Over the past decade, women have been starting businesses at more than double the rate…
The Woman Solopreneur’s Best Kept Secret
Many women solopreneurs are hiding a secret. As a coach or facilitator, there is often a ‘Big Reveal’ in my initial conversation with them. It goes something like this:
1. A description of the business
What do you do?
The solopreneur describes her business. She usually pitches it well and has a strong grasp of what her clients need. She will almost always convince me that she offers great service, and that the business is purpose-driven. She’ll tell one or two success stories and, with humility and conviction, she will persuade me of the value of her business.
2. Acknowledgement of the challenges
So how is it going for you?
This is where she lets down her guard a little. There’s the lack-of-time and lack-of-team admission. She tells me how difficult it is to get everything done and that she is working long hours, but that she is unable to hire any help. Yet.
3. The ‘Big Reveal’
How are you doing financially?
This is the trigger question for the ‘Big Reveal’. After convincing me of how good the business is (and I am almost always convinced) she reveals that she is drawing very little, if any, income.
The woman solopreneur’s best kept secret is that she is earning very little or nothing.
She will tell me with some hesitation, but as soon as she has, the floodgates open on all the information that she has kept hidden for so long. Often there are tears.
Then comes the ‘Personal Ultimatum’. It goes something like this: ‘If I don’t see financial results by [insert one of the following: the end of the financial year, next year, three years’ time], I’ll have to throw in the towel. I can no longer rely on [insert one of the following: bank loans, my partner, my initial sponsor, my savings] to support my business.’
Why do women solopreneurs continue to struggle to earn sufficient income?
There are any number of reasons for this. The external factors are that Australia has a big gender pay gap and it filters into all aspects of society, money is hard to talk about, pricing structures are not transparent and women have loads of responsibilities outside of their business. Or simply their costs might be higher than their income.
The internal factors are around confidence and value: many woman solopreneurs struggle with the imposter syndrome and the Monster Within, and under-value their own services. Women also tend to spend a lot of time testing the market before charging full market value.
If you are a woman solopreneur and your income is meagre, what can you do about it?
I have three suggestions:
1. Make sure your business model is viable.
Check your business model. Work out what is going wrong. If you are unsure, purchase some advice. Connect with a business coach or mentor or find a government service that supports small businesses. Perhaps you don’t have a plan and are just hoping for the best? Then it’s certainly time to get help.
2. Check your money mindset.
You may be holding yourself back. Some of the comments I have heard are: ‘If I earn more than my peers we are not a community’; ‘I feel bad earning more when I know there are people in other countries who earn far less – I would rather give some of my time away’; and ‘I don’t need to earn well – I just need to earn enough’. Each of these arguments has some truth, but if you think the world will be poorer for your business closing, then it’s time to step up your earning and keep going.
3. Set your activities 80/20 to bring in money.
Spend 80 per cent of your time and energy on bringing in money. Ask yourself whether your website has to be perfect before you offer your service (how many people come to you through your website)? Ask yourself whether you should be doing your social media or whether you can contract it out? Check what is keeping you busy every day and shift your focus to income generation. Free up as much time and energy as possible for sales conversations and services.
Of course, some women solopreneurs are highly successful. But if you are one of those who has been hiding the big secret of earning very little or nothing, remember that small tweaks can make a big impact on your business. If you are not sure where to start, get help. You can read useful articles like this one by Amanda Fisher or these articles about making money on Smallville, get professional help and/or find an accountability buddy to keep you on track.
Remember, look after yourself first by spending the time, and possibly the money, to turn your business around: you must ‘breathe normally before helping others’ as they say on the safety briefing on an aeroplane.
Focus on earning enough now, rather than lose your business to lack of income in the future.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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