You may never have had aspirations of becoming a poster guy or gal for anything, and yet, here you are, the face of a business. The great freedom in being a solopreneur is that you are never asked to represent someone else’s image or brand, regardless of how suited it is to your personality. However, you are in a position to have others judge the quality of your offerings and content by their interactions with you. You are now both a business and a media company.
If you conduct most of your business online, be conscious that you stand to be recognized anywhere in the world. You’re fighting for as much attention as you can possibly grab in a world where the average engagement per post is less than a few seconds across all the major platforms. If your business is limited to one geographic area, think twice about going to the grocery store in your pajamas. Your customers don’t want to see you this way, and to some extent, you will always have to be “on.” You never know who will bump into you next.
When your business is just you, even small decisions regarding behavior or appearance can affect your bottom line. This can be very frustrating because everyone needs to let their hair down once in a while. While no one expects you to be anything more or less than human, consider your public behavior carefully, and, depending on the business you’re in, consider the repercussions of different actions. If you are a wedding singer for hire, don’t expect much work if you get drunk at a reception even as a guest. If you are a freelance writer, no one will think twice about seeing you at a bar, but if you post inappropriate, inflammatory, or ignorant content on your blog, potential customers will have doubts about your ability to divorce your less than savory personality traits from the work they might hire you to do.
The good news is, if you are an adult going into business for yourself, you’re probably mature enough to know that what you consider private behavior can impact your public business, and that not being a jackass in public is generally good practice regardless of your employment status.
Authenticity vs. TMI
People are reassured when they know they are dealing with people. Think of the frustration of navigating an automated phone system when all you want to do is ask someone a simple question and get a straightforward answer. Whatever channels you use to communicate with prospective and existing customers, because of the nature of solopreneurship, you don’t want to be a cold, automated, quasi-robotic presence. If they’re looking to connect with you, they want to feel like humans dealing with humans. Depending on your brand, the depth of non-business information you share will vary, but humor, positivity, and helpfulness are always appropriate.
In the world that seems far bigger than ever before, people crave authenticity and relationships. An increase in community supported agriculture, for example, is about more than just sustainable eating. It speaks to a desire for community building, and for feeling as though we are part of something.
Solopreneurs have an advantage in this business environment because they can offer unscripted interactions, and the assurance that in a business so small and personal, the customers needs will really be handled with care. Nomatter your business, and especially if you are providing a service, your brand should communicate that reassurance in some way. You have the ability to transform the transaction into something that becomes an act of helping, of fulfilling a need, or even friendship.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
No one has to know you’re not a billionaire (yet). Your image is always going to be a projection to some extent, and it’s OK to give reality some time to catch up. As a product creator or service provider, your job is partly to inspire confidence in your offering and what it will do for your customers. No one likes to feel like a guinea pig.
Make sure that whatever you do, you do well, and that you can deliver on what you promise. You don’t have to be dishonest and suggest your client list is already very long, but count everything relevant as your body of work. Be able to demonstrate why you’re confident in your offering, and don’t use desperation as a client recruitment tool. If your customers feel as though they’re doing you a favor by doing business with you, you won’t get much respect, much money, or the kind of work you want to be doing.
Project confidence even if you have only one client right now. Be honest when asked about your business, but focus on your skills and the work you believe is ahead of you. Don’t treat your clients as practice cases, and don’t let them believe that they are doing you service. By doing consistently good work and focusing only on the kinds of products or projects that will advance your business, you are more likely to achieve the position you’re going for.
This post was more about mindset than it was about any kind of personal brand strategy and it was deliberate. The platforms are always going to change. How we share and consume content is always going to change. What’s not going to change? The fact that you still need to be able to show up as you in your business every day. And, that’s what it means to build a real brand for yourself. Building a brand that doesn’t just try to force people through the know, like, and trust curve but encourages them to stay and hang out there for a while.