13 life lessons from my first 5 years in business as a solopreneur – Part 1

by | May 14, 2020 | Flagship, Copywriting, Design, Strategy

This will take you about 20 minutes to read. So make sure it’s for you.

Here’s how you can tell:

  • You’re a solopreneur (or freelancer) overwhelmed with marketing yourself. Where does this writing frenzy end, you wonder. And will it actually bring you business?
  • You’re a mid sized business with budgets out of agency range, in a market where CMO talent is rare to non-existent. You do the best you can with what’s available.
  • You’re a thought leader with lots of experience in the field, but without the personal branding tool kit. You have results nobody can possibly contest. You want more spread for your magic.
  • You have precious assets that could sell internationally. If only you had marketing that doesn’t scream Eastern Europe.
  • You’re a productivity addict and sooo into crisp, punchy copy.

Have you checked any of the boxes?

Read on, I might just have good stuff for you.

Have you heard the story of the corporate high flyer turned entrepreneur?

That would be me.

After 17 years in marketing and selling an Eastern European film studio to Hollywood producers, public utility TV campaigns that won all the right prizes and fundraising for UNICEF, I decided to make the switch.

It seems a lifetime away now, five years and an intensive diet of entrepreneurial and online marketing courses later.

I wish someone told me what you’ll read below, from the “yes, mom” kind of tips to insider info on how to deal with The Force.

No, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. But The Force is still The Force, whatever you call it.

(I know it sounds a bit on the edge. I promise you it isn’t. I’m a movie girl turned conversion copywriter. And nothing tells a story like the movies.)

Let’s get to it.

In your little corner of the world, you’re the ultimate maker.

Can you think of any envy rants about life as a freelancer? How about that one with the lazy mornings?

The chorus line goes a bit like “I can’t believe your freedom.” My clients say that to me. A lot.

Which is when I say:

“Actually, I’m a company of one.”

Yes, sometimes you can sleep in on grey mornings. And you’ll be up at midnight just as well. Here’s what doesn’t get said on the subject:

A job isn’t just a pay check. It’s a network of things wiring through your life.

And when you’re on your own, you’ll have to work hard not just at doing the things that give you the pay check.

You’ll need to build that invisible wire, too. The net. The container.

You don’t really see it, unless you reach out for what should be there and isn’t, because you didn’t make it. That’s when you feel the void and a new, vague to-do lands in.

It sound like this: “who is my ideal client, anyway?”, or “how will they hear about me?”, or “my marketing should be better.”

It can take months or years until you actually get what you should do for that. And you might know it in theory. It needs to land, though. And that takes time, I promise you.

You basically need two things: mindset and systems. And you’re in charge of both.

That includes the cheering up, the vision setting, all the boring meetings you dragged your feet to and checked your phone for most of the time.

Now you have to create the materials, set it up, attend and cheer in stride. Also, the procedures. Until further notice, you are in charge of operations. Also, marketing, sales, product and delivery.

You may not ace all of them. That would be really hard. But you can go for the essentials. For what moves the needle.

And welcome to your new jargon.

Moving the needle tops all the charts.

Before you go through the terra bytes you’ll find on the issue, let me give you the short version:

Have an idea, get it in front of your client and see if it works, then make it better.

Give them the best you’ve got.

And iterate till the cows come home.

Everything else is ancillary, social media plans included.

(Business models vary of course.)

So, social media will matter only if it’s an actual way of getting in front of your client. Otherwise it is what it is. Trap. Pacifier. Time killer. Digital cigarette. Etc.

Handle this well, and at the end you’ll have lists of actions booked in advance in your calendar and drills to go with them.

And when a new client comes along, or when you need to go for leads, you’ll have a better idea of what you actually need to do and how long it takes you and your team to actually do them.

As for operations, one of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned was in The 90 Day Year:

(full disclosure: I’m in to be an affiliate for that. Meaning if you buy it through me, I get a commission and you get my bonuses. I think the program is completely worth your time and money. And if you click this link and sign up, I’ll tell you more about it in private.)

 

You’ll look for who’s got it. Or whatever can check you out.

Cats. Or dogs. Those always do the trick. (Which makes me think that even in 200 years time, they will still rule.)

You’ll actually compare yourself to others. I know you know you shouldn’t but you still do. Unless you’re a really lucky sort and we almost hate you for it.

I did compare myself endlessly to people in New York. Or to people who’ve been in business three times as long as I have. Nothing good came of it. My therapist was patient, though.

Chances are you’ll look for people who’ve made it before you.

You might actually have a crash on some.

And that’s fine.

Time will make you see cracks through their postcard perfect posts. And with every disappointment, you will grain an ounce of courage to be your voice, come what may.

You may actually even unfollow some. And that’s how you know you’re on the right track.

You live the mission, and money for fill-in-the-blanks shows up.

I came to think that after years on stressing out about money.

Affectionate, mostly concerned about money, my 750words.com dashboard analysis said to me day in, day out, for months. (More on that in a bit, in the routine section.)

But, yes, I was obsessed about not having enough. Actually, about the possibility of not having enough.

It took years to figure out I had not missed a single payment, had been to Japan twice, invested almost as much as an MBA in my entrepreneurial education. And I was still freaked out.

