Most of you are working full-time and trying to grow your solopreneur business on the side. I know how that goes. I have a full-time freelance VA business but, I am also growing this blog on the side.
And, some of you don’t have a job at all right now. Growing your solopreneur business is a now or never kind of thing for you. I know that situation too. I quit my 9-to-5 abruptly and had to figure out how to make money from home.
In either case, time is precious and you need to focus only on the tasks that are going to make the most progress towards your goals.
Sure, there are about a million things you can do each day to grow your solopreneur business. But, when the time is precious, knowing the exact steps to follow is invaluable.
What Are The Benefits Of Growing A Solopreneur Business?
We’re all after financial freedom. Each of us has a different definition of what that means but, we’re all on a path to achieve financial freedom.
For me, financial freedom means having a job where I can truly make a difference in the world and make $7,000 a month no matter where in the world I am and even on the days when I’m not working.
I have set that dollar amount as “enough” money for myself and my family and I would feel financially free at that point. I would be able to be generous in the world, I could help my sister pay for college for her daughters (she is a single mom), and I could travel with my husband and kids.
Once I defined ‘financial freedom’ for myself, I realized that my virtual assisting business didn’t fit my definition. I don’t make money if I’m not working. And, I feel like I could be doing even more to make a difference in the world.
So, I decided to start this blog and see if I could grow it into a solopreneur business that gets me to my definition of financial freedom.
The ability to bounce between business models is just one of the many benefits of the solopreneur gig. Some of the other benefits are listed below.
You Keep Your Profits
In my opinion, the number one benefit of growing a solopreneur business is low overhead. Aside from a few pieces of software and some outsourcing here and there – a solopreneur business doesn’t have a whole lot of overhead.
So, while you are working hard to run the business all on your own, you are also reaping all of the benefits. Which makes complete sense because you assume all of the risks if the business fails.
Having low overhead also keeps your business portable and that’s a priority of mine.
You Learn Automation
In most businesses, automation is a high-tech kind of process. For instance, automation systems in a factory require a whole team of mechanics and engineers to keep things working smoothly.
As a solopreneur, you have some very powerful automation tools at your fingertips and for a minimal monthly investment.
For instance, each time a prospective client lands on your coaching website and wants to sign up for a 15-minute discovery call, you can automate the scheduling process.
You can also automate the process of emailing them the Zoom link for the meeting. You never have to personally interact with the person until they have confirmed on your calendar and it is time for the appointment.
And, if you are thoughtful about the process and the emails that the person receives, your automation can feel just as warm and supportive to the prospect as if you did personally interact with them.
You Can Be Creative About Resources
When you put together your budget and action plan for your solopreneur business, you identified how much of your profits you would be investing back into the business each month.
In the beginning, that amount is probably everything you’re making but, that’s not very much money yet. As a solopreneur, you don’t have to be making huge profits to hire some help.
You don’t have to plan for a salary or benefits and earmark thousands of dollars in your budget before you can hire help. You’re not hiring an employee.
In fact, as a solopreneur, just $100 a month will get you some help so you can unload some of those tasks that you don’t enjoy and that waste your time.
For instance, if you’re like me and you are not great with design, you can easily outsource your social media meme images to a talented graphic designer.
Or, maybe you realize that a large majority of your target audience hangs out on Pinterest but, you are baffled by the platform. You can hire someone who specializes in running Pinterest accounts for solopreneurs.
You Have A Support Network Like No Other
Being a solopreneur can feel a little isolating at times. I admit. I have a hard time brainstorming new ideas or thinking through the next few steps of a project when I’m just in my head all the time.
But, I have a strong network who I can reach out to when I need to bounce ideas around. I belong to a few Facebook groups that are amazingly supportive. When I worked 9-to-5, the only “support” that I had for strategic planning was my COO and we only met once a month.
I would lead team meetings to throw ideas around of what the employees would like to see happen. But, none of that *truly* mattered unless upper-management was on board. So, that was usually an exercise in disappointment more than support.
