental shift from being a freelancer to being a business owner. To fully embrace all that comes with being a full-fledged business.
The crazy thing is, I never was technically a freelancer. I didn’t take on assignments from different outlets, I didn’t pitch for pieces, or do commissions – all of the things that I associate with freelancer-dom. (That list isn’t all inclusive, by the way).
But my time, my schedule, my actions – were reflective of being a freelancer.
When I shared a little secret about most solopreneurs starting out, it didn’t click to me, that I was still in the side hustle and starting out mindset. I was all over the place. Well, I kinda still am in some regards, but I digress.
I created a business plan, I thought through my marketing strategies and tactics, I was even turning a profit. But I wasn’t running a business. I wasn’t actively making decisions like a business owner. I went through the actions, but never followed up with the plans.
Right before the relaunch, I was freaking out over “why.” Why am I doing a relaunch? Why will it be better or different or bigger? Why will I be able to serve more people? Why am I different than (insert a wildly successful person)? Why isn’t this happening?
In my why spiral, I asked a friend to come and help me answer those questions. She is in Corporate America, doesn’t have a Facebook account, and is disgusted by the idea of being your own boss. Why is all of those things important to tell you? Because she isn’t in the “online world” that I tend to slot into. She is in the business world, and she knew how I worked while in the corporate arena.
So I asked her all of my why’s. Then she asked me what the hell I was doing with my business.
And just like that, I felt the terror, fear and complete ridiculousness, that I didn’t even think about what I was doing as a business. I mean, I knew I worked for myself, that I was a solopreneur, but I had completely lost track that I was a small business owner.
In my mind, I was still a freelancer.
- “All in”
- Making decisions like a business owner
- Acting as if my time and schedule were as important as my clients’
- Strategically planning my next steps
- Investing in the business, and so on
It was embarrassing to realize that I was acting completely opposite in my own business, as I would when I worked for someone else. I didn’t value the true meaning of being a solopreneur or a business owner. I was putting all of my care into other people owning that – ironic, no?
And so here we are. This month has been the first one since I probably started my business that I am thinking like a business owner. Here’s how I am doing that.
1. Defining what business I am in.
It used to be a trick question – what do you do? Who do you help? Followed with a, “so wait, you’re essentially a (enter the blank)?” Yeah, not great business savvy there folks. I knew who I served, I was working with ideal clients, but I wasn’t clear about what business I really am in.
I read something by a very popular online person, and it literally changed my entire view of that definition. I wasn’t “just” a career coach, or a tech-savvy designer – I am in the business of helping people maximize their potential through launches.
Instead of having three different streams of businesses, they all fall into line with this one idea/concept. And it’s scalable.
So your first question is, What Business Are You Really In?
2. I created a list of systems that I am going to invest in.
I like doing things on my own, you know, it’s the control freak in me. But I need to be able to handle different things more efficiently as I grow. I currently pay for these systems: AWeber for email list subscriptions; Scribe for SEO juice; and Satori for scheduling.
Notice a huge gap there? Ahem, perhaps financial and accounting systems should be added? The list can go on, but I am evaluating the systems that I will use to help me scale and grow by looking at the three I currently have, and see if they are working (sort of), if I am utilizing them appropriately (definitely not), and if there is something better (perhaps).
And I will invest in the ones that come out on top – I will be spending money on systems going forward. Not just the one that catches my eye through a sale or recommendation, but a system that adds value to my business – as an investment.
3. Creating a Board of Directors and accountability.
While I do enjoy working on my own, I do miss having discussions, debates, and challenges from other people around me. I can only ask my brother or best friend so many times, you know? This is a step that was recommended to me by everyone I talked to before I started my business, but I thought I didn’t need it.
I do. And you probably do as well.
In my little BOD, they aren’t the decision makers – I still hold that power, but they are going to be advisors. Help me work out problems, make business decisions, invest in the business, and review my financial output.
It will help me not only think of it like a business, but also provide me with solid guideposts along the way like a “real business.”
Have you made the shift successfully? I’d love to hear your tips below.
Join the discussion 6 Comments
Hi Melissa, I got to your site via Pam Slim’s newsletter link. Love your site–you’ve done a great job relaunching. I will subscribe to your posts because I would like to make 2014 a year of refocusing and defining my own entrepreneurial editorial and design business and I want to see what systems work for you and where your journey takes you. Have fun!
@LauraEKelly:disqus – I love your focus for 2014… define away! And I’ll definitely be sharing my “systems” that I put into place, and hopefully get some great ideas for others, from successful entrepreneurs like you.
I am adding each of these points to my own to do list. Wonderful piece, Melissa and something I can really implement in my life and biz too. Thanks for the inspiration, Clare!
Thanks @ClareHerbert:disqus – it seems like a good start, at least. Then build and implement away, from here. Can’t wait to see what’s ahead for you.