Starting and running a successful small business isn’t easy for anyone — and it can be especially challenging for solopreneurs who go it alone.
A rapidly transforming economy — one where working from home, contactless payment and online shopping are more popular than ever — means that even successful businesses may need new strategies and tactics to stay competitive.
This is some of the best advice for solopreneurs getting ready for 2021.
1. Build a Unique Brand
A small business, no matter the niche, is likely up against serious competition. Big companies have marketing budgets they use to build brands that are highly consistent and workshopped for hours to communicate very specific ideas.
This isn’t to say there aren’t advantages to being the underdog. As a small business, you have a lot more freedom to move quickly, adapt and adjust your branding as you learn more about your target audience. Startups and small companies can turn on a dime if they need to, rapidly changing just about everything they do. Big operations don’t have that flexibility.
This ability to pivot is especially useful in uncertain times. Because a freelance business can be just about anything, you can alter or modify what you do in order to respond to new market developments.
While the basics of branding still apply to your business — and you’ll want to follow some best practices — you may find success in unconventional or ambitious branding.
2. Know When to Outsource
One of the most common pitfalls for a solopreneur is overworking.
If a task isn’t in your area of expertise, it may be a good idea to outsource. Some things may be obvious — if you’re not a tax professional, you may have already started looking for a business accountant to work with.
Just about any aspect of your company can be outsourced, if you need to. For example, many business owners outsource packaging, graphics or web design.
Outsourcing may mean less control over the finished product, but it can save lots of time.
3. Take Time to Upskill
Next year, prioritize your knowledge base. The internet is full of free and paid resources that you can use to improve your business acumen — or develop useful skills related to web coding, graphic design or marketing. Webinars, podcasts, blog posts and digital courses can all offer valuable information that will complement the experience you’re already building.
Traditional schooling may be out — many universities look like they’re punting on in-person spring semesters — but you still have options if you prefer the classroom experience. Many big-name institutions are providing high-quality education over the internet. If you want, you can go even further and consider signing up for one of the top online MBA programs to learn more about running a successful business.
Best of all, you can often write off business-related education expenses, depending on the kind of resources or courses you’re pursuing.
4. Marketing Will Be Key
While it looks like we’re on track for an economic recovery next year, it’s not clear what kind of lingering market effects you may face. You might have less cash on hand than you expected, even if business is going well.
Often, when money is tight, small businesses will cut the marketing budget. However, it’s essential to growing your company and retaining repeat customers. While you may want to hold back on investing more in marketing, it’s better to spend smarter rather than spend less.
Low-cost marketing strategies can help. You may also spend more time evaluating advertising analytics so you only fund campaigns that are most likely to draw in new customers.
5. Automate Your Work
As a solopreneur, you may find that tedious or repetitive tasks eat up a lot of your day. Fortunately, these activities are some of the easiest to automate — meaning that, with the right tech, you can save a lot of time and energy.
If you can schedule social media posts ahead of time, automate follow-up emails to clients and have a bot help you with customer support, you may find you have more free time — and maybe feel a little bit less frazzled.
If you have too much work to stay organized, consider taking advantage of the growing market of free and paid tools for small-business owners.
6. Keep It Consistent
Consistency is one of the best values a solopreneur can embody.
Your customers will appreciate responses and quality that they can rely on. Your contractors and business contacts will be happy to work with someone who keeps in regular communication and holds up their end of a bargain.
7. Create Your Own Safety Net
As a solopreneur, you won’t have the reliability of a nine-to-five. Quitting your job can be freeing, but you’ll also likely lose out on many perks — like a stable schedule, your health insurance or regular feedback from people on the same team.
The switch can be jarring — and it also means you have a little less security when things go wrong.
It’s a good idea to prepare for the worst — even if things are going well. Socking away some earnings into a safety account can ensure you have money if you have to deal with something like a health crisis or broken pipe. Reaching out to business contacts for advice — or even mentorship — can help keep you stable and provide some valuable feedback on your current business strategy.
8. Embrace the Uncertainty
You’ll be facing a lot of uncertainty — especially if this is your first business venture. While it’s reasonable to be worried or anxious, it’s best to embrace it and lean into the possibilities that your new business will open up.
Going into business for yourself isn’t a sure thing, and there’s a lot of room for mistakes or plain bad luck to knock you off course. Still, you’ll also have some serious freedom and gain experience you can’t get anywhere else.
Planning for that uncertainty — and finding ways to take advantage of it — will help keep you stable.
How Solopreneurs Can Get Ready for 2021
The coming year may just be as eventful as this one. Good planning will be essential for solopreneurs who want to start a new business or keep a current venture growing. These tips can help any solo entrepreneur tackle the challenges that 2021 is likely to bring.
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