Course Corrections for Solo Pros


Did you know that rockets are off course most of the time?

Rockets reach their destination because they continually correct the course they’re on. It’s the same in business. The trick is to mess up as much as you need to and understand what you can do better.

Three Simple Rules of Course Correction

Rule #1: Change the way you measure progress
If you’re constantly ‘networking’ but don’t have a full pipeline of clients, you may not be using the right measuring stick.

I had a client that loved networking. The type of event didn’t matter. She went to Chamber of Commerce events, ladies luncheons, lunch & learns. She would drive hundreds of miles a week to events, and most events had a fee as well. She would be all aglow afterwards talking about how many people she spoke with at the events. But when asked how many actually hired her…silence. None.

The people attending these events were usually selling Avon or they were real estate agents or job seekers. They were not business owners who would hire her. She was using the wrong measuring stick. She confused the amount of ‘people’ she talked to with making quality – and qualified – connections with ideal clients.

When we work for ourselves we can feel isolated. Getting out and mixing with others is important, but don’t confuse ‘socializing’ with networking. You must be strategic with your time and resources. This woman was wasting a lot of resources in terms of time, energy, and money (for gas, food, and event fees) with no return on that investment (ROI). There’s another cost that’s less apparent. It can be emotionally draining.

Strategy: Use the right measuring stick

  • Be strategic in your networking, online and offline
  • Clearly define your ideal client and where they’re networking – that’s where you want to show up
  • Turn your networking activities into heat-seeking missions with a purpose
  • Be conscious of the resources you’re using and track the ROI
  • The more laser-focused your networking activities, the better the results you will get

Rule #2: Apply a wide-angle lens

Business is a part of your life. How you’ve structured it will have a lot to do with your lifestyle but it’s only a segment of your life. It does not determine your success or failure as a person. If you’re struggling, make sure that your giving other areas of your life equal time.

When we’re focused on getting more clients or how to manage our to-do lists, we let other areas of our life careen out of control – or worse – wither and die. Too much focus can be harmful. Take some time for other areas of your life. Studies have shown that you’re more effective when you vary tasks through out the day. Break up tasks that require deep concentration with mindless tasks like filing or watering the yard.

Your mind needs time to ‘percolate’ on ideas. Be sure that you’re getting nourishing food, intermittent exercise, and have positive and up-lifting relationships.

Strategy: Concentrate on making better choices
Here are a few examples:

  • Exercise rather than slouch on the couch
  • Be of service to someone else when you’re feeling over taxed by work
  • Be strategic with your time and energy rather than ‘busy’
  • Do something creative or inspirational instead of play video games
  • Buy yourself something you enjoy instead of always saying you can’t afford it
  • Or flip that last one and say ‘no’ once in a while instead of feeling guilty for spending when you can’t afford it

Rule #3: Marshal your thoughts

A lot of time in business, we make our own stress. Our thoughts can create all kinds of scenarios where terrible things happen. I can remember a recent conversation with some solo pros that went from the ridiculous to the extreme: “I don’t have health insurance, what if I get hit by a bus?” (How likely is that while you’re sitting in a coffee shop?), or “I didn’t back up my files this week, what if my computer dies tonight?” (Is that really likely either?). Or one of my favorites: “I’ve got to change my passwords weekly because I’m banking online and someone will sneak into my account and steal all my money.” (Yikes!)

There’s an old saying that goes: Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow. You can work yourself into a lather dreaming up all the terrible things that can go wrong, but 1) they’re not very likely, and 2) if you’ve got a little common sense, you’re probably making good enough choices that the worst-case scenarios are pretty unlikely.

I am a fairly laid-back Type B person. I know several ‘raving’ Type A personalities and they do tend to concentrate more on those ‘What if’ scenarios. My advise is to take a few deep breaths occasionally and ask yourself how likely the worse-case scenario is to happen to you right now. Try to funnel that nervous energy into something more constructive for your business.

Strategy: Focus on the horizon
I read an interesting report recently. It said that when you’re feeling car or boat sick you should take the wheel. Focusing on the horizon distracts your nervous system away from the feeling of instability.

Isn’t that interesting? The physical act of taking control actually directs your nervous system to calm down and focus on the task at hand. There is an application here for your business. If you’re struggling to pay bills because you don’t have enough clients – pull back and look at the big picture. As I teach in the Solo Pro Academy, selling services should only be one profit center. If it’s not paying for you right now, shift your focus to start fleshing out the other income quadrants.

Take the ‘helm’ of your own business and do some strategic planning. Putting some other things in motion will help you feel more confident and stable.

For example, I set up several affiliate programs years ago. I do very little ‘tending’ to them, but each month they pull in a few hundred dollars so I can concentrate on more ‘top-of-mind’ projects.

Bonus Strategy: Choose what takes center stage
Next time you have a stray thought cross your mind – choose whether to entertain it or not. If the thought makes you feel stressed, give it a ‘reality’ test. If it’s extremely unlikely, forcefully expel it from you mind. If it is possible, think of things you can do to take control and mitigate the situation. If it’s a stray idea that intrigues you write it down in your idea notebook and explore it later. It may be your next brilliant information product, workshop or business idea.

The last word: Aim for success, not perfection
Too many Solo Pros get caught in the quagmire of endlessly polishing their work and they never move beyond that. That’s not success. It’s paralysis. Determine what success will look like and when you get there, stop and move on.

Barbara Saunders

I'm Barbara Saunders, The Solo Pro Success Coach and it's my mission to help Solo Pros go from floundering to flourishing! I do that as the Director of the International Association of Self-Employed Communication Professionals and as the Founder of the Solo Pro Academy where I have programs focused specifically on helping the solo pros build a profitable custom fit business. I'm also the Host of the international internet radio show Solo Pro Radio.

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