success recipes for solopreneurs

Yesterday I got very angry. Not sure if this is a result of a change in hormones, or as a result of turning into a crabby old woman, but I find I am not as tolerant as I used to be to inadequate instructions.

This is mainly due to frustration. If things are not immediately obvious, we inwardly panic, especially if we’re in an unfamiliar environment. I suppose it’s a reaction to increased adrenaline, fight or flight, and for me the fight comes to the fore.

One good think I learned from a past boss was never to assume anything. We have not developed clairvoyancy yet as part of our evolution, so nobody knows what the other is thinking, has thought or will think.

This means that every single detail needs to be laid out so that the other can understand. And shown in an obvious position so that it…

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Moving to a new blog

Hi subscribers,

I’ve created a new blog called which is basically another version of this blog. This is because I believe I have more scope with a self-hosted WordPress blog, so I am concentrating on that for a while.

Meanwhile, if you subscribe to this blog, please renew your subscriptions with my new blog. It still has all the old posts which I have transferred over, and will have all my new posts from now on. I’ve even made it easy for you by changing the details in the sign up box in the sidebar.

So don’t miss out – transfer and subscribe now! And get all your friends and colleagues to do so too!

See you on the other side!


Perfection doesn’t work in business

A few concepts are starting to dawn on me since I’ve stopped my business.

One of them is perfection – it isn’t always possible and it certainly isn’t necessary. Believe it or not, if you constantly strive for perfection you will never get anywhere, and you will waste so much time trying to attain it.

And even if you did manage to get there, who would notice? The majority of your clients or followers wouldn’t know perfection even if it hit them in the face! The only thing that does get noticed is when something is rubbish, of poor quality and not worth its value. Then the public start to complain, and all attention is drawn towards the mediocrity of the service or product.

Perfection is something that only comes to the fore when promoted with somebody with the right callibre to do so. Even so, it is still dependent on personal choice: what some people think is perfect may not be what others think, and if perfection relies on the masses to make an impression, then sometimes you have to give in and go with the flow.

Another side of perfection comes with practice, and when analysed you find that the majority of your perfection is attained in the first 80% of completing the task. The final 20% only achieves what you think is improvement, when probably it makes very little difference at all. By learning to let go, you will create material that certainly gains the right level suitable for your public without impairing your performance.

Nevertheless, this isn’t an excuse to not strive for perfection. After all, you will always want to do the best for your clients, and offer the best solution to their problems. But remember there isn’t enough hours in the day to create total perfection in your business, so offering something that is really close is the next best thing.

Don’t work without project security

There is nothing worse than doing a load of work and not getting paid for it.

Over a year ago I was approached by a man who wanted me to market some books he had published. This project sounded too good to be true (and in fact this was the case, as you will read later).

So I redesigned his website (with the minimum of information), set up a shopping cart and autoresponder, plus a blog and other social networking accounts. I tried so hard to promote his terrible books (learning that you need to have a good product that people actually want to be able to succeed), tried to get them redesigned so that they actually looked nice both inside and out, fielding his awful adverts in expensive magazines that were so bad they were a complete waste of money (not designed by me of course), and coping with a torrent of emails and telephone calls from this persistent and annoying person.

Of course he never paid the invoices I sent him, always coming up with excuse after excuse. I stupidly carried on working for another month, amassing more money owed, until I’d had enough. I downed tools and refused to work any more until I was paid. More excuses, and no payment. Then silence…

The next thing I had was an email from his cousin saying my client had died and since his business was illegal and he had no money, it was highly unlikely I would get my invoices paid. I actually rang up the crematorium the day of his funeral to see if he really had died and had not done a runner. I also heard that all the bailiffs for his other debts had totally stripped his flat, so there was certainly nothing left for me.

The moral? There are several. Draw up a contract at the beginning carefully laying out exactly what you are supposed to do. Calculate a price for the amount of work decided upon, and get at least 50% deposit in advance. No deposit, no work: it shows good will and commitment. Form a strategy for work to be done, including when contact is to be made (don’t tolerate constant interruptions) and confirmation of drafts before the final product is published or produced. And above all, make sure the project you undertake has a possibility of success – go with your gut feeling about quality, consistency and – above all – get a credit check done first to learn the liability of this new project.