Now that I run my own business and I don’t need to approve anything with anyone – it’s great, I’m free. But, that also means that I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. And, that is where the members of my Facebook groups are so gracious and giving.
Trying to grow your solopreneur business is a special kind of joy and pain that only other solopreneurs can understand.
You LOVE Your Job
I know there are a few employees out there in the world who truly love their job and, if they won the lottery, they might still come to work each day. Or, at least part-time.
But, every single solopreneur that I’ve ever talked to absolutely loves their job. Even if their business is still growing and isn’t quite making enough money for them to feel financially free.
They love their job because they have choice and autonomy.
When you own your business and you don’t have any employees working for you – the only person you have to worry about is you.
You decide who your favorite people are to work with. And, then you create ways to help them in a meaningful way.
That’s the job in a nutshell.
Helping your favorite people.
Now, these aren’t the only benefits of trying to grow your solopreneur business. But, these are some of the top benefits. There are also personal benefits that each person comes to realize as they start to achieve success.
You Control How Much Money You Make
When you work as an employee, the company you work for dictates how much you work and how much money you make. But, when you own your business, you decide all of it.
If you have done your budget, and you know you only need to make $3,000 a month to feel financially free, then you only have to work as much as it takes to hit that number.
You set your own benchmarks and then you work as much or as little as necessary to reach them.
Solopreneur Success Stories
There are many different types of solopreneur businesses. For instance, if you bought wholesale items and retailed them on your own website, you would be a soloprenuer. Providing you were the only person processes and shipping the orders, etc.
The main types of solopreneur businesses that I focus on are coach, freelancer, consultant, and trainer. The reason I focus on these is that I am very familiar with each of these types of businesses and can help you the most with them.
But, that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be as successful as some of these folks if you started a business that was completely different than what they do. For the most part, the exact steps to grow your solopreneur business are the same no matter what.
Making Sense of Cents Blog (Trainer)
Michelle Gardner is the owner and blogger at makingsenseofcents.com. This is a blog and is an example of a trainer type of solopreneur business.
Most blogs fit the trainer category because most bloggers offer some kind of online course or ebook that helps people learn how to do what the blogger blogs about.
Making Sense of Cents is a personal finance blog and Michelle writes about ways to save money and make more money.
She started her blog in 2011 and has since grown it to make $100,000 per month. Michelle and her husband travel full-time and she works from the road.
She only sells one course and it is called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. The course teaches people how to use affiliate marketing techniques on their blog, website, and social media channels to increase their income.
Michelle also publishes monthly income reports that outline how much she has made each month and how. She is an alumnus of Elite Blog Academy (EBA) and here are some additional success stories from EBA grads.
Signature Life by Daria Zest (Coach)
Daria is a business coach for women and volunteers teaching entrepreneurship to immigrant women.
She came from a country where speaking her mind as a woman could get her thrown in jail. But, she was born with a mindset of “if you want something you have to work hard and fight for it.”
She started her coaching business by selling $27 sessions to her clients. But, soon learned her value and started implementing the steps to grow her business.
After 18-months she grew her coaching business to half a million dollars.
Daria is an alumnus of Marie Forleo’s B-School and you can read more about her story here.
Nina Solomatina (Consultant)
Nina is a consultant who helps students get accepted into MBA programs.
She quit her corporate job to work full-time on her business and was up against a timeline for making her business profitable.
She took consistent daily action to grow her business and was able to start working with 15+ clients on a monthly basis.
She’s helping students make their dreams come true. And, she’s able to do it from anywhere in the world while traveling.
Nina is also an alumnus of Marie Forleo’s B-School and you can read more about her story here.
Horkey Handbook (Freelancer)
Gina Horkey is a millennial mom of two kiddos.
She started out with a career in the financial services industry but, once her kiddos were born, she was determined to stay home with them.
