When I was 22 years old, I called my mom and told her that this whole employment thing wasn't for me.
If you're over 40 years old, I know what you're thinking. "Ugh, classic - another entitled Millennial with no work ethic. Just what the modern workforce needs."
But the truth is that I'm not entitled or lazy or any other ridiculous idea that you might associate with my generation. I'm actually in love with the work I do, and I'm damn good at it. But what I'm not good at is being an employee. I'm not good at having a boss, a 9 to 5 schedule, a set salary, an office desk, a dress code, or anything else that comes along with the traditional full-time work structure. I was born to be my own boss, and at 22 years old, I proclaimed to my (concerned) mother that I would do whatever it took to make that happen.
If you're a Millennial, this may sound familiar - and if so, keep reading.
After quitting my full-time social media marketing job after 10 months of being there, I decided to launch my own digital marketing consultancy. I had no idea what I was doing and I had no money saved - all I knew was that I was going to make this happen.
Because if I wasn't going to make powerful, risky decisions that would change the trajectory of my career, who would? And when would I? I was 22 years old without a husband, children or a mortgage to worry about. If there was any time to take risks, it was now.
The following few months were full of ups and downs, but I kept listening, studying, engaging, and practicing. I didn't have the confidence, but going with the old idea of "fake it till you make it", I kept reaching out to potential clients and signing them. I kept raising my rates even when I didn't think I "deserved" it. I kept creating content even when I didn't see it generating any traffic. And even when the people around me were telling me that I was crazy, I kept going.
Three months after quitting, I looked back on my income as a freelancer and realized that I had tripled my income in three months.
I was making more than my boss was at my previous full-time job, and most Millennials I knew.
I had done it all on my own terms and my own time. And it was awesome.
I had been running my consultancy for about a year when other Millennials started approaching me asking how they could start their own businesses as well. It turns out that I wasn't the only one who felt trapped, limited, discouraged and bored in their fulltime jobs.
These are the exact steps I share with my Facebook group, Millennial Go-Getters, which helped me scale my business to six figures in three months.
1. Change your mindset and confidence level
I've coached a lot of Millennials looking to start their own businesses, and the number one mistake that they make is that they don't actively change their mindset in the beginning.
By their mindset, I mean two things.
The first is that they continue to make decisions from an employee perspective instead of a self-employed perspective. Employees, for example, are accustomed to others making decisions for them and following a certain direction. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have to actively take initiative, constantly be aware of their next steps and be ready to jump into new situations all the time. If you continue to treat yourself and your business as an employee, all of your work will plummet.
Be aware of the terminology that you use, too. Saying things like "my day off" or "waiting to hear back" is rooted in passivity. You are no longer a passive employee - you're a business owner.
And as someone starting your own business, it will require you to be ON all the time and always be taking the next step yourself. But it won't happen if you don't consciously change your mindset.
Secondly, you have to recreate your self-confidence. As Millennials, we're accustomed to others validating our actions and beliefs before we actually take action. We need others' approval to make the right decisions, right? Wrong.
As self-starters, we don't have the time, patience, or care to worry about what others think. You have to believe in yourself 100% and take actions on your next steps regardless of what others will say. Execution is key, not perfection.
Ultimately, it's crucial to make sure that you're in the right mindset before you move forward with your business, otherwise, it'll be really difficult to progress and grow.
2. Identify your most profitable skills
Once you're past the mindset stuff, it's time to actually dive into what your business will be. The first step when doing that is to look at what you're naturally good at - anything else is a waste of your time.
Most Millennials have been brainwashed into believing that if you keep working at something, you'll eventually become better at it. But guess what, guys: this is simply not true. Instead, focus on what your natural talents are and what you're naturally better at than other people. No, not the things that you constantly work on or enjoy doing or hope to get better at in the future - look a the things that you're better at than others and what other people value in you. These are the things that you should be fully investing in and nothing else.
And, the everything else that has to happen even if you're no good at it? (taxes, for example.) Outsource it.
A small but hugely important tip: When looking at your strengths, don't ask yourself, "What am I amazing at?"
Why? Because you'll find nothing. It's very rare to find a personal quality that's President of the United States-worthy or celebrity status-worthy. That's why most of us aren't the President of the United States or celebrities, but it doesn't mean that we can't get paid a lot for what we're good at. Instead, simply focus on what you're better at than other people. That's it.
