I often write about how to create a business that supports you financially and that you love. But I’m feeling contrary today, because I’m inspired to offer my best advice for solopreneurs who aren’t interested in succeeding. If you want a business that doesn’t attract new clients, clients who are overly price-sensitive, or if all your marketing efforts are failing and if you want more of the same, then here are some tips for you, with tongue held firmly in cheek.
Be “nice to have” rather than “must have NOW”. Very few people will buy your services if you are nice to have because, frankly, there are lots of services out there that are nice to have… even some that are really really nice to have. Unless you are addressing one of your clients’ most pressing and urgent needs, you are going to be at the bottom of their priority list when it comes to allocating funds for projects.
Don’t bother learning about your clients. Every solopreneur thinks she understands her clients — often solopreneurs used to work with the people they now believe will become their clients. But unless you have conducted 8 or 10 successful Reality-Check Interviews, in which you find out what your clients really care about, you are basing your business on what are most likely incorrect assumptions.
Don’t ever fail. If you aren’t failing occasionally, you aren’t trying. The Silicon Valley mantra, Fail Fast, Fail Often, applies to solopreneurs as well. Expect to always have several marketing projects going, with the expectation that at least one of them will, after a full-out six-month effort, will not pan out. As long as you give each approach the time and resources to succeed and clear metrics on what you want to accomplish, you can try a wide range of approaches and learn from each of them.
Don’t blog or write a newsletter. Having a web site or LinkedIn profile isn’t enough to establish a relationship with your clients. Make sure you reach out to your community regularly with blog posts, updates on social media and a newsletter that delivers value to your readers. You have to earn your clients’ attention with content they care about.
Facebook? Forget it! You may think that Facebook is just for friends, but you are missing a big opportunity if you aren’t participating in that space. I am often surprised by the number of professional colleagues who like and comment on my Facebook posts; they may not be posting updates themselves, but they are out there reading what you post.
Focus on selling, not listening. Establishing a relationship with a client requires two-way communication, and that means more listening and less talking on your part. If your prospective client’s experience is only of you talking about your background and what you can do, the impression is that you are more interested in your own success than your client’s outcome.
Don’t have tangible metrics or goals. One of the dangers of being a one-person business is that it is easy to drift along, mistaking activity for results. Establish clear annual goals for your business that translate into success — revenue, number of new clients, percentage of repeat business, or whatever measurements help you gauge whether your business is on the right path.
Don’t push your comfort zone. For solopreneurs to succeed, we have to set ourselves apart from whatever solution our clients currently have, remembering that we are always competing with “good enough.” That means we need to discover what we can offer that no one else is doing in quite the same way, constantly updating our services to always meeting our clients’ most important needs today. That means constantly updating our services and developing new skills based on what our clients value most.
So, either follow these “tips” for failure, or consider how you can shift your approach to your business so that you are attracting clients who sustain you and with whom you enjoy working. And get your hands off that teddy bear!