This is The Solopreneur Life’s “Featured Soloist,” the purpose of which is to give all of us a glimpse at how other solopreneurs operate their small businesses. Today we meet Kathryn Vercillo. If you would like to be the “Featured Soloist,” please send me an e-mail, Larry@TheSolopreneurLife.com.
Name of solopreneur:
Name of business and city:
San Francisco-based home business
Type of business:
Freelance writing, professional blogging
When did you officially go into business?
Why did you start your own business?
I was always profoundly unhappy when I had to work for other people, on their schedules, and very satisfied with starting projects on my own. I believe wholeheartedly that the best way to live life is whatever way makes you happiest — that’s how you become your optimal self and therefore have the most to give to the world — so I knew that I had to go with that and find a way to make it in freelance writing.
What was the best thing you did when you were starting up your business?
I have actually “started my business” multiple times and I think that’s the best thing about me — I’m always willing to reinvent myself when the time is right. I began my career as a freelance writer and then branched out into working as a professional blogger, specializing in helping small business owners develop their blogs. I then took what I learned and launched my own craft blog, Crochet Concupiscence. I have just self-published a book about the mental and physical health benefits of crochet and am doing the marketing to promote that now, so I’m in a whole new area of my solopreneur career. Being willing to take that leap is one of my greatest skills.
What is a mistake that you made that you have learned from?
I tried to start up a business partnership with someone that I didn’t really know very well. I respected her as a woman and we were fast friends so I thought that would translate well into being good business partners. We started up a short-lived venture called MoKa House that was intended to be an all-around writing firm utilizing the best of our combined experience in writing. However, we didn’t create a business plan together and were both still basically working independently even though we’d entered joint money into an account. In the end, it just didn’t work.
What I learned is that someone who is good as a friend isn’t necessarily good as a business partner – the two things have to be approached separately and business must always be approached with a business, bottom-line mindset. It was a great learning experience!
What is your biggest current challenge in the business and what are doing to try to solve it?
The marketing part of self-publishing is proving to be tougher than I expected it to be. I am very skilled at the writing side and have a book that I am very proud of but now I have to switch gears and focus on the publicity side of my solopreneur business and that’s tough. I have a lot to learn.
The main thing I’m doing is working hard to surround myself with people who can help me learn what I need to learn. I also make sure to spend only half the day on marketing and the other half on writing, blogging and skills I’m good at. As a solopreneur, you have to maintain a strong sense of self-esteem and self-confidence and it would be too tough to do that if I was spending all day every day doing the parts of the business that are harder for me!
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
My focus right now is on the marketing of my new book so all of my goals are really related to that. That includes learning more about marketing and getting some good public events going for book promotion. I have also focused almost entirely on networking within the crafting community (since my blog is about crochet) and now I want to branch out and network within the other communities that relate to my book’s topic (occupational therapy, art therapy, psychology) and also to the wider writing community — so a lot of the next year will be spent broadening my experience and broadening my circles of connection. I’m also working on the next book.
Where do you want to be with the business in five years?
I want to have at least three new books out in that time in the same niche area of my business. I want to increase my blog readership numbers to take it to the next level of success. I want to get an advanced degree for my own self-edification as well as to boost the credibility of my writing within the field of psychology. And I want to continue to push myself and take new risks as opportunities present themselves!
What are your main software programs?
I keep it simple — I use Word and Excel for almost everything. My blogging platform is WordPress. I use TurboTax for taxes. I do try other apps and programs but for the most part I find that those basic ones keep me covered.
What lifestyle choices have you had to make to stay in business?
I think the biggest thing I’ve had to work on as far as my lifestyle is learning the right work-life balance. It can be easy to slack off as a solopreneur because there’s no one looking over your shoulder but of course you don’t stay in business long if you do that so I’ve found it important to set and keep to a schedule (which is the one thing most people are trying to get away from when they leave a 9-5 but I think it’s really important). I have the opposite (and also common) problem of getting too immersed in work and wanting to work all of the time and of course then you risk burnout so I’ve also had to make sure that I do take my scheduled downtime.
What are your strategies for staying competitive?
I try to learn at least one new thing every day. I read lots of blogs and books, attend occasional meetings or lectures, listen to podcasts and chat with a lot of people about their work. I’m always trying to learn new ideas or approaches or strategies that might help me in my own work.
Do you need a second household income to support your lifestyle?
My business is my only source of income and has been for over 10 years. There have been times when I had to take out loans to float myself through tough periods. Other people might have taken a second job at that point but I believed in myself and knew I’d get through it and be able to pay back the funds so I made that choice.
If your business should fail, what is your fallback position?
I see failure as a stepping stone to success, not an end game. I don’t see my business failing so much as one approach failing and I’d have to find a new approach to continue working in the same business.
But in the end, if all of the money runs out and I need to get paying work somewhere, I have two options. The first is to get a writing-based job somewhere. I’ve done writing in many, many different areas so I have a rich resume that would allow me to work in almost any field as a copywriter, blogger or reporter. Alternatively, I could seek out work in my educational field which is social work / psychology. I’m going back to school to get an advanced degree in that area to open up more options should this ever happen.
If you could start your career all over again, what would you do differently?
I would begin to network with more professional people sooner. In the beginning, I wanted to do it all alone. I learned a lot from the mistakes I made and the experiences that I had but they were hard lessons. I’d connect with people who know about marketing and monetizing blogs and the many things I didn’t (and still don’t always) know and utilize those resources.
What’s your advice for aspiring solopreneurs?
Being a solopreneur means that you are the head of your own business that you operate without employees but it does not mean that you can’t collaborate with others. It is very important to network with people who can help you in the areas where you aren’t yet as strong as you’d like to be!
Are you glad you became a solopreneur?
100%. My life feels in balance and I feel like I’ve been true to my heart. I know I’m doing the right thing for me.