10 things I’m doing differently (this this in solopreneurship)
Why did I go solo again? I wouldn’t exactly call it a mid-life crisis (though it’s not not a mid-life crisis), but more of a mid-Apocalypse crisis. Blithely wiling away the end-of-days in a 40-hour-a-week office job. This is not how I pictured Armageddon going down. “Ummm…it’s just like, hard for me to make the End Times a priority when it’s not on Asana yet, Steven,” I imagine the watercooler conversations going.
So I expedited my own Day of Reckoning. Jotted “personal judgement day” on the top of the to-do list. (It’s selfcare for nihilists.) And what did I Reckon? That life (and late-stage Capitalism) is too tenuous to sit on my dreams any longer—even if cushioned by an ergonomic office chair and a 401k that may or may not survive the coming climate crisis. “Just do it,” Nike nagged in trademark simplicity.
I just did it. Six months in, I am doing it. It is not easy, but it is worth it. Even when The Great Resignation went all “hold my beer” and turned into The Next Great Recession, I’m like “cheers, baby.” Let’s party.
Holding the reins of your own destiny sometimes feels like trying to tame a wild horse. Luckily, I’m now a horse whisperer for the solopreneurial soul. Here are my top 10 tips that do not require you to be “broke in” (like I was the first time).
#1: Create the Life that Creates the Day You Actually Want to Live Every-damned-day.
This one is tricky. If all went according to plan, how does your average day look, and do you actually enjoy it, on average? In entrepreneurship, it’s easy to make every day a stress-filled pressure test. In my former life, I realized that when some dreams come true, they wake you up in misery. For example, I could not be a steady stage performer / stand-up comedian without completely decimating my digestive system, energy (slash financial) reserves, and stress hormones on the regular. I just couldn’t physically do it. I am an introverted writer at heart. I get drained in front of crowds. Do I still hang on to stand-on-stage-and-make-people-laugh/cry dreams? Yes. But now I know I need a super balanced life—and for stage work to be only occasional—for that to be truly satisfying. My ideal day prioritizes solo, stress-free quiet time to write / read / create / doodle / make bank, and ample self-care.
#2: The Gamification of Everyday Life.
You gotta play, every-idiot-day, and you gotta play hard. But it has to feel like a game, or why-for-now, you know? I have an elaborate handwritten list involving many doodles that basically just gives me the dopamine hit of crossing off many boxes with my velvety black Universal pen. I gamified not only my work, but my cleaning routine, my selfcare, my passion pursuits. (I’ll explain more later.) A simple checkmark hits the spot, every time.
#3: Focus On Your Best Angles, Then Package Them.
I call this nerd modeling. What vantage point gives you the best shot? What’s your optimal sellable side and stance? I want to focus on the copywriting and creative direction that make me stand out, that I enjoy doing the most, and that yield the biggest ROI for both brands and for me. Run-of-the-mill, all-over-the-place content writers can seem like a dime a dozen—and get paid about that rate. Spotlight your unicorn talents. My peak, rare skill is as a high-level brand storyteller. I can infuse a business with a dynamic personality that’s consistent with its core values and really speaks to people (and sells). This is how I developed my Brand Storyseller plug-and-play kit and VIP experience. For years, I’ve had the (vague) dream to be a top copywriting consultant who works with businesses across the country to solidify and elevate their brand voice. The Brand Storyteller is the beginning of making that dream a reality. When you package up your offerings, you make it easier for outsiders to understand, grasp, and buy into what you do. Plus, you can develop and fine-tune your methods and process around your packages that makes selling, onboarding, and executing them much easier. (I sound like a pirate.)
#4: Value-Based Pricing.
Charging by the hour makes less and less sense the better you get at your craft. Rachel Rodgers, founder of Hello Seven (as in “hello, seven figure business!”), has the best advice I’ve ever heard on the pricing-your-services subject, so I’ll let her speak for herself. Every word in this podcast is gold, but here are some highlights: “Work on your mindset, or you’re going to go broke.” “Stop thinking in scarcity, and start thinking abundantly.” “You need to be able to explain the value, the transformation they’ll experience by utilizing your services.” “Pricing isn’t about you personally, it’s about the value you’re providing. It’s not about time.” “Ask yourself, what is the value my client will receive from this product or service? How much money/effort/time will be saved with this product or service? Value is what you deliver to your client from their before to their after. It’s your job to demonstrate value.” “When in doubt, double your price.”
