I still remember exactly how I felt when I first started freelance writing. I had a pit in my stomach that never seemed to go away as I worked against the belief that I didn’t have the training or education needed to enter this new-to-me field. Was I really good enough to make people want to read my words?
To say that my anxiety and stress were sky-high is an understatement. On a scale of 1 to 10, both had to be a 20 (or more). Oh, how I wish I could go back to my new solopreneurial self and talk to her. What would I say?
You’ve Got This
Starting a one-person business is tough. When that business is something that you’ve never been formally trained in, it can feel like you’re standing in front of a mountain with no hiking gear…not even a bottle of water to quench your mid-trek thirst. In the past 10 years of being in business for myself, I’ve learned that, while education and knowledge in your field are important, belief in yourself is even more critical. You can do anything you put your mind to as long as you have the drive to succeed. Tell yourself “you’ve got this” as many times as you need to actually start believing it.
Trust Your Gut
There have been so many times over the years that I didn’t listen to my gut and it has bitten me in the butt every time. If I got a bad feeling about taking on a particular client or project, for instance, I’d push it down while trying to convince myself that as long as I was getting paid or learning a new skill, it was worth it. But it never was. Inevitably, it always ended up more trouble than it was worth. Now I listen to and trust my gut. And it has never steered me wrong.
It’s Okay (Even Necessary) to Be Assertive
In my initial stages as a solopreneur, I tended to equate assertiveness with aggression. I was a yes girl because I thought it would win me more work. As a result, I often let my clients take the reins. By default, this meant that they were directing my business versus me being in charge. You can’t grow a business when you let others make decisions that you should be making yourself. Decide what you want and ask for it. Assertiveness is not only okay in business, but it’s a must.
No Two Journeys Are the Same
Comparing yourself to others is normal. It’s natural to be curious about how you stack up to others in your field. However, I have let this comparison get the best of me several times over the last decade, causing me to focus more on where I lack than where I excel. And it has caused me to regress every single time. No two people have the same journey so, while it’s great to learn from others, don’t beat yourself up for where you are. What works for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. Forge your own path and appreciate what you learn along the way.
It’s All About the Relationships
When I was new and trying to make a business out of a dream, I was more focused on supplying my clients with a service than on building a relationship. Yet, I’ve come to realize that when you work on developing a strong relationship, the rest sorts itself out. You want to do good for your clients and they want to do right by you. This creates a win-win situation for everyone involved because you’re working together in a mutually beneficial way.
Honesty Is Key
There have been several times in working with clients that I’ve felt like something was off. Or we had an interaction that rubbed me the wrong way, making me question whether I wanted to keep working together. Being honest during these types of situations allowed us to “clear the air” and correct any misunderstandings. This has helped salvage (and even strengthen) work relationships that, at one point, I was ready to walk away from. Now, whenever I have an issue, I bring it up immediately so we can work out our differences and move forward. I’m also honest when I can’t supply the kind of work my clients need. I’d rather lose the work than take a job in which my performance will be sub-par.
Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries
As a solopreneur, you are 100% responsible for your business’s success. This can make it difficult to set boundaries. Early on, I developed a “get it while I can” type of attitude. While this type of drive can help set you apart, it can also cause you to burn out if you’re not careful. So, don’t be afraid to set boundaries on the services you provide. Your off-work self will thank you (as will your family and friends).
Always Keep Learning
In the beginning, I naively believed that once I learned the craft of writing, I’d be set. Ten years later, I’m still learning little tips and tricks that have helped me evolve and grow over time. (I hadn’t really realized this until, about a year ago, an old client reached out to me to do new work and then commented on how much my writing had improved!) Plus, the world continues to change, making it important to keep up. The only way to do this is to continue to pay attention to what is going on around you and then respond accordingly.
Remember Your Whys
It’s easy to get so sucked up in the day-to-day running of your business that you forget why you even started it in the first place. I decided to start my writing business because it would enable me to work from anywhere, I could write about topics I was passionate about, and I could decide which clients to take on. By reminding myself of this regularly, it helps provide the motivation I need to keep going…especially on days when I just want to quit. Write your whys down and keep them where you can see them often. If they are big enough and important enough, you will succeed because there will be no other alternative. And if you feel like you won’t, go back to lesson number one and remind yourself: You’ve got this!