Discover more from Terri Lonier’s Working Solo
Your most important solopreneur decision
There’s one decision that will determine the trajectory of your solo success. And most solopreneurs give it little thought.
Early in my working solo journey, personal computers were just coming onto the scene. It may seem odd from today’s perspective, but people didn’t know what these machines could do and needed help learning how to use them.
Two guys I knew — let’s call them Jim and Zach, for privacy's sake — were smart, personable, and possessed strong computer skills. Each set up solo businesses to serve this nascent market of computer newbies.
Jim decided he wanted to help a general audience who needed computer guidance. He recognized that many of his friends were interested in the potential of personal computers. He wanted to show them how to leverage computing power for personal use.
Zach, on the other hand, was focused from the start on offering personalized computer services for rock stars and celebrities. I vividly remember him telling me: “They have lots of money, and I’ll get to hang out with some pretty cool people.”
As computers became more popular, Jim’s business surged. But he often complained that many of his clients didn’t have much money, and it was tough for him to make enough money from hourly billing.
In contrast, Zach’s business took longer to grow. He was building a network of musicians and actors, serving as a personal computer tutor. After several months of intense work, Zach’s musician clients started referring him to fellow musicians. “You’re having trouble with your computer? Oh, you gotta talk to Zach. He’s my guy.”
The decision that’s overlooked
Most solopreneurs spend a lot of time thinking about the type of work they want to do. “Oh, I like to __________ (fill in the blank: write, speak, cook, design, code, garden, work with wood, etc.). I think I’ll start a business around that.”
That’s an important decision, to be sure. But a companion decision is even more critical. And it’s often made with little thought.
Who do you want as customers or clients?
The impact of one decision
Like ripples from a rock thrown in a pond, this decision about the clients you choose will determine — more than you might imagine — the extent of your solo success. Why? Let’s consider:
Clients with more money can pay you more.
This is Economics 101, but in wanting to do work they love, many solopreneurs often overlook this oh-so-obvious factor.
They’ll refer you to others in their peer group.
Word-of-mouth remains a primary driver for solo business growth. You can create a pipeline of others who have similar needs and budgets.
You’ll establish a brand.
Some may call this approach “focusing on a niche,” but I think it’s more than that. You’re establishing a personal brand of who you are and the problems you solve for a particular audience.
The last time I heard about Jim and Zach, they were still involved with the computer industry. Zach was jetting around Europe on tour with a heavy metal band and had an A-list client roster of actors on retainer. Jim had pivoted his business (a term we didn’t know or use at the time!) to serve business clients who wanted to do complex tasks with databases.
The fault of default decisions
The lesson? Choose your customer base with care and intention.
As a talented individual with ambition, you can offer many things to the world. By being clear on who you want as customers, many other parts of your solo business will fall into place.
Does this mean economic status should be a primary driver or that you’ll only work with those who have big budgets? Not necessarily. But realize that in choosing your target customer base, you’re also by default choosing some revenue parameters.
The mistake is not that solopreneurs choose a restricted target market. It’s that we often don’t think about the choice at all.
Working solo is about the freedom to choose. It’s time to answer this: How much thought have you put into which customers you want to serve?