So you’re ready to go out there and start your own business as a solo-preneur but not quite sure where to begin. Well, to start, it really is all about who you know.
If you’re fresh out of school or just starting out, start with building up your street cred. Unlike brands that are selling a product, services are very different because you’re selling yourself. If you have nothing yet, start off with reputable existing businesses or volunteer with one and learn. As you’re building yourself, get testimonials. Measure how successfully you’ve impacted every client. Get feedback and course-correct. Find out from your clients how you’re benefiting them and how you’re not. Take on any project you can, each of them will help you establish more credibility. Partner up with people who know what they’re doing. Learn from other people.
Before you go out on your own, you should have at least 100 solid network leads that you can leverage and at least 1000 connections on LinkedIn. Build your relationships with those connections. You need to have your own network. The majority of my work comes from my existing network and they are the best referral source for me.
Take some time to also ask yourself, what are the companies I would want to work with? What kind of client do I want to have? Do you know people in the industry? Have coffee with them. Pick their brain about what they like in that industry. Is that an industry you want to be in? What do you have to offer them? How can you help? How is your service going to make a difference to those folks? Know your niche, and make sure it’s one that builds on your existing strengths. When I started my own business, I was trying desperately to get a leg into pure leadership development and leave my knowledge of mental health behind. I was burnt out from it and wanted out. I knew the public sector very well, and also wanted out of that space. So here I was wanting to start a business in a new sector and sever my greatest asset (my knowledge of mental health). HELLO… not too smart and fortunately, my network kept calling me to work in the areas in which I was most familiar. This helped to build greater credibility and my confidence. People were calling me to do work so something was working!
My advice: Start off where you’re confident. You show up differently where you’re more confident. Partner up with others who; you like, can trust, can learn from, and share resources. One of the greatest lessons I learned early on is that I didn’t have to do everything myself. Collaborating with others and partnering up on projects helped to build my confidence in this new space and network. By partnering with others, I was able to leverage doors that I wouldn’t have been able to open myself. At first it felt like a copout. I can’t do this myself so it must mean I don’t know what I’m doing. WRONG. I didn’t have access, which is very different from, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” The partnerships that I have made along the way have taught me to trust others, and more importantly, learn from others.
If you’re new at this and no one has seen your solo work yet-my advice; volunteer your time.
Some of the greatest referrals from my network have come from projects that I’ve done for free. I partnered up with a colleague I met through LinkedIn who had great credibility in the field, and we ran a free program once a month every year for 4 years. We connected with clients who, since it was free, easily signed up for the program. Each person that attended gained something of value that they took to all their own places of work and referred us to colleagues, friends, leaders, managers, and so on. This partnership and program not only benefited all those who attended but helped me gain a new employee, a great referral partner and multiple new clients. Didn’t see that one coming! If you have the passion, the project will follow.
Create something free that has value to people. Maybe you’re not earning something but you’re building a reputation in a specific field. If no one has ever heard of you they’re not going to pay $10,000 for you to come to speak at a conference. Prove yourself first.
Building your business and brand really boils down to this;
Who’s your network? Build it. Work it. Your network is everything. It’s where your work is going to come from, how you’ll meet people. The journey is long, but by the end of you’ll have a successful, strong business!