Bad Habit 2: Being a Lone Wolf
Sixty-four percent of tech entrepreneurs run a one-person business. It takes guts to go solo. And it comes with risk. When you go solo, there's a chance you'll end up like Simon and a chance you'll end up like Garfunkel.
64% of tech professionals run a one-person business.
Of course, you don't do everything on your own. You might hire a contract designer or outsource your taxes. But from a legal perspective, most IT entrepreneurs choose a one-person business structure.
Why does that matter? For starters, working alone can be exhausting. The pressure is always on you, and you miss out on office small talk, coffee breaks with coworkers, and arguments about the tamales food truck. Beyond the lost social interaction, working alone can prevent you from making the important, on-the-fly connections that lead to paying gigs down the road.
How to Make Business Connections When Working on Your Own
If you're the only employee, your business's revenue may be threatened because you…
- Can quickly exhaust your business connections.
- Run out of new business opportunities.
- Have fewer resources at your disposal to seek outside professional development.
Good news: there are ways to combat these risks! Sole proprietors can form profitable business relationships and avoid being isolated from new opportunities by:
- Getting involved in professional groups.
- Connecting with the local tech community.
- Joining an accelerator.
But don't take our word for it. Here's what some IT veterans have to say about these strategies:
On Joining Professional Groups…
Lonnie Emard (LonnieEmard ) held senior IT positions at BlueCross BlueShield before he decided to dedicate his career to the advancement of IT and began working with IT-oLogy (@IT_oLogy ). IT-oLogy is a nonprofit that focuses on getting more students to study IT and offers professional development to current IT professionals.
Emard says solopreneurs can protect their business's revenue by getting involved in professional organizations. So how does it work?
Think about the common practice of contracting. Wouldn't it be great to get a contracting gig with a high-paying client? Emard points out that, yes, big companies outsource their work to contractors, but many are hesitant to hire someone they've never heard of.
Big companies prefer to hire contractors with personal references.
But you can get your foot in the door by being active in professional organizations. Many of the IT professionals you meet through professional organizations may be looking to hire contractors for one-off projects. If not, they may know people who are. Befriending these folks is essential to ensuring long-term financial growth.
On Connecting with the Local Tech Community…
Similarly, tech startups and sole proprietors can gain from attending local meetups. If you're rubbing shoulders with a technology architect at a local meetup and prove that you know your stuff, you're much more likely to get them as a client down the road when they need your services.
These meetups can also provide a more direct way to get clients.
Wes Bos writes on his blog that many tech agencies won't touch a project smaller than $10,000 or $20,000 . For a freelance developer like Bos these projects are a goldmine. By going to tweetups, Bos connects with employees at larger agencies who can pass "small potatoes" work to him.
Take on small projects that larger firms pass over.
Get started today: Visit Meetup.com to find local groups dedicated to software development, tech, and IT.
On Accelerat(or)ing Your Way to Meeting Future Clients…
Accelerators bring together local startups, and many offer coaching, business tips, and funding advice, while also serving as great ways to meet potential clients.
Nirupama Mallavarupu already had 20,000 parents using her startup MobileArq, a school directory, fundraising, and Parent-Teacher Association platform. But she didn't have a full-scale e-commerce platform. As part of the TechLaunch accelerator in New Jersey, Mallavarupu met a software architect who had expertise in the area.
After getting to know each other at the accelerator, they built mutual trust. Mallavarupu decided she wanted to hire the software architect to build her e-commerce platform.
As an entrepreneur, you can put yourself in a similar situation. Other startups may want to use your services. By making connections in the local community, you earn their trust and may turn a few connections into big clients.
Connect with tech cohorts to form mutually beneficial relationships.
How to Keep Your IT Skills Sharp When You're Flying Solo
Running a one-person business may also result in missed professional development opportunities.
When you work in an IT department at a big company, you might have opportunities to go to conferences, take classes, or pick up new skills from a coworker. In an office, direct and indirect professional development like this happens all the time.
As a sole proprietor working from home, you'll still be exposed to new ideas and challenged to develop new skills. But you'll also face additional challenges:
- You'll be much busier.
- You'll have less time for professional development.
- You'll have to pay for professional development out of pocket.
Add those forces up, and you may not have the same opportunities to keep your skills sharp. As with all things entrepreneurial, you'll have to take matters into your own hands:
- Seek out organizations that offer professional development classes at lower prices.
- Pursue IT certifications to formalize your expertise and boost your résumé.
- Attend meetups that let you learn new skills and meet people you can partner with when a project calls for work you don't know how to do.
Lastly, remember that it's not enough to do these things. Make sure people know you've done them. If you go to a tweetup, tweet about it. When your get an Oracle Business Intelligence certification, blog about your experiences.
Toot your own horn: let others know about your success, skills, and achievements.
New Skills Come with New Risks
We wouldn't be much of a small-business insurance agency if we didn't remind you here that, any time you offer new services to your customers (whether thanks to a newly developed skill or a recently hired contractor), you expose your business to new liabilities.
Once you've struck out on your own, clients can sue if they have a problem with your services, if you miss a deadline, or if technology you implement or recommend fails them. These are your professional liabilities.
To learn more about how you can protect your business from client lawsuits over the work you do, see our page on Professional Liability Insurance.
If your business faces a lawsuit over your work, Professional Liability Insurance can help pay for attorney fees, courts costs, and settlements or judgments.
Next: Bad Habit 3: Relying too Much on Big Clients