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. This week we meet Marianne Cantwell. 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:
Free Range Humans….mostly London but in reality, “the world” (I’m Free Range, baby!)
Web site address:
Type of business:
Helping fledgling solopreneurs create the lifestyle they want (where they have the freedom to work when, where and how they choose, on their own terms)
When did you officially go into business?
January 2009 (but it was a different business! Free Range Humans evolved out of a little “blogger” blog sideproject that grew popular and within a year had become my full business)
Why did you start your own business?
I left my job because I wanted the freedom to work on my own terms: when, where and how I wanted without being cooped up in a “cubicle cage.” A year in, I started Free Range Humans as the lifestyle I had created really caught people’s attention and I got a lot of “can you help me do that too?” questions. I realised my real “thing” was inspiring and helping people live fabulous lives with tons of freedom…and to help them not go broke in the process. So that’s what I do now.
What was the best thing you did when you were starting up your business?
Wrote my blog, and put it out there fast — without worrying about whether it was good enough or whether I had “permission” to say what I was saying. My writing got me to where I am — for example, within 3 months of starting I was quoted as an expert in a book, simply because the author came across my blog. My approach and voice and ultimately, my whole business, came out of writing. The saddest thing I see is when I hear people say “I have a blog but I’m not ready to share it with the world yet” — only when you do share it with the world will you figure out how to make it as fabulous as you imagine!
What is a mistake that you made that you have learned from?
Trying to be someone I wasn’t — when I first started out I thought that a “good coach” had to be of the “yes, and what do YOU think” model (ie: never giving an opinion, only guiding). I also thought a “good coach” had to ball up their personality and hide it away to let their client say their thing. And that they definitely had to love one-to-one sessions, cooped up in a room.
I hated all those things and spent months kicking myself for it. It was only when I started giving myself permission to be “me” — to run big inspiring group sessions, to only run virtual sessions (you know, webinars and teleclasses with 100s of people from all around the world), to say my opinion loud and in my authentic voice…that’s when the magic started. For me, and for my clients too!
What is your biggest current challenge in the business and what are doing to try to solve it?
I’ve got FRH to a nice level and now I’m ready to explode the tribe numbers! The emails that come into my inbox, about the impact the Free Range movement and courses have made on people’s lives, those emails often get me all teary — I’m so proud of my people making amazing leaps in their lives. Having seen the difference this stuff makes, now it’s time to ramp this up a notch. Biggest challenge is reaching every single Free Range fledgling in the world and helping them create the life they want to. I estimate there are millions of us out there so that’s quite a challenge to have. 🙂
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Grow, love, thrive, travel, explore, and ramp things up, big time.
Where do you want to be with the business in five years?
Oh my. Free Range Humans don’t plan that far! Do you know where the world economy will be in 5 years? Whether Facebook will still be relevant? Whether you’ll still be the same person you are now? Whether you’ll meet someone who inspires a fabulous idea that takes you somewhere you’ll never imagine? I find specific long term business goals restrictive for creative people.
I make a point of only planning up to 6 months ahead (for my business) and then diving right into making those ideas a reality.
What are your main software programs?
They are right here! -> www.free-range-humans.com/resources
What lifestyle choices have you had to make to stay in business?
Interesting question — I can’t really think of any. I now earn more than I did as a consultant in the City.
However, if you turn this question around, then the business choices I made have enabled me to create a lifestyle I previously only dreamt of — for example, as I made a choice to work exclusively online and over the phone, I’m now location-independent, which means I can work from anywhere (this year I worked from Bali and Laos and am planning on heading to Italy then Australia pretty soon). That “live and work anywhere” lifestyle is enabled by the business choices I made along the way (I didn’t start out with a location-independent business, I created it).
What are your strategies for staying competitive?
Know your people and focus on them, not on what other businesses are going. Don’t read what others are doing in your field. If you avidly read every newsletter of your “comparables” (I prefer that term to “competitors”) then you’ll end up unconsciously imitating what they do and you’ll end up with a shadow of their original.
I prefer to continually grow Free Range Humans out of what works for me and the Free Range Tribe. I make a point of staying closely connected with my “tribe” of free range fledglings (I email them every Friday and read their responses). I’m not out to connect with everyone who wants a life change — there’s a certain type of person that knows inside they are meant to be a Free Range Human and those are the ones I focus on and create for and they are why I do what I do.
Do you need a second household income to support your lifestyle? (Is the business primary, or supplemental to the household?)
Nope! My business income is my full income.
If your business should fail, what is your fall-back position?
The beauty of being a free range human is that you’re never at the whim of a job market or a business industry holding up — my model is to start out small with no investment and innovate in fast iterations (in other words: do things, put ’em out there and tweak as you go). I know that, now, I can start something else in almost any field and make it work should I choose to. To me, knowing that you have everything you need right inside your head, to always ensure you have a good income…well, that is real freedom.
If you could start your career all over again, what would you do differently? Why?
Not much — maybe quit my second job (at Disney’s European head offices) earlier. I’m not saying that because I loved every step of my career — quite the opposite, I was deeply unhappy for a lot of my “corporate cage” life. The thing is, I love where I am now. And it was the mix of experiences — working in media, then consulting — that laid the ground for where I am today. If everything had felt right and fallen into place from the start then I wouldn’t appreciate what I have now! And I certainly wouldn’t be passionate enough to dedicate myself to helping others escape the corporate cage — and that’s not something I want to give up. So all in all, I feel pretty lucky!
What’s your advice for aspiring solopreneurs?
If you’re currently aspiring, then what is stopping you from taking it up a notch and starting?
If it’s that you’re not sure that your business is right for you OR you’re afraid it won’t work out, then know that you can’t know the answers to either of those questions by sitting at your desk, in front of a computer, reading blogs (even one as fabulous as this). 🙂
The reality is way more exciting — most solopreneurs I know do not, right now, have the business they started out with. Everyone’s business changes — once you’re out there, doing it and living it you’ll discover reams more about what you like, who you love to work with, who loves you back, and what really works.
The quickest way to become a superb solopreneur is to get started and adapt on the fly. Go for it, tiger!
Are you glad you became a solopreneur? Why or why not?
Hell yes! Oh my, imagine going to work every day with the commute and the office and the “holiday form” you have to fill out if you want to escape the cage. I felt like — in Studs Turkel’s words — “a Monday to Friday sort of dying”… so yes I am very glad that now I can breathe and contribute a whole lot more to the world in the process. 🙂