Now, I do UX copy. Voice of customer. I take pride I don’t write a single word without seeing what the client actually thinks.

So I looked at my own data. Checked the vitals. My mind was all over the place. My finances were actually reasonably well.

Every time I needed something, it somehow came together. So I decided that was The Force holding me. And decided to give into it.

Rather than stress out about money, I would actually think about something else: how can I be useful? Is my work useful to anyone? How?

And when the freaked out voice was going for a solo on how I’d be on the streets, I decided to play the trump card: the big book says The Big Guy knows I need stuff and will provide. Let’s not criticise before He’s had a chance to do the job.

“People make it through hard times in two ways,” my therapist had said: “they believe in God or they believe in themselves. You have a faith crisis.” I did.

Getting past that is no small feat. It helps to have the eyes on the prize: the chance to be you.

To say what you actually want. Because you do, anyway. And otherwise it will siphon into dreams and Freudian slips. What the heck. Just do it.

The little voice inside your head (you know which one) will say you can’t.

I’m giving it to you straight. You can’t silence it. But you can name the effer. It’s a villain alright.

Now here’s another piece of final truth:

There’s no villain without a super hero. None.

So name the villain. And the hero.

Write the villain first. He or she will define your hero.

I got that from Dan Brown’s Masterclass. (Masterclass.com, by the way, is amazing.)

I actually want you to sit down and write what your villain and hero are like. What they say. Who that voice belongs to. What you think they look like. Do they smoke? Do they have a lisp?

My villain: Favella Belittle.

Since she always insists other people are better than me. I gave her a big ass. Felt better, too.

The superhero: Belinda Fragette.

No idea how I came up with these names. (Actually, I have a secret about that, too. I’ll write about it soon). She’s Frenchy French, has a huge mustard coat and detects BS by a mile.

Also, she’s totally game for books, manicures and stake tartare.

I googled Fargette. It turns out there was a French mafia dude with that name. No connection. My Fargette stays on the bright side.

You’ll actually feel The Force.

It’s not just some Maz Kanata sh*t. It is. But it isn’t.

If your work calls to you like the Jedi sword, then you are a hero on a journey. And on that journey, at some point, you will feel the Force.

“It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes. Feel it. It’s always been there. It will guide you.”

– Maz Kanata

Sooner or later, you will reach what will seem like rock bottom. And that’s when you might just feel around the edges of your will to live.

That would be, more precisely, your drive to be part of this big thing called life, whomever may be in yours.

You’ve seen it in so many movies, you’re probably sick of it already. Here’s the difference in real life.

There’s no score.

Most times you’ll be in bed at night, corpse posture, eyes on the ceiling, working out ways to breathe, your mind racing on fear scripts. What if clients don’t come out of nowhere? What if you won’t make the next mortgage payment? What if you just don’t have it?

Putting clothes on and going through the usual will feel like a victory. And it actually will be. Which is why you’ll need your routines in place. They’ll get you out of the darkest pit.

More on that later.

Back to the rock bottom.

If you’re alive, you’re a knot in a network that invested you with meaning: faith, feelings, use or simply habit. Meaning warm bodies who believe, love, need or got used to you.

At that rock bottom moment, whatever you do to climb out will be either for those other people, or for your deepest of selves.

You’ll get through one more day to not give them one more thing to worry about.

Or because if this were to be the end, you still have a fight or two inside you. And you’re not done quite yet.

That’s The Darkest Hour kind of moment.

I love the scene in the actual movie.

Churchill and King George sit on the sofa, shot from behind. Churchill is terrified.

But hear me out, that’s when there’s always a flicker of light. And for him it’s a stuttering king who extends a hand and says “I will work with you no matter what. I’ll stand by you.”

It’s what makes the actual difference. In your darkest hour, you are not alone. Fear not.

That’s one of the times you will actually see The Force.

Breathe It in.

And get in line with It.

Now, about the routines…

There will be days you will rule the world. Wake up clear in the head, go straight to the laptop and pour that proposal out of you. You may even focus for over 4 hours.

That’s rare for me. But I’ve done it with brain.fm. It works for me that way.

And there will be others when your day will not amount to much. Chain youtubing, maybe, and dog videos on Facebook.

Five years of traps later, I boiled it down to this wisdom…

… which is when Scheherazade would strategically break for intended suspense.

As do I.

I’ll be back soon. Just keep your eyes peeled to my blog.

Before you go, though…

If you’re serious about standing out from the competition, you should download my guide for your next great product here.

Go through the motions even for a product you’re offering now. Lots of a-has and how-tos will pop up.

For 1-on-1 help click here.

Thank you for reading this.

👈🏻👈🏻👈🏻❤️ ❤️ ❤️ If you enjoyed it, share it (see buttons on the left). It would make my day and, most likely, someone else’s.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Get the guide

that cracks the #1 question

great products start with.

Because your next great product (and its website) needs more than your great idea.

It needs to answer one almighty question.

Here's my promise: I'll send email you'll love. What do you say?

You got it! Check your inbox.

Ready to have them at hello?

Get my tutorial on how to streamline your content.

 

 My 7 black-belt tips will boil your ideas down to yum copy sauce reduction.

Absolutely FREE.

Here's my promise: I'll send email you'll love. What do you say?

Hurray, you've got the best kind of mail! The one you actually love to read.