Help—I still don’t have any clients!

The solopreneurs I coach and mentor, especially those in their first year of business, often tell me how hard it is to figure out how to measure success, how to best spend their time, and how to turn interest into client engagements. While each business is different, a few pieces of advice apply in almost any B2B solopreneur.

First, make sure you know what your prospective clients need, value and will pay you well for. If you haven’t conducted at least a half dozen informational conversations, in which you were able to learn what your market needs and how your prospective clients talk about that need, then you need to invest the time and energy into these essential conversations. See my blog post Making Yourself Irreplaceable for lots more resources on how to conduct insightful informational conversations.

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How to be a GREAT contractor or subcontractor

I may be a one-person business, but that doesn’t mean I’m alone. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a one-person business is that I benefit from the cross-fertilization that comes from contracting and subcontracting with fellow infopreneurs. I subcontract out specialized work I can’t do myself, and I work as a subcontractor for a number of businesses that bring me in for my specialized skills. Over the years, I have learned a lot about what is involved in being a good contractor and subcontractor. Here are my rules for successful contracting and subcontracting.

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Getting to ‘Yes’

One of the most common traps I see new infopreneurs fall into – and I’ve done this myself, too! – is equating a prospect with an actual, paying client. We meet someone at a networking event or have a phone call with someone we met through social media. The person sounds interested in what we do, accepts our business card, and maybe even says “Yeah, we could have used someone like you that one time.” They may attend a webinar we give or download a white paper we wrote. We end the encounter confident that the person will be calling us shortly with an assignment, but then we never hear from them again.

In my experience, failure to convert interest into engagement is often caused by some combination of the following factors.
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What will it take to launch?

Cat prepare to jump.You’ve been thinking about starting a full-time consulting business for months… maybe years. You’ve read the books, you’ve taken the courses, you’ve done your reality-check interviews, you’ve written your business plan. But you’re still hesitating to launch your business, or you’re trying to work on your business evenings and weekends while spending your most productive time as an employee for someone else. What will it take for you to make the leap?

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Getting something from nothing

One of the things I often talk about with infopreneurs I’m coaching is the importance of knowing how to make something out of nothing. We may have thought the project we took on would be easy to handle, and it turns out the resources we thought we could use didn’t pan out. Or we thought there would be plenty of information on a topic and we find out that, nope, no one’s talking about it. In these cases, we have to be able to tell a story about what the lack of results tells us.

So, when a project results in far less than either my client or I had anticipated, I ask myself these questions:
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The top 10 myths of starting a consulting business

I’ve seen a lot of myths about consulting, all of them as hoary and false as the idea that if you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door. Following are the infopreneur myths I’ve found to be most prevalent… and wrong.

#1. Consulting is what people do when they’re between jobs
In my experience, you can’t both start a business and look for a job; either you are focused on finding what your clients need most and how you can meet those needs, or you’re focused on finding who will hire you for your skills.

#2. The services I provided as an employee will be valued by consulting clients
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Doing what we don’t wanna do

From both my own experience and that of people I coach, one of the biggest challenges for solopreneurs is keeping ourselves motivated and focused on doing the important things, even if they’re not the things we want to do.

When I hear myself saying “I know I should do such-and-such, but …”, I stop and ask myself what is keeping me from doing that thing. As a one-person business, I don’t have a boss to hold me accountable and the consequences of non-action aren’t as immediately painful as doing something that’s way outside my comfort zone. Here are a few of the things that help me move from “I know I should” to “I did it!”

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Simplify, simplify, simplify

One of the biggest challenges of a good info pro or researcher is to know when to say when. If we have five hours to spend on a project, we want to spend the entire time gathering information, evaluating it, seeing what’s missing, gathering some more, looking for more missing parts… you get the picture. Then, when our time’s up, we pull all the information together, slap on a cover letter explaining all the approaches we took and why we’re including what we have, and then proudly send it along to our client.

This, of course, does a huge disservice to most clients. If they wanted information overload, they could Google it themselves. Clients ask an info pro or researcher to help answer a question because they have confidence we can not just find the best information given the time frame (and budget, if applicable) but distill it down to something that enables the client to take an action, finish a project, complete a presentation, or otherwise move on to the next step in their work.

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What does a “value-added deliverable” look like?

Infopreneurs know that their value lies not just in what information they find but what they do with the information before they send their deliverable to their client. We often talk about the need to create value-added deliverables, but what exactly does that mean? Isn’t everything you do added value, just because it took your skills and expertise to find the information?

Actually, value-adding is more than “merely” finding the information. It means transforming it into something more. One metric I use to evaluate a deliverable:

  • If most of what my client reads is my own writing, I’ve provided added value.
  • If most of what my client reads is others’ writing, I’m providing little value.

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Seven Traits of Thought Leaders

It’s always more effective for a solopreneur to attract clients rather than chase after them. Cold calls and cold emails are usually unwanted, most likely not immediately relevant to the recipient, and often filtered as spam. Building a reputation as a respected expert in your field, on the other hand, can be an efficient way to attract clients who need, value and will pay you for your services. Following are seven traits that successful thought leaders develop.

Be curious. Read news sources that cover trends in your industry and reflect on what impacts new developments will have. Attend conferences; the conversations and serendipitous meetings enhance your credibility and expand your horizons.
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