by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
As part of the celebration of Quintessential Careers's 15th anniversary, we're presenting lists of 15 tips on some of the most essential topics in college, job search, and career.
Taking the plunge from employee to business owner can be many things -- exhilarating, liberating, rewarding, frightening, challenging, time-consuming -- but you can make the experience more positive than negative by following these 15 quick tips for succeeding as a solopreneur, entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant, portfolio careerist, Patchworker, or a small-business owner.
Here's our list of the 15 best tips for succeeding as a solopreneur.
- Create a clear and attainable vision for your business. Without a realistic goal for what you hope to accomplish, your business has the possibility of languishing and eventually failing. Know what you want to do with your business and articulate it clearly.
- Decide on a specific market niche for your products/services. Understanding the need you fulfill with your services -- and how to best exploit that need -- is crucial for your long-term business success.
- Develop a business plan. Even if your business is up and running, it's never too late to develop a business plan that focuses not only on today and this year, but develops a path for its growth over the next 3-5 years. Check out our Business Plan Tutorial: Tools to Help You Launch Your Own Business.
- Run the business on a tight and lean budget. It's tempting to go out and buy lots of new office equipment and supplies when you start a business, but the reality is that you don't need a lot of it in the beginning -- and may never need some of it. Better to be frugal and maximize your revenues and profits.
- Carve out space exclusively for the business. If you can run your business from your home, you must have a dedicated space for it. Setting up an office (in a spare bedroom, basement, enclosed porch, etc.) helps keep household and business separate -- in terms of time and use, expenses, and even taxes.
- Make sure you have financial resources. Unless you start the business while still employed, it will take some time to build a client base and revenue stream. Ideally, start with several months of savings to help bridge the gap until your business is up and running. (Even after the business is established, keep an emergency fund to cover expenses if you lose one or more clients.)
- Polish your sales and selling skills. One of the most critical elements of running a successful small business is possessing personal-selling skills. If you don't have them and don't want them, you either need to hire a salesperson or consider a different line of work. Pitching clients and making sales presentations are important to building your client base -- as well as building your brand.
- Have realistic expectations for the business success. Having a goal for starting/operating your business is essential -- and it does not have to be about the money, as Kristin Cardinale says in her great book, The 9-to-5 Cure: "[It] is about living your life on your own terms by clearly defining what it is that really matters to you" ... pursuing your dreams and making life a priority over work. Read an excerpt from The 9-to-5 Cure.
- Choose clients carefully. You might be tempted to accept any clients -- especially in times when the business is struggling -- but in the end it's best to work only with clients who respect and value your work, not only paying you what your time is worth, but also valuing the work you do for them.
- Establish and cultivate your brand. Your brand is your reputation -- perceived or real -- and your goal must be to carefully develop it, nurture it, grow it, and protect it. Launch your brand with a consistent message across all media, including your own Website or blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and industry and media outlets. See more information in this tutorial about personal branding, as well as at our sister site, EnhanceMyMarketing.com.
- Never stop prospecting and finding new potential clients. Even if you are lucky enough to have a stable base of clients who keep you as busy as you want to be, it's important to spend at least part of your time prospecting for potential new clients.
- Expand and build your network into a "community of colleagues." Surrounding yourself with positive people, a combination of others who also are running their own businesses as well as more experienced professionals, will provide you with a critical network of knowledge, support, and community. Finding one or mentors within your network will help you grow professionally and personally. For more information, see our Networking Resources, as well as this article on The Value of a Mentor.
- Focus on boundaries and balance between work and personal life. Freelancers and entrepreneurs say one of the hardest of all tasks is maintaining a separation of church and state -- of personal life and work life. The work should not consume you, but instead offer you the freedom to do more in your personal life.
- Gain knowledge of time management, organizational, project management, and multitasking skills to meet deadlines. When you are lucky enough to have multiple clients with multiple demands and deadlines, your organizational skills (or lack thereof) will make or break your business success.
- Polish and enhance your communications and writing skills. No matter how strong the demand for your services, if you cannot clearly communicate your brand message, sales pitch, or professional services, you will not be as successful as you hope -- and may even fail. Good communications skills are an essential part of business.
Final Thoughts on Entrepreneurial Success
Just a few more things to think about to help you succeed as a solopreneur for the long-term. It's important to also continually be paying attention to the marketplace and be proactive -- rather than reactive -- to changes. Part of your research should be keenly knowing your competition, as well as your worth in the marketplace.
Find more information, tools, and resources in this section of Quintessential Careers: Entrepreneur & Business Start-Up Tools and Resources.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Enhance your career! Take advantage of all of our expert free career development advice, tools, and more in our Career Resources Toolkit for Job-Seekers.