Sustaining the solopreneur lifestyle [5 strategies to earn more]

David Bailey-Lauring
Written by David Bailey-Lauring
on November 02, 2020

Being a solopreneur, expatriate, or digital nomad can be a stressful way to make a living. 

Ask any group of solopreneurs what pain points they feel when running their businesses, and you'll get a range of answers. 

Mostly, the main areas of frustration are finding work, invoicing and getting paid, loneliness and monotonous admin work. 

Earning more is one way to ensure that you can remain to do what you love most - living and working abroad on projects you're passionate about.

But how do you earn more and ensure your lifestyle is sustainable?

By following the right strategies and creating a set of automated systems; solopreneurs and digital nomads can make their freelance life efficient, profitable and sustainable.

Build an online presence for your company

Having an online presence is essential.

An online presence helps your customers find your brand before they are aware that you even exist. Furthermore, it aids them in qualifying you when deciding to work with your brand. 

Ultimately, a striking online presence will make you stand out from the competition, thus playing a role in a customer's decision to work with you.

Create your own website

Having your own website is the first step to being found online, even if your business is a one-person show. Even if you are found online through social media, potential customers will seek out your company website to find out more. 

A website is where solopreneurs and digital nomads can demonstrate their brand identity through a portfolio, colours, videos and images.

It is a prime opportunity to appeal to a customer's pain points and present a solution (your service or product) to what they are searching for help with. 

To create your own website, there are many Content Management Systems (CMS) sites you can use, including WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace.

Master SEO

With algorithms changing every day, search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the more robust strategies a solopreneur can build an online presence. 

Having a website is all good, but if you wish to have regular traffic to your site; you'll need to tinker with it and master some search engine optimisation.

First, be aware that SEO can be divided into two sections:

  • on-site SEO  
  • off-site SEO

On-site SEO is all about the site content. You'll want to use keyword research for the terms you wish to rank for in search engines and create educational content around it that matches your target persona's search queries.

With off-site SEO, this is more around aspects of your site that are 'off' it, ensuring that it loads fast and is mentioned elsewhere online (known as backlinking).

And don't forget, if you want to show up on Google, mainly Google Maps, create a Google My Business (GMB) account. If you are travelling from country to country, then this may not be necessary, as to set up GMB you'll need to have an address where a postal code will be sent to you. 

We've written a more comprehensive guide on SEO here.

List on freelancer websites

As the demand for freelancers grows, so does the need for outsourcing project work and finding the people to cooperate. 

There are a plethora of websites available where freelancers can list their services on for customers to find precisely what they are searching for.

Freelancers need to be more creative than ever before in seeking out new work. Xolo has written a list of the 20 top sites where freelancers can find jobs here.

Start solo business

Consider online advertising

Suppose you cannot afford to reap the benefits of a long-term strategy like SEO. In that case, you could consider using online advertising to get you to the top of search results.

Not only does this build your brand awareness and increase your online visibility, but you'll also get clicks to your website and potential leads. 

Search engines including Bing, Yahoo and the obvious one of Google all have their own advertising platforms you can promote your business through. 

Plus, there is Facebook, YouTube and Instagram if you feel social media advertising is better suited to advertise your products and services.

Before you launch your first ads, think carefully about what you wish to say in your ads. Do you want people to contact you, buy a product, or take up a free trial or consultation?

Then consider which platform best suits your target customers.

For example, most Europeans use Google's search engine, so using Bing ads would not be that useful, unless you are targeting those residing in the USA. Travelling in China would be better if you use Baidu (and speak Mandarin) and are targeting Chinese customers.

Networking

By networking and meeting people you don’t know can increase your confidence as a business owner. 

It will play a vital role in your business growth as you’ll learn more from others and make invaluable connections for the future.

Forge new relationships with other freelancers

Developing relationships with those in your field is a meaningful way to expand your network.

For example, suppose you have connections with blog writers or podcasters in your industry. In that case, you could ask them to feature you in their content if they have access to a mass audience. 

Even better, they may interview you or ask you to write a guest post about your services. 

