Congratulations! You’ve done it. You’ve decided to take the leap and start your own business. You’re excited at the possibility and the ability to finally do work on your terms on topics you are passionate about. Before you get too far, take a moment to recognize that while romanticized at first, working as a solopreneur poses its own set of challenges.
In reality, working alone can be difficult. When you work a corporate job with an employer, you always have someone to hold you accountable. Your supervisor or manager evaluates your progress towards your stated goals in a quarterly or annual cadence which helps you stay focused on the outlined work.
To put it in context, the company you work for has already succeeded. They have customers and have identified a product market fit. Unless you’re in management, you most likely have no influence on the overall company vision. This doesn’t mean you don’t agree with it. Just that you are not singularly responsible for the future of the company’s success. While frustrating at times, this also spreads the responsibility across multiple people.
Entrepreneurship operates based on a completely different set of rules. As the founder, your job is to create the business and earn the initial revenue. The success of the company rests solely on your shoulders, with no one else to share the responsibility.
When you work a job, you can sometimes get away with not being productive for blocks of time throughout the day. You barely notice the 15 minutes by the coffee maker or the half hour chatting with a workmate. In entrepreneurship, this behavior will put you at a disadvantage. Going in circles and wasted time will not keep you in business long. Starting your own venture takes a lot of discipline to stay on task and be self-motivated.
Being your own boss is exciting but also can be overwhelming for someone who is not used to prioritizing their on time.
Here are 3 tips for not wasting time as an entrepreneur working alone on your own business.
Frequently test your hypothesis
It’s very exciting to have an idea and launch a business around it. Likewise, it’s very easy to assume you know what people want. It is also easy to think that if you begin to offer your product or service, customers will naturally find you.
When you has a new service, a website or a mobile application, you soon recognize that simply hoping that people will buy what you’re selling is not a sustainable business model.
You have to prove your value to gain customers.
The question really come down to how much value you create. If your target market views what you’re offering as valuable, then the sales will roll in. However, if what you sell is not addressing the customer’s needs and pain points, you may be disappointed by the marketplace’s reaction to your offering.
It can be easy to assume what people want based on our own personal biases. It is better to frequently test your hypothesis. Just because you resonate or identify with your customer, does not mean that you fully understand their rationale for buying (or not buying) a product like yours.
Business begins with solving a problem and serving some customers. Talk to your customer and develop a clear solution to their problem. You should be talking to your customer regularly to stay abreast of their needs and wants. Doing surveys and collecting research is a great way you can design a product or sell a service that your customer truly wants.
Live on the schedule
Have you ever thought about the value of a coffee meeting? What may seem like business development could cost you much more than you think. Entrepreneurs often mistake well-intentioned coffee meetings as making progress on your business. If the person is not pulling out their credit card for payment, it is not directly in line with growing your business. There is a time for strategy, but most fall businesses fail because they don’t acquire enough customers in a reasonable time frame – not because of poor strategy.
Time management, time blocking, scheduling, whatever you call it this is the way you manage your time. Yes, as a solopreneur you can wake up whenever you want, but after that, what’s next? Should you be checking your email right away? Are there any meetings that you planned? Maybe you need to go out and sell.
Spontaneity can be great, but rhythm and routine have been tested over time. When you have a schedule, you are able to maximize productivity because you have an underlying structure and framework. You can keep your schedule via Google calendar or any phone scheduling app, or simply get a paper calendar.
Develop a network of two to three mentors
Mentorship is a critical component of success in any endeavor, business is no exception. Businesses encourage mentorship between senior and junior employees. Self-help books recommend seeking people that you would like to emulate to include in your network. Even great athletes give credit to their coaches for helping them prefect their craft over many years. Coaches help us all play our best game, both mentally and physically.
As an entrepreneur your coach is a group of 2 to 3 mentors. These should be the people who understand your ambition and where you’re headed. Ideally, these people should have already achieved where you want to be. They may not embody all the attributes you are looking to achieve, but they should be strong in at least one of your growth areas. The most important attribute they need to have is the ability to give you clear feedback.
Having this group to review your schedule may help clarify something that seems simple to you but unproductive to them. This person should be able to ask you why certain tasks are important and suggest areas of action that you may be missing.
Avoid wasting time
The best entrepreneurs represent a great success. They build enduring businesses, create jobs and have influence in their industry. You may start small, but with the right focus, strategy and implementation you can go far. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and move forward quickly. These three tips should help you avoid wasting time and get well on your way to being a success story.