(Photo by Flickr user Dennis Skley, used under a Creative Commons license)
Capture Greatness! founder Melissa Rowe‘s column, Social Good and the Solopreneur, is dedicated to local change makers who are doing their part to make their corner of the world a better place. Melissa will discuss launching passion projects to build businesses on shoestring budgets and with a single-person army.
You’ve fully committed yourself.
You know that this idea is the one that’s really going to cause major changes in the lives of the people you serve. Everything from your 401k to Aunt Mattie’s Christmas gift is being invested into this venture. And as a solopreneur, you can’t afford to fail, fail and fail some more until you finally get it right.
Here’s a quick and dirty list of must-haves for bootstrapping startups. You can check off everything on this list for $100 and still have money left for a water ice.
Own your web presence. Don’t depend on social media accounts as your virtual home base. You don’t have control over these platforms — and as much as they give, they can take away. Think about when Facebook changed its algorithm for business pages. Small businesses went from reaching a bulk of the people who “liked” their business page to showing up in only two to four percent of their fans’ newsfeeds, unless they pay to promote a post.
Invest in an easy-to-remember domain name and get yourself a website. An added perk of owning your domain name is that you get a business email address, which is way more official than “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Gmail, but as entrepreneurs we need to be advertising for ourselves, not Google.
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Not a fan of writing weekly newsletters? You don’t have to be. You will, however, need a way to stay connected to your ideal clients.
Offer people perks and incentives to join your email list. Remind them to connect with you or your cause through it. Every entrepreneur needs to be able to speak directly to their community of clients, and preferably through their inboxes.
Email marketing is a skill set you can learn, but there is nothing wrong with collecting email addresses and holding them until you know exactly what you want to say or promote through your list. What you will know for sure is that your message is going to hit every person who has self-selected as a prospective client, without interference from an algorithm.
Okay, now let’s talk about social media. If you are still building community (and we all should be building community), content is how you help people understand that they should be a part of yours.
Has anyone ever told you, “Speak up! We can’t read your mind”? Yeah, same thing applies in business. Good content is key to getting people’s attention. Sometimes our clients need to be reminded that we are offering something they want or need.
Delivering content can be a bit tricky. There’s a gentle balance between being social and being a nuisance. Take note of which brands you love to engage with and which ones you are about to unfollow. You’ll notice, the businesses that pound you over the head with what they do are annoying, but the businesses that post content that is funny, relatable and engaging are welcomed in your newsfeed.
I’ve learned that for social media content we should use the 80/20 rule. It works like this: Eighty percent of your content should make people laugh, learn or engage, and 20 percent should remind them that you are here to solve a problem.
Check out CopyBlogger for a boatload of advice on content.
Succeeding in business should not be a like a season of “Survivor.” In real life, there are a ton of cheats and resources to help you reach your destination with fewer scrapes and bruises.
All solopreneurs should have a coach. Find people who have charted the territory before you and can offer sound advice that saves you time and headaches. Your coach does not need to have expertise in your field, they just need to give you insights on what works and what doesn’t.
In my last article, I provided a list of local resources where you can find a coach or mentorship. And this summer, Y-Center is offering a unique social enterprise training through its ComPACT program.
This last item might seem a bit odd, especially for those just starting out, but I’d argue that it’s the most important. Having proven results can really get the momentum flowing in your business. Few people are willing to pay for something if they don’t feel confident that the product or service is effective. This applies to grant funders as well.
Don’t leave prospective clients or sponsors feeling like they are the test dummies for your venture. Results are social proof that you know what you are doing. Offer samples of your product, create a cool infographic to highlight your success, or post client testimonials on your website. Your goal is to show that what you offer is worth the time and money you are asking someone to invest.
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