On gathering the courage to experiment solopreneurship with social impact
In the last years, solopreneurs have become important players in the EU labour market. A solopreneur is one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise, alone. Being your own boss and hoping to get more money seem to be the most cited motivations.
Finland supports wannabe solopreneurs with a short and simple process to setup a one-person company, supportive public policies and ecosystems for entrepreneurial activities. Despite the supportive environment, after working with a group of individuals at a career crossroad, I observed that the vision of solopreneurship causes fear, which stifles the curiosity to learn and experiment.
Personalized handmade souvenirs. Maternity packages for new mothers in African countries. Kids stories for promoting intercultural tolerance.
The world needs this kind of beautiful ideas. And ideas need the courage to let them out of your mind and enable them evolve in the physical reality.
If you’ve been brooding over an idea with business potential, how could you gather the courage to test it?
How about assessing the relationship with your fears?
How about talking about your idea within your inner circle of trusted professionals?
How about having a hands-on experience to understand into more depth the match between the needs you address and the value you promise to deliver?
How about generously sharing your expertise in a business networking community?
The relationship with your fears
What is the beginning of a project? An idea. An idea you keep thinking about, which makes you both enthusiastic and scared. This idea holds the promise of work satisfaction and meaning but it involves making some things differently.
Your first solopreneurship project is about experimenting with that idea, as a sequence of decisions and actions that lead to a deliverable product to the first client willing to pay for it. When you envision how to implement it, what is the first thing that comes to mind: the panic of failing? Or the image of you smiling contently when your first client says, “Thank you, you’ve been of great help to us.”?
What do you choose to focus on: is it the fear or the desire? The more you focus on fear, the more you come up with all sorts of possible fears, like:
– unhappy client,
– the world is done already, there is no room of improvement,
– you are incompetent or not clever enough,
– embarrassment towards friends and family, in case of failure etc.
The fear-based decisions can sabotage your professional success and can paralyze the ability to tap into your personal wisdom.
Ignoring your fears would not be wise, either. What can you do then?
You may want to acknowledge what is your biggest fear and challenge yourself to reframe your thinking around it.
Let’s say you are afraid of not being able to live up to your client’s expectations. What is the message that this fear is sending to you?
What makes you think it is a well-justified message?
How do you want to respond to it?
You may realize that your fear is telling you, “Psst, I want you to be a success. For that, you may want to understand better what your client expects from you.”
Solopreneurship might just be the kind of job that suits you like a glove. What else does the first experiment involve?
Circle of trusted professionals
Talk with few trustworthy individuals, who are farther along the entrepreneurial path and who have the willingness to help you. But make sure they understand what you’re trying to achieve. The deeper their understanding, the more appropriate the guidance.
Talk with few professionals who have experience in the same industry with your ideal clients. You are interested in understanding the pains of possible clients.
- You might get inspired about what actions to take.
- You might increase awareness about assumptions and beliefs that don’t serve you well.
- You might get useful references.
Working on the deliverable of the first project helps you understand better what is the core of your professional competence and what is the value that your client will get from you.
Thus, you clarify what you promise to offer and how you can insure the quality of that offer.
Generously sharing your expertise
Do a comprehensive review of local business networking communities. Select one or two whose mission resonates with your professional values and interests. Show up and get involved in their activities, with a giving attitude.
You get to practice your pitching skills when you explain to other members what you do. Search for perspectives on what you do. You decide which opinions are valuable and which opinions can be trashed.
You can embrace opportunities when you could offer your expertise for free to help some of the community members.
Review and decide what’s next
Few months later, reflect upon the experiences you’ve had.
- What did you learn from independently working on the first project?
- What aspects of the feedback from the client are encouraging you to continue?
- What aspects of the feedback give you goosebumps?
- How confident do you feel about what you promise to deliver to the next client?
- How do you like being part of the business networking communities?
- What is your inner motivation?
Congratulate yourself for experiencing solopreneurship at a small scale. Do you have plenty of the energy and motivation to work on another project? High levels of energy and motivation are good signs pointing in the direction of solopreneurship.
Maybe the second project already came to you without making any sales or marketing effort. That’s even more encouraging, strengthening your confidence in your core professionals skills.
Keep experimenting to grow your understanding. If experimenting with solopreneurship is too draining for you but you have loads of ideas with social impact, there are other possibilities to test those ideas. Joining the Centre for Effective Altruism is one option. I trust you can find plenty others.