The first day of January has long been synonymous with hope. This day signals the beginning of a bright new year that is full of endless possibilities. You think of all of the things you want to accomplish over the course of the next 365 days and feel like you can nail each one.
January 1st of 2021 is probably even more hope-filled than many years past. For me, there is hope that the coronavirus will begin to die down and let us return to some of the things we love. Visiting with family in person, traveling, and being able to see people’s smiles again are a few of my hopes for the new year.
That said, so much of what is going on feels outside our control. We never know who the virus will strike or how hard it will take them down. This creates an uneasy feeling that sometimes shakes me to my core.
But what is within our control is how we look after ourselves and our businesses in these trying times. That’s why I am watching what I eat, hitting the treadmill every day, and working hard to reduce my stress. But what can we do to make 2021 our best business year yet? Here are a few ideas to consider.
Reassess Your Clients’ Needs
This next year, there are still going to be social distancing guidelines to worry about, increased disinfectant efforts to maintain, and best practices to follow to continue to do our part as business owners to “slow the spread.” Well, our client’s lives have changed as well. Therefore, they may need different things from us that they’ve never needed before.
Realistically, our clients’ needs are continuously changing anyway. The pandemic has simply increased the need to alter our response or risk closing our doors. It has also increased the speed with which we have to adjust because time has not been on our side.
If you’re not sure what your clients need in the months ahead, ask them. Seek to gain a better understanding of what they are going through and the problems they are facing. Let them know that you are here to walk through 2021 with them, so it’s important that you understand how you can best help them navigate this new terrain.
This tells them that you have their best interest at heart. That you’re here for them and will find a way to meet their needs despite the obstacles in your way. Doing this one simple thing makes you someone who is worth continuing to do business with because your client is easily able to answer the question: what’s in it for me?
Find New Ways to Offer Your Services
Once you have a better idea of what your clients need, it may be time to find new ways to meet those needs. During the first few months at least, this is likely to involve staying six feet away from them when possible, wearing masks when you have to be closer, and keeping work surfaces extra clean.
Admittedly, some of these behaviors may be easier for solopreneurs who offer services solely online. As a writer, I generally don’t have face-to-face meetings with my clients and, when I do, they are virtual because we are typically hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart. But if I was a plumber, electrician, or provided some other type of in-home service, I’d have to find a way to incorporate these actions into my business to make my customers feel safe.
In addition to creating social distancing guidelines—and keeping your customers in the loop so they know what to expect—think of other ways you can potentially provide your services while still helping your clients feel at ease. Can you begin holding your in-person accounting meetings virtually? Could you offer a do-it-yourself kit to clients so they can make their own simple repairs?
The goal isn’t to work your way out of a business, but more so to let your clients know that you’re willing to do what it takes to make everyone more comfortable during this time. If there is nothing you can do to modify your services, at least talk to clients about the steps you’re taking to protect them. This allows them to share if there is something else they want you to do as well.
Things change by the day with this virus as the number of new cases goes up or down, but the recommendations are also changing regularly as we begin to learn more about how it works, how it spreads, and how to effectively treat it. All of this takes time, which is why 2021 is going to be the year of flexibility. It is the year of being able to change your course as the situation changes, both worldwide and closer to home.
If you go into the new year with the understanding that you will probably have to alter your direction a time or two, it makes it easier to do just that when you need. Having a flexible mindset also helps you to better overcome whatever the year throws your way.
Committing to a higher level of flexibility puts your clients more at ease as well. It gives them the feeling that, no matter what happens, you will adjust. This is a great characteristic to have, and one that is appealing if you’re looking for someone to do business with.
Find Your Tribe
Let’s be real for a second. None of the things on this list are easy to do. Sometimes clients don’t even know what they want, you can’t always shape your services into the perfect package and bow, and it’s tough to be flexible without feeling the pain of the stretch. What do you do when you’re experiencing any of these responses? You find your tribe.
Connect with others who, like you, want to look at 2021 as the year to overcome challenges, not let them stand in their way. People who aren’t going to let their businesses fall by the wayside but, instead, are committed to making them stronger than ever. Solopreneurs who refuse to let some virus steal their dreams and hopes.
One way to do this is to start a group of local business owners. Hold a monthly coffee morning virtually to talk about your latest strategies and best practices. Use this time to also offer each other advice and encouragement.
Another option is to create a group with your connections online. Reach out to a few of the people you network with on LinkedIn, for instance, and ask if they’d like to join a 2021 Business Success mastermind.
Sometimes it helps just to know that you aren’t in it alone. Your tribe can help remind you of this fact, making it easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other during challenging times. It also gives you people you can celebrate your successes with who truly understand.
No matter what you do, I wish you nothing but the best business success in 2021 and beyond. You’ve got this! We all do. Now we just have to put our fortitude to work for us, but we’re good at that right? We are, after all, solopreneurs.