Plus, by making connections with other freelancers, you can tap into their projects should they need an overflow for their project work.

Maybe an app developer needs additional hands on deck to help them build one for a client. Making freelance connections with such people ensures you are selected to help.

And even if your skillset is different, doesn't mean you shouldn't make connections with other solopreneurs. Website developers may need copywriters in several languages for multilingual websites - pairing up can create new future business opportunities.

Forging relationships with others is a surefire way to expand your ability to obtain more work. 

“Online presence is like a presence in the real world - the better you look and sound, the likelier you are to succeed in your objectives.”

Sigmar Muuga
Developer

 

Embracing virtual communication 

Many consider virtual collaboration to be second-best to face-to-face cooperation. Whilst it is true that face to face meetings help keep business relationships on track during the digital age, the rise of the COVID pandemic has expedited the need for more virtual communication as digital nomads become isolated. 

A LinkedIn global survey said that 38% of professionals feel it is hard to remain in touch with their network. Yet the same study revealed that 61% of them agree that there are more opportunities to be found online.

What's more, it's even easier to remain 'connected' to your network of clients and customers. 'Pinging' a message and communicating regularly not only keeps your customers loyal, but it also enables you to find out whether there are additional services you can offer that they need. 

With millions of digital nomads across the globe suddenly isolated, the importance of digital collaboration has never been more apparent.

To ensure you keep abreast of others and gain more business, Xolo has a guide to making the best online meetings, here.

Personal branding

Building a personal brand empowers you to link trust between the business you manage and your personal side. 

It puts a ‘human’ face on the business and boosts your reputation by motivating others to conduct business with you.

 

“With such a wide range of services and projects, it is sometimes difficult for prospective clients to find a category, or “box”, to put me in so that they know how to engage me.”

Moritz Bierling
Researcher and educational programme creator

 

Personalise your brand

You have your website, it looks eye-catching and professional, but it does not say a lot about you, the head of your brand. One tactic to support your solopreneur business is to personalise your brand.

Doing this will help others see what drives you, what experience you have, and the values you espouse.

Solopreneurs can do this by writing a blog on their website, or send out a newsletter if they have an email marketing list. Even better, they could harness the power of social media.

Posting tips and strategies on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter enable others to not only comment and view your profile; they will engage and ask more about how you achieved such success.

Likewise, suppose you have visually outstanding products and services. In that case, platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are ideal for highlighting your creative talents and demonstrating your personal brand.

Even including non-work related posts demonstrates your character - and how your personality will build a customer's business if they employ you.

Xolo has a guide to getting your first client through branding here.

“Tailor your social media content to your audience's needs. Meet them where they're at right now - do they need reassurance? Do they need practical information from you?”

Beatrice Mangar
Writer, social media influencer and business mentor

 

Post on social media

According to data, 4.57 billion people now use social media to consume content, buy and sell products and find services. Thus, social media is a crucial tool for reaching your intended audience on whichever platforms they prefer.

Having a social media presence instils trust in your current customers and prospects. 

As mentioned above, posting tips, strategies and personal updates boost confidence in a potential customer regarding contacting you. If there is no mention of you online, a potential client could lose faith in your abilities to deliver results.

Social media is a fantastic way to build both your company and personal credibility. Potential business clients will be researching what others are saying about you.

Build a portfolio

A portfolio can be a critical asset for any sole trader business. 

A portfolio highlights your training, qualifications, experience, ability to deliver and your personality.

List your work online

Whether a blog writer, SEO expert, website or graphic designer; having a portfolio is imperative to show potential customers the quality of work that you deliver.

You've spent years honing your skill sets and obtaining experience, now it is time to put your hard work on display. 

Don't only paste a few links to a one-page website. Those looking to employ you will want to see regular and up-to-date clients you are working with. 

Sites like Behance for designers, GitHub for developers and Clippings for writers and journalists are but some examples where professionals can showcase their work. 

Having a professional online portfolio is more critical than ever. Creating one makes showcasing your work even more effortless with future clients with a personalised URL.

