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Thinking About Becoming a Solopreneur? Consider These Things First.

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Avoid common pitfalls and speed up your growth.

I dove into becoming a solopreneur just about as naively as someone diving into a body of water without checking the depth first. Luckily, the risk wasn’t as bad — I had only invested time and money. The amount I had to tread water to get back to shore though, is something you would be better off avoiding.

My first foray into entrepreneurship started when I had the idea to build my e-comm drop-shipping store. I was SO excited about my designs and putting them on the product. I dedicated weeks and months to building my website and creating a whole well-designed inventory of items. I spent hundreds of dollars on paid Meta and Google ads. I even set up an Etsy shop.

Two months passed, and I had two sales for $35 total. Traffic came and traffic went, but no one else bought. I was devastated and completely burned out.

All of that time for $35? It hardly seemed worth it at the time. But, what I realize now is the learning that went into my next series of pivots is the real value it brought me.

Like Design Thinking, entrepreneurship is iterative. You research, plan, design, execute, test, learn, repeat.

Looking back over the past 8 months, these are the takeaways that I wish I had known then (and luckily know now) so you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

Don’t break trust while trying to gain $1

People come online to look for answers and to learn. They are seeking wisdom from someone who knows more than they do and they want to feel valued.

It’s a vulnerable space to be in as a customer; to be seeking something outside of yourself, knowing you will need to spend hard-earned money to get it, and to not be able to easily discern those who are trustworthy from those who are not.

Good business owners develop trusting, honest relationships with their audience before they ask for anything in return. The bad ones exploit that vulnerability using human psychology against those most in need of answers. Special pricing countdown timers are a great example of this misuse…I’ll spare you my critique on those today.

This is our current dilemma. Human senses are honed for assessing authenticity and trust through physical cues like voice tone, body language, and word choice. But we are now grappling with deciphering if someone or something is trustworthy through a digital veil that covers all of that. Trust, in this modern, mechanized world, shouldn’t be a luxury — it’s an essential part of building a business and nurturing an audience. If you can master authenticity, it will be your differentiator.

Don’t ask people to buy your products or services until you’ve provided them with enough value and gained enough trust that you don’t even really have to ask them anyway. If they already know your content is a good fit and they found it valuable, they naturally will seek more.

Learn some digital marketing and SEO

I have a digital marketing background and I thought this part I had in the bag. But, I was wrong. It’s not just about building funnels, automations, and segmenting your audience. It’s not even just about paid promotion or SEO. It’s these, plus a consistent marketing strategy, social platforms your audience loves, and the appropriate tools to help you manage it all on your own.

Should you use Instagram, FB, X, Youtube, Pinterest, TikTok? It can be overwhelming considering the time it takes to think of content, edit/customize it, deploy it, track it, etc. Choose what you feel most excited about and also which one has your audience already engaged.

There are also the microtools set you need to have your social channels run smoothly and be relevant. For instance, for Instagram, you’ll also likely want linkPop or ManyChat as well.

My favorite educational resources for digital marketing are:

SEO is a beast in and of itself. You simply can’t learn it all as an individual unless it’s your full-time job. So, cut yourself some slack. As a UX Designer myself, I came in knowing quite a bit about SEO already, and I still found myself stretched by all of the ways I learned I could enhance my content. You don’t need to know it all, but you need to understand the foundations.

My favorite educational resources for SEO are:

Research your niche and competitors, and then research again

There are your passion and purpose and then there is what your audience needs and what the market can hold. Finding the blending of all of these is key.

Make sure you understand your niche. Start talking to them directly to get of sense of what their real needs are.

Do a full competitive analysis to see who else is providing value to this same group so you understand what you’re up against and how to differentiate your content and messaging.

Continue to do this process even as your company grows. There are always new creators coming into the market.

Study people who are doing it well already

Find people who are doing what you want to do well and study everything they are doing. Scour their content, their messaging, their branding, and where they show up. Subscribe to their newsletters, download their guides, and keep track of the funnel content you receive.

If they are doing it and are successful, it’s probably working for a reason. You can’t copy it exactly, but use it as inspiration for your brand.

Have a solid business model that you feel you can manage (especially if you are still working a 9–5)

I have gone back and forth on my business model multiple times. First, excited about the possibilities, and then later, I scaled back when I realized they were too much to manage at the time. You are only one person so start small and build up as you grow. Build a ladder that increases the value you bring and the price you are setting.

Free stuff > Affordable guides and worksheets > Courses > Mentoring/Coaching (as one example)

ChatGPT is great at creating pricing and content models for you!

Screenshot from my ChatGPT session
Screenshot from my ChatGPT session

Schedule your life

Your life is about to get a whole lot busier! If you are already working a 9–5 and also have family and community commitments, finding time to consistently work on your business is going to take practice.

The best way to find more time is to block it out for yourself on your calendar. This gives you a more macro view of your entire schedule and helps you ensure you are prioritizing things like family time, work time, exercise, and something called sleep.

Be prepared to give before you get

Bring value before you ask for anything in return. As we discussed earlier, building trust is one of the most important things when selling online.

This is one of the key learnings I have had that I wish I had known way earlier. Had I known, I would have started writing and providing insight and value before I ever created my first piece of purchase content.

Deliver value, repeat, repeat, repeat. The rest will come over time and I promise you, it will take a lot less effort when it does.

Get a mentor and a community

Becoming a solopreneur requires quick learning, massive dedication, resistance, grit, and an openness to change. You are going in as you are today but you’re going to come out a different person. Successful entrepreneurship requires massive mindset changes, strict self-discipline, and a little bit of crazy. It’s a big transition to take on all by yourself.

Jim Rohn reminds us “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This is especially true for entrepreneurs. If you want to run a successful business, hang out with people or be mentored by those who run a successful business.

Gather community and mentors who are living the life you want, pursuing the same dreams you have, and learning the same things. It’s essential to your success and your growth. The moral support is kinda nice too.

Buckle up for the long haul

Contrary to what the ‘gurus’ make you believe on their social reels, building a true business takes time. It’s easy to get caught up in the dream of being more financially secure and raking in money, but the reality is that most businesses take 1–2 years to get going. I’m not saying you won’t be an overnight success, but I’m saying the chances of it are pretty low.

However, you will be successful if you keep at it, learn, and pivot accordingly. In fact, that should be your motto. Keep at it, learn, and pivot accordingly. Seriously, put that on a sticky note somewhere. In a few years, you are going to find it, and thank the universe you stuck it out.

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