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From Solopreneur to 7 Figures: Scaling with Success in Mind

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Creatives around the world are finally seizing the opportunity that’s been in front of them all along: They are leaving traditional employment to go out on their own and make more money while enjoying higher levels of flexibility and freedom.

They are becoming solopreneurs — and they aren’t looking back. Designers, writers, front-end developers, marketing managers and others are establishing their own businesses in droves. But it’s not all roses and rainbows. As they launch these new endeavors, they also discover a series of challenges.

Solopreneurs have to do it all (as the name suggests). When you work alone, you are the sales department, customer service, and the administrative assistant. Oh, and you also have to keep up with the actual work, too.

Some solopreneurs may get frustrated by all of the day-to-day tasks required in a company of one. But others will find ways to scale their solopreneurship ventures into 7-figure businesses that are built to last. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? A 7-figure business?

It’s a reality for many who take the right steps to scale simple freelance businesses into something much bigger. See below for a breakdown of the eight steps you can take to scale your freelance business to 7 figures — and beyond.

1. Go Deep in Your Niche

Many creatives enter the freelance world as jacks of all trades. I did that. I started freelance writing in 2014, and I did it all: webpages, case studies, direct mail pieces, blog posts, brochures, etc. I did it for every type of company imaginable: insurance agencies, real estate firms, travel companies, plus more. It was a huge mistake.

Being a generalist means low pay, few repeat customers, and a constant battle to find the next assignment. It took me a few years, but I finally saw the light: I needed a niche.

I had written enough tech-related content that I felt comfortable in the space. So I started writing only for B2B SaaS providers. I had plenty of experience in B2B SaaS, and it’s also an industry poised for significant growth, making it even more attractive as a niche. It’s made all the difference.

When you go deep in your niche, you position yourself as an expert. And, when a prospective client in your niche needs the service you provide, you suddenly become the obvious choice.

To scale, find your niche and go deep. Become the obvious choice in your area of speciality so that you can get more than your fair share of clients and work.

2. Set Target Margins

Go deep in your niche, and you’ll soon have more work than you can handle. When that happens, you’ll be tempted to start hiring. Maybe hire a virtual assistant to help out with grunt work. But, in general, suppress the temptation to hire lots of help.

First, focus on setting target margins.

Your margin is what percentage of revenue you keep after outsourcing to a freelancer. For example, imagine you secure a $400 writing assignment. You outsource the assignment for $200, and your freelancer returns submission-ready content. That’s great! You’ve just achieved a 50% margin.

How much money do you want to take home each month? Let’s say it’s $10,000. If you can secure $20,000 of work and outsource it while maintaining your 50% margin, you’ve reached your goal. Many businesses operate with shockingly low margins. That’s not the case when you work as a creative service provider. With the right strategies, you can skyrocket past paltry 7–10% margins to achieve much more.

Set your target margins and get these numbers ironed out before you start hiring. Scaling to 7 figures is a math problem to be tackled and solved. When you have your target numbers set, you have a roadmap for reaching a happy solution.

3. Establish Routines

When you work by yourself, you can afford to set your own schedule. Slept until 10 a.m. this morning? It’s fine as long as you get your work done. Get up at 5 a.m. and start cranking so you can knock off after lunch? That’s fine, too.

But things are different when you start working with others. You’ll need to develop and establish an effective routine, not just for doing your own work, but also for managing the work and productivity of others.

Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll be chained to a desk 10 hours a day. That’s why you left traditional employment, right? But it does mean you need a predictable schedule into which you can fit the work of others. Your routine works hand in hand with the next step: building systems.

Business Person
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4. Build Systems

Just like you can keep any schedule you want on a team of one, you can also get by without using systems. But, when you scale your team for the future, you’ll quickly fail unless you have systems in place to streamline your collaborative work.