So, she started figuring her way through the whole “work from home, start a business” jungle. Eventually, Gina landed on freelance writing as her full-time career.
In fact, she got so good at it that she created a course to help people who want to start a freelance writing business in 30-days or less.
Through a combination of freelance writing and sales of her course, Gina makes more than $20,000 per month through her solopreneur business.
There’s no doubt that everyone has their own gifts to offer their audience. But, they all take a similar path to grow their solopreneur business. The building blocks are the same for everyone who finally reaches success.
The Exact Steps You Need To Follow To Grow Your Solopreneur Business
Whether you want to be a freelance virtual assistant who helps homeschooling bloggers with their Pinterest account or you want to be a time management consultant for small business owners – the steps to grow your solopreneur business are basically the same.
And, once you learn these steps, you can hone and tweak them to fit any kind of business that you want to grow. In fact, if you wanted to, you could grow several businesses and run them all.
Find Your Why
Starting a business with the ultimate goal of financial freedom can only part of your plan. It’s really more of a by-product of your business.
When you’re sitting at work staring off into space daydreaming – what do you think about? Do you ever feel like what you are doing isn’t enough? Like you could be doing more in the world? Do you ever think about which cause you would volunteer for if you had the time? Or, how much you could donate each year if you had the financial freedom to do so?
The answers to all of these questions are your why. And, defining your why will help you grow your solopreneur business more than you know.
For instance, when I quit my 9-to-5, I had to find a way to make money. And, I could have done hundreds of things like being a freelance writer or a bookkeeper.
But, I chose to start a business as a health and wellness virtual assistant because I love helping people find natural treatments for their illnesses. I wanted to help holistic practitioners have peace of mind that their practices were running smoothly so all they had to focus on was taking care of their patients.
And, I wanted to help patients feel supported and well-cared for even though they were working with a practitioner from a distance via telemedicine.
Once my virtual assisting business was successful, and I had learned a TON about digital marketing and how to grow a solopreneur business, I had a strong passion to help other women do the same thing I had.
So, I started this blog.
Financial freedom is the ultimate goal but, you’ll never make it there if you’re only ever thinking about how much you could make from this blog post or that webinar.
Authenticity is currency when you’re trying to grow your solopreneur business and your clients will see right through you if you’re not being authentic. You have to infuse your passion and your heart into your business in order to be truly successful.
When you know your why, it’s so much easier to get clear about who you help and how you help them.
Design Your Services
Whether you’re a coach, consultant, freelancer or trainer, you have an idea of which services you want to offer.
And, now that you know your why, you can create a concrete list of services with pricing to publish on your website for people to see.
Think about your target audience and the top five things that they need help with. Design your services around that. If you’re not sure, do some online research. Check websites of other people in your space to get an idea.
Join Facebook groups where your target audience spends time and read the comments they’re posting about what they struggle with.
Look up articles or blog posts on subjects that are closely related to your audience and read the comments that have been written. Are there any trends where you could create a solution?
What are your target audiences’ FAQs? Can you create services that take any of these off of their to-do list? For instance, is your audience always asking, “How do I use Facebook ads?” If yes, create a Facebook ads package to sell.
Mark Your Online Territory
Ideally, you will start a website or a blog when you grow your solopreneur business. But, if you don’t have the budget, don’t put off starting your business.
You can start your business with a business Facebook page and some solid word of mouth.
However, you will need to start a website sooner than later in order to grow your solopreneur business. Your website should include a page that talks about who you are, who you help and how. Plus, a page that has your products or services with pricing, a way to get in touch with you, and your blog.
The colors, fonts and overall feel of your website should accurately represent you and your business. When your ideal client lands on your website, they should feel like they are in the right place. Like they are with like-minded people.
Start with the right web-hosting too. My hubs is a web-designer and has worked with everyone from corporate clients to solopreneurs – his number one recommendations for web-hosting is Siteground.
