Are you a Solopreneur? Here’s how to Grow an Empire
If there’s a market need for your product or service, you’re good at what you do, and you’re a savvy networker, your business will thrive organically. Here’s six things that you can do right now to help turn your solopreneur pursuits into a thriving business.
When I started freelancing on the side in 2015, I made plenty of mistakes: I gave out a lot of freebies, I didn’t value my time or experience as much as I should, and I didn’t spend enough time building my business. My enemy was time and self-doubt, which many small business owners can relate to. I’d continually ask myself, “Is this sustainable?” “How will I find clients?” “How will I keep them?” “What if people don’t like me?”
Over the years, having tripled the size of my business and expanded to a commercial office, I’ve learned that anything worth doing takes time and practice. So if you’re looking for more customers, or you want to employ people to help you, stay focused. If there’s a market need for your product or service, you’re good at what you do, and you’re a savvy networker, your business will thrive organically.
Here’s six things that you can do right now to help turn your solopreneur pursuits into a thriving business.
1. Contribute to Facebook and LinkedIn groups
Your best customers are waiting eagerly for you in social groups (even though they may not know it yet). Business owners like me use these groups to find freelancers and suppliers to collaborate with, because it’s a lot faster to find and be recommended to someone you’re connected with. The key to social groups is to always add value. Many people make the mistake of using groups as a free advertising platform. Instead, step into the shoes of your customer to understand and respond to their challenges before you type. Your specialist knowledge is just that—special. Not everyone knows what you know which is why they’ll want to work with you.
2. Find your referrers
In my first year of business, I attended a large marketing conference in Sydney. My favourite speaker of the day was Chris Savage—a self-proclaimed “growth accelerator” (so you know he means business). Chris was full of energy and passion, and gave me a big hit of confidence and motivation that I desperately needed at that time. I connected with Chris on LinkedIn we met for coffee a few months later. In our meeting, Chris asked me to name my five most important referrers—people who I could trust to be the metaphoric megaphones for my business. He called it the MICRophone theory (which stands for Most Important Customer Referrers). Chris taught me that referrers are rare, and often not who we expect them to be. So, when you find one of these people, treat them well.
3. Follow up
Like most things in life, business is about building relationships. But despite leaving a great impression on your first meeting, people will quickly forget about you and your business if you let them. You need to be comfortable being your own sales person. Find a way to keep in regular contact with people that you’d like to work with. This could be as simple as following up with a thank you note and remarking on key points you discussed, right through to sharing information that they may find interesting: industry news, local brunch spots that just opened, new baby shark spinoff videos…. it doesn’t matter too much. You’d be surprised how many well-established businesses skip this, often crucial, step to forming a relationship.
4. Join networks
Being open and honest about business and personal challenges with people who will listen and understand is extremely important for both personal and professional growth. Joining networks is one of the best ways to find a like-minded community of supporters. Plus, you’ll be privy to industry events — take Women’s Network Australia as an example. Just like travelling solo, seminaring solo opens you up to a lot more opportunities to meet people. Always exchange details with the people you meet. Connect with them as soon as possible after the event: send them a personalised note to set up a time for a follow-up phone call or coffee date.
5. Work on your brand
Part of being a solopreneur is experiencing quiet periods—those times when you’re waiting for a client to send feedback. It can be hard to stay productive and focused when there’s no money coming in. However, I relish quiet periods because it gives me breathing time to consider how to improve my skills and my business. Start creating content for your brand, especially content that will deliver value to your audience and showcase your credibility in your chosen field. This could be through blogging, vlogging, social media or producing downloadable content. It’s called content marketing, and it’s one of the quickest ways to get noticed and start a conversation with your ideal customers.
6. Ask for testimonials
Although it may seem obvious now, learning how to ask my customers for a testimonial has helped my business immeasurably. Testimonials are important because it’s what gives people confidence in your service or product. The true measure of your business is what other people say about it in public. But, there’s an art and a science to it. Don’t assume that all of your customers love what you do. Keep the communication flowing: regularly ask how things are going and if there’s anything you could improve on. When the timing feels right, ask them to share their experience to help spread the word to others who may benefit from your business.