We had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with Melissa Mesku, Founding Editor of New Worker Magazine. As an advocate...
On the surface, the life of a freelancer might seem quite different than that of a coworking space owner. But the truth is that these two careers are simply two different ways to be an entrepreneur. Whether you’re a freelancer or running a coworking space, the ups and downs of running your own business come with similar struggles. Making the leap into self-employment is incredibly rewarding, but comes with many hindrances and obstacles. But knowing your obstacles is the first step to conquering them. Realizing that your struggles are shared offers you the solace that you’re not in this alone.
In our conversations with these two distinct groups of entrepreneurs, we started to see similar patterns emerge. These are four important areas of personal and professional development to focus on in order to take yourself (and your business) from good to great.
When your business relies on attracting clients, saying yes to everything can certainly sound appealing. But it’s important to remember that both freelancers and coworking space owners run businesses in saturated markets. Freelancers are competing against other freelancers, consultants, and prospective full-time employees to gain contracts and clients. Coworking space owners are competing against other coworking spaces, coffee shops, and commercial real estate managers looking to lease office space.
What’s the best way to stand out from the competition? Commit to a niche and focus your offerings. A strong, specific brand identity is an essential building block of marketing yourself. For Steve Rio, founder of creative agency BriteWeb, this meant focusing on working with brands committed to making a social impact. For Johannes Voelkner, this meant targeting digital nomads with an interest in balancing wanderlust and community with his business Nomad Cruise.
Establishing a niche as a freelancer helps your potential clients understand your creative vision and allows you to sharpen a specific set of skills. For coworking space owners, a strong brand identity makes it clear what you offer in terms of a workspace and a community and helps reinforce your mission. This helps you clarify your value proposition and get prospective members in the door.
Setting off on your own can be intimidating. Choosing to do something non-traditional for work is full of exciting opportunities for innovation but only if you’re ready to tackle the unknown. This might send you into a spiral of fear that you’re not up to the task. Welcome to the world of imposter syndrome. Realizing it plagues you (and everyone else, for that matter) is half the battle. But keeping imposter syndrome from affecting your business decisions is easier said than done.. That’s ultimately how you learn and how you progress from novice to expert. Trust your ability to think on your feet and learn as you go.
If you’re a freelancer expanding your skillset, don’t be afraid to take something on that you’ve never done before. While it’s obviously not smart to lie to a prospective client about your experience level, don’t sell yourself short either. Don’t avoid a job just because you’ve never done it before.
If you run a coworking space–or have been looking for the courage to start one–remember the value that coworking spaces bring to communities. They offer the unconventional, creative workers of the world a place where their innovation is celebrated. You have a whole community of people who think differently and fight the status quo.
Many entrepreneurs are overachievers. They possess a personality type that thrives on independence and the ability to execute on a vision. But being an overachiever has a tendency to go hand in hand with stubbornly refusing help when it’s offered. This can become a real death trap. Relying on your personal and professional network helps you in a few ways. It offers you the chance to learn from other who have more experience. It lets your network feel a vested interest in seeing you and your business succeed. Finally, it helps you not take on more than you can handle and therefore allows you to avoid burning out.
It can be immensely satisfying to be able to say you did something entirely by yourself. But being independent simply on principle can easily slow your growth trajectory. Accepting help doesn’t mean admitting defeat, or that you can’t do it on your own. Working collaboratively will often yield better results. Also, it helps you build a supportive community for yourself and your business. After all, “two heads are better than one” became a common saying for a reason.
Hustling solo can take a real toll on your mental and physical health. A lack of work/life balance will leave you feeling mentally exhausted. When there’s no one telling you when work time ends and leisure time begins, it’s easy to forget to set boundaries. It’s common to check emails at all hours, accept meetings on a week where you’re already stretched too thin, or engage in other unhealthy tendencies that will lead to an abrupt (and brutal) burnout. Between the isolation and the inability to separate your work time and leisure time, entrepreneurs can find this lifestyle a difficult one to adjust to. But you’re no help to anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself. How do you reclaim a healthy balance?
For freelancers, that might mean finding a coworking space. For coworking space managers, it might mean simply setting rules for yourself. For example, communicate with your clients that you will be unreachable via email after 6pm on weekdays and completely unavailable on weekends to make sure you get some much deserved rest.
Find what works for you and set boundaries so your work style is sustainable not only in short sprints, but for the long term.