The 6 Habits of a Successful Solopreneur
As a solopreneur, the very thought of things taking longer to accomplish can feel downright depressing. Especially when you work for yourself and time is of the essence.
Whatever you do, don’t stress out. Creating effective habits and sticking to them is what will make you successful in the long run. Because when something becomes a habit, you often tend to just do it and don’t even think twice (brushing your teeth, anyone?).
For all you solopreneurs and digital nomads out there, here are a few habits (six to be exact) that are worth forming, allowing you to realize your full business potential.
1. Adjust Your Mindset (Ahem, Manage Expectations)
While becoming a solopreneur has its definite advantages (you call the shots, you set your own hours, you choose your vacation time), there are certainly some downsides (you don’t have a team to bounce ideas off, you often work overtime, you can’t seem to plan that vacation).
In other words, the life of a solopreneur can be a pretty challenging one.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the biggest reason why many solopreneurs fail to realize their potential is their overall mindset. While there’s understandably plenty of excitement and momentum in the beginning stages of your solo business venture, after a few months this anticipation tends to die down. Soon you’re left with the harsh reality of running your own business. And it’s at this precise stage where your mindset makes the difference whether you’ll sink or swim.
That means the initial few first months are often the most intense and challenging. No matter the industry you’re in, it takes time, patience, and a crazy amount of hard work to develop a successful solo business. Unrealistic expectations can leave any solopreneur racked with self-doubt when all that’s needed is a gentle reminder (from yourself) to keep pushing forward.
A classic example of this? Where a solopreneur assumes that just by putting their business out there (whether that’s creating an Instagram account or hosting their website), customers and clients will soon come running.
This doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually happen but being able to manage your expectations is one of the major keys to success. And what’s needed here is a positive mindset, one that does away with any negativity, anger, and blame and a focus on the belief that things will work out in the long run.
2. Make Yourself Known
You could be the best designer, copywriter, motivational speaker, health coach, or web developer out there. If no one knows you who are and what you can do for them, success will always evade you.
Remember that successful solopreneurs are value providers. They provide a tangible (or intangible) service to those who need it. So to make success happen, you first have to create valuable content around whatever it is that you do and what you’d like to be known for.
This approach (a.k.a. making yourself known) is what will eventually bring clients and customers to you. But don’t just rely only on people finding you. You also have to be ready to reach out and connect with the right people.
How? Start by being social. Depending on the industry you’re in, sign up for forums where you think your potential clients or customers might be. Read the articles they’re posting to find out what sort of challenges they’re currently facing. (This will help you to better align your product/service to help lessen these respective challenges.) And definitely don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with them.
Let’s illustrate this idea with a hypothetical example. Perhaps you’re a certified tax advisor from the United States who decides to move to Europe and start your solo business helping fellow ex-pats with their taxes. Where do you even start? You might consider joining a Facebook group for ex-pats and check to see if anyone is posting about how to do their taxes abroad. Even if you’re not advertising yourself right away, you’ll soon have a better idea of the current needs of your target audience and be better equipped to meet them.
And while we’re on the topic of being social, make sure to take advantage of the wonderful world of social media. For a helpful guide on figuring out where exactly your business should be on social media, check out a previous piece I wrote on this very topic.
But don’t just rely on social media. Make it a habit to start attending in-person networking events in your respective city or town. And when you’re at these networking events, don’t be shy. Introduce yourself! You never know what sort of relationships you’ll build.
A helpful rule of thumb throughout all of this? Don’t ask for work straight off the bat. Just listen, exchange contact details, and stay in touch with the people you meet. It may sound like a no-brainer but people are much more inclined to use your service/product if you don’t act desperate.
3. Be Efficient
Alas, there’s no escaping the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. And as a solopreneur, every day will seem to bring about a slew of new tasks to tackle. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize the tasks that need your undivided attention and help you move forward towards your goals.
In addition to exploring a variety of digital tools to improve your productivity, do your best to follow the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle. This principle suggests that 80% of your results come from 20% of what you do each day.
Let’s break down this principle even further. You know those people who often appear to be busy all day long but report accomplishing very little? This is often due to the fact that they perform low-value tasks. They end up procrastinating on the one or two tasks that could make a real difference to their business and/or career.
In other words, if you choose to start your day working on low-value tasks, you’ll soon develop the habit of always working on low-value tasks. According to a report published by the Harvard Business Review, if a task is considered “low value,” it’s easy to automate (think scheduling, acknowledging, or making standard arrangements). How to rectify this? Eliminate the things that don’t matter during your workday and that have a minimal effect on your overall productivity.
By reminding yourself that your most precious resource is time, you’ll start to use it wisely.
4. Stay Organized
As the wise Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute spent organizing is an hour earned.”
How right he was. An organized environment is conducive to an organized mind. When you make a habit of staying organized, finding what you need becomes a whole lot easier. Have a lot of files? Start with a simple filing system to keep them nicely separated. Have a messy desk? Aim to keep it tidy by the end of the working day so that the next morning when you sit down to work, you’re dealing with a well-presented work area.
Excess clutter, studies show, creates too many distractions and diverts your brain from focusing on the key areas you need to be focusing on (this is where the 80/20 rule comes in again). When your vision is clouded by extraneous clutter, it interrupts your train of thought and negatively impacts your focus and creativity. Want to learn how to declutter? Here’s how.
Also keep in mind that successful solopreneurs aren’t afraid to turn to modern technology to help them out, organizing-wise. Namecheap’s guest blogger Jessica Malnik explains all the organizational digital tools out there while Tara Steele breaks down the different apps for scheduling.
5. Never Stop Learning
Knowledge is power. And as a solopreneur, don’t forget that your learning curve is a steep one.
Now’s the time to ask yourself, what skills do I need to have to take the next step forward? Maybe it’s mastering Photoshop or taking an SEO course to help get your website noticed by Google. Whatever skill it is, take baby steps and make a habit of allocating a certain amount of time each day to it. If your budget allows, you could even try investing in online or offline courses. Remember, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to learn something new.
Successful solopreneurs are the ones who can admit to the skills they lack and decide to do what they can to get better at them. When you make learning a habit, you naturally expand your business horizons, leading to greater success.
6. Take Time For You
If there’s any firm takeaway from this article it’s the importance of taking care of yourself.
As Steven J. Covey wrote in his 1989 best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of his seven habits is about “sharpening the saw.”
When you preserve and “sharpen” the greatest asset you have (you!), you’re much more likely to lead a life with balance. And a life with balance is what leads to future success.
Established solopreneurs (and yes, self-made millionaires) know this already. They take the time to experience the things that will help them generate more ideas and provide sound peace of mind. Whether it’s exercising, walking in nature, meditating, doing yoga or even meeting up with friends, it’s the people who are not chained to their desks that are able to effectively grow their business. (Good sleep habits help, too.)
The journey to success is notoriously long and often lonely for solopreneurs. Be sure, then, to prioritize your mental health and take time for you. Learn to say “no” and don’t work yourself into the ground.
All too often we get consumed with the everyday minutiae of life that we forget to stop and take a deep breath. Even if it’s just for five minutes every hour, get up and take a break throughout your day. Setting boundaries and getting your head right will get those business juices flowing so you can keep your eye on the prize.
Doing so allows you to balance your time between working on improving your business, serving your clients/customers, and most importantly, focusing on yourself. You’ve got this!
Now’s the time to share with us what effective habits you’ve formed in your path to solopreneurship.