How to succeed as a solopreneur

Kayla Brown
Written by Kayla Brown
on April 09, 2021

Being a solo entrepreneur or "solopreneur" can be empowering, lucrative, and deeply rewarding. However, it's no secret that it's also a lot of work and the knowledge that the fate of the business rests squarely on the shoulders of a single person can prove more than a little daunting!

Don't worry, because we're here to help! We've spent some significant time working with solopreneurs all around the world so we consider ourselves to be a company full of solopren-experts at this point. That's why we've gone through the trouble of putting together an exhaustive list of tips and tricks to help you succeed as a solopreneur!

Have a Plan

Just like any other business, setting short and long-term goals and then following through is absolutely vital for the savvy solopreneur. This will not only help you measure your growth through every stage of the journey, but it'll keep you on track as you move forward and things start to get a little crazy! 

In order to set smart, sustainable goals, sit down and have a brainstorm with yourself about the following: 

  • How do you see your business growing?
  • What actions will you take to make it grow? 
  • What is the key difference that separates you from your competitors?
  • How will you find clients?
  • How much runway (money) do you have to keep you going (and for how long)? 
  • What obstacles (either internal or external) do you see that could stand in your way of long term success? 
  • How will you overcome these obstacles?
  • How will you define success during your first year? 

Don't be afraid to ask yourself some tough questions.  Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@magnetme?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Magnet.me</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/EOLgQ6jLdtM?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Build Your Brand

Your brand is a whole lot more than just your logo. In fact, your brand can be one of the central building blocks in creating a successful business. That's because not only is your brand a visual manifestation of who you are and what you have to offer, but it has the potential to create a lasting first impression with your target audience.  

Your mom was right — there's no one else on earth quite like you. And as a solopreneur, you have the distinct advantage of using your unique personality and expertise to build your personal brand. Want to build one that really resonates? Pay special attention to the following aspects: 

Ask yourself, "What message am I sending with my brand?"

Every time a client ¸— either prospective or existing — engages with your brand, an experience is created. That's why it's important to be thoughtful and deliberate about the words and visuals that you use to represent your brand. 

Here's a pop quiz. Let's say you're building a digital marketing consulting company for upscale brands, would you use a sign-off that is:

  1. Extremely casual, "Thanks 4 your business!"
  2. Something a bit more tailored, "The opportunity to work with brands like yours are the reason I wake up every morning excited to get to work — even after two decades in business."

Words and pictures might seem like small potatoes when you're a solopreneur with a to-do list a mile long, but when it comes to your brand, it's very important to be mindful of the message you're sending to your customers. 

Be Consistent

As a savvy entrepreneur, you likely have a website and social media accounts where you represent your band online. It can be tempting, especially when you're first starting out, to try out a few different angles and hooks in an attempt to "throw some things against a wall and see what sticks." 

We're here to tell you to fight that urge with every ounce of strength you've got, because it'll do nothing but negatively affect the brand you're trying to build, as this is the very definition of sending "mixed messages," to your target audience. Not only will it confuse your prospective clients, but it often reads to more experienced professionals as the mark of an amateur. So take it from us — put some time and effort into what you want to say, and then be consistent across all channels — both online and offline! 

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Create customer-centric content

We've seen it happen a thousand times. In a well-intentioned effort to promote their brand, a fledgling solopreneur will post content that comes across as… there's no delicate way to say it… a little self absorbed. 

Instead of creating content that's all about , "Me, me, me!" it's much more productive to adopt the mantra of, "Here's what my brand do for you-you-you!" By framing your business and the services you offer in the context of how you can help your customers solve an existing problem or generally improve their lives, it's going to be much easier for you to convert those prospects into profits! 

Collaborate Strategically

Just because you're a solopreneur doesn't mean you have to do it on all on your own! In this social media-centric age of ours, a great way to gain exposure is to piggy-back off of the audiences of other like-minded bloggers, thought-leaders, and influencers in your industry. Consider cross-posting, engaging in online discussions, offering to guest-write for their blog and then offer them the opportunity to do the same on yours! This can be a smart way to drive engagement with a broader base much more efficiently than if you're relying simply on your own efforts. So even if you tend to be on the introverted side, when starting a business, it pays to get in touch with your inner social butterfly! 

The bottom line on branding

Building a strong brand requires a commitment, because you're not going to see results overnight. It's important to lay the foundation right from the start by being strategic about differentiating yourself from your rivals in a way that creates a connection with your target audience. But with equal parts tenacity and authenticity (and a little luck!) your branding efforts are sure to succeed and create a loyal customer base who will be with you for years to come! 

Use the Right Tools

So you're equally dedicated to building a strong brand while also working hard on building your business behind the scenes. That's fantastic! But to avoid the wall of burnout that is looming on the horizon, consider using a few tools so you can be sure to work smarter, not harder! When deployed strategically, the right tools will help you not only save time, but money, too! 

