solo but not aloneI’ve had the same conversation with no fewer than five solo business owners over the last week. Whenever that happens, I know the topic is something we should cover here on Business Unplugged.

My specialty is working with solo consultants and helping them find great clients and build sustainable businesses. There seems to be a pattern that most of them follow.

Initially, they are excited to be their own boss and be in charge. They think they have the knowledge they need to run a business because they are competent in their area of expertise.

They couldn’t be more mistaken.

What they soon realize is that they’re able to deliver the work, but have no idea how to run a business.

Often a small business owner will get lucky and find their first client(s) fairly easily. This can lead to them thinking they don’t have to do any marketing or business development and clients will just find them.

This is the business equivalent of “If you build it, they will come.” It rarely works out that way, and the poor new business owner is in for a big letdown, not unlike a brutal crash from a sugar high.

Weeks / months / years later after banging their head against the wall or shutting down completely due to overwhelm, they reach out for help. They find a mentor, coach, mastermind group, book, online course, online community – whatever.

Then they realize that they don’t know what they don’t know, and start trying to identify the right questions they should be asking and resources they need.

What I am realizing from the conversations I have had this week is that even if you’re a solo business owner, you really shouldn’t try to go it alone. Here are seven strategies for sanity and success:

1. Feed your head and hone your craft.

However busy you are, I think it’s important to take time out and read blogs and books and listen to podcasts. Engage with content that is in your industry and area of expertise, and also follow your interests wherever they might lead. You might find a best practice from another industry. Or even a new passion.

2. Embrace the ebbs and flows.

Every business is seasonal. And your energy and enthusiasm for your business will vary as well. This is totally normal – but you’ll want to manage against it.

3. Find referral partners.

This can work wonders for your business. Find others who provide complementary products or services and put a process in place for referring business. Your network of potential prospects will expand exponentially with each person you add to the group.

4. Create a group to cross-promote on social media.

This is something I did really well when I started my business and need to do again. Social proof is incredibly important for credibility, and for placement in search results. Find other business owners who are targeting the same niche and share each other’s content.

5. Join or start a mastermind group with other entrepreneurs.

Mastermind groups elevate everyone’s game. You will have your blinders on, and will only be able to see things based on your previous experiences. If you’re stuck in your business, just ask another business owner for advice. They may suggest something fantastic that never occurred to you.

6. Share ideas and collaborate via blogging or podcasting.

This year, I got a referral for a job search coaching client from a woman who was on my podcast five years ago! The easiest way to make and build relationships is to be able to offer something. I ask people if they would like to guest blog on Carol’s blog. Or if they would like to be a guest on my podcast. People are thrilled, and almost always say yes.

7. Manage against isolation.

“Solo but not alone” is a theme I’ve written about for years. Our friend, Steve Woodruff, wrote a poignant rant recently, “I’m Fed Up,” which included an impassioned plea to build connections and networks.

This last point is huge. If you know that you’re a natural extrovert, “living the dream of working in your pajamas” is a recipe for clinical depression. My advice? Get thee to a coworking space – pronto!

But please know that introverts are equally at risk. They still need to get out and interact with others. Online interactions are great, but they can’t fully replace in-person connections. My strong recommendation: Do both.

Six years working in my own business and working with Carol has taught me so much. If you’re in your business for the long haul, please consider the above suggestions so you can have more fun and make more money with your business.

It really does take a village.