There is a saying that goes “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. As a solopreneur, whether I do things on my own, or outsource some tasks, I still feel that I am go nowhere slowly… never mind fast vs far!
What is a Solopreneur you ask? Well the Urban Dictionary defines it as “An entrepreneur who works alone, “solo,” running their business single-handedly. They might have contractors for hire, yet have full responsibility for the running of their business. The typical solopreneur is easily tempted to become a work-a-holic, not feeling their work is ever done! They do the administrative tasks, marketing, customer service and service delivery typically by themselves.”
Yup, that pretty much describes me at the moment- Lonely AF!
You are completely alone. Yes, sure, others will offer advice or support, but you need to pull the trigger and whatever happens, you are solely responsible.
You can consult with advisors/mentors, liaise with freelancers, share stories with family and friends but in the end there really is a sense of loneliness. Although they may be able to relate, no-one else is going through exactly what you are, have the same amount of skin the game in your venture nor are they there when you wake up at the crack of dawn and/or burn he midnight oil or turning down social events so that you can have time to work on you start up.
Nothing happens in your business, unless you make it happen. So you can’t slack. And even when you do take action, you are not entirely sure whether it is the right thing. No-one is reviewing and approving your work… you are operating blindly.
All decisions are on me. It is MY personal reputation, MY company’s brand, MY capital at risk and… well… MY sanity at risk. All alone…
One man band
As I am a one man band (at the moment)- I had a decision to make- try and do everything by myself (by learning from YouTube videos or online courses) or outsource some of these functions. I decided to go the freelance route- some to family/friends, some through referrals and some randoms I found online (e.g. Fiverr). In the back of my mind I kept hearing “pay peanuts and expect monkeys”; “Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish” plus the advice of many entrepreneurs saying that selecting the best people is theee most important thing. But what choice do I have? I am not at a stage to employ anyone…
Unsurprisingly, I can’t say all of my experiences were great, hey. I often found myself left in the lurch- after they agreed to assist and I agreed to pay them their quoted price and after we went through all the effort on agreeing and signing SLAs. That was difficult, demotivating and a waste of time. For me, the worst, is where I actually paid and the quality was not up to standard.
Nonetheless, I worked with some amazing people, friends, family and complete strangers that offered me their support in whatever form they could- from services to time donated. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
The freelance route freed me up to attend to other aspects of my business; it was affordable but most importantly, it offered me flexibility.
A few months in and I started to realise the true cost of freelancers and it is a twofold problem- namely, unreliability and subpar work. Freelancers/ outsources companies either have full time jobs or working for you part time or they are working on multiple projects at once. So the problem comes in when you are not high up on their priority list- especially if you negotiated a lower rate- even worse if they offered to do you a favour. This results in them either not delivery within AGREED timelines or just completely dropping you. And for someone that is a stickler for time management and commitment- I am losing my mind!!!
Regardless of how you found them, you don’t really know the quality of work. Once you appoint them and they start delivering and you realise that their work isn’t that great- there isn’t really an incentive for them to do better. Once they are done with you, they’ll just move onto the next project. Also, there’s no repercussions if they just outright drop you. That’s different to an employee who know his/her job security is at risk if they don’t deliver.
This is actually quite emotionally draining. It takes time and effort to get freelancers on board, explaining your business, what you need from them, agreeing on SLAs etc- and for that to be rendered useless can get overwhelmingly frustrating. Ideally, I would have liked 1 or 2 people to work on the launch full time- but I’m not ready to employ people yet.
Having experienced this far too many times for my liking, I started wondering if I was the problem. I clearly am the common denominator. But what was I doing wrong? I picked up the bill when we would meet; I did not negotiate the price- I was willing to pay what they asked; I’d consult with them before assigning deadlines and I did not micro manage. I don’t know, maybe the universe wanted me to undergo some character building!
Of course, I’m not trying to paint all freelancers with the same brush. I am currently working with a wonderful team of freelancers who go above and beyond agreed deliverables and are always available when I have follow up questions or request tweaks.
I’m not at all afraid of putting my hand up and asking for assistance- what’s the worst that can happen? Just that they can say No, right? Wrong! The worst that can happen is that they say Yes, promise you the world, you get your hopes up and then they let you down.
Me, I’ll ask once and maybe they’ll agree. I’ll follow up once or twice but that’s it. I do not and will not beg. I don’t know, maybe my pride is getting the better of me but I’ll rather look for alternate ways to solve my problem.
Perhaps, to avoid being disappointed by empty “Yeses”, I should apply more thought on WHO I approach and try and assess their capacity to help. The willingness and the ability to help are two very different things. Someone may honestly and genuinely want to help (or they could just be afraid of confrontation & are unable to say No) but they may not have the time/money/energy/expertise to actually deliver on their promises. That should not be a poor reflection on them. Rather, in my view, the onus is on me to strategically select who I approach. Otherwise I waste my time and theirs.