This article on solopreneur chamber members is part of the Meeting the Needs Series that is designed to help chamber professionals meet the individual needs of certain market segments. See the footer of this article for a list of posts in this series.
Solopreneur. The GIG economy.
These are buzzwords that aren’t going away.
With more than 2.7 million non-employer firms in the US, run solely by owners, this is a trend you can’t ignore. If you think they’re all just homebodies sitting in their basements selling things on e-bay, you’re wrong. According to the US Census Bureau (2015), 35,584 of those solopreneurs were bringing in anywhere from $1 million to $2.49 million a year.
But without a brick and mortar operation, what do solopreneur chamber members need from you? The answer might surprise you.
What is a Solopreneur?
A solopreneur can have any sort of job title: freelancer, consultant, strategist, CEO, YouTuber, internet marketer, etc. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, across all industries. Some are in multi-level marketing with affiliations to a larger company while others start their business from scratch.
But what they all have in common is a desire to work for themselves to have the freedom to design their own lives on their own schedules and terms. Most of them, at least initially, will start out virtually before they build a brick and mortar location (if they ever do).
Many also make the decision not to grow into a full-fledged business with staff. They prefer to keep it agile and embrace the solo employee approach and not take on a managerial role. If they feel the need to employ others, they often turn to virtual assistants and other solopreneurs to help out in their area of expertise.
As the saying goes, they will work 80 hours a week for themselves to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else.
Challenges for the Solopreneur
Like any new business starting out, the solopreneur has several challenges. These include:
- lack of start-up capital, money is tight. Finding the money for dues may be difficult.
- lack of time. They need to hustle in order to get paid. This can mean that networking time is tight in the beginning. Depending on their business and the geography of their customer base, networking may be easier to do during off-business hours.
- not feeling represented (how many business initiatives is the chamber supporting that help virtual business?)
What Do Solopreneurs Need from the Chamber?
Administrative and Business Resources. They’ll need help connecting with people who can help them with administrative tasks. These could be tax professionals, virtual assistants. printers, attorneys, copywriters, marketing specialists…you get the idea. A lot of solopreneurs will meet people online to fill these voids in their business but stepping in as a resource for them can be very helpful and appreciated.
Networking/Mastermind Group. In addition to administrative assistance, solopreneurs need clients and guidance. The chamber can help them get more clients through networking and arranged meetings, while membership to a mastermind group can allow them to lean on other experts in areas they may not be as strong in. For instance, a solopreneur who doesn’t have a head for marketing can rely on someone within the group to provide solid suggestions on how to get their name out there.
Educational Resources. The solopreneur, just like every other person doing a job these days, has to stay on top of the latest trends and how-tos in areas that are always changing like social media and technology. It’s difficult to research and teach oneself all of that necessary information without wasting time on the superfluous stuff. A chamber can help.
Promotion. When they first start their business, they may need help with marketing and getting in front of their ideal audience.
Legislative Support. There are a lot of legislative issues that are circulating about the internet, very weighty things like net neutrality, taxation, and internet privacy. These things affect the way internet-based businesses conduct business. And they’re not things the average solopreneur can lobby for on their own.
How the Chamber Can Help the Solopreneur
There are many ways the chamber can help the solopreneur and we’ll get into those in a bit but first let’s recognize the challenge…meeting them and marketing to them. They likely don’t have a storefront, so you can’t stop by. The most effective way to get in front of them may be through social media groups (and being a resource for them) or using social media and retargeting ads speaking to how you can assist in building their dreams.
A nurturing campaign is likely a good approach as well. Create a valuable resource for them and then encourage them to download it in exchange for their email address. This could be a document about surviving the first few months in business (what to do when) or a handy tax sheet an accountant member could sponsor.
There are other ways the chamber can help new businesses and single owner-operator virtual businesses such as:
- member-to-member discounts
- use of a conference room, small event space, or office peripherals
- lunch and learns on important topics (create a members-only library of these so the solopreneur can use the training at their convenience)
- virtual flash mobs to bolster early sales
- a mentor, someone who has grown their business successfully
- legislative updates on pending bills that could affect their business
- tax change updates or legal necessities behind starting a business (sponsorship opportunities for an accountant and attorney members)
How to “Sell” to a Solopreneur
Keep in mind, they may need or desire a reduced dues tier or one that bills monthly. They’re used to paying for things in monthly subscription style. That’s how a lot of software works. The idea of a “subscription” to help them grow their business may be more appealing than “dues.” Paying your dues denotes an obligation but a subscription sounds like a thing of value.
If you want to count on them for eventual sponsorships you’ll have to find something that doesn’t involve promoting a physical location as many of them will work out of the nearest coffee house.
Challenge: the challenge when approaching this demographic is that they are used to bootstrapping their business. They piece it together with online resources, classes, subscriptions, networking, etc. They know they can do most of this themselves online but do they have the time to do the research and to find out what is worth pursuing and what isn’t? You can help them in that way by promoting the efficiency and reiterating that you can provide a turnkey solution for growing their business. Renaming a tier “virtual business” designed around the services they would use may be ideal in targeting this market.
Solopreneurs are used to online networking and social media. They will expect you to be responsive on social, listening, and have a social and virtual component to the chamber. Using Messenger or a chatbot to field questions off hours may be a good idea because solopreneurs work a lot of hours when they’re putting their business together.
They’ll also expect information on membership and a Join Now button that will allow them to join your chamber when they want to.
Some solopreneurs would find unscheduled phone calls or drop-ins a severe inconvenience to their business but that doesn’t mean they are anti-social. Many of them find their social outlets in online communities with other solopreneurs or being part of incubators and shared work offices. Some chambers have created space in their offices for member use or shared work.
We tend to assume that business people are in our community because they love it. Maybe they grew up here or maybe they transferred in. Chambers make sure the economic landscape is appealing to businesses so that they relocate here or open branch offices.
Solopreneurs, on the other hand, can be transient. All they’re looking for is a good internet connection. Will they have the same interest in the economic development of your area when their business connection is virtual? Probably not. But internet connection does matter. So does WiFi in public spaces. If the chamber is behind any local initiative to add more public WiFi, that would be of interest to solopreneurs.
Solopreneurs will also be more focused on the quality of life your community provides. They’ll want things to do and be able to enjoy a beautiful setting. If they became a solopreneur to create the type of life they want without the constraints of a corporate business, it’s likely they’ll want the same in a community. They might be more interested in the free concert in the park, for instance, than workforce development.
As a chamber, you will likely need to think about how, or if, you’ll adapt to the solopreneur. Some areas will see a lot more of them than others and each chamber will need to decide what works for their community. But this group of business owners has very different needs and concerns than your traditional brick and mortar. Choosing to market to them may change your chamber and your offerings quite a bit.
Wondering about how to meet the needs of other specific demographics? Read the previous articles in our Meeting the Needs Series.
Meeting the Needs of Young Professionals
Meeting the Needs of the Family Business
Meeting the Needs of the Solopreneur
Meeting the Needs of Agriculture and Agribusiness
Meeting the Needs of Your Chamber Board
Meeting Your Chamber Board’s Retreat Needs
Meeting the Needs of Your Community: Community Building Ideas for Chambers
Meeting the Needs of Chamber Staff: Retention Ideas
Meeting the Needs of the Established Business
Chamber Networking Events: Meeting the Needs of Networkers
Meeting the Needs of Community Advocates