You took a leap and started your own business. You relished the freedom to create work on your own terms, choosing the type of work you do and how you are compensated for it. Why didn’t I do this sooner, you ask silently, as you gleefully head to your office minus the rush-hour commute, and stress from the 100 emails that once flooded your inbox by 5 am. This is a good life…until it isn’t.
There is undoubtedly an incredible amount of personal satisfaction in running your own business. However, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. You will quickly learn that doing the work is the easiest part of being your own boss. The far tougher challenge is being responsible for finding and securing work. You may start out with an anchor client or two and your business organically grows through referrals and word of mouth. In fact, referrals are often the number one source of new business for independent consultants. But, what happens if that source dries up?
Whether you are in year one or year twenty-one, you can hit a rough patch that causes you to question if this whole entrepreneur thing is for you. You can lose your biggest client or have a quick succession of client losses leaving you scrambling to figure out your livelihood. Not fun!
Your business can also lose revenue due to natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11 are grim reminders of what can happen. This post is not intended to be a Debbie Downer but a call to action. You had the courage to start your own business, even if you fell into it by a forced choice, and that same courage can help you get through a rough time.
Stabilize your finances.
As a solo, client revenue is your source of income, so a loss can hit you where it hurts. Several losses in a short period of time can be devastating. Even if you have savings to carry you through a few months, you will feel pressure to replace your income as quickly as possible. You will be more effective at business development if you don’t have the weight of how you will live hanging over your head.
- Review your budget and see where you can cut back.
- Identify expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. Renegotiate ongoing payments like insurance, car notes and cell phones. Don’t be afraid to make those calls and ask for lower payments.
- Meet with a financial professional. Many accountants and/or financial planners offer a free consultation. A professional can help you develop a plan that works for you so that you can focus your energy on strategic business development.
Look for other income sources.
As you’re working on building your client roster, you may need to fill in short-term income gaps. Take on bread-and-butter work – the work that may not be your ideal, but is easy for you to do and plentiful. Sell things that you don’t need. If you don’t have the energy for a good old fashioned garage sale, there are plenty of options for selling your unwanted goods, including LetItGo, ThredUp, OfferUp, consignment shops, pawn shops, Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook and Listia. You could earn enough cash to give you some breathing room and clear out clutter for a fresh new start.
Being a solo does not have to be a solo journey. Many consultants work with other solos or have 1-2 people on their team. Reach out to other solos and see if there are subcontracting or partnership opportunities. In the Solo PR Pro Premium group, members often share their areas of expertise with others in the group resulting in opportunities. Let others know what you can can do and the type of work you seek, as you never know who has work to share or refer.
Write a strategic business development plan.
A plan will prevent you from wasting time and energy on activities that will not produce results. Your plan does not have to be fancy or long. Put it in a format that works for you. The key is to critically think about where you want your business to go. Who is your ideal client? What are the best sources of new revenue? Where can you find those people? You want to build business for today but also have a plan that will keep you moving forward.
Process and move on.
Let’s face it, losing a client is a hit to our ego and confidence. We question our value and begin to doubt that we’re really cut out for the solo life. A loss of any kind, can temporarily knock you off balance. Mourn the loss, so that you can move through it. Cry, scream, run, box, or dance it out, but don’t hold on to the feelings forever because you’re not done yet. You will need to find your balance so that you can embrace all of the wonderful things that await you.
How about you, what would you add to this list? Share your experience and insights in the comments below or on social media using #solopr.
Photo via unsplash | Goran Vucicevic