As a one (wo)man show, you have a big disadvantage — there’s no one there but you. But you also have a big advantage — there’s no one like you.
The day I became self-employed, I felt really special. I was so proud of myself because none of my close friends had done that and they all admired me for it. I was a self-employed communication consultant. I was an entrepreneur.
After six months, the feeling that I was doing something extraordinary was nowhere to be found anymore. It felt like everyone was self-employed. And what’s worst, everyone was some kind of consultant, coach, advisor, trainer, strategist, facilitator, mentor or guru.
Once you enter a business and begin moving in entrepreneurial circles, suddenly you start meeting piles of people who are doing the same thing you are. On the one side you think this is a wonderful source of learning, exchange and inspiration, but the less idealistic part of you can’t escape the conclusion that there is a lot of competition in your industry. And winning a part of that market may be especially challenging if you’re a one (wo)man show.
This a time of entrepreneurial inflation. Whether you’re a marketing expert, photographer, designer, personal trainer or consultant, there at least a dozen other people or companies in your local market. They’re all offering the same quality level of service in the similar price range. So why would somebody choose you? Well, because of — you.
As with physical products (or romantic relationships), we rarely make buying (or mating) decisions based on our rational calculations, but on our intuition, subconscious drives and our liking of the salesperson/service provider (the double meaning is getting slightly out of hand).
In other words, they buy from you because they like you. Building a one-person business in a lot of ways means also building a personal brand. But a good brand is more than only an appearance. A good brand — and especially a personal one — is interaction.
From a trust instilling handshake and pleasant small talk to little acts of thoughtfulness like remembering their birthday, the way your client feels in your presence is the strongest branding.
So look through the client and pay attention to the person. Seek the reason they want your service in the first place. An overweight person doesn’t only want to lose weight. They want to gain confidence. A young professional asking you for a headshot is not in the market for good photos — they want recognition.
When a client feels that you understand the place they’re coming from, you’re not a mere service provider — you are an ally in the fight for their highest objective. But to do this, you also shouldn’t make it too much about them either. No genuine communication is one sided.
You have to show personality. Don’t try to appear as an invincible expert, but show yourself as an imperfect person you are. Let them get to know you, so that they have the freedom to be who they are.
Show your expertise in graphic design, but admit that you’re a dummy for numbers. Radiate enthusiasm, but show you also get frustrated. Tell stories and anecdotes from your private life. Turn your weird little idiosyncrasies into your trademarks. This is your personality. This is what allows your clients to identify with you and like you. This is the path to loyal, long therm business relationships.
You may not have the firepower of a company, but you have something that they don’t — a human connection with your clients. Your job is not only to provide them with a high quality service, but also make them feel good around you. And for that, you have to be human.