#5: Build in White Space.
It’s easy to always feel “on call” when self-employed. I’m stalking the business models and strategies of several creatives / solopreneurs. I want to build in stress-free systems and what I’m calling “white space.” I want to be seriously off call when I’m (frequently) off call, ‘cause I already killed it and billed it on my terms. I took a mini-course on the VIP Day model. Designed for high-skill consultant types who can really nail down a business solution in a single day, VIP Days can make serious bucks and sense for solopreneurs. Instead of stretching a project out over weeks. Boom! You’re done in day. Then go hiking in the wilderness the next. Thus, my Campaign in a Day package.
#6: Signs, Symbols & Systems.
Handwritten paper to-do lists with exquisite stationery by Rifle Paper Co that look hieroglyphic by the end of the week. Automated project management and accounting software. A neon cat & bird sign that says PEEP. Check, check, check. All of these are essential to keeping my business on track. My biggest tech tools (joke aside: “that’s what she said”) are Bonsai and QuickBooks Self-Employed. Software will save you endless hours, especially for repetitive tasks and essential bookkeeping. Bonsai lets me time track, send contracts clients can sign online, and create proposals that convert to invoices when approved. It even allows clients to pay their invoice directly on Bonsai with a credit card or bank transfer. The neon sign? I turn that on as a visual cue to show I’m working—on electric avenue. Sort of like a lit-up “OPEN” sign at a storefront.
#7: Making a Chanel Bag Client Experience.
Rachel Rodgers says, “Do you want to be the Chanel or the Target grab-and-go bag? You’re not a mass marketed product, you’re a premium experience.” This round, I want to focus on creating an elegant, uplifting top-to-bottom experience for my clients. From the first free consult to the holiday gifts, I want to build up what I’ve got, to build a rock-solid business.
#8: A Room of One’s Own: Decor Style.
The WFH 2020s gave me a chance to really design my home office space to work it, baby. Even scene-stealing as a Zoom backdrop, it’s got the nooks. It’s got the crannies. All made for specific, organized tasks. It is perfectly set up for a perfectly set up working life. This includes visual reminders that keep me on track. Down to the 60s record player. The vibe-creating artwork. Plus the paint color Magic Lamp on one wall and Peacock on the opposite.
#9: A Room of One’s Own: Virginia Woolf Style.
*Trigger warning: male tears* Ask women in business to describe the last few (ok…like 6?) years. Disappointing. Gutting. A dystopian nightmare in which you’re pressure-forced “to smile” for the office atmosphere (like you didn’t just get your reproductive rights stripped away overnight) while at a job that pays you 70% of your man-peer, even tho you do most of his work (and all of his emotional labor) on the lowdown. In the face of this mediocre white man nonsense…fuck imposter syndrome. New mantra: It’s not me. It’s the patriarchy. Holmes don’t play those games no more. I will fulfill the vision of Virginia Woolf. I will create a room of my own. From scratch paper. Because this: Imagine if women took charge of more of the capital. Imagine it, people. Lennon song legendary. Let’s re-slice that pie, ladies. I’m designing my own playbook, along with my mentors: Full Swing PR. My business coach Alysha Nicole. My idol Rachel Rodgers. And my many amazing female clients so far.
#10: Be the Aristocrat of Your Side Projects.
Do I still labor daily over / under a side project that I’d love to miraculously bloom and take over my life? Yep. I think side projects are pretty healthy, in manageable doses, because when you put it all on the line for yourself, writing line after line for your own passion-fueled aims, a little client feedback no longer needles. I realized a lot of my favorite old novelists were aristocrats (see: Virginia Woolf). “I guess,” I guessed, “I will just have to be my own aristocrat.” *Insert obscene joke here.* I will let my side project take over my life only if it can bear its own weight. Until then, 45 minutes at a time is what you get, you lovely mistress.
I don’t really think of myself as a freelancer now (though I love that word: free is my spirit vibe, and lance makes me think of ancient instruments that slay—like pens). I’m a solopreneur. In it to win it. It’s Revelation time, party people. Let’s see what we can really do.