Join THE JILLS and let's lead the #