There is no greater reward in business than success from self-reliance, from flying solo and building a winner with your own bare hands. At the end of the day, you have only yourself to thank– and only yourself to blame if things fall apart. What are the pitfalls of working independently? What are the keys to success from self-reliance? These seven points can help you succeed on your own when building a business in the 21st century.
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1. Craft a unique story.
In business, it’s important to show your customers that you are different from the rest. What is special about you? What is different about the way you do business vs. your competitors? In 30 seconds, you need to be able to explain to a layman why your business is special, different and unique. Craft a unique story that you love to tell and one that your customers will remember. In practice, this can be as simple as branding yourself in a memorable way that makes you stand out from the others. If you’re going into business on your own, a good differentiation strategy is even more important. If your focus just replicates what others are already doing, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
photo by sola
2. Take advice, but remember that your story is unique
Entering new territory can be overwhelming, especially when working for yourself. It’s important to learn from others, so seek advice from professionals that have already established some success in your field. Be careful with that advice, however. New businesses often run the risk of adjusting too much when taking advice– to the point that they lose focus on what is most important.
photo by lichtfaktor
3. Be flexible, but be patient
The early months of running your own business can be slow and difficult. It’s not easy to sit idly by while your savings shrink and business trickles in. Be flexible during these early days, but be patient. New businesses often make mistakes during this period by trying to do too much to drive and supplement their income that they lose focus on the early responsibilities. If you have a solid business plan and you’re confident in your research, do your best to be patient in the early days. The difficulty of working on your own is that there’s no one other than you to keep yourself in check– so make wise decisions about when you should be flexible and when you should remain patient.
photo by taylor pemberton
4. Trust your talents, but know your limits.
The key to self-reliance in business is to know what you can and cannot do by yourself. You might be able to conceptualize a product, produce it, market it and sell it all by yourself, but are you comfortable managing your finances? If a large part of your business is conducted online, are you handy enough to build a professional web presence? When working for yourself, it is important to trust in your own abilities and recognize what you are not capable of doing effectively. Hire out the things you cannot do well enough on your own.
photo by lapp pro
5. Image is everything, so invest in your brand identity.
First impressions are everything– and when you’re working alone and for yourself, the singular nature of your business can hurt you in the competition for customers. If you invest in developing a high quality brand identity package, you can appear to be as big and as successful as those who are already established in the market. Again, if this is not something you can manage on your own, hire a designer to create a brand identity for you. Come up with a solid brand name and some language about your product or service, and hire good talent to give it a face. It may appear costly at first, but a strong, high quality brand identity will pay for itself in no time.
photo by julien breton
6. Get your own space– and leave it often.
If you, like us, work almost entirely on the web, it’s important that you have a dedicated office for work. A laptop in the living room won’t cut it, because distractions will constantly take you away from work. Find a space in your home or elsewhere that you can use for work either freely or at a cost. If you have a spare room in your house, there’s the added benefit that you can write off that part of your rent/mortgage on your taxes. Find a dedicated space, and you’ll be able to stay on track and get your work done on time. Remember, however, that sitting idle in your office can hurt your creativity. Once you’ve created your space, be sure to get out often — to a library, a coffee shop or a park — because the change in scenery will do wonders for your creative energy.
photo by lichtfaktor
7. Make and keep real connections.
That office can get quite lonely when working for yourself. It’s important to make and keep real connections with other business people, and it isn’t easy to do on your own. Using facebook, twitter, linkedin and tools like skype or gchat, you can meet and connect with other professionals that work in your field. Join industry groups and attend conferences, and develop friendships with people who share your interests. These connections are immensely valuable, as they can provide advice, share news and act as a sounding board for your ideas. There are no coffee room chats in the world of self-reliance, so establishing real connections is important for your morale and your understanding of the market.
photo by toby keller
If you enjoyed the light graffiti photography we included for visual inspiration, check out TheCoolist’s feature on 10 Masters of Light Painting Photography.