As I progress along in this interesting, challenging, and fun world of solopreneurship, I enjoy sharing whatever I learn along the way. To celebrate year one of Sarah J Consulting, I posted the first 10 tips here for striking out on your own. I added 10 more here at SJC's second anniversary.
Now that 2.5 years is upon us, I thought I'd split the difference and share an additional five tips for striking out on your own! Hopefully these new musings will help you in your own business--be it nonprofit fundraising or an entirely different field. These principles may be applied to any number of industries.
1. Sleep when the baby is sleeping. When you've spent the majority of your career at a desk from 9 to 5, it's tempting to do the same in self-employment land. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that there will be slow times (even if those times are infrequent!). Since the busy periods can be all-consuming, I encourage you to take advantage of the lulls. Replenish your mental space. Go to a museum at 1pm on a Tuesday. Take a nature walk. Plan a day trip...to an amusement park! Whatever boosts your spirits and clears your mind, do it without guilt.
2. Stay current with trends. Clients expect you to know your stuff and understand, at least generally, the latest developments in your field. Subscribe to free e-newsletters, websites, Twitter feeds, etc., to read up daily or weekly on what's going on. Also, don't hesitate to subscribe to paid resources such as magazines/trade publications that are either specific to your field or that will keep you sharp as a solopreneur (for the latter, I suggest Entrepreneur, Inc., and Fast Company).
3. Keep renewing your professional memberships. I confess: I belong to two fundraising-related associations and one local Chamber of Commerce, yet I hardly attend any of their workshops or social gatherings. Shame on me. BUT, I do religiously read the information they send my way, and I network among members on occasion. These professional memberships help keep me connected to the larger fundraising and business community. For that, they are worth every penny.
4. Even if there's a task you can do on your own, ask yourself whether you should do it. I am decent at Quickbooks--and by that, I mean I know how to enter stuff into the database and run canned reports. But accounting and finance are not at all my strong suit. So, after two years of Quickbooking myself into a tizzy, I finally hired a bookkeeper to help me with my invoicing, expense tracking, and reconciliation. This will save me several hours per month--hours that I can spend instead on billable work and expanding my client base!
5. Help others. I belong to a wonderful online nonprofit consultants network. Recently, a member of that group asked how often we consultants should be willing to accept coffee/lunch invitations or other kinds of "pick-your-brain" requests from colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. The overwhelming response from the group was almost always. Certainly, time is valuable and it's important not to "yes" yourself into a breakdown, but the philosophy here is that helping others is not only good, it is also a wonderful way for you to network--and you never know where this good karma may lead!