Starting your own business can be a daunting, confusing journey. On top of that, most statistics indicate the majority of businesses don't survive beyond the first few years. So when I was in the process of starting my own business five years ago, I was very open to hearing any advice on how to succeed as a solopreneur.
I was fortunate to receive a lot of great advice. One mentor told me to take a portfolio approach to my work, and it turns out that diversifying my services has been instrumental in maintaining my more stable stream of income. I heard great advice from business podcasts, including the suggestion to invest time honing my personal pitch, which has served me well with prospective clients. I've also read a lot of helpful advice on ensuring my mindset is positive and healthy, which has helped me weather the inevitable ups and downs of my entrepreneurial journey.
However, I've also received some bad advice along the way.
The worst advice I received came when I was wrapping up my professional coach training and certification and just starting my business. The coaching program itself was excellent. It focused on training you to become an effective professional coach, providing tools, techniques, and frameworks to help you help your clients achieve their career and life goals. I found the training incredibly transformative.
Many professionals like me enroll in these programs with the hope of eventually building our own coaching practices. As part of that program, we were given access to group calls with a "business advisor" who provided guidance on the more practical side of building your own business—topics like finding your niche, pricing, and marketing. Although I found some of these sessions useful, I found one particular piece of advice rather unhelpful.
During the call focused on marketing, this advisor told a group of us that as a new, self-employed business owner, "You don't need to have a website." She didn't have a website herself, and she said it never stopped her from reaching her target clients or business goals. She said a website was "completely optional" and that having one simply wasn't necessary, at least as an independent business owner.
As someone who spent the majority of my career in brand management, I was completely shocked to hear her say this. One of the very first things I did when I started my career consultancy was to get my website up and running. Granted, I pieced one together using a free WordPress.com template resulting in a very rudimentary site that now makes me cringe when I think about it. Still, I had one.
One of the first questions every single prospective client has asked me is whether I have a website they can check out. Every single client who has ended up working with me has told me they first perused my website. And every single opportunity I've had to host a talk or workshop for a conference or organization has emerged only after someone spotted my other talks on my website.
I'm not technical at all when it comes to web design, and I understand that creating a website can feel daunting. However, these days, you can easily outsource this and get it done quickly and affordably. Find someone you know who has a nice website, then ask them who created it. Alternatively, turn to a freelance platform like Upwork or 99Designs to find a developer.
I know creating a website can feel like a hassle, and you may think you can skip having one so you can just get on with your work. However, if you are an independent business owner, solopreneur, or self-employed professional, you absolutely need to have a website to be considered legitimate and credible. Invest the time, money, and energy into creating one. Your business depends on it.
Joseph Liu is a keynote speaker, career change strategist, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast featuring inspiring stories of people who reinvented their careers. Follow him on Twitter & LinkedIn.
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