This is my eighth year flying solo and I’ve never had any job, let alone one I love, for so long. A coach I know who has been similarly self-employed for many years jokes that she’s now ‘unemployable’. While I doubt that, I think many long-term soloists would agree that the lights of corporate life are not bright enough to seriously consider a return.
My clients buy my expertise in a well-defined field, tender and proposal writing. As a result, most of my assignments tend to be fairly similar. Usually there is enough variety to keep me firing, but recently I went through a flat patch where it all started to seem a bit repetitive and dull.
To renew the passion for my business and to stay engaged in what I’m doing for my clients, I’ve found I need to work on my own projects too. Over the years I’ve worked on many personal projects, some more successful than others but all interesting and rewarding in their own way. One was writing my book, a process that took six months. Another was running a networking group for marketing professionals, a voluntary role that brought me many new friends and contacts.
Not focusing on my work has benefited my work by giving me new skills that I can bring to client assignments. For example, the process of creating, reviewing, editing and polishing my book – many, many times – helped me to learn more about the craft of writing. This in turn has benefited the proposals I write for clients.
I have also been able to refer my clients to other professionals I met through my peer networking group, which has paid great dividends in goodwill. My clients often talk to me about strategic and structural issues they face. Knowing specialists who can help them with these has been a win for all of us.
Even though I know that personal projects are important for me, my recent flat patch seemed to be preventing me from coming up with ideas about what to tackle next.
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Rather than struggle on alone, I found a coach to help me set some new challenges. Quite a good bloke, you might have heard of him – name of Robert Gerrish. I had already experienced the value of coaching and knew it would help me, especially in my solo business.
My coach and I talked about what sparked my interest and we set some initial projects for me to explore. Some have already borne fruit; some have been replaced by other, more pressing projects; but all of them have helped renew my passion for my business.
For example, because I’m a marketer by trade, a long-term hobby of mine is tinkering with the way I market my business. Recent projects involve revamping the look and feel of my website, experimenting with Google AdWords and, to the best of my ability, optimising the copy for search engines. These have been great fun to do. Now I just have to stop looking at my AdWords statistics and Googling myself every five minutes!
Another project is launching a networking group for independent business consultants, something that I’d like to belong to but that doesn’t exist where I live. By the way, if you run a small or solo consulting practice in Melbourne, find out more here.
Any kind of work has its ups and downs, and some days I enjoy my work more than others. Despite this, my personal projects give me a sense that I’m working towards something bigger than the next tender deadline.
If you’ve been flying solo for a while, what has helped you renew your passion for your business? Or are you still searching? I’d love to know.