In my experience, these materials represent some of the best thinking and the finest advice on how to succeed in building a purpose-driven solo business. I frequently add to “The Guide,” so bookmark or Evernote this page and use it as a resource.
I have organized the resources in the order I would approach the tasks. (The reality is that it’s very rare for solopreneurs to have the luxury of working in a perfect sequence. Plus, your background and experiences will determine what you tackle first, second, and so on.)
The first step in your solopreneurial journey should be to read Laurence G. Boldt’s book, Zen and the Art of Making a Living.
1. Is Solopreneurship For You?
Being a solopreneur is very difficult — the amount of work and the emotional investment are enormous. Do you really want to do this? The resources in this section will help you decide.
“Find Your Calling: 5 Steps to Identify Your Purpose,” by Amy Kessel
“How to Decide If Entrepreneurship is Right for You,” by Colleen DeBaise, author of “The Wall Street Journal Complete Small Business Guidebook”
Starting a business is a lot like becoming a parent. Not only do you have to prepare for your start-up emotionally and financially, but you have to be committed to its constant needs until it’s mature enough to hum along on its own.
“Thinking About Starting”
This article is at the U.S. Small Business Administration Web site, which has a vast amount of information.
Take The Solopreneurship Self-Assessment Test and within 15 minutes you’ll know how close you are to living the solopreneur life.
U.S. Small Business Administration
2. Improve Your Decision-Making
Use This Method to Make Every Decision a Great Decision
What’s the most valuable skill a solopreneur can possess? I say great decision-making trumps everything. To improve the quality of your decisions, make it your practice to evaluate all decisions by using the eight perspectives below.
3. Set Your Life Goals
A Simple Guide to Setting and Achieving Your Life Goals, by Leo Babauta
What Is the Definition of Success For You and Your Life? by Larry Keltto
4. What Kind of Business Will It Be?
You’ve decided to be a solopreneur. Congratulations! Now what? What is your business going to be?
I think Chris Guillebeau, author of “The Art of Non-Conformity” says it best: “What are you excited about that other people are willing to pay for? One way or another, you’ll need a clear answer to this question.”
Shawn Driscoll’s “TQ Assessment.” (It’s a download that requires registration at Shawn’s site.) It takes about 10 minutes to complete the assessment, and the results provide insight into what your mix of products and services should look like — and why.
“What’s Your Superpower?”
So what is your superpower? How will your superpower benefit other people? How will other people’s lives be changed because of your superpower?
“Mix and Match to Spark Ideas,” by Rob Place
Most people just conceive of the business by thinking of the most tried and tested idea. These businesses struggle right off the bat because they are imitating everyone else. Rather than just doing what everyone else does, start developing your business by thinking outside the box.
“Coaching vs. Consulting vs. Training vs. Freelancing: Which One Is Best For You?” by Rob Place
Client-focused solopreneurs have to come to terms with one fundamental question when they start their business: how will I deliver my service to the client? Will I coach, consult, train, or freelance? This post looks at the revenue model for each, how to market each, and tips on which one to specialize in.
“The Best and Worst Franchises to Own” The Small Business Administration ranks the franchises with the highest failure rates.
5. Create a Business Plan
Uggh. The business plan. You have to have one, but the truth is that it doesn’t have to be a lifeless document that you discard as soon as you’re done writing it. Don’t believe me? Check out the resources below.
“A Business Plan Named Emmit: Creative Plan Resources,” by Tori Deaux
“The Right-Brain Business Plan,” by Jennifer Lee
Creating Your Business Map: Alignment For Your Inspired (Ad)Venture, by Nona Jordan
6. Decide on a Business Model
“Emmit Takes on Business Models (Part 1),” by Tori Deaux
A business plan is like a road-map and itinerary; it shows you where you’re going, when you plan to get there, a bit of the surrounding terrain, and gives you milestones by which you can track your progress. A business model is more akin to the vehicle that carries you on that road-trip – or at least, a blueprint for the vehicle.
“Do You Have a Good Business Model? Use This Assessment to Find Out,” by Larry Keltto
This assessment will quickly show you how strong your business model is.
7. Build Your Brand
“To Solopreneurs Who Want to Improve Their Branding”
This is a simple exercise you can use to evaluate and improve the strength of your small business’s branding.
“Dare to Make Your Brand Big,” branding expert Pamela Wilson on BlogTalkRadio
8. Register a Trademark
“An Introduction to Trademarks for the Uninitiated Solopreneur,” by Jeffrey Fabian
A protectable and recognizable trademark is one of the most important pieces of intellectual property that a new enterprise can invest in before bringing its products or services to market. This article provides a brief overview of the basic legal concerns and implications associated with adopting and seeking to register a new trademark.
“Why An LLC and Not An S-Corp,” by Mary Priolo
“Should Your Solo Become a Duet?”
At some point in your solopreneur life, you will confront the possibility of going into business with another person. I urge you to answer the questions in this article; it could be worth thousands of dollars to you and your prospective business partner.
“Independent Contractor Agreements (and Why Solopreneurs Need to Use Them),” by Jeffrey Fabian
Within the solopreneur community, independent contractor relationships are a way of life. Solepreneurs hire other solopreneurs to develop their Web sites, write their advertising copy, develop their customer contracts, maintain their books, and carry out their SEO and PPC advertising campaigns. However, solopreneurs often overlook the importance of memorializing these relationships in writing.
11. Finance/Pricing/Cash Flow
“Small Business Cash Flow,” by Denise O’Berry
“The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow,” by Raji Mohammed
12. Get Your Accounting/Taxes Under Control
“Accounting for Solopreneurs: What To Do and When,” by Deb Howard Greenfield
New and established solopreneurs share the same fundamental concern: What tasks do I need to perform and when? Here are some guidelines.
