Every month, like clockwork, it’s time to “balance the books” — or in my case, I google sheet with tabs for each month of the year. I wasn’t always this disciplined. At the start of my solopreneur career, 10 or so years ago, I took a big leap, leaving a job I was miserable in, and facing the unknown with no plan and not enough cash to get me through the month.
Here’s what I wish I knew, and what I continue to refer back to, because while I believe this is applicable when you’re just getting started, it’s also serves as reminders to me when I get into the weeds of my solo business.
- That grit IS the reason I’m still going.
While I wouldn’t recommend to anyone to go solo without some savings, it did show me that it can be done. It’s just a lot of hard work, stressful nights, and likely, the smell of desperation at a new client meeting.
Recommendation: Have no fear, grit can be learned. Get to know where you’re at. Test your grit score.
- Having savings for at least 3 months makes for a smart safety net, which means budgeting.
It kind of sounds easy. Make a budget. Have a line item for savings. Balance budget and actuals. But this is one area of administration that has taken me the longest to develop a habit around. The other is taxes. Thankful annually for my awesome accountant!
Recommendation: Budgeting and savings are skills, we aren’t born with these abilities. Build a practice of budgeting at any time, it’s never too late. You might surprise yourself at how quickly you can turn it into a weekly or monthly or quarterly habit!
- Start building your clientele early, like before you quit your day job.
What gave me the courage to quit the job I hated, was a former business acquaintance turned friend who said she’d hire me to do some of her marketing. Sure, we had no formal agreement, but I had my first client the day I struck out on my own.
Recommendation: If you have enough of #1 grit, you can fuel yourself through the moonlighting phase. Building a clientele takes time, but you’re resourceful and have a network of people. Make a list of prospects. Connect and explore how you can help them. Ask for the sale. 90% grit. 10% pitch.
- Get clear about what’s really important in your freelance career.
Being happy in the work I produce and working with incredible collaborators and clients and getting to work the way you want, is important, to me. It boils down to freedom, which I further refined to choice. It’s easy to get sucked into other definitions of “freedom”; slogans like Freedom 55 or work hard, play hard, and/or work/life balance are fine and dandy, but deciding if they are your definitions is of most importance.
Recommendation: Sit down and define what is important to you and your lifestyle. Write it out. Put it somewhere you can see. Use it to guide your decisions. Ask yourself questions like “Does this client/project align with my working style and/or my personal values?
- Create actionable and measurable business goals. Often.
They need not be groundbreaking. When I started out, I made vague statements that weren’t tethered to what was actually achievable in the short term. But small and steady goals, that I measured over a month set a good pace for me, and gave me a sense of accomplishment.
Recommendation: Think of your to-do list, and increase your time horizons from daily to weekly. Need help? Get yourself a career coach or an accountability buddy. They both can help you stay on track!
Get more freelancer tips and check out solopreneur stories on the Talent Collective blog.