And don’t put up with this trash for 3 months, only to land up with nothing at the end. No wonder my business has gone to the dogs…

Are you bending over backwards for your customers?

How easy are you making it for your customers to use your services? Do you go out of your way to help them?

I like the way Clark’s the shoe shops now offer a personal service to their customers: I saw a pair of purple (well, that is my colour) shoes that I liked, and asked for a size 5 and a half. The shop assistant arrived back from the stock cupboard to say they hadn’t any in that particular size.

Then she asked whether I would like to order them in. I could then try them on and decide whether I liked them. There was no obligation to buy them, and if they didn’t suit they would go back into the stock cupboard for the next customer.

Then she asked me for my mobile number so the shop could text me to say my shoes were ready to try on. I know this is a very simple procedure and extremely common-place, but I consider this to be extremely convenient, more so than finding a message on my answerphone.

It dawned on me as I walked out of the shop that I wasn’t leaving unfulfilled. Clark’s really wanted to sell me those shoes, and they were doing the utmost to relieve the inconvenience of not having any available at that time. I now look forward to my mobile phone beeping with the good news.

Anyway, back to the marketing issue: what are you doing within your business to provide similar excellent service for your customers?

Don’t let insecurity rule

We all get pangs of insecurity from time to time. Mine have been very frequent of late, which has resulted in abandoning my businesses and taking on a job.

Lots of friends have been very supportive during my decision, and surprisingly once I had accepted my new fate, I received three requests to speak about marketing at various networking groups. Why is it that suddenly I’m seen as an expert after I had decided I wasn’t good enough to continue with my own business?

The main reason I quit being self-employed is because I wasn’t making any money. The recession had hit hard and marketing is (stupidly) one of the areas companies cut down on, and a fast declining bank account does nothing for one’s self-esteem.

Another reason is because my own marketing messages were confused. I had a lot I could offer, yet was unable to untangle them into a coherent presentation. I was just beginning to do this when the job offer came along, so I chickened out and jumped ship.

Another blow was from one particular marketing directory I regularly post into, had managed to attain some respect and become one of the most frequent bloggers. But this particular position was usurped by someone else who posted a huge amount of extremely informative posts and pushed me unceremoniously down the pecking order. Nevertheless, I have picked myself up out of the dust and will continue to post, even though this has severely shattered any notions I had of being a reasonable marketer.

But the title is: don’t let insecurity rule. My new job will give me the opportunity to learn new skills, work within an organisation that is doing well during the recession, and will give me plenty of spare time to think, blog, twitter and unravel my overloaded brain. And this subject will be the fodder for more posts in the future… so watch this space.

How to do marketing for free

This is a good subject for start-ups and very small businesses who don’t have a large budget to work with..

The first free marketing method is networking. Go to as many meetings as possible, particularly the free events or those that don’t require a big entrance fee. But to make these successful you must arm yourself with a good pitch, both 10 and 60 second versions, the first to grab attention to yourself, and the second if you get a chance to address the whole room. If you can create something that is different, easily understandable, poignant and relevant to your listeners’ needs, then you have a head start above many others.

It is important to get yourself as visible as possible in the business world. There are two possibilities: blogging and social networking group pages. It is very easy to create a free blog, and social networking sites allow you to create groups or fanpages which you can devote to your business.  In these you must regularly post up information about your business, and then, as with the blog, use RSS feeds to inform your followers of your new posts, or email through the social networking system to your followers that you have recently contributed new material for them to read.

And then there’s Twitter, equally free, which is an excellent way to promote your business, not forgetting that you can feed your blog to it, and now your posts can be automatically replicated on your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

Writing articles and publishing them around the net is another way to spread your expertise. Make sure the resource boxes direct the reader back to your website, blog or social networking profile pages, so they can find out more about you.  Take advantage of keywords to improve your search engine optimisation, and careful attention to the headlines and first paragraph will increase the likelihood of a response.

If you do have a website, get as many links back to it as possible from other websites and web directories. The more high profile the link source, the more respect search engines give your website, not to mention providing more portals for the spiders to crawl over your site and report back pages for indexing.

Create a good signature for your emails, to publicise your website, blog and social networking profiles. Don’t forget that the space at the bottom of your communication is just waiting to be filled with promotional written material and links, and everybody you write to will get a chance to see them.