Your dream is in motion – you’re an entrepreneur! Congratulations!
It’s new! And exciting! And… new.
Sometimes a little too new.
There are so many items on your to-do list. So many milestones to be set and pursued. So many failures to be embraced. You’re not quite sure which of these needs to go in what order because you’ve never done this before.
Starting your business can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to the entrepreneurial game. Especially if you’re a solopreneur.
You don’t have to do this all by yourself. In fact, that’s a guaranteed way to pile on the stress and make you feel isolated.
Fortunately, there are countless others around you at every conceivable level of development. Also fortunately, they are within your reach. How do you find these wonderful new colleagues?
As always, conferences are a great place for networking, learning from experienced professionals, and establishing your identity as an entrepreneur.
This year was the inaugural Solopreneur LIVE conference led by Kathryn and Jonathan Aragon. In the post-pandemic, pre-pandemic-solution world we currently occupy, online meetings are the standard. This has its disadvantages, of course, but every disadvantage is a new opportunity waiting to be discovered.
One advantage to this is that everybody has moved online. Whether it’s searching for work, meeting over projects, or networking, even the late adopters have been forced to join the digital global community for their professional needs.
This means all of your potential clients, colleagues, and learning resources are now a few mouse clicks away.
I stumbled across the link to the Solopreneur LIVE 2021 conference and signed up on a whim. I am, myself, new to the solopreneur world. I haven’t been to a live conference like this before in person, let alone this digital version, and I didn’t know what to expect.
Experience Solopreneur LIVE in the comfort of your home office. Get the full collection of session recordings and transcripts now.
As a rookie, I’d like to share the impressions and resources this conference gave me to empower my next steps into the entrepreneurial world. Here are my top four takeaways from Solopreneur LIVE 2021:
Takeaway 1 – All professionals are people like you and me
Well, yeah. No kidding. This conference wasn’t hosted by the United Federation of Planets, so of course it’s just a bunch of other human beings.
What do I mean by this?
As I said, I’m fairly new to the solopreneur game. I’m just taking my first steps in the business world as a self-made professional. I spent many years before this as a student, an employee, and a frustrated wannabe solopreneur. This comes with the limiting mindset of following orders. When you’re used to thinking like an employee, it can be easy to perceive successful entrepreneurs as having some kind of magic.
“They know something I don’t. They have a superpower I can never have. Look at their confidence! Look at their results!”
This kind of thinking is beyond unnecessary. It’s disempowering. And it’s not even true!
At the beginning of the conference, before the first speaker started their schtick, I was chatting with a few of the people in the virtual lounge. I didn’t realize at the time that I was casually chatting away with Sharon Hurley-Hall — one of the speakers!
It was friendly. It was casual. She didn’t seem to have any superpowers beyond what I knew to be generally humanly possible.
Between the speaking slots, I regularly went back to the lounge and spent time getting to know the other speakers, attendees, and even the hosts! Chatting so casually with these accomplished professionals in the laid-back atmosphere of the virtual lounge helped to dissolve that wall I had in my mind: These are not mystical masters of the universe, they’re simply new colleagues.
Takeaway 2 – Your expertise counts, even if you’re just getting started
I’m one of the many that got caught in the rounds of COVID-19 layoffs. I spent years craving a business of my own, but all I knew how to be was a cog in the corporate machine. I went to school numerous times. I worked at career-type jobs. And I spent most of my time dreaming of a way out.
There always was a way out, of course, but I didn’t have the right mindset to believe in my capabilities as an independent professional.
And then along came the virus.
I was only a month into a new job. After a few months of training, I would visit job sites to perform technical installation services. But once the world shut down, nobody was accepting service calls. I met with the inevitable layoff in the fall of 2020.
As I walked to my car, I knew it was now or never. I was going to figure out how to make a living myself. The problem: I was drawn to creative work, which meant a complete career pivot.
After fifteen years as an electronics specialist, I decided to pursue writing, speaking, and other similar communication work. The change was intimidating to say the least, but it’s a future that aligns with my strengths and my desires.
However, because this is a major vocational shift, I would have to start from scratch.
While piecing this journey together, I stumbled across the Solopreneur LIVE conference. When I signed in to meet whoever was there, I felt as if I was just some newbie that should keep my mouth shut and learn from the experts.
