You’re not the boss of me… until you are

Having been self-employed for 30 years, I have had lots of chances to talk with people about the benefits and drawbacks of being an infopreneur. One aspect that most people appreciate is that I’m my own boss — I set the rules and no one tells me what to do. It’s why I have never cultivated local clients; they have the entirely reasonable expectation that I’ll be available for in-person meetings, and I would rather not get dressed up and meet in person when a call could do just as well.

The secret, though, is that our clients *are* our bosses; it’s just that we have a more equal relationship than an employee would have. I’ve talked with a number of colleagues in the Association of Independent Information Professionals about their work hours and policies about what constitutes a “work day”. Their answers showed me how much we factor our clients’ needs into our schedules, whether they’re the boss of us or not.

Some infopreneurs keep a strict Monday-through-Friday, 9am-to-5pm schedule, just like more traditional employees. They like having the predictability of their schedule, they like having their weekends free, and they are often more available to respond to rush projects. Even those who work less than a 40-hour work week often prefer to keep regular office hours, to ensure they can also schedule time during the work week for their other commitments.

Other independent info pros prefer a more, er, fluid relationship between their work and the rest of their life. They appreciate the flexibility to take a weekday off to go on a hike, avoid the crowds at the art gallery, or get together with friends who also have flexible work schedules. Yes, that means they may be working in the evening or on the weekend, and they may not be able to respond immediately to a client’s call or email; they consider that a fair tradeoff for the freedom of scheduling work around their non-work activities.

So, while you may not be the boss of me, my choices will determine what kinds of clients I have as my sorta-kinda bosses.

Meaningful Metrics: Measuring what matters

There are dueling aphorisms about business metrics:

“What gets measured matters”
“Not everything that can be counted counts”

As solopreneurs, we have to determine for ourselves how to measure the success of our efforts. Most of us know that a robust word-of-mouth referral network and consistent thought-leadership activities help keep new clients coming, but it can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of a wide range of marketing activities. And it’s tempting to measure what we do rather than what the outcome of that activity is. Having the right metrics means you are getting useful, relevant feedback as you are working toward a goal, so start with the outcome you want and work backward from there.

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How to attract and keep GREAT clients

I recently wrote a Coach’s Corner column for AIIP about how to manage difficult clients and, as I was writing it, I realized that I have had very few difficult clients over the last 25+ years in business. What’s my secret? I’m certainly not perfect, but here are the approaches that have helped me attract and keep so many clients I respect, admire and look forward to working with.

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The New Year’s resolutions your business wants you to make

One of the standard jokes of solopreneurs is “If you hear me talking to myself, don’t worry—I’m just holding a staff meeting.” While there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of being a one-person operation, we sometimes get complacent in how we run our business. This year, I decided to give my business a voice in setting my New Year’s resolutions, as a way to think more expansively about what I need to add, drop or change in 2020. Here are a few of the pieces of advice my business is showing me:

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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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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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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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Are you really hearing your client?

Quick—think about the last time you interacted with a client. It probably felt pretty straightforward. Your client tells you what they need, you talk about any details, and the conversation is done. I recently had an experience that reminded me that every client interaction comes with layers upon layers of assumptions that we often miss.

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400 hours to profitability

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success, advocated the principle that it takes 10,000 hours of what he called “deliberate practice” to become an expert in your field, whether it’s programming, performing music, or playing basketball. Subsequent studies have called his premise into question and, in any event, not all of us aspire to become the next Bill Gates, Yo-Yo Ma, or Michael Jordan of our field.

However, I believe that a version of this metric applies to infopreneurs, both those just starting their business and those who are pivoting to a new market or providing a new service. Based on hundreds of conversations I’ve had with fellow infopreneurs, I believe that it takes 400 hours of work to get a business to its first paying client or its first client in a new field.

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