A majority of soloists admit they are concerned about their small business credibility. But before changing our ways to suit others, we should recognise the legitimacy of our chosen workstyle.
There’s no doubt cynical attitudes abound in the wider business community.
When you think about it, those who view soloism using a traditional work paradigm are bound to struggle with the concept. It’s easier for them to talk in patronising terms like ‘how’s your little business?’ or ‘Are you still just working from home?’ than it is for them to appreciate our integrity, autonomy and earning potential.
I suppose they think a regular job in the Cube Farm is the way forward.
What a cheek. Why should ‘their’ (wider business community’s) be ‘our’ (soloist) way?
In reality, solo businesses have not so much rewritten the work rulebook as razed it to the ground. Furthermore, there are almost as many ways of working as there are solo businesses.
For me, soloism is a lifestyle choice. My business is not a stepping stone to ‘better’ things, but a way of work uniquely crafted to fit and finance the way I live. As a result, work is not a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 endeavour. Instead, my weekdays are a joyous mix of family, friends and office time. Ditto my weekends, actually.
But before you worry that mine is a slacker approach which gives the solo movement a bad name, let me assure you, I can turn on the professionalism when I need to.
For example, I want to go to the beach at 10am on a Wednesday. Do I divert calls to my mobile? No. I have a message that says “I will respond to your call within two hours.” I am aware that clients don’t want to hear seagulls and pounding surf while talking business.
And return the calls within two hours I do, without explanation or apology.
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“What if it’s urgent?” you ask. This won’t happen. Because I am not a thrive-under-pressure type, I won’t take on work if deadlines are too tight. Also I don’t believe in being always available, even if it is during so-called work hours. Clients know this, i.e. their expectations are set and boundaries are in place.
Plenty of outsiders, as well as more earnest solo business types, would frown on me popping off to the beach during the day. They would despair of me working propped up in bed, in my tracky daks, sans lipstick. I can empathise with that view, particularly when so many in the solo community struggle with credibility issues.
But, I argue, does my unconventional style mean the work I do for my clients is cack-handed? Hardly. Does it make me incompetent or stupid? No.
Besides, I’ve tried the whole ‘dress smart so you’ll feel more professional’ bit and ended up feeling like an alien in my own skin. It didn’t work…for me.
However, I’ve found a work style that does and I honour it. I love my work, but I also love my friends and family and recognise the time needed to keep these relationships healthy. And if I lavish time on them in the week, that’s my choice. Happy Sam = happy clients.
Whether you’re a serious soloist driven by money and prestige or an idler seeking the path to an easy life, surely finding what works for you has got to be central to any soloist’s definition of success.