Real FAQs from real solopreneurs

0 things about being a solopreneur the gurus don't tell you...

Sort of…. My “day job” is design services, which I offer through Design Hero but I do consulting for entrepreneurs around digital marketing.

“branding, strategy, consultant” can all go together. There’s enough overlap.

You can also offer consulting as a side solo gig while working fulltime or as a solopreneur

Example:

I run my design agency, Design Hero.
Over the years I’ve stacked a lot of high value skills so my offer is a full package for launching a succesful startup:

  • brand design
  • web development
  • digital marketing to drive traffic (usually SEO)

But I can also offer consulting on any of those aspects for entrepreneurs who want to do it themselves, but with extra guidance.

In fact I usually tack on a 4th part to my offer:
I also sell monthly “super sessions” which is basically consulting, or coaching on a retainer basis

I can advise on business strategy, automations, growth, growing a team, marketing, and any other problems that I’ve solved myself.

If you’ve solved problems in your own life or business you can sell the solution to others.
You can also build a personal brand as a solopreneur around the particular niche you decide to focus on

The short answer is you have to try lots of stuff to figure it out.

And there is no “one” thing.
It changes a lot over time.

I was a product designer,
then an architect then a web designer
then a marketing expert
then an SEO then a combination of those
now an educator then a writer.
I still create, design, and build things so I’m still some of those things.

It wasn’t a straight path.
There were a lot of mistakes and changes, and random curveballs along the way
The choice of careers now must be overwhelming.
New jobs appear every day. Social tells us we should know exactly where we’re headed.
So everyone is seeking their “Ikagi” or perfect purpose.
Certainly working on something you enjoy and love is much more rewarding.
But you won’t love it all the time. Life isn’t so neat. Every vocation has paperwork, admin, and bad sides.
When I was growing Design Hero I constantly got told to pick x1 niche and focus on social media.
I never did either.
I had clients from multiple niches who wanted to work with me.
Your niche doesn’t have to be a service, it could be an audience
or a problem you can solve with the skills you have.
Start writing content around the problem your skill solves and publish online to build your authority.
Reading gives you new perspectives and new thinking. Writing reinforces your thinking.

Last year I was interviewed by the BBC about my career, and I told them what helped me navigate my big shift:

I found it difficult to choose the right path, you never know what career you’ll be doing in 5 years..
There are so many options.
I imagine that’s even worse now and the choice can be overwhelming…

🔑 Pursue your hobbies.

No one enjoys every minute of their job, but it’s much easier to stick out the hard bits and be successful if you enjoy what you do.

🔑 Be curious

There are jobs today that didn’t even exist 5 years ago. Just because they don’t teach it in school doesn’t mean you can’t learn it yourself.
You won’t have the time later in life to dedicate so many hours to playing and exploring, so use that time wisely.

🔑 Don’t worry about the “right path”

You aren’t going to know what the right thing is until you’ve tried the wrong thing. Even the big decisions are reversible. You can always change careers, I did this very late on the game myself
These were the key things that helped me transition careers.
Follow your interests.
Curiosity is the only thing that will keep you motivated on the dark days so don’t pick things just because you think they’ll make money

Your thing will naturally emerge over time

Doing is the most important bit.
Set aside time to think about your life and what you want, yes…
But don’t just think, you have to take action to figure it out.

Honestly, your design tools don’t matter.
The apps  or specific programmes you use don’t matter either.
All the tools you learn now will have changed in 5 years anyway.

There are a huge no. of tools available,
and the ease of these tools and templates available makes it too easy to run before you learn to walk.

Instead spend time on tools,
start learning the foundations.
I see a huge number of freelancers never learning the fundamentals.

If you’re a designer, focus your time learning about heirarchy, composition, balance, contrast etc.
I’d spend 80% focus on Typography, this is the quickest way to elevate your designs to the next level.

secret cheat:
copy others.
Take the time to actually recreate what they’ve done, and depick it:
why have they used that letter spacing?
why those colour shades?
why that padding?

You’ll learn by muscle memory the correct spacing, structure and layouts to use.
And of course, lastly time.
It just takes a lot of time to learn what will eventually become second nature.

People get stuck a lot on niche.

