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Solopreneur Story: My First 9 Months in Business

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” —John Quincy Adams

Here's, in my own words at the time, what my business looked like in early 2013 as I started getting into the groove of solopreneur life. Little did I know at the time that the year would be the biggest revenue-wise for me as a business owner, blowing all expectations out of the water. Amen for lessons...

At my 3 month check-in, I shared my lessons learned, and how grateful I was for the opportunity.

At my 6 month check in, I talked about finding equilibrium.

Now, as I begin my fourth quarter, I want to share what’s helping me get to the next level.  And I’m not talking about expanding my business in a capitalist way. I don’t want to have employees, I don’t want to build an empire, I just want to do good work and continue to build upon my reputation in the community.  Because in this life, if we stop learning, we stop living.  I’m so incredibly grateful for these lessons.

Practice Makes Near-Perfect The concept I’ve lived and breathed has been one word that is mostly used by the technical people I serve, but also is used in education and project management: iteration.  Iterative is defined as the “process of learning and development that involves cyclical inquiry, enabling multiple opportunities for people to revisit ideas and critically reflect on their implication.”  Meaning, simply, you gotta keep practicing if you want to get it right.  Each time I work with a client I learn something new, get better at my job, and try to identify at the end of the process what worked and what did not.  And I forgive myself for not being perfect.

Don’t Hold Back As a wise employee at a former client’s office reminded me last year, “Aimee, they hired you for who you are, not just what you can do, so don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.” Areas where I’ve been hesitant to speak my mind are now essential for my success.  As a new consultant, you have to always remember that you are a partner to your client – not their subordinate.  So while you are there to provide a service, you’re also there to provide your expertise.  I don’t expect everyone to follow every suggestion I make, but if I keep my mouth shut, they’ll never know what other way they could have gone.

Continue to Draw Upon One’s Strengths This is practically my mantra: Remember what makes me good at my job, why I love it and why I’m ultimately successful.   The more I understand what has helped me do well in my career, the more I can draw upon those in the future.  I am not the most patient, but I am persistent at finding solutions to ultimately get those results.  I am not always the most subtle, but I care deeply about my clients and my candidates and know what it takes to get the right people.  I’m not always the most concise, but I can be trusted and will never BS those I am working with on either side of the table.  So I have to remember to focus on my strengths, and put them to work.

Allow Time to Recharge Checking out for an hour, an afternoon, or a holiday is vital.  Heading to Australia on holiday this past February did wonders for me…but so do the less time-intensive things, including my yoga practice, my bike rides, and my monthly massage.  These along with time with friends is essential to completely disconnect from work.  And another thing I’ve come to dig? Learning about something totally unrelated to my day-to-day work.  For me, it’s been kicking off some online classes at PCC, taking both Women’s Health and Environmental Health offerings, areas I’ve been extremely curious about but never given myself the time previously to pursue.  I am useless if I’m not whole, and these things I do just for myself give me the energy and the passion to serve others in my work.

Create Boundaries In a culture where we’re often expected to say yes to everyone and everything, it’s easy to become overloaded.  And when you have a passion for so many different types of things, it’s easy to want to volunteer for it all, be there for it all, and get into the weeds.  This breeds not only exhaustion, but resentment.

For a number of years, I was huge into volunteering, and did whatever any nonprofit needed me to do.  It was fun, but exhausting, and I realized this year that I had to make some tough decisions.  So I chose two nonprofits to be my pet projects, and made a conscious decision that with them, I’d only focus on using my biggest strengths to assist.  For me, that is my ability as a connector.  In order to preserve my own time as well as dedicate time to my revenue-generating work, I’ve focused on maintaining an “advisor” mentality and brought them individuals who DO have the wherewithal to help hands-on.  It’s allowed me to use my TOP talents to contribute, while preserving my sanity.

The same goes for my work.  Setting boundaries in work means that you respect yourself, your talents, and your time.  Don’t give things away – a lot will ask you about this or that even though it’s not in your contract.  It’s similar to when a doctor is at dinner – someone’s bound to ask him or her for medical advice.  I’ve found that the key is to give hints, with the option for them to obtain a lot more if they engage your services.  It’s not mean – it’s confirming to them (and yourself) that your services are valuable.

Let Go My yoga instructor says this several times in each class.  It works in all aspects of life.  Let go of what’s not working, what’s weighing you down, what’s holding you back.  When you let go of what you don’t need, you allow in more of what you DO need.  It allows you to be authentic, and to live with authenticity. What a relief to give myself that gift of letting go!  I highly recommend it.  Remember the old saying about it not mattering what’s in your inbox at the end of your life?  Keep that in mind. It’s about creating and enjoying a whole life, not just the eight hours you spend to pay for the other sixteen.

“Often misconstrued, authenticity is not about being an open book, revealing every detail of yourself without rhyme or reason. It is simply the act of openly and courageously seeing what needs to be seen, saying what needs to be said, doing what needs to be done, and becoming that which you are intent on being.” ― Scott Edmund Miller

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