In my opinion, creating content is the single most important thing you can do to grow your solopreneur business. And, not just the content on your website but, content on your blog too.
Think about this, you want to grow your solopreneur business because you have this strong pull inside of you to put more good into the world, right?
Your audience has pain points, things in their life or business that they are struggling with and you want to help them. You have skills, talents, gifts, experience, and education that you want to share with others.
So, what is the best way that you can do that?
By creating content.
The medium that you use for your content is your choice. You can create blog posts, videos, infographics, live webinars, etc.
As long as your content is written for your target audience and provides them with some real, tangible solutions or action steps to help with what they are struggling with – you’re golden.
For instance, if you want to be a consultant who helps businesses market their services using live events, you would write blog posts or create videos around how to get people to come to your event, how to create an event that people feel was a good use of their time, etc.
You could even do a whole series on how to feel comfortable with public speaking.
Here’s my process; decide how many pieces of content you will publish each month, mark one day a month on your calendar for “content ideas”, spend that one day standing in the shoes of your target audience, make a list of all of their questions, create content that answers those questions.
For instance, I want to help women quit the 9 to 5 that they are unhappy with and grow a solopreneur business. So, I sit and think about my best friend or my sister (who are both miserable in their jobs) and what they would need from me in order to create that bridge between quitting their job and growing their business.
I want every piece of content that I create to be educational and to give actionable guidance that they can follow.
Now, one question that comes up is, “How much content do I need to create?”
My personal recommendation is 20 blog posts and/or videos before you launch your website. Remember, you don’t have to have your website up to start taking clients.
Next, create a content schedule that is realistic for you and the time you have available.
For instance, if you can only work on your business 1-hour a day, you might want to publish one blog post or video per week. Whatever your schedule is – just make sure it’s something that you can be consistent about.
Ultimately, the amount of content you have when you launch and each month thereafter is completely up to you. If your target audience has a lot of questions that they need help with, you might want to launch with 20 blog posts or videos.
But, if you can help them get some real support and actionable guidance with five blog posts, go with that.
Build Your Tribe
So, up to this point, you have identified who you help, you have outlined how you help them with specific packages or services, and you have published a good amount of content on your website or YouTube channel that delivers that help.
Don’t be upset if the process up to now has taken a few months, or so. If you’re working full-time and trying to grow your solopreneur business, you’ve got precious few hours each day to work on these steps.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop.
So, what’s next?
Now is the part where you start to build your tribe.
What does that mean?
This is where you start to build an email list of your ideal target audience.
These are people who truly buy-in to what you do and how you do it.
They have read a blog post or watched a video and have had an ah-ha moment or have had one of their problems solved. And, they want to hear more from you because they trust the information they are getting from you.
There are several methods you can use to build your email list.
But, they all start with a good opt-in freebie. An opt-in freebie is a digital product that you provide your audience in exchange for their email address.
****With the new GDPR laws – you have to notify people who are opting in for your freebie that they will also be added to your mailing list and will receive emails from you about other things. There are several ways to accomplish this so, check with your email service provider for options****
In my mind, there are two different types of opt-in freebies; those that are specifically related to a piece of content and those that are hyper-relevant to your audience and apply to all content.
Freebies designed to up-level content are referred to as “content upgrades”.
For instance, if you are a web designer and you have written a blog post with a video embedded called “a beginners guide to SEO for your new wordpress website”
Your post might talk about how to find keywords, why longtail keywords are important, and how the Yoast plug-in helps to make SEO for WordPress simple as pie.
A content upgrade for that post would be “5 simple steps to effectively using Yoast for SEO.” The freebie would show how to install the plugin and then title, slug, description and keyword.
These freebies are usually offered by embedding a sign-up box in the body of the blog post.
Freebies designed to appeal to your entire audience and relate to all content are referred to as “opt-ins”
Let’s use the web designer example from above and let’s say that you design websites that are 5-pages or less for beginner solopreneurs.