13. Take Care of Yourself
“Ancient Parable Reveals a Secret for Solo-Business Success”
What would happen if you learned to wink at your self-perceived shortcomings, keep walking, and move forward to do your best work?
“The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal,” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
14. Be Productive/Manage Your Time
“Live Your Solopreneur Life in Quadrant II”
Way back in 1994, Stephen Covey introduced his quadrant concept of time management. The concept appeared in chapter two of his book “First Things First,” and those 11 pages are among the most important ever published on the subject of time management.
“Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant?” by Deborah Reynolds
Virtual assistants can be a big help for solopreneurs, but how do you know if you should hire one? This Q&A will help you determine whether hiring a virtual assistant is the right move for your small business.
“The Secret to Solopreneurial Peak Performance”
When you’re putting together your calendar for the week or month, what do you schedule first? Personal performance expert Dr. Shannon Reece, offers a surprising answer to the question of what must always come first for solopreneurs.
“Are You Sabotaging Your Creative Energy?” by Jen Waak
As a solopreneur, a three-hour workday is not realistic. Our workdays are more like 13 hours, not three. You should structure your day to fit how your brain works.
“How Do You Handle Vacation?”
Vacation can be very perplexing for solopreneurs. There are dozens of questions related to vacation. How to decide?
Productivity expert Claudine Motto’s VistalNorte.com
15. Identify Your Niche
“The Difference Between Target Market and Niche,” by Michael Port
“When Estimating the Profitability of a Niche, Answer These 9 Questions,” by Larry Keltto
Your target market is the group of people you serve. Your niche is the service you specialize in offering to your target market.
16. Define Your Target Market
“How to Define Your Target Market,” by Mandy Porta
To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly.
17. Design Your Office
HGTV Directory of Home Offices
18. Consider Shared Space
“Which Type of Shared Space Works Best For Your Business?”
Available options on shared spaces for lease are growing at a fast pace. Here is a summary of the most common shared office-space environments.
If you’re like most new solopreneurs, you will be shocked by how much time you need to spend on marketing, so the sooner you embrace marketing, the better off your business will be.
“The Marketing Secret That Will Keep You In Business”
Laddering is a market-research technique used in consumer marketing that seeks to explain why people buy and use products and services. Small-business owners, you too can utilize laddering to create successful new products, services, and marketing campaigns that tap into your customers’ emotional desires.
“Relationship Marketing for Solopreneurs,” by Jim Sheard, Ph.D., and Larry Keltto
“The Beginners Guide to SEO”
“Solopreneur’s Checklist: How To Write Ineffective Advertising Copy”
If you use this checklist, you will scare away potential customers and eventually drive your small business off a cliff. Guaranteed!
“David Ogilvy’s First Commandment for Great Copywriting,” by Larry Keltto
“The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells,” by Robert W. Bly
Copywriter Amy Harrison’s Web site
“How to Create a Great Web Site,” by Seth Godin
“When the Money Isn’t In the List: The Case Against Freebies,” by Susan Daffron
Almost everything you read about marketing online says you should give away a freebie in exchange for someone’s email address. The idea is that you build up a list and then you can market your products and services to the list. It sounds like a great idea.
“How to Work With a Web Designer,” Web site designer Naomi Niles on BlogTalkRadio
WordPress.org’s Introduction to Blogging
“7 Steps For a Successful Social Media Strategy,” by Nick Shin
How to Create Measurable Objectives,” by Amber Naslund
Part of the problem folks face with social media measurement and determining ROI is that they don’t know how to create measurable objectives in the first place. So let’s do a (bit of a long) drilldown of what measurable objectives look like, and all the parts around them.
Twitter Marketing Guide, by Kristi Hines
Here’s a guide to help you setup your Twitter profile and implement a successful Twitter marketing strategy.
LinkedWorking: Generating Success on LinkedIn … the World’s Largest Professional Networking Website, by Frank Agin and Lewis Howes
Articles“Put the ‘Buy Local’ Movement to Work for Your Business”
Begin your own local push to build your name in and around your hometown. Here are six ways to get started.
“A Marketing Dinosaur That’s Not Yet Extinct”
In the right situations, print newsletters can be a valuable marketing tool for solo business owners.
“Offline and Local Marketing: 18 Ways to Get Started in Your Hometown,” Larry Keltto on BlogTalkRadio
20. Your First Clients
The Extremely Profitable Work That New Solopreneurs Overlook
Recurring income is an important concept to understand, and it’s the foundation for most successful solo businesses.
21. Public Relations
“How to Pitch a Reporter”
Michelle Damico of Michelle Damico Communications explains how it’s done.
PR In Your Pajamas
22. Customer Relations
“5 Ways to Build Amazing Client Karma (And Boost Your Business),” by Samuel Ryan
Your success in both the present and the future is directly tied to the amount of love and loyalty you get from your clients. So learn to treat these relationships with care.
The #1 Cause of Unhealthy Business Relationships
The leading cause of unhealthy business relationships for solopreneurs: bad choices in selecting clients. Yes, I said “selecting.”
“How to Make Customers Love You,” LaVonne Ellis explains on BlogTalkRadio
Review of Highrise, cloud-based client management software
Scheduling, comparison of scheduling apps
23. How to Collect
“11 Collections Tips From a Solopreneur Who Gets Paid 99.92 Percent of the Time”
I have been a solopreneur for 17 years. So far I have sent 1,236 invoices. I have collected on every invoice, except one. This is what has worked for me.