I've been coaching small business owners and solopreneurs for a long time. Aside from taking a small break to settle into a new life abroad, I've naturally attracted and worked with people interested in working for themselves.
More important than being able to set their own hours, the type of client I tend to attract also has a strong desire to have fulfillment and be of service.
This strong desire to serve can get a big tricky to manage in the beginning when one spends most of their days looking for clients. While it is common to offer services for a discounted rate or even free in the beginning, at some point in time it's important to transition from research and development into business activity.
Let me explain what I mean. First, research and development for the solopreneur is important in determining ideal customers and problem. Some solopreneurs are lucky, they are discovered by someone they've worked with during, say, certification or training and are so good at what they do they get clients right away, (this poses another type of problem I'll write about later). So research and development ends right then and there.
But if a solopreneur doesn't attract clients right away, research and development can take a variety of forms. For example, in the past I've offered sessions for free in exchange for a post-session survey. Having people go through sessions and talk about their experience afterwards not only helped me determine how impactful my services were on a specific type of problem but also helped me build a small website with FAQs that helped other (ideal) clients find me.
One could also do expert interviews, ie. interviews with experts in the field you'd like to support. Say you have a hunch your service might be good to offer in the HR space. It's good to connect with those who work in that space to help validate your hunch.
The easiest way I've found to find such people is to join a professional organization and reach out to people. This can be done both in person and online. Now, yes, it can take time, but I find that most people are happy to help and you never know who you'll impress. Often times you get a chance to show what you can do which can lead to an introduction or contract.
But there's a downside to going into a lot of activity in the beginning. With so much information available and with some extra time on a solopreneur's hands, (remember they are looking for clients), there can be an awful lot of effort, busy-ness, that leads to nothing but confusion and doubt.
The good news is that most often this busy-ness comes from the thinking process, not endless action. I guess you could say it's analysis paralysis, but I think it has more of an expansive quality to it.
The possibilities are endless and so are the number of ideas about how to move forward. I've often found solopreneurs struggling in this phase of business development. Too many options swirling around in the head means a whole lot of busy-ness (of mind) with not a whole lot of action going on in the environment.
But if the solopreneur is outgoing, the swirling ideas take them out in the world. Yay! They are in action and this is good. Until it's not. Sometimes I find them taking too much of the wrong action. They report being busy but this leads to burnout and, sadly, most end up quitting just before some of their earlier actions were about to pay off because they were just too tired to stick with it.
So my job as a coach is to help these special solopreneurs that have so much to give find their way out of the first phases of starting a business.
Here are some common questions I ask them:
What is your special skill or offering? What do people say they enjoy most about working with you?
What kind of people do you like to serve or find yourself naturally spending time with?
These questions help put the solopreneur back into a thinking plus feeling space and out of the spinning head space. From here we can back off from all the "should's" and "don't knows" of business and land back into why it matters to have a business in the first place. We literally start by giving the busy-ness about business a long deserved rest.
In the future I'll write a bit about Teal organizations and how they relate to the types of businesses my clients have a desire to create because I've discovered there's a lot in common between Teal organizational theory and these small service-based businesses, namely self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose.
Until then, if you're stuck in too much busy-ness and not enough business, let's talk! I'm happy to help.