Automate Repetitive Tasks

Any business pro will tell you that in the long-term, it's all about consistency! That doesn't mean you should spend your valuable time and energy on repetitive tasks. Lucky for you, there are a whole host of tools that can automate many important yet oh-so mind-numbing tasks with a few clicks of a mouse! Things like publishing blog posts and social posts, sending automated emails, even updating spreadsheets! If this sounds like something that might be useful for you, check out industry darlings such as Zapier, IFTTT, Workato, Automate, Microsoft Flow, and more! 

Improve your Invoicing Game 

While there are certainly those rare and special creatures who love creating and sending invoices. But for the majority of us mortals, there is nothing quite as frustrating as having to put your current project (and flow state) aside so you can dive into the monotony of creating an invoice and sending it to your client. And don't even get us started on trying to find a perfect font paired with tasteful colour palette that whispers "seasoned professional" instead of screaming, "amateur hour!"

Now, as much as we don't like to, (ahem) toot our own horn, here at Xolo we've engineered the perfect solution to every solopreneurs bureaucratic nightmare. By using Xolo Go, you'll be able to send a professional, VAT-compliant invoice in just a few clicks of the mouse. You don't even have to worry about owning your own company because we'll loan you a slice of ours! 

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Track Those Expenses

Wondering if the following scenario will ring a bell? Have you ever gone out for, say, a business dinner, and held on to the receipt, fully intending to expense it. And then you stash it in a drawer for an impromptu family reunion with all the other receipts that you've been meaning to expense. And then you procrastinate actually doing anything with them until your hostage negotiator accountant practically begs you to send over your expenses. Then you're forced to spend hours of your precious time and energy trying to make heads or tails of them a la A Beautiful Mind

 

Worse, maybe you just decide to do nothing with them because you don't have time to try and unravel them. At this point, you might as well just be throwing away money! We're here to tell you there is a better way to keep track of expenses. A simple google search for, "Best expense tools" is guaranteed to find the expense tool that will help you break up with your receipt drawer once and for all! 

P.S. We would be remiss not to mention that the Xolo Go dashboard comes with an easy, intuitive expensing tool where you can upload photos of your receipts and we take care of the rest!

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Learn to Love Networking

Yeah, we can totally see you rolling your eyes on the other side of the screen. We get it, especially when you're first starting out, networking can seem like the most transactional, inauthentic, downright cringeworthy way for you to spend a perfectly good happy hour! 

But even those who may be thinking, "I'll never be good at networking!" … just like anything, it gets much better with practice. We're not going to lie — its gonna be awkward at first. Networking is a lot like dating in that the more practice you have, the better you'll be at it! Here are a few more best practices for you to get the most out of networking as a solopreneur: 

Be Authentic

There's no need to go in there with an entirely cheesy, over-the-top personality. In fact, please don't! If you're not exactly what might be described as bubbly, that doesn't mean you can't be a perfectly good networker. In fact, you'll likely be a breath of fresh air for the vast majority of people there who also don't have the personality of the Homecoming King or Queen in an '80s Romcom. It may sound cliche but seriously… just be yourself. 

One last word about authenticity. In networking arenas where you're meeting a lot of new people, it can be tempting to sprinkle a lot of big buzzwords into what you're saying. It's a common way of letting others know that you're a BFD —a big freakin' deal — who really knows what they're talking about! This may be true, but it can also be intimidating and off-putting in situations like these. So here's the CAC on the BEP of networking etiquette — take it easy on the buzzwords!

Be attentive 

It can be tempting to go into an event after having just inhaled an entire pot of coffee and then talk the ears off anyone who will listen about your vast experience, your polished service offerings, and your big plans for your business ("I'll go ahead and put you down as 'interested!'").

But perhaps a bit counterintuitively, the best networkers are also great listeners. It is said that great public figures — most notably, successful politicians — all share the same thing in common: despite the fact they interact with hundreds of people every day, they're still able to make each interaction feel like "...we were the only people in the room." This means this larger-than-life figure is able to do little things to let the other person know that they are interested in what they're saying: they remember names, ask questions, and most important of all, they listen. It's a known fact that most people love to talk about themselves — so give them the opportunity to do just that and you'll be guaranteed to make a lot of friends!

Have a goal in mind 

It may be tempting to let the winds of fate take you where they may. But veteran networkers will tell you it's a much better strategy to go in with a distinct goal in mind. Maybe you want to come out with the business cards of five prospective clients. Great! Maybe it's even less ambitious. Maybe you just want to have conversations with three people in your industry. Or introduce yourself to one new person. It's all in where your comfort level is, but if you can make a concrete goal, your efforts will be that much more rewarding. Plus, once you accomplish your goal, you'll be that much more confident going into your next networking opportunity! 

Be useful

Ok, this is a big one! It's the golden rule of networking to be open to reciprocity and favours if you're in a position to help! Be kind, be gracious, and if you can help with something — giving advice, making an introduction from your network, etc. — the more contacts you'll have to help you out the next time you're in need of a favour!

Final Thoughts on Solo Success

Becoming a successful solopreneur is rewarding, but it's ultimately a whole lot of work if you're going to be in business long-term. It's important to remember that just because you're in business by yourself, doesn't mean you have to do it all alone. Ultimately, building a strong brand while supported by the right contacts and the right tools — will make all the difference. 

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

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