But I can’t keep my mouth shut. That’s why I want to make a living with words — they never stop bubbling out of me.
As I shared conversations with other conference-goers, speakers, and the organizers themselves, I realized that I had a lot to contribute. My chosen profession was a complete pivot, but I knew how to communicate. I knew how to conduct myself as a professional. Hell, I’ve been on the planet for nearly forty years. That alone brings a useful set of perspectives and valuable opinions.
This loops back to the first takeaway: I was an individual in a group of other individuals. To devalue myself based on a reductive self-perspective was only going to slow me down.
Takeaway 3 – Your clients need you, you don’t need them
This pearl of wisdom was shared by one of the speakers, Noah Tillman-Young. While you need to generate income to live your life, your clients are the ones that are waiting for your expertise to improve their business and connect with their customers.
Every aspect of running a business is a challenge, and the owners of that business have limited time and limited skills. You’re there to solve the problems that come with those limitations and to provide them with the value that will drive their brand to success.
If a client is treating you poorly, if their values don’t align with yours, or if any circumstance arises that creates more burden than value, you let them go.
Don’t get stuck in the scarcity mindset that tries to tell you there are only so many options. Remember the abundance the market has to offer and go find the clients that will appreciate you as much as you appreciate them.
If you’re just in it for the money and you don’t mind burning yourself out on some unappreciative relationship, then go nuts and keep draining your soul into them.
I can tell you, though, even if money is your primary target, you’ll generate much more from a relationship based on trust and understanding.
Takeaway 4 – The market needs your business, your way
The marketplace has changed significantly in the last twenty years. The advent of the internet-enabled world has brought the planet together into one centralized market. There is more competition than ever before. So it’s tempting to look at what others are doing with their business and follow those steps.
This is not to say you should ignore everything that your competition is doing. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, especially when you’re starting from scratch. You can save yourself a lot of energy by starting with a tried-and-true framework.
But if you continue strictly in the footsteps of other successes, you’ll be lost in the noise of the countless others following that same formula. And you’ll be operating on a method that’s already old news.
Novelty is one of the core principles of getting attention. You won’t be able to put your unique voice into the world by reciting the script of those who came before you. In the planet-wide market of seemingly infinite competition, the best way you can stand out is to grow your business through your unique personality.
There is some fair warning here: This approach will fall on many deaf ears. Part of our wiring is to reject what isn’t familiar. The advantage of using the techniques of those that came before you is familiarity. But that familiarity comes at the cost of being lost in the competition.
Novelty and familiarity have a balance.
Showing up as yourself doesn’t mean ignoring all the functional frameworks. If you want to make it as a writer, you have to write. You have to learn proper grammar and structure. You have to pitch to editors, cold email potential clients, or grind your way through job postings.
It saves a lot of energy to start out by following the methods of your successful forerunners. But don’t be so rigid that your voice gets snuffed out by a template. Use the time-tested framework to get the engine started and then do what feels natural.
Showing up as yourself is the only sustainable long-term strategy — how long do you really think you could operate as somebody else before you burn out? Not long enough.
To do something new does present a bigger risk of getting a “no,” but bigger risks bring bigger rewards. Learn how to do something in a way nobody’s ever done it. Then, not only will you be successful as who you truly are, you will have discovered something completely new to give you an advantage among your competition, and as wisdom to share with your colleagues.
The top four takeaways from Solopreneur Live 2021 are:
- We’re all just colleagues in the market, don’t be intimidated by your perceptions.
- All experience is useful experience, don’t count yourself out because you’re “too new.”
- You are the irreplaceable resource for your client, not the other way around.
- Your long-term strategy needs to be an extension of your true self.
Solopreneur LIVE 2021 was an excellent meeting place for new and experienced solopreneurs alike. The all-virtual world forced on us by the virus brought this wonderful opportunity right to my home office. Kathryn and Jonathan Aragon provided a lot of value through this inaugural event and I look forward to the 2022 conference.
So, new solopreneur, how are your struggles? What resonated with you in this article? I hope to see you at the 2022 conference where you can tell me all about it yourself!
Good luck, and take care!
Don’t wait until next year! Replay Solopreneur LIVE now.