Are you a freelancer or a solopreneur?

Freelancer, solopreneur….does it really matter what you call yourself? 

You probably know I believe that words can have a big impact on the way you perceive yourself. Titles aside, being a freelancer or solopreneur is about much more than just the words you use. It’s about how you approach your work and think about your business. It influences your actions, the decisions you make, and ultimately your success.

While the first year is often the hardest, just as many folks quit in year three or four. Even after making it through the early, lean years, many people go back to a regular job because they can’t figure out how to turn their freelance gigs into a sustainable business. They couldn't figure out how to manage the instability. They let fear of rejection consume them. The stress of it just ate them up. They didn’t make the transition to the more sustainable model of solopreneurship. They got stuck as a freelancer chasing work.

I don’t want you to be one of them.

Freelancers and solopreneurs start their business by getting clients from their network and most often, selling their expertise in the form of services. But it’s not a linear progression from there. Whether you stay a freelancer or become a solopreneur isn’t based on time. I’ve worked with plenty of folks who were still stuck in freelance land four years in, while others transitioned early in their second year.

Do you have to sell products to be a solopreneur? 

Some say that to be a real solopreneur you have to be selling products.

I don’t agree. 

You can be a solopreneur without selling products. I've had clients who were selling products but still acting like a freelancer. While they had a product, they didn’t have articulated services, hadn’t reached outside their network and had no boundaries with clients. Despite selling products, they still acted like a freelancer.

That said, building products allows you to diversify your income; gives you the opportunity to clarify your thoughts; make something once but sell many times, unlike services. Products are where you need to head. But crafting a product that meets a real need and then marketing it takes time. And, when you’re just getting started, you don't know yet how you best provide value to a mass audience. As long as you’re working your way there, you’re still on your way to solopreneurship.

How do you know if you’re a freelancer or a soloprenuer?

A freelancer…

  • does whatever work comes their way
  • relies primarily on their network
  • worries about offending people with self promotion
  • has a series of freelance gigs
  • does everything off the cuff
  • lets clients negotiate and set the parameters
  • has unhealthy mindsets but doesn't recognize it
  • doesn't know how to handle business setbacks
  • relies on what they know

A solopreneur…

  • defines their services
  • knows how to sell to strangers
  • focuses on how they can help others
  • prioritizes building their business along with client work  
  • builds processes and systems
  • knows their values and boundaries…and enforces them  
  • banishes sabotage mindsets and embraces productive mindsets
  • has developed resilience
  • leverages the knowledge of others

One last distinction. And #10 is an important one.

Freelancers question their decisions. Solopreneurs trust themselves.

As a solopreneur, they may not have all the answers but know they'll figure it out. They know this because they've tried new things and failed. They didn't let this stop them -- it only fueled them to keep going.

Why you should think like a solopreneur

1) When you define your services you don’t have create proposals over and over again, no more thinking about what to charge and it helps you identify your most valuable work.

2) When you learn to sell to strangers you understand that your internet home (your website) is critical. You make it inviting for new folks to stop and get to know you, which makes them aware of you and builds trust. 

3) If you focus on helping others you don't care what others think -- you're too busy spreading the word and offering value.

4) When you prioritize building your business you ensures your own business doesn't get short shrift. This time is key for transitioning to solopreneurship.

5) Building processes and systems helps you compress your decision making into one block of time (when you create the system). This reduces stress and decision fatigue.

6) Knowing your values and boundaries means you know what it takes to do your best work. This leads to less resentment and increases productivity.

7) Banishing sabotage mindsets and embracing productive mindsets helps you manage uncertain times, triumph over rejection and pick yourself up after failure.

8) Developing resilience helps you easily handle income fluctuations common when you work for yourself. When you plan for instability, you're less likely to be surprised making it easier to spring into action.

9) Leveraging the knowledge of others means you focus on your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses so you can focus on what you can do to grow your business. 

10) Trusting yourself is actually part of why you went out on your own -- because you know everything gets better when you do.

When you can check-off all the items on the solopreneur list you know you've made the transition. Perhaps you're on the road. How do you make it the rest of the way?

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