Your audience is not tech savvy and they’re looking to you for support in that area. Your Yoast freebie would definitely fit here as an overall opt-in. But, it’s good to create a few overall opt-ins and test them to see which one converts best. You could also just create a screencast video showing them how to add plugins to their website.
You could also create a “resource list” of software for beginner solopreneurs. Add things like Asana or Trello, Google Drive, etc with a little description of how they would use each in their business.
Your main goal with opt-ins is two-fold; 1) to help your audience as much as you can 2) to grow your list as much as you can. A high-converting opt-in does both of these things.
Any opt-in freebie that you create should meet some specific criteria:
- be delivered immediately (as soon as they sign up for it)
- solve a very specific & simple problem (don’t try to teach them how to design a website – teach them how to install a plugin)
- be easily digestible (at first glance the reader can see the value)
- deliver what is promised (if they opted in for a “simple 4-step process to use the Yoast SEO plugin – deliver on that)
Go back and read through some of those blog posts that you wrote. Choose one or two to create a content upgrade for. Stand in the shoes of your audience. What kind of overall opt-in could you create that would appeal to your entire target audience? Work on creating that for them.
Once you are ready to deliver these opt-in freebies to your audience, make sure you start with the right email service provider. My recommendation is ConvertKit. This might seem like an unwise choice because you have to pay per month for it.
A lot of people will tell you to get signed up for MailChimp because it’s free for up to 1,000 subscribers. BUT, I’m all about giving you the most efficient ways of doing things. And, *most* people will switch from MailChimp after they have grown their list some because it is not as easy-to-use or sophisticated as ConvertKit and some of the other email service providers.
In my opinion, it is much more efficient to start with the email service provider that you are going to stick with rather than switching from free to paid.
I always figure I’ve got a job that pays the bills, I can invest a little in growing my business and saving my sanity.
Grow Your Traffic
Once you have a solid foundation for people to land on, and you have a way to capture their contact information, it’s time to invite people to come and visit.
There are a ton of ways to drive traffic to your website. But, you want to make sure that you’re driving the right traffic.
In other words, if you’re a freelance writer and you ghostwrite blog posts for wellness coaches, you don’t want to drive a whole bunch of SaaS business owners to your website. They’re not your traffic and they’re not going to be interested in your content or your opt-ins.
Put your efforts into drive the right traffic.
Social media is one way to do this.
While you don’t need to be on every social media platform, I do recommend having a profile on at least one.
Having a social media presence can improve your online reputation. When a prospective client hears about you from a colleague, they will search online for your website and for any profiles you have on social media.
Keep in mind that Pinterest and YouTube are both search engines the same way that Google is. So, focusing your time on growing your presence on those will give you growth in two ways; social media presence and keyword results.
Make sure to research user demographics before you choose a social media platform. If your audience doesn’t spend time there, don’t put too much effort into growing that profile right at first.
Guest posting is another great way to grow your traffic
Guest posting is such an awesome way to get your name and business out there. Not only is it a great way to network with other business owners but, also a great way to help more people
Imagine this, you are a productivity consultant and you work with online businesses who have less than 10 employees. You want to use guest posting to grow your business.
So, you would reach out to business consultants who specialize in helping online businesses grow. They might focus on digital marketing efforts like list-building or Facebook ads. But, you bring something extra to the table!
It’s the perfect partnership. You could write a post for their blog all about how to use time blocking to get more done in a week.
You are bringing value to their audience without being a competitor of theirs. Plus, in the minds of their audience, you are forever associated with time blocking.
Identify ten people in your space who you could possibly partner with and contact them to see if they allow guest posting.
Also, consider national publications like Huffington Post or Social Media Examiner. If their audience would be helped by your content – give it a shot!
As a beginner in online business, guest posting can be intimidating. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available. This guide for guesting posting as a newbie is full of tips and support.
Podcast interviews, online summits and local events
Being interviewed for a podcast, participating in an online summit, or speaking at a local event are also awesome ways to grow your traffic.
