This is “Featured Soloist,” a feature that is published on Tuesdays at The Solopreneur Life.
The purpose of “Featured Soloist” is to give all of us a glimpse at how other solopreneurs operate their small businesses. This week we meet Natalia Sylvester, who is based in Austin, Texas. 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:
Inky Clean; Austin, Texas
Web site address:
Type of business:
Copywriting and Editing firm
When did you officially go into business?
I officially relaunched as Inky Clean in March, 2010, but I’d been self-employed as a freelance writer for almost five years by then.
Why did you start your own business?
I’d worked a bit in PR, advertising and mostly in magazines before going solo. Starting my business gave me the freedom to combine all these experiences and take them in a direction I was excited about. I loved being able to “design my own career” and the best part was that I didn’t have to stick to a specific path.
What was the best thing you did when you were starting up your business?
I relaunched as Inky Clean because I wanted to build a brand that was memorable to the people I most wanted to work with. Prior to that, my company was just my name and the title “Freelance Writer,” which didn’t convey much about what I do or how I do it. I realized that if I was going to focus on helping startups and small businesses build their brand and show some personality, I had to lead by example. It’s made all the difference—I’ve built longer relationships with more clients, and more importantly, they’re the clients that are right for me.
What is a mistake that you made that you have learned from?
When I first started out I didn’t have an ideal client in mind; I was trying to appeal to everyone. Not only was this a mistake because you can’t please everyone, but as a result my portfolio lacked the focus it needed to attract the clients I most enjoyed working with.
What is your biggest current challenge in the business and what are doing to try to solve it?
Keeping a steady stream of work is always challenging for freelancers and solopreneurs, but I try to solve it by nurturing the client relationships I have and making sure that they’re happy. I think that’s what it comes down to for any business, because even clients who aren’t return clients might refer you to others if they have a positive experience.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
To double my earnings from last year. Actually, the goal is to grow Inky Clean, but having a specific number in mind helps me focus on actions instead of ideas. Also, I just signed with a literary agent for the novel I’ve been working on for a few years, so I’m hoping to grow that part of my career, too!
Where do you want to be with the business in five years?
I’d like to have a brand and reputation solid enough that clients come to me instead of the other way around. Right now my client base is a mixture of the two, and I’d like to have one outweigh the other!
What are your main software programs?
Word, Google Docs, and Evernote for research. I also use Outright for bookkeeping and Shoeboxed to keep track of business expenses, which have been huge time-savers!
What lifestyle choices have you had to make to stay in business?
It’s funny, because for a while I thought having my own business meant I’d always be on call and always work nights and weekends. And for a while I did, but I wasn’t happy. Now I have a very set schedule, which I rarely deviate from, and I no longer get work emails on my phone, so I can separate my work from my personal time. I figure if I’m not happy in my personal life, my work suffers, too. Keeping a balance is not only healthy, it’s good for my business.
What are your strategies for staying competitive?
Aside from actively marketing myself and networking both online and in person, my biggest focus is on building my brand and making sure it stays consistent throughout a customer’s experience. A brand isn’t the most feasible thing, but people don’t make decisions based on numbers alone—they respond to vibes and go with their gut.
Do you need a second household income to support your lifestyle?
At the moment, it’s just me. My husband is changing careers and has gone back to school full-time, which has turned out to be the best motivator I could ever ask for.
What’s your advice for aspiring solopreneurs?
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the big picture. Focus on the small steps, put everything you’ve got into them, and they’ll turn into something bigger before you know it.
Are you glad you became a solopreneur? Why or why not?
I couldn’t be happier. It has its ups and downs, but so does any job. Becoming a solopreneur was one of the best decisions I ever made because it made me realize that I’m in charge of my life. That’s a very empowering thing.