Another way to think of niche is a problem your ideal customer is having, your package or set of services are the solution.
It doesn’t mean you won’t do anything else, but pick something your going to promote to and aim your messaging and content at.
You’ll need to position yourself as the authority who helps those people,
so the narrower you can make it the easier it’s going to be to sell to them.

Research and find out what those customers struggle with the most,
this will inform the services you focus on.
This will take time and you may need to work with them first before you know this.
Doesn’t hurt to ask them, in person or on social though.
The best way to go about this is gather data on social media. what are your customers struggling with the most.
what do they complain or talk about the most?
These issues are what you’ll want to solve with your offer….

Remember,

  • Niche is just a focus for your marketing. Think of it as your target customer, you can still help and work with people outside your niche.
  • You don’t have to have just one niche.
  • You have to try stuff to figure out your niche, it takes time and trial and error
  • Niche isn’t forever you can change it later.

Try this to hone your offer and niche

Instead of listing the services you offer,
list the problems your customers have.
Then link those to the results that your customers

Example for brick & mortar stores wanting a logo.
(Shop is empty on weekdays => I want more customers)
(There’s someone doing it cheaper !=> I want less competition / stand out from competition)

Example your high ticket package could be
“everything you need to stand out on the high street and pack your shop full”
free consultation, shooting plan to prep your place in advance, staging, half day photography and video session, branded asset package, social media package PLUS follow up consultation so you know how to use the materials”
👆 Instead of a list of services, this is a result,

What you want to do is package your services and abilities into tiers.

  • Low ticket (cheap or free as a leadmagnet)
    • Info products work best for your free offer, can be something like a PDF guide, an audit or a consultation.
      “How to get more boots in the door – Free marketing workshop “
  • Mid ticket (one to many, scalable or retainer income
    • this will be your courses, DIY guides, group workshops etc.
      (how to plan, storyboard and record and publish a marketing video for your business using NOTHING but your mobile phone!”)
  • High ticket (bespoke, high price)
    • This will combine elements from previous packages. think beyond just doing photo and video to the result.
      Add anything the customer needs for a good result.
      THIS is how you will charge x2 as much
  • Don’t get too tied up with the number 3, this is just a rough guide of best practice.

Every business is different.
There’s also no immediate right answer.
You’ll be tweaking and experimenting with the messaging, the package, the pricing etc for ages to get it right.

As a rule of thumb for packaging your services.

Your “core offer” is the big problem you solve for your ideal audience:
remember to focus on the result, that’s what they are really paying for:
Standing out from competition, charging more etc, increase sales etc.

You don’t really need to be “unique”.
Most successful businesses aren’t doing something new.
You don’t have to be new, you just need to be 10% better than your competition.
Provide a really good service that the client gets value out of. Always provide amazing value.
I don’t mean be cheap, I mean do things that the customer will get value out of by saving time, or getting more customers or making their life easier.
Do what your competiotrs are too lazy to do.

that’s how you’ll set yourself apart from others

Your job is to communicate the above,
so the client knows how you’re different from other designers.

Position yourself as the “expert” so that you’re guiding them to what they need instead of them telling you what they want.
It’ll be a more trusting relationship.

Present yourself as an agency for higher pricing. But be the face of the agency to sell.

Both!

The only difference between an agency and a freelancer is the way they talk about thsemselves.

Design Hero, my 6 figure solo business, is a “micro agency” with only one employee.

But I present as an agency and I pitch at the same level as many agencies with 20-30 employees.

“Agencies” will always be able to charge more simply because of the perception.

You must convince the customer that your size is an advantage.

and it is.

You don’t need 40 ponytailed creatives sitting about on beanbags, eating avocados and playing table tennis…

A small team of experts will usually get a much better result.

The way do it is to be the agency for one speciality,

and you are the individual who runs the agency, with a personal brand as the expert for the niche.

So the answer:

Build an agency brand, but be the face of the agency.

People buy from people, not companies.
For social media, you’ll want a personal brand.
It helps build rappor,  and future proofs your brand, by not being tied to one thing.

But branding as an agency will help you charge more, as it lends you legitimacy.

So present yourself as an agency for higher pricing. But be the face of the agency to sell to people

Want to ask a question about solopreneuring?

Somtimes I get asked stuff about how I run my life and business. If the answer has value to other people, I post it here.

If you have a question, submit it below and I’ll notify you if it’s published.

If I don’t know the answer I’ll ask someone who does.
I hope this is valuable to my audience.

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