Obtain reviews

Good reviews are going to be the holy grail for your online success. Having positive and negative reviews can make (and ruin) a business, particularly with your first clients. 

Many solopreneurs and digital nomads obtain more business by being exceptional and getting recommendations from all their customers. 

This peer-to-peer validation is a fantastic way for solopreneurs to build an expanding customer base. 

And don't worry if all reviews are not 5* - you will not match every client's expectations. Having a higher aggregate rate demonstrates if anything, that your reviews are not fake. 

Reviews do not only have to be on Google or third-party sites; they can be personal recommendations on social media like LinkedIn.

If you do have your own website, then definitely promote your reviews on the site so that future customers can view how highly rated you are.

Offer free consultancy or a trial of your product

Maybe this is not an option for all, but offering a free trial or consultation could be a way to obtain trust if the customer does not value your services or products, or is limited financially. 

Not only does it send a clear message that you wish to help a brand. But it also demonstrates how fabulous you are at gaining trust with a potential customer.

Furthermore, if you have a network of connections with other freelancers, you could assist them now. Then in the future, when they have clients in your field or skill sets, refer to you instead of others.

Doing this ensures that you have plenty of referrals, thus sustaining your business model. If they trust the freelancer to do work, they will trust his or her recommendation - you!

Read about how one Xolopreneur bootstrapped his SaaS business.

Be smart with finance

Being smart with business finance is not only around making sound financial decisions. Being smart includes making cost savings where it doesn’t impact delivery and adding value to customers and clients.

Savvy solopreneurs use business tools to make their lives easier, sustain their business and reduce the monotony of administration.

Automate your business processes as much as you can

One of the benefits of working as a digital nomad or solopreneur is the ability to work on projects you love that match your skill sets and getting paid for it.

Sadly, running a business, whether as a company or a virtual business, requires a constant stream of clients and customers. Doing this is additional work that you are not directly paid for, but needs to be done nevertheless.

To ensure your business process runs smoothly, and not take too much of your time, it is ideal to automate as much as you can.

For example, using tools like MeetEdgar, Buffer, or Hootsuite can schedule your social media posts to go live on your social media channels. 

If you have an email marketing list, you can automate a series of emails to be sent to the recipient to 'nurture' them to buy your products and services.

You can even set up payment gateways, making it easier for customers to pay for goods and services without you needing to create an invoice. Xolo, for example, integrates with several of them, including Stripe, TransferWise and PayPal. 

"Administration is my least favourite part of being in business - being able to outsource all of that to professional and compliant service through the Xolo portal, makes life much more straightforward."

Maya Middlemiss
Writer and journalist

 

Outsource company administration 

Companies like Xolo are there to support the business admin haven that is Estonia. It is an affordable solution for solopreneurs and digital nomads to run their companies with minimal fuss. 

There are no hidden costs or surprises.

Meaning that business owners, whether isolated in one country or on the road, can save costs on administration and accountancy, yet have more time to earn more revenue.

As a sole business owner, you’ll need to maximise the most of your valuable time working to grow the business. 

After all, it is only you. Meaning you need to do more networking, more marketing, get more clients - all equalling to more profit.

Being financially savvy means saving costs for what really matters - enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a sole business owner.

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Sustaining the solopreneur lifestyle

As any solopreneur knows, working on your own projects whilst running a solo business can be exhausting. 

An increasing number of us are living our dreams and being our own boss, managing our own business, wishing to work when and where we want and exploring other locations to live and work in. 

This solopreneur and digital nomad lifestyle does look enticing, but the reality is unless you can earn enough to be successful, you’ll soon find yourself unable to sustain your lifestyle. 

It can be an even more formidable challenge when you’re location-independent.

But with the steps we’ve covered here, you should be able to assess your situation and apply these strategies to grow your business and sustain the solo lifestyle you crave.

We've also prepared a quick tutorial to help find clients for your online business, be sure to give it a view for some useful tips:

 

Ready to begin your new life as a solopreneur? Start here.

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