5 Things I've Learned from My First Year as a Solopreneur

This month on June 13, The 5th Sense turned one year old!

I'd like to tell you that I threw myself a cute little business birthday party, but that would be a lie. I was back in Tennessee—where I grew up— for the week for my brother's wedding, and it was nice to return home, reflect with family and realize how far my business and I have come since I posted this blog 365 days ago

Anyone who's run a business from scratch on their own will tell you that you learn an infinite number of lessons in the first 12 months, and I'm sure that they'll continue pouring in through the years that follow. However, I do remember how much I enjoyed reading posts like these when I was just getting started— and I still do now! So today I'm sharing 5 of the biggest things that my first year of running my own copywriting business has taught me. 

KNOW YOURSELF

I talked about this some here and here, but I can't say this enough— the only way to succeed in owning your own business is to be as self-aware as possible. There's a lot of advice on the internet— and plenty of it is great— but not every method, tip or piece of advice is going to work for you and your business.  

Here are some questions I would consider asking yourself and the people who know you best. Revisit them again every couple of months to be sure you're being honest with yourself. 

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? (in business and personally)
    • Are there business weaknesses of yours that could be better outsourced?
    • Are there books you can read to help with those personal weaknesses? 
  • Do you work better in a structured environment or can you truly be productive at home? 
  • Are you the type of person who will feel isolated working from home? If so, how will you combat that?
  • Do you handle rejection well? If not, what are ways you can pick yourself back up after a loss?
  • Are you providing a service that the market truly needs? Or did you choose your services based on what you think is best instead? 
  • Are you good at saving money for a rainy day? 
  • Is there a new skill you can learn to better service your clients?

I've found that many of these answers can be found by taking the Myers-Briggs test (try out a condensed version for free here) and others can only be discovered through trial and error. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself— if something isn't working, stop doing it and find another solution. 

PREPARE YOURSELF  

I explained some of the preparation that I did to launch my business in my three-month check-in post, but there's definitely lots that I've picked up on since. There are plenty of other resources out there about getting an LLC, starting a business bank account and filing your taxes. I'm not here to discuss that kind of preparation. 

The kind of prep I'm talking about it beyond that. If you're reading this, you've probably read a few of the thousands of posts discussing the benefits of running your own business, but have you read up on the drawbacks? 

It's easy to picture a blissful world of choosing when you work, how you work and who you work with. And all of those things are great. But, I would urge anyone considering going out on their own to prepare themselves for a different reality.

  • Do you know WHO you're really targeting? (Hint: "everyone" isn't an acceptable answer)
  • Do you have a sales plan to steadily find new clients so you aren't out-of-luck (and money) when one ends their contract? 
  • Do you have a plan to retain the clients you currently have?
  • Are you ready to hear no a lot
    • Do you have a strategy for staying positive when faced with rejection? 
    • Are you prepared to change things up when enough no's show you that an idea isn't working?
  • Do you have a back-up plan or savings for months that you're down? 

These aren't meant to be negative, they're meant to be realistic/honest (see point 1). 

FORGIVE YOURSELF  

If I haven't reiterated it enough— no matter how great your business idea is, you're going to hear "no" a lot. Sometimes you'll work your butt off to close on a client and lose it last minute. Other times you'll have one quit unexpectedly for reasons that may be out of your control. It's one thing to prepare yourself for it, but it's another thing entirely to be able to forgive yourself after it happens. 

I've gone into this story pretty in-depth in this post, but to sum it up— I hit a "business rock-bottom" at the end of last year. From a combination of things that were and weren't within my control, I wasn't motivated, taking care of myself or investing time in finding the right clients. As a result, I lost some business, had to dip into our savings and felt super defeated. 

None of that got better until I went back to step one (KNOW YOURSELF) and finally forgave myself for having that set-back. Ebbs and flows are an inevitable part of running a business, but being able to forgive yourself and bounce back is what matters most. Say it with me, "My worth as a person is not entirely measured by the success (or lack of) in my business." Say it again. Keep saying it until you believe it. 

TRACK YOURSELF

 I swear, half of running a business is asking yourself where all the time goes. With no boss or department dictating your day-to-day, it's easy to get lost in distractions or what I like to call "productivity porn"— which is basically when you spend your day reading articles about business strategy or being productive, but you don't actually accomplish anything.

Without a boss to keep you on track, you have to monitor yourself. The best way to do this is to track everything— your time, your expenses, your incoming sales, your work flow, your work-wins, everything. To fix any problem— be it a structural, time management or something else— you have to first be aware that it's even there to begin with. Tracking is a great way to start. 

ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF

This is important. Arguably the most important— YOU MUST BE YOUR BIGGEST ADVOCATE. If you don't believe in yourself and your business, how can you expect anyone else to? 

I know, sometimes this kind of self-love advice can feel hippie-dippy and unproductive. But it's not. When you enter a room, you need to be ready and WILLING to sell yourself. If you don't believe that you've got the best services out there, how can you hope that anyone else will buy into them? You can't wait around for someone else to instill this confidence in you or sell your business ideas to others on your behalf. You built it yourself - now go show people how f*cking awesome you are by advocating for yourself. 

What's the biggest lesson you've learned from your job (entrepreneurial or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments!

5 Steps to Writing a Better "About Me" Page

You aren't boring. Maybe it's your "About Me" page. 

1. Don't make it about you. 

Shocking, I know. But it's true. While people are coming to your about page to learn about you, they're more likely coming to decide if they can relate to you. I always tell my clients that their about page isn't about them—it's about their ideal customer and what they can do for them. 

For example, who do you want to buy a blender from?

Person A: "Opening in 2014, Blenders & Company was founded by a family of four living in Colorado. We've made more than 10,000 blenders."

OR

Person B: "Smoothies, milkshakes, sauces and more. It's no secret we love blending. But, as our family began to reach for the blender at least three times a day, we realized how inconvenient they are—bulky, hard to clean. We created Blenders & Company for families like ours. Ones that blend more than anything else."

I don't know about you, but I'm going with person B. They seem to get me and the problems I'm facing. Except my problem is that I can't afford a Vitamix. 

2. Do more than love coffee and your family. 

If I read one more about page that says "I love coffee, music and my family." I'm going to scream. All of those things are great, but what about that differentiates you from the 29,301,283 people out there sipping caffeine and using Spotify?

Instead, consider facts about your personality that'll make you stand out. No one is going to say, "Remember that girl who really loves coffee?" What do you bring to the table that makes you unforgettable?  Maybe sharing that I won a storybook contest about a flying spaghetti monster defeated by a pack of dogs isn't relevant per se, but you definitely won't forget it.   

3. Go beyond the headshot.  

Professional headshots are great, but sometimes once you've seen one you've seen them all. People buy from people, and after humanizing your brand/business with the relatable facts we've curated in #2, we're going to supplement it with photos. 

So, I don't love coffee. In fact, I don't drink it at all. What I do love are potatoes, and I'm frequently telling people that I'm pro-potato or that I've never met a potato I didn't like. Memorable? Maybe. 

BAM! How about now? Have you ever seen someone posing with a handful of potatoes? Now you have. 

The point is, consider a photo of you doing something else outside of your headshot. You're more than a person smiling at their desk with their hair brushed. Show it. 

4. Use storytelling to showcase your expertise.

If someone needs to see your resume, they'll ask for it or go to your LinkedIn page. Your about page doesn't need to be a rehashing of bullet points. You're proud of what you do though, and you shouldn't discount that. Weave some key points into your narrative strategically. 

Here's one of my favorite examples from my girl Ashlyn Writes

Bottom line— just be you. If you aren't funny, don't try to be. If you speak simply, don't drop in a bunch of blab like "nevertheless" and "perfunctory." If you're more formal, don't promise "to help a sistah out, yo." 

5. Include a call-to-action. 

So now your reader has gotten to know you. You've wow-ed them by how relatable you are, and they've enjoyed your (actually) fun facts. They've got a great picture of who you are, what you do and why you're good at it. Now what?

Tell them what to do. Chances are, if they've made it to the bottom of your about page, they're interested. So tell them what to do next. Typically, this is encouraging them to reach out by filling out your contact form, so don't assume they will—tell them to. 

What's the best about page advice you've ever received? Let me know in the comments!

6 Podcasts Perfect for Work, Self-Improvement and Fun

Podcasts have been having a moment since Serial hit the airwaves in October 2014. Now, everywhere I go, I hear friends and colleagues talking about podcasts instead of TV shows. As a lover of both, I could never choose, but I have been enjoying listening to podcasts while I drive, clean my house or walk the dog. To avoid burnout, I switch it up between podcasts for work, self-improvement and fun. Here are 6 that I bring up almost every time one of those podcast discussions takes place: 

For Work

Goal Digger

If you're a lady who owns (or hopes to own!) your own business, you've got to have a weekly date with Jenna Kutcher's Goal Digger podcast. This workshop-style sound bite is full of interviews, helpful tips and real women sharing their successes and failures in business. Jenna is hilarous and incredibly down-to-earth, and I listen to this everytime I feel like I have no one to talk to about the ups and downs of business ownership. 