Some of the most common systems required to scale a business include:

  • Project management software: Projects that include the client, yourself plus others will quickly fall apart unless you use project management software to establish timelines and monitor progress. Most project management software also allows for easy team communication.
  • Asynchronous communication tools: We operate in a remote-first working environment now. Use asynchronous communication tools (like Loom and Notion) to stay in touch with your team even when you live in different time zones or on different continents.
  • Payment and invoicing infrastructure: How will you manage invoicing clients and paying your team members? Invoices may be relatively easy when you’re working alone. But, as you add more people to the mix, you’ll want an efficient and automated system for inflows and outflows of money.

There may be other systems you need to create for your unique business. While you may not need them when you’re still working alone, start using them anyway. When you start using systems while working solo, it’s far easier to incorporate new team members into those systems as you start to scale.

5. Find the Right People

Routines and systems only get you so far. Eventually, you’ll need people to help you do the heavy lifting in your business. There’s good news, though: Finding a quality freelancer is easier now than ever before.

You can use freelance websites like Upwork, Fiverr and Toptal to browse through different service providers to find the ones that best fit your business. What should you look for in a freelancer? Look for someone who:

  • Offers experience within your industry.
  • Shares a portfolio full of work that’s relevant to what you need done.
  • Points to a track record of success (including quality ratings and powerful testimonials).

You’ll also want to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the interview process. When you start talking to a developer or designer or writer who you’re thinking of hiring, you’ll get a gut feeling that tells you whether to move forward or back off.

There’s also nothing wrong with making a paid test assignment. For example, if you’re hiring a writer, give a few different candidates a blog post to write. You’ll discover two things during the test: 1) how well the freelancer can do his or her job, and 2) what level of effort they’re willing to put into the work.

Spend a lot of time hiring. Looking into prospective freelancers’ backgrounds. And get to know them during the interview process. If you take your time with hiring, you’ll soon have a team of contractors who can help you scale your business.

Business People
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6. Choose a Deputy

Perhaps the worst part of running your own business is feeling like you can’t take a day off. If you get sick, if you take a vacation, or if you just don’t feel like working one day, there’s no one to step into your place and run the show. That’s why you need a deputy.

As your business starts to grow, look at your pool of freelancers to see if there’s someone who could help you with operations. If not one of your freelancers, consider posting an opening to job boards. Your goal is to find someone who you trust and who can effectively keep the work moving forward if and when you want to step away for a few days or weeks.

This is your most essential hire. Many entrepreneurs dream of getting their businesses to the point where the founder is no longer needed. Without a deputy who can manage things in your absence, you’ll never get to that point.

7. Diversify Your Revenue Streams

Life as a service provider can be tough, even if you’re growing and building a team. To change things up a bit, use your skills and experience to diversify your income stream.

Each of the ideas listed above can help you establish semi-automated streams of income that supplement your revenue made through creative services. Who knows? In time, you may find that the things you started to diversify your income end up surpassing what you were making before.

8. Deliver Amazing Service

Your business will only succeed if you deliver amazing service. This is true when it’s just you working with a handful of clients, and this is just as true when you have a team of freelancers and a full-time deputy working for you.

As you scale, it’s essential that you maintain the quality of your output. Quality is your calling card and reputation. Without delivering amazing service, no one will want to work with you, no matter how big or small your company is at any given time.

There’s No Better Time to Grow

Maybe you run a side hustle in addition to your full-time job. Or maybe you recently left a full-time job to freelance on your own. That’s fantastic, because there’s never been a better time to start your own business and watch it grow.

If you’re a creative, you can work for businesses around the world that:

  • Need pure productivity: In a post-pandemic world, companies are less interested in hiring full-timers. They want access to pure productivity on demand, which is exactly what talented freelancers provide.
  • Embrace remote work: It doesn’t matter where you live or what times you work. Businesses just want the job done well, and they’re willing to hire the best freelancers.
  • Pay premium prices: The best freelancers can command premium pay. That’s why so many people are leaving their jobs to work on their own — the financial incentives are enormous.

Set yourself apart by delivering the productivity that companies are looking for. If you can master business development, you can follow the steps above to scale your business from solopreneurship to 7 figures.

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