The process is the same as guest posting. You just want to make sure that you find opportunities to bring value to more people.
Facebook groups are a gold mine for networking and traffic opportunities
Facebook groups are amazing for getting support and for supporting other solopreneurs. You can really make a difference in somebody’s day just by replying to their comment and letting them know that you’re struggling too.
Being a solopreneur can be isolating sometimes and it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually alone. I recommend finding a few highly engaged Facebook groups to participate in and build that sense of community.
Facebook groups are also a great way to find opportunities for growing your traffic and building a name for yourself. The really good, highly-engaged groups will have collaboration days.
This is when they invite all of their group members to connect with one another in the comments of a “collaboration thread”. Someone might comment, “I’m looking for guest posts for my blog” or “I need people to interview for my new podcast”.
There could also be comments like, “I am a business consultant and I’m looking to partner with a freelance bookkeeper to create an ebook for my clients about how to prepare for tax time”
Take a scroll through your Facebook groups at least once a day to see what’s new. And, any groups that don’t have regular posts or high engagement – leave them. You need a community, not a time-suck.
Make Passive Income
As a solopreneur, growing your traffic means getting more clients and growing your income. So, spending quite a bit of time on that is important.
However, you also have an opportunity to diversify your income streams and make some passive income.
The really cool thing about passive income is that you create the systems to sell them once and then they sell around the clock.
Yes, you need to update things now and then and make some changes here and there. But, for the most part, once things are in place, it’s hands-off.
Two of the most popular ways to earn passive income are a) through affiliate marketing and b) through creating your own products.
As a solopreneur there are likely some tools, resources, books, online courses, etc that you absolutely love. You use them daily or have used them to help you along the way. And, you would love to share them with other people to help them with their business.
So, you get in touch with the owner of the product and ask if they have an affiliate program. They say, you bet! And, get you signed up as an affiliate.
Then, each time you recommend their product to your clients or audience, and they purchase it, you make a commission from the sale.
Affiliate marketing works great because you are helping your audience and creating a passive income stream for your business.
For instance, if you are a health and wellness coach and there is a smoothie blender that you absolutely love. You could recommend that blender to your clients and, if they purchase it, you would make a small commission from the sale.
Or, say you are a freelance virtual assistant and you adore your planner. You know that your planner could help your clients tremendously if they used it too. So, you send an email to your list and tell them, “hey, I thought of you today as I was ordering my planner for next year. I think this specific planner would really help you in your business too”
And, if they make a purchase, you make a commission.
Don’t ever recommend a product just because you make a commission. Your recommendation should always be from a place of service to your audience.
I took Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course and learned EVERYTHING there is to know about affiliate marketing. It is an incredible course.
Selling your own products
As a solopreneur, you have a suite of services that you offer your clients. Maybe you’re a freelance virtual assistant and you sell packages of time i.e., 10 hours, 20 hours, etc. Or, maybe you’re a web designer and you sell three levels of website design.
No matter what your specific arrangement is for selling your services, you can always diversify your income by creating a passive stream.
Selling a product to your clients is a great way to provide additional value without needing more hours in the day. Similar to creating a freebie download for building your e-mail list, creating a product to sell is all about providing your audience a solution for their specific problem.
For instance, let’s say you are a homeschooling blogger and you help families with children who are several years apart. You could create a product where your audience signs up for a membership to your program and gets weekly lesson plans emailed to them.
Or, let’s say you are an automation consultant and you help small business owners take a vacation without stressing over their businesses. You could sell an online course that gives in-depth instructions for how to use Zapier or IFTTT.
Adding a product to your “online store” is a great way to help provide your audience with ongoing support even after they have purchased a service package from you.
The definition of financial freedom is different for each of us. And, the path that we each take to get there will look different. But, the checkpoints along the way are all basically the same. If you follow these steps – you will successfully grow your solopreneur business.