We hear a lot of words like “authenticity” and “failure” thrown around when talking about careers and businesses.
But these words are often used in big-picture terms, as though someone just starting out in her career should know what we mean when we use them. Today’s Q&A is part two of a career mini-series (see part one from last week here) that focuses on words in the context of careers and really getting specific about them.
I’m chatting with One Woman Shop founder Cristina Roman, whose community for creative solopreneurs addresses one word in particular: isolation. See what Cristina has to say below.
Briefly tell us your story and how you came to become so laser-focused on what you wanted to pursue for a career.
I think my friends and family would crack up if they heard someone call me “laser-focused”! I’ve always struggled with being pulled in a ton of different directions. Luckily, there’s a name for this kind of person, which I really identify with: multipassionate. It’s for those of us who love to dabble in various projects, always have our fingers in many pies, and love to learn just about everything.
That being said, I have found the common thread in my various projects and interests relatively recently: working with young women to find and thrive in careers and businesses that they love. Even more specifically, I now work almost exclusively with women who are starting or running their own solo businesses.
I do this through running One Woman Shop, a resource hub and community for female solopreneurs and freelancers, and offering business and career coaching and consulting, e-courses, and seminars through CMR Strategies in the areas of digital marketing, productivity, and personal branding.
And of the best parts of running my own business is that I can incorporate in any new interests I have willy nilly. That’s how my Unique Hobbies blog series and my Cultivating Happiness email series both came about, for example.
One thing your business touches on is something many people don’t talk about in entrepreneurship—loneliness and isolation. How does self-employment lend itself to those things and how can entrepreneurs combat them?
I would say that’s the number-one complaint of solo business owners and is how our tagline “going it alone doesn’t have to be lonely” came about. Entrepreneurs often start out working alone, either by choice or by necessity, and this can lead to a feeling of isolation, especially if friends and family don’t share the same passion for discussing the ins and outs of email marketing, the pros and cons of different legal designations, and the best strategies for finding a virtual assistant!
It can be tough working from home alone day in and day out, often going to a coffee shop doesn’t have quite the same feel as being in an office, and coworking spaces (shared office spaces for freelancers and entrepreneurs) can be expensive.
My advice for combatting this feeling of isolation: Meet other solo business owners in your area through Meetup, Twitter (try using FollowerWonk to search by area), and other local events; plan work dates and coffee dates to get out of the house; collaborate with other solopreneurs on projects and events, and set up periodic phone calls with people who motivate and inspire you (some of my most productive days have come after early morning phone calls that lit me up!).
We place a high value on authenticity in business these days, but that can seem like a double-edged sword for anyone just starting out who doesn’t want to offend potential clients or employers. How can any entrepreneur or corporate ladder climber walk that fine line while keeping her personality intact?
I think it comes down to making a decision: if there is a part of you that has the potential to offend or alienate someone – like your dirty jokes, your strong religious beliefs, or your political affiliation – and you choose to bring that into your business or the workplace, you need to own all of the possible repercussions. That could include not getting hired by a certain client or a company you want to work for.
Some people have made very successful careers for themselves by being 100% their “not suitable for work” selves – like Ash of the Middle Finger Project. This works for them, but it doesn’t mean you need to be the same way. It’s not inauthentic to have slightly different versions of yourself in your everyday life and your work life, as long as you don’t feel weird about it.
People talk a lot about failure as a positive thing. But what do you think they mean by that? Is there good failure and bad failure, and how can we use both to our advantage?
Failure sure is having its heyday, huh? It’s a complicated discussion because failure is all about perspective. For example, a $10,000 product launch could be an utter flop for one business owner, while it’s a gold mine for another. It’s also a matter of attitude – what one person considers failure, another may consider a learning experience. Basically, I think it’s all subjective!
The idea behind thinking of failure as a positive thing is that if you are putting out there over and over, you’re bound to fail sometimes. If you’re not failing occasionally, it probably means you didn’t really put yourself out there. In my opinion, it’s not absolutely necessary to fail, but it’s important to not be afraid to fail. And when you do fail, it’s crucial to learn from your mistakes.
At the risk of sounding too cheesy, we can use every failure to our advantage by learning from it. For example, I offered paid membership on One Woman Shop from the very beginning and exactly one person became a member in the first six months – pretty big failure, right? I learned that I needed to have a solid base of active individuals, prove that I provide valuable content, and poll my audience about what they were looking for in a paid membership site. Now that we’ve done those things, we’re relaunching our paid membership component!
How can someone just starting out build a community (online and in the real world) that will give her not only the audience, but the relationships necessary for upward growth?
Great question – we’re actually launching a coaching program around this idea! I think the first step is to cultivate resourcefulness and the ability to see the opportunities around you. Once you realize that opportunities to connect are everywhere, things get rolling pretty quickly. Another important piece is to make building a strong community around you a priority, not just something that falls to the wayside.
I firmly believe that community building is not a one-size-fits-all thing; for example, some people love online networking, while others thrive on making in-person connections. Some people build community through blogging, while others have find Instagram to be more suited to them. It’s all about finding your fit while still being willing to experiment.
Hands-down, my #1 recommendation is to get incredibly comfortable with direct outreach, whether it’s to ask people to join your email list, be a guest on your podcast, let you speak to their organization, or partner with you on a collaboration.
At One Woman Shop, we’ve been putting a lot of effort into high-impact activities, such as guest posting on sites like Design*Sponge, setting up a pop-up on the site, doing direct outreach to women we think would be a good fit for the community, and partnering with solo business owners on things like our 28 Tips for Growing Your Community freebie.
Enjoy what she had to say or have any thoughts of your own? Let us know in the comments. And if this series hasn’t touched on something you’d like to see covered, let me know that, too!