Wasn’t it Sophocles who said, “Work sucks, I know!”? Well, actually it was Blink 182, but it’s a sentiment that many who’ve endured years falling afoul of the job market will appreciate. The world of work isn’t what it used to be. Our parents enjoyed job security, in work benefits and a semblance of work-life balance.
By the time our kids are old enough to join the workforce such notions will probably be seen as quaint anachronisms. The scales are tipped ever more in favor of huge multinational corporations who seem to take pride in bottlenecking our ambition and success. Those just starting out in the job market and particularly women starting out in the job market can find themselves extremely frustrated by the sheer inequity and lack of opportunity today’s market presents them with.
This is the era of wage suppression in which the economy conspires to keep our wages down so that corporations’ profit margins can be insulated and their shareholders can get richer. This is the age of the gig economy, zero hours contracts, pregnancy discrimination.
It’s an era in which some of the world’s wealthiest companies offer pitifully inadequate maternity leave and women seem to work twice as hard for appreciation and recognition. All of this on top of a gender pay gap that the World Economic Forum estimates will take over 200 years to close. In a job market that’s gone mad, taking her career and her livelihood into her own hands is the only sane choice for the ambitious woman of today.
But the prospect of starting a new business on your own can be a daunting and risky endeavor. It can incur enormous debts and seriously impinge on your delicate work-life balance. That’s why many women eschew setting up a traditional business in favor of trying to make it as a solopreneur.
What’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a solopreneur?
A solopreneur is still an entrepreneur but while an entrepreneur’s business may be a self-contained entity that’s separate from their own persona, a solopreneur is her brand. Her brand identity is inextricably tied to her own. She doesn’t have a team to rely on, and she has no employees to offer her ideas, suggestions or feedback. She can’t hide behind a fancy logo, a slick marketing slogan or a series of corporate platitudes.
She is the face of her business and the fate of her business will match her own. This is both liberating and challenging. She’s free to pursue a future on her own terms and build her success upon a brand that’s free of artifice, platitudes and empty promises. She can help, empower and hopefully inspire others. But in order to do so, she must learn to build a brand identity around herself, which begs the question…
Which version of you do you want to be?
Each of us is a complex, layered and sometimes self-contradictory entity. We all have our own character traits, some of which are flattering others of which are less so. In the social media age, we’ve become accustomed to tweaking our personalities slightly to develop a personal brand. If this brand is to become a marketable commodity, however, you’ll have to give it the same consideration as any business brand. Which of your traits will you want to push front and center and which will you want to file under “areas for development”?
Aside from the skills and attributes that you’ll bring to the marketplace how will you convince all those legions of prospective clients and customers to give their time to you and not your competitors? Will you hope to inspire them by sharing your accomplishments? Will you seek to empower them with “if I can do it, you can too” anecdotes? There’s no right or wrong answer, it all depends upon you and the kind of business you want to create.
Once you’ve decided what kind of persona you want to create
Ally yourself with subcontractors and service providers who will bolster your reputation
Whatever products you want to manufacture or distribute, whatever services you want to offer, it’s unlikely that you’ll be doing everything by yourself. While you may not have employees or a workforce of your own you’ll likely rely on subcontractors and independent service providers to build your business and keep up with consumer demand.
In order to maintain your reputation, you’ll need to do your due diligence before allying yourself with them. Take a look at their online presence and look for an ideology and set of principles that mirror your own. Ensure that they have, like Laser Light, decades of experience in their field and the skills of world-class professionals at their disposal. Pairing yourself with the right brands can go a long way in securing the integrity of your own.
Content is Queen
Aside from the daily duties of running your business, your branding depends on your ability to produce quality content for your followers and those untold numbers of prospective clients or customers out there. Posting regular content and linking back to it on social media will help to reinforce your brand’s sense of personality while also giving your Search Engine Optimization a nice little bump.
Your content may take the form of blog posts, news items, marketing materials and videos. In order to maintain the attention of your target market, it’s advisable to incorporate a combination of all of these. Video content, in particular, is getting more and more ubiquitous. As users are increasingly consuming their digital media through mobile devices they tend to consume it on the go in small bite-sized chunks.
As such, they may not have the time or attention spare to scroll through a 1500 word blog post. In an era where 100 million hours of content are consumed every day on Facebook alone and it’s estimated that by 2021 video content will account for 81% of all online traffic it’s a bandwagon well worth jumping on. Of course, in order for this to be successful, you need to have a cogent strategy. You cannot afford to post content arbitrarily yet you also want a strategy that’s fluid enough for you to adapt to breaking news or address trending topics.
Know your platforms
When it comes to social media, choosing the right platforms to reach your specific target audience can play a large role in determining your success. Market research will help you to determine which platforms your target market are using and while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are always a safe bet, it’s important to account for shifting tastes within certain demographics. Younger teenage audiences, for example, seem to be migrating away from Facebook and towards more visually oriented platforms like Snapchat or Instagram.
Let your followers peek behind the curtain
The beauty of building a brand as a solopreneur is that you don’t have to have layers of polish upon polish upon polish within your branding. In fact, it can actually damage your brand if your followers perceive you as an unattainable image of success and perfection. As a solopreneur, you can actually gain more traction by allowing your followers to take a peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of your day to day life.
Let them see what it’s like to walk a mile in your shoes, show them the complex inner workings of your business. All of this will help your target market to build a personal relationship with you and when this is achieved they’re far more likely to demonstrate an ongoing loyalty to your brand.
Share your successes and own your failures
If it’s in your nature to be modest and self-deprecating, you’ll need to kick this habit in order to click with your target market. In a time of economic and political uncertainty, people tend to latch on to stability. It’s why you see people continue to opt for mediocrities like McDonalds or Starbucks when there are better but less tried and tested brands out there.
If you’re to market yourself as a reliable commodity you’ll need to share your successes with your following. Take pride in little milestones like selling 1,000 units or gaining 10,000 followers. By all means be humble but show potential clientele out there that yours is a brand upon which you can rely.
But this also means that you have to own your mistakes. The image of a personal brand relies on sincerity and nothing turns customers off more than duplicity. If you make a mistake, however small, get out in front of it. Own it. Explain to your following what went wrong and the measures that you’ll put in place to prevent it from happening again and you’ll gain far more traction than burying your head in the sand.
As a solopreneur, you have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and a platform to influence thousands of people. It’s a responsibility but it’s also a privilege. Own it and enjoy it and you’ll never have a bad day’s work in your life!