When it comes to exercise, biking is not high on my list.
I’m more of a “recreational biker” – I enjoy bopping along on a rail trail at an easy pace, not sweating my way up a steep hill as fast as possible.
So when my wife, Linda, suggested we join a ride organized by the nearby Ashland Bike Club this past weekend, I was less than enthusiastic.
However, once again, she was right (I’ve lost count at this point). It was a beautiful day and riding with a group – there were about 15 of us – was a lot of fun.
Plus, it had a completely different feel from riding alone. Most notable was how well organized the group experience was.
There was a “lead” up front to guide us and a “sweep” in the back to make sure nobody got left behind.
But my favorite position in the group was the “arrow,” a designation given to whoever was riding directly behind the leader.
Whenever the leader made a nonobvious turn, the arrow’s job was to jump off their bike and stand there pointing in whatever direction the leader went until everyone else had passed.
The benefit of the arrow is obvious: you want to ensure that nobody gets lost or tries to sneak off to a nearby Starbucks and catch the group on their way back (hey, it was worth a shot).
Solo Professional-ing Ain’t Biking
With the possible exception of the odd outfits that participants insist on wearing, there’s not a lot that marketing your solo professional business has in common with group biking.
Not only are there no leads to show the way or sweeps to keep you from falling behind, there’s not even an obvious path to follow.
And when it comes to “arrows?” Well, in the case of marketing, there is a near-endless supply.
Everywhere you look there are people (myself among them) who are eager to tell you the “right” way to do it.
Unfortunately, with so many arrows pointing in what are often conflicting directions, it’s hard to know which to follow.
So here are some suggestions (he said, pointing in a specific direction)…
#1. Don’t do it if you don’t understand it.
Can you explain why you’re on Instagram? Or have a podcast? Or plan to publish a book? Or are involved in any other “business-building” activity?
Either find an answer to those questions or stop doing those activities. The fact that everyone else is doing them is not a marketing strategy; it’s a third-grade birthday party.
#2. Don’t do it if you hate it.
When I first started working for myself in 2000, several people told me that I needed to learn how to “cold call.” Just the thought of it made me feel sick to my stomach (it still does) and I never did it.
What I realized was that since marketing as a solo is word-of-mouth-based, it was going to require my hands-on, ongoing participation. So I needed to find things that I enjoyed doing (or at least didn’t hate).
Eventually, I stumbled onto two things: writing (newsletters, mostly) and keeping in close touch with people I already know. Twenty-plus years later, it still works and I still like doing it.
Like exercise, half the battle is showing up. So you need to find things that work for you in particular.
#3. Don’t expect to find the answer.
Experts can be very persuasive.
They have an approach that has worked for them and they don’t mind telling you, “this is the way.”
But they are not sharing the way, they are sharing a way.
It’s like asking someone how to get from Boston to Denver. Just because they completed the trip by using a certain mode of transportation to follow a certain route, it doesn’t mean there aren’t an infinite number of alternate routes that might work just as well.
So learn what you can from those who have gone before.
Just keep in mind that even if they have used a particular approach to become as successful as they appear (which is not always the case), it’s just one way to do it. You don’t have to follow it entirely or at all.
Here’s the bottom line.
At first glance, it may seem like it would be nice if there were an “arrow” to guide us solo professionals every step of the way so we’d never take a wrong turn and never get lost.
The thing is, I’m pretty sure that’s called “having a job.”
Because while it can sometimes be scary riding out here all alone, and while you are pretty much guaranteed to occasionally go down a dead end and have to double back, that’s also where all the fun is.