I’m an unintentional entrepreneur. Ten years in the past, I stop my job and began doing contract work whereas I discovered what to do subsequent. I by no means wished to work for myself, however I knew my nine-to-five wasn’t giving me what I wanted.
My first jobs have been managing initiatives I had managed earlier than and dealing for individuals who knew me and my ability set. I additionally began selecting up different contract gigs providing operations help for solopreneurs who wished to scale however didn’t have the capability they wanted.
Finally, I noticed that being a solopreneur was what I used to be meant to do and formally integrated my firm. At this level, I had a stable consumer load, managing initiatives that have been squarely throughout the wheelhouse of what I knew easy methods to do earlier than I went out alone. I additionally knew that I would wish to begin selecting up extra work if I wished a sustainable enterprise.
I positioned myself as a generalist. I used to be very conscious of the abilities I had that companies wanted, however I marketed them in an “something goes” kind of style. Anybody I met had an issue that I might resolve in a method or one other, so I’d suggest companies based mostly on what they thought they wanted, even when that meant that I used to be doing many several types of issues for various folks.
When folks requested what I did, I gave them examples of previous initiatives and purchasers as a substitute of positioning myself as a enterprise that solved a selected drawback for a specific individual.
Many freelancers begin like this. You begin getting some success in a single factor, so you retain doing that with out contemplating the way it performs right into a extra focused enterprise mannequin or the life you need to dwell. Alongside the way in which, you lump in or add on adjoining issues in order that finally, you’re a Jill-of-all trades however grasp of none.
Once I educate folks easy methods to begin a enterprise, I’ve them begin with a enterprise mannequin first, constructed round what makes them completely satisfied and what they’re good at. However the reality is, all of us need to undergo this trial-and-error interval as a result of that’s how we work out what we like greatest and what we’re uniquely positioned to supply available in the market. The trick is, when you begin extra deliberately, that trial-and-error interval may be shorter, and you will get to a extra replicable, sustainable enterprise mannequin sooner.
In my work with solopreneurs, I’ve recognized a number of totally different phases of enterprise mannequin improvement. These will not be linear. One individual would possibly cease at one in all these phases and be completely completely satisfied staying there, one other individual would possibly cycle via these each few years, and another person would possibly begin within the center after which bounce round till they work out what works. The purpose of figuring out the totally different phases is to grasp higher the place you’re at and take into consideration the place you would possibly go subsequent.
The unintentional entrepreneur
Whether or not you continue to have a nine-to-five, made the leap to solopreneur, or have been pushed by a layoff, you began selecting up unbiased work for one purpose or one other. Usually it is because somebody you knew requested you to do a one-off factor for them, after which another person did the identical, after which they advised a good friend, and now you’re formally a enterprise of 1. You didn’t have a plan and doubtless by no means even had a written scope or contract for these first few gigs, however now you’re in a spot the place you’re identified for doing this particular factor, and it seems you’re fairly good at it.
You’ve the curse of competency. If you labored for different folks, this meant that everybody got here to you each time a brand new undertaking or drawback wanted to be solved. You (well) determined to leverage your competency to resolve these issues independently and get others to pay you for it by yourself phrases.
Now you’re positioning your self as something to anybody, which implies you’re selecting up work (since you’re good at many issues), however you’re not as strategic as you might in leveraging your particular skills.
For me, this seemed like undertaking administration, enterprise improvement, programs implementation, program design, strategic planning, program administration, automation, or, or, or …. I’d community with anybody after which inform them I might do something, which means I used to be promoting nothing to nobody.
I nonetheless constructed a profitable enterprise as a result of I’m good at many issues, but it surely wasn’t scalable. I used to be nonetheless working with an worker mindset, approaching my purchasers with my skillset (e.g., my resume) as a substitute of my worth proposition as a enterprise.
My enterprise additionally wasn’t one thing that maximized my pleasure as a result of I wasn’t attempting to focus my enterprise on what I wished to do; I used to be selecting up purchasers to receives a commission.
The scaling solopreneur
You’re on the subsequent degree from unintentional entrepreneur and/or Jill-of-all-trades. You’re so good at what you do, despite the fact that it doesn’t have a ton of construction, that purchasers are popping out of the woodwork. The band-aid measures you’ve used to get this far aren’t slicing it anymore, and also you’re beginning to drop balls. You’ve outgrown your enterprise mannequin.
You’ve received to get extra targeted, and quick as a result of there are some things that may occur right here:
- Burnout: As a substitute of focusing your construction and programs, you muddle via with sheer drive of will and lots of extra hours than any human ought to work.
- Bust: Your purchasers begin to assume you’re not good at what you do since you’re always dropping balls, and so they go away.
- Backside-out: You begin dropping purchasers and dropping earnings as a result of you possibly can’t sustain.
You’ve possible gone via the phases above, discovered what you have been greatest positioned to do, and constructed a strategic enterprise round it. You already know who you serve and the way you serve them, and you’ve got a construction for every engagement that makes it replicable. You’ve received it dialed in.
You additionally is perhaps in a spot the place you’ve got extra work than you possibly can deal with and are fascinated with (or have already got) added capability that can assist you serve extra purchasers.
You’re residing the dream.
However…there are two downsides to this part:
- Disconnection: You’ve gotten sufficiently big to rent different folks, which is superb, however now they’re doing all of the work you used to like to do, and all you’re doing is managing folks.
- Dissatisfaction: Typically, after we dial issues in, we miss the chaos and the method of constructing one thing new.
However right here’s the excellent news…you’re an entrepreneur! You possibly can change what you do and the way you do it everytime you need. You possibly can return to any part and begin over. You should utilize your replicable construction and programs to unload your enterprise or rent somebody to take it over fully.
The trick is to not get caught in any of those phases in the event that they’re not making you cheerful or supplying you with what you want. The entire level of working for your self is to seek out achievement and create new issues, not get caught doing stuff you hate.