In order to figure that out, ask yourself questions like:
What do people compliment me on?
"Wow, your apartment is so well-decorated - how do you know how to do that?"
What do people ask me about?
"Hey, I'm having trouble with my math homework and I know you're really good at math - can you help me with this assignment?"
What experiences do I have that others value?
"Wait, you lived in Mexico as a kid and you speak fluent Spanish? Can you teach me?!"
This is a very powerful yet simple way to identify your skills and see what others value in you. Never ever, ever pursue a business idea that you have no natural ability in because it will fail. Only pursue what you're good at and trash everything else. If you do this, you'll be unstoppable.
3. Find the meeting point between skills, interests, and need
Just kidding...you can't only pursue the thing you're good at. Because what if you hate that thing?
For example, I'm really good at selling because I'm a people person - but I hate sales. Someone else might be a total math wiz, but if they despise math, then they're not going to enjoy having a tutoring business.
So, the goal is to find the meeting point between the thing you love and the thing you're skilled at. That's your sweet spot.
Something else to throw into the mix is the need for whatever you came up with. Because let's be real - not every idea will sell.
You might love to sing Irish Catholic church hymns and you're good at it, but if no one's willing to buy your services and has no interest in also learning that same skill, it's probably not a good business idea.
In order to figure out if your business idea is "sell-able", ask yourself: Is someone else out in the world already selling it?
If the answer is yes, then there's all the proof you need that your business idea is legit. Seriously.
You can also ask around and do your research to find out if your service is solving an issue that people are having. If your product or service solves a problem that a certain demographic has, or brings them value to them in some way, it's going to sell. Value = sale. It's that simple.
4. Identify your target audience
Of course, when selling your services, you can't target everyone.
If you try to sell to everyone, you'll sell to no one - the key is to make your target audience as specific as possible and speak very specifically to their personas.
For example, if I'm a skincare specialist selling my services, I can't target every woman who gets a facial, right?
Instead, maybe I'll target those who are dealing with acne issues: 13 to 20 year old women who suffer from cystic / hormonal acne and are sick and tired of trying a million different products that don't work.
If I can speak to the feelings, insecurities, motivations and pleasures that those particular women are experiencing, then they'll be more likely to resonate with my message and trust my brand.
So, get specific as possible with your target audience, and be sure to include details such as physical location, age, gender, interests, education, religion, and whatever else you think is relevant to your services. Which brings me to...
5. Share your brand values through content
In almost-2017, no one's going to see an ad that you post or hear about you for the first time and immediately buy what you're selling (unless it's a cure for cancer or something else drastically life-changing and one-of-a-kind).
With social media, smartphones, and a million other distractions, you have to find a way to grab their attention and build trust with them before they ever buy what you're selling.
And the way that you do that? Content.
By content, I don't mean long-winded blog posts that sit on your website forever and never cross anyone's eyes other than your own. That's a waste of time.
I also don't mean re-gramming inspirational quotes on your Instagram feed. That's also a waste of time.
I mean creating real, valuable, relevant and easily digestible content that people will resonate with.
Depending on what your skillset is, maybe that will be a "generic", text-centric blog. Or, maybe you'll produce shorter, listicle-type content. Maybe you'll create a series of short videos, memes or GIFs. Maybe you'll build quizzes, do Facebook Live or run webinars. But whatever it is, it has to resonate with your target audience and feel authentic to you and your services.
If you're wondering, "Okay...but what exactly do I create content on? What will people listen to?"
Head over to Buzzsumo.com to get some ideas. Buzzsumo is a great place to see what others are sharing in your industry and what's the most popular.
There's no need to reinvent the wheel here, guys. See what's already working for others (and what's not working) and base your content creation on that.
6. Create a website and basic personal brand
How would you feel if you followed a company on Facebook but nothing they posted was consistent? What if you thought their product was cool, but when you went to their website, it looked like crap?
You would probably deem them as amateur and move on with your life. Well, guess what guys: people will do the same thing with your services.
It doesn't matter if you're just one person offering one particular service, you still need to treat yourself as a professional business selling something premium - and in return, people will treat you as such.
