One of the main attractions of being a Solo Entrepreneur is the chance to work for ourselves. After all, many of us spent too much time in the corporate world doing what someone else wanted us to do, dealing with the politics, and doing things not because they were good for the company or its customers, but because it made us look good at raise time. And we hated that, because it sometimes turned us into a kind of person that we really loathed — a very different person than who we were (or wanted to be) in real life, with our family and friends.
Which is why it is startling to me when I see another Solo Entrepreneur (or myself!) falling into some of those same traps we sought to avoid! Here’s three ways this can happen, and what we can do about it.
Still Looking For That Guru?
In our old jobs, our boss told us what to do, and often, how to do it. As Solo Entrepreneurs, we let this happen when we attend a training program (often offered by some "guru") and attempt to imitate the success path of that guru. It’s our nature to follow directions, and it’s certainly difficult to strike out on a slightly different path. And it is ultimately unsuccessful because each of us has different strengths, weaknesses, and resources than that guru.
Don’t get me wrong — gurus are great, and there is lots to learn from them. The trick is to pick out those pieces that are really going to work well for us — and to discard the rest. A wise guru will applaud our choices and encourage our independent path, in a way that our former bosses may never understand.
Finding the Playground (oops I mean Niche!) Within
If you haven’t heard yet that you should be choosing a target market and narrowing your niche, you will soon. It’s become a staple of most marketing classes I’ve been seeing for Solo Entrepreneurs. The oft-cited reasoning is that by specializing, we become more attractive to our target clients (if you had a heart condition, wouldn’t you much rather see a cardiologist than the family doc who gave you the flu shot last week?)
It’s not enough just to pick a niche, however narrow. Our niche must also fit us — not the other way around. "Niche Marketing" ebooks that advise you on how to find great "undiscovered" niches and build websites to serve them overlook the obvious — not only would I want to see a cardiologist for my heart condition, but I’d want that cardiologist to have picked the field because she felt a deep connection to it inside herself, not because her father was a cardiologist. Patients can tell the difference…and so will your clients.
The Eleanor Rigby Syndrome
For those who didn’t grow up with the Beatles, Eleanor Rigby was a lonely woman who kept "her face in a jar by the door." Much as we, in our corporate lives, may have put on a different persona along with our suit as we prepared for our daily commute. Solo Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be that way! So how can we remain true to ourselves and still be successful?
The great news about working for ourselves is that there are a lot of other generous Solo Entrepreneurs willing to share their advice. And the bad news is…they are willing to share their advice! And that advice doesn’t is quite likely to involve doing something that just isn’t us. But they’ve been kind, maybe they have also become a friend, and we feel obligated to act on that advice (or maybe I’m the only one??) But we don’t have to feel that way. We can accept advice gracefully, tactfully, appreciatively, and still make a separate choice of whether to implement that advice.
So, be bold. Know what you do well, what feels more like fun than work, and stick to that. Make your own choices and be confident in them…that’s what working for yourself is really all about!
© Copyright 2006 Terri Zwierzynski