Unemployable

I'm a sucker for a good name, and Brian Clark got me with this one almost immediately. In his own words, "Unemployable provides actionable strategies for thousands of freelancers, consultants, coaches and entrepreneurs." As a copywriting/marketing dork, I've enjoyed hearing from big-name guests like Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk. Really, Unemployable is for anyone ready to dip their toe into entrepreneurship. 

For Self-Improvement

Happier

It's no secret that I love Gretchen Rubin. Her book The Happiness Project, helped pull me out of a serious funk, and her podcast Happier is just an extension of that. Each week, she and her sister have a conversation about their lives, maintaining balance and tips to cultivate a happier life. It's approachable, actionable and I really enjoy it. 

Invisibalia

invisibiliapodcast.jpg

I'm embarrassingly obsessed with self-improvement anything, particularly as it applies to personality traits in different people. NPR's Invisibilia only adds fuel to the fire. In their own words, "Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions." It's also a great source for casual party conversation and interesting fun facts. If you love powerful storytelling and learning more about what shapes us as people, you'll love this one. 

For Fun

My Favorite Murder

If you've ever spoken to me more than twice, you probably know how much I love crime shows, especially Law & Order SVU. My Favorite Murder is that with some laugh-out-loud dark comedy sprinkled in. If you aren't into that, you'll know right away, but for those weirdos like me that are fascinated by crime shows and love a good laugh, you'll love Karen Kilgariff and Georiga Hardstark breaking down their favorite murder stories each episode. Also, the tagline is the best: "Stay sexy. Don't get murdered."

Death, Sex & Money

Death, Sex & Money was started as a way to share stories on three taboo topics that most people say are not up for discussion: death, sex and money. In their own words, "Death, Sex & Money is a show that gets very personal about the dilemmas we all share." Anna Sale, the host, is unapologetically inquisitive as she interviews people about the topics from which we usually shy away. 

What's your favorite podcast? Let me know in the comments!

Tech Talk: The Apple Watch

Tech Talk is a monthly series where I highlight pieces of technology that have helped streamline and improve my business and personal life. Let me know your favorite tech tools in the comments! 

I'm going to be honest with you—I love technology, but when the Apple Watch was released, I was skeptical. The price was way outside of my budget, and, as someone who's already glued to my phone, I was worried that having one would only help technology monopolize more of my time. But, when my mom so kindly gave me one for Christmas, I was excited to give it a shot. 

I've had it for three months now, and I've been pleasantly surprised by its ability to cut down on my tech-time instead of increasing it. I get a lot of questions from people asking if I think they're worth the investment, so I've decided to share the top Apple Watch features that have helped me run my business and my personal life more efficiently. 

Texting/Call Capabilities

I thought that the Apple Watch would make me more attached to my phone because you get notifications on your wrist when you get a call or text, but it's been the opposite. Because I get the messages straight to my wrist, it's freed me from having my phone nearby all the time. Now, as long as my phone in my apartment with me or in my pocket or bag when I'm out, I know I'll get any messages to my wrist and I can scan them and decide whether or not they need to be addressed on my phone right away. 

I also love the ability to answer phone calls on your wrist. Not only do I feel like James Bond, I also can catch up with friends or family on the phone while doing something else, like cleaning my room or cooking. 

Phone Finder

I lose everything. I mean EVERYTHING, and my phone is one of the biggest victims of my forgetfulness. The Apple Watch has a great feature to "ping" your phone anytime you misplace it, and I use it at least once a day. 

Activity Tracker

I was a big Fitbit fan for awhile. It helped me increase my exercise, but once I got out of the habit of wearing it, I never put it back on again. Because the Apple Watch does more than track my steps, I'm more diligent about wearing it every day. The activity tracker marks your active minutes and calories burned, and it helps remind me that every little bit of activity counts and adds up during the day. It's helped me get moving more, and I've lost 10 pounds since January because of it! 

I also love that I can connect with friends and family and get notifications when they complete workouts or hit their goals. Getting a message that my husband, brother or friends have completed a workout is the perfect extra bump of motivation when I'm having a lazy day!

Stand-Up Reminders

The activity tracker also sends you an hourly reminder to stand up if you haven't in the last 60 minutes. I get a little buzz on my wrist the last ten minutes of every hour if I have been sitting the whole hour. Working from home, this really helps remind me to get moving, even when I'm in the zone!

The Timer

I never would have imagined this would come in handy so much, but we cook so often that it does! Anytime I'm cooking and need to set a timer, I can say, "Hey Siri, set a timer for X minutes" and it starts right away. This hands-free tool has been so helpful while trying to juggle multiple tasks in the kitchen. 

Do you have an Apple Watch? What do you think about them? Let me know in the comments!