Stop being afraid of self-promotion and create your website already. You can easily make one on Squarespace.com (this is what I use for all of my sites) with one of their templates. All you have to include is a homepage, an About Me page, a Contact page, and a page that lists your services. Keep is simple, clean, and professional-looking.
Regarding rates: set them. Look at what others are charging in your field, what you need to cover your bills, and what will help you reach your goals. That's what you charge.
Obviously, personal branding is much more complex than this, and branding yourself as a premium service is a science. You can learn all about it in my Reaching Richness Master Course - check it out here.
7. Build a super organized schedule you'll stick with
Alright, take a deep breath. At this point, your head's in the right place, your business idea is ready to go, your website is all set up, and now it's time to open up shop. But if you sign a few clients and you're suddenly in the midst of freelance chaos, it's going to be really difficult to navigate. So, it's best to get organized in the beginning instead of when you're in it.
The freelancers who fail are the ones who wake up every morning with no plan for the day. Your entire week - hour by hour - should be planned out the Sunday before it starts. It doesn't have to include every detail, but it should include consistent blocks of time that allow you stay focused on your tasks everyday.
For example, in my Google Calendar, I have 5 different blocks of time that are reserved everyday. The first is from 8 to 9, where I allow myself to read my emails, drink coffee, and get ready before the day. Then, from 9 to 12, I work on client #1. Then, from 12-3, I work on client #2. Then, from 3-6, I work on my personal brand. From 6-9, I chill with my boyfriend and / or friends everyday. The next day is the same schedule but I rotate those two clients out for two others. And that's what my weekly schedule looks like.
That way, when I wake up, there aren't any guessing games, distractions, or interruptions. If anything comes up last minute, it will have to wait (unless it's life threatening, then I'll try to squeeze that in).
Having a schedule like this is the best way to remain productive while also having control over your life.
It's up to you how you want to stay organized, but if you plan it well, you can be a boss getting crazy amounts of work done everyday. It's totally up to you.
8. Continually master your craft
Just because you're now a consultant, coach or service provider of some sort doesn't make you the King of the World. You don't know everything.
Constantly check in with yourself and identify ways that you can grow and improve in your niche. Maybe you can set aside time each morning to read industry-relevant publications and blogs, network and learn from others in your field, or practice what you do (if you're a writing coach, it's probably best that you keep writing yourself to keep your mind sharp, for example).
There is always more to learn, and the more knowledge and experience you have, the more you can charge your clients. So set aside time every day, every week or every month to dive even deeper into your field of expertise and track the progress you're making.
It will pay off, I promise.
9. Join the conversation
Alright, it's time to start sharing your message with the world. Depending on who your target audience is, it might be best to focus on certain social media platforms more than others.
But wherever they are, start joining relevant online groups, forums, and conversations that involve your target audience. Maybe it's Facebook Groups, Reddit Groups or Twitter threads for example.
But, the key isn't to immediately start promoting your stuff. You'll get blocked almost immediately.
Instead, start engaging in conversation. Respond to people's comments, ask questions, and give feedback.
Building this rapport with people online will give you some brand recognition and make you a more trustworthy contributor (as opposed to a scammy contributor who blows up their Facebook Group with opt-in links, which is what far too many people do).
Be real, be relevant, and build relationships. Then, after a few weeks, you can start talking about your services. But only after relationships have been established.
10. Create a lead capture automation system
As a solopreneur, you're only one person and only have 24 hours in a day. That means that you can't work with everyone at once (and if you're a good freelancer, a lot of people will be trying to).
But then it gets tricky: you're probably going to meet a lot of people along your freelancing journey who might want to work with you in the future. But until then, you don't want to ignore them, right? What if they forget about you? Or hire someone else? What if you forget about them? In order to keep them in the loop and engaged with your freelance business, start emailing them.
Hop onto MailChimp.com and create a free account - MailChimp is a super simple email automation platform that allows you to create really gorgeous automated emails to your audience.
Then, I recommend sending our two emails a week to your email list sharing your best stuff - tips, insights, experiences, whatever you think will be most valuable to them. This will keep you relevant and at the top of their list when they're finally ready to work with you, or when you're finally ready to work with them.
These are the exact steps that helped me scale my freelance business.
Main image via Pexels