Solo doesn’t mean alone. You don’t need to go it alone with your service business, in fact, you shouldn’t. But what kind of support do you need and when?
In this episode we’re diving into just what kinds of support you need as a solo business owner…and it’s about way more than simply hiring a random coach or taking yet another course.
Listen Now To This Essay On The BS-Free Service Business Show
Entrepreneurial Loneliness Is Real
As a service business owner, you’re actively supporting your clients. I don’t have to tell you that there’s a lot that goes into providing service to clients on a day-to-day basis. On top of that, you’re running your business and living your life, all of which takes time, energy, skill and so much more.
When I work with solopreneurs, I can see a sigh of relief that happens once we get into the groove. Usually, they’ve been on their own for so long, it’s refreshing to have someone in their corner who understands both them and their business.
I absolutely can relate. For years, I had very limited support in my business, and frankly, I didn’t recognize how much I was carrying until I did. That’s not to say all of the support I’ve had over the years has been great. I’ve had some really terrible coaches (note: I’m not a coach, I’m a consultant) and made some ridiculous hiring decisions based on what I thought I “should” be doing.
But when I’ve had great support (from a variety of places which we’ll dive into a moment), it made a marked difference as I didn’t feel like I was all by my lonesome with my business.
The fact is, that owning a business can be stressful, but it can also be incredibly lonely. A 2016 study by Fernet et al. looked at the phenomenon of entrepreneurial loneliness and how it contributes to burnout. The research found that the more lonely owners were, the more likely they were to burnout, as they were deeply invested in the company at the expense of connection.
Weiss's (1973) research also said that “loneliness is caused not by being alone but by being without some definite needed relationship or set of relationships.”
In the same way, we need a social support system, we need a support system within our business. We need various types of relationships so we’re NOT going it alone.
This doesn’t automatically mean you need to hire a VA or join a high-ticket program. As a solo business owner, you need support that’s going to work in conjunction with your unique needs and in service of your goals.
What Type of Support Do You Need?
Support comes in so many different shapes and forms, so it’s not enough to decide you need support of some kind, you need to get specific.
A lack of clarity about what type of support you’re seeking can easily contribute to making “investments” that are misaligned.
Celebrity entrepreneurs make big promises that when you’re seeking support for your business is incredibly enticing. In many cases, they weaponize your desire for support, connection and community against you to make the sale.
In my 2023 Online Business Investment Survey respondents shared their frustration with false promises and the general bait and switch of these offers as anything was said to make the sale. The marketing for so many types of support sounds good, but it’s critical that you slow down and consider what you REALLY need.
Generally, support that most solopreneurs would need falls into one of four categories.
Social media connections
Family and friends
Support at home
Start by clarifying what category you need help in and the type of help in that category. I often see people doing skills development when they don’t have time for it and would be better served by hiring a done-for-you service provider.
Another common one is enrolling in a course or program with a community attached as a way to build relationships.
If you’re not sure, start with these questions:
- Do I want to learn how to do this, or have it done for me?
- Am I looking for help with strategy or tactics?
- Do I need business-specific support or more personal support?
- How much time and energy do I want to spend on this?
- Do I have a budget for this?
- What type of skills or experience should my “support” have?
- What are my expectations for this support?
- What would make this a win?
If you’re considering coaching, programs, or courses, the 2023 Online Business Investment Survey provides some additional insights in terms of what made the difference in being satisfied or unsatisfied with their investment.
Support and availability of the coach
Solid and helpful information
Delivered as promised
Great community and support
Lack of impact on my business
Too expensive for the value
Lack of support
The group was too big
Too much work
Zero access to the coach/creator
Do You Need to Pay for Support?
The other thing I want to address is that for support to be helpful and meaningful, it doesn’t automatically need to be something you pay for. There’s this pervasive online business myth about how if you don’t pay for something you don’t value it.
Again, this is designed to convince us that we need to spend our money for something to have value. (And usually, it’s backed up by the BS assertion that the more we pay, the more we’ll value it, which exists to justify ridiculous high ticket pricing.)
Over the years, I’ve had a mix of support that has made an incredible difference to my business. Some of that has been paid, and some of that has been more community-based. One of my closest friends from my PR program has freelanced on and off so we’ve always talked about business. I have a strong network of business friends and people I’m connected with on social media that I talk to regularly.
Getting support shouldn’t automatically require a massive financial investment. That makes it incredibly elitist and frankly, inaccessible to the majority of people. Most people don’t have $25k to drop on a fluffy six-month mastermind, including one call a month and a two-day retreat. (Don’t even get me started on how messed up that is and how it’s buying your business friends…)
Speaking of money, if you’re going to pay for any kind of support, I recommend you plan and budget for it. That can help you ensure that your critical thinking isn’t short-circuited by manipulative marketing and sketchy sales practices in the heat of the moment.
When Do You Need Support?
You’ll need different types of support in different seasons of your business. The support you need will change and evolve, and no type of support will be the perfect solution forever.
One of my biggest pet peeves in the online business world is the value-ladder type offers that are designed to lock people into an ever-escalating series of investments under the guise of support.
We’ve been sold this idea we need very specific types of support continuously to be “successful” when it’s really about continuing to extract money from us. This is one of the cultiest aspects of the online business industry are we’re indoctrinated into being fearful of leaving that ecosystem.
No type of support will be suitable indefinitely. Period.
So as you consider support, think about your season in your business or life and plan accordingly. Shifting and changing your support over time is natural and normal.
The support I need today is very different than it was when I started my business and has shifted from being more personally focused to more professionally driven.
As a solopreneur, your support system is essential to building and running a sustainable business, so I encourage you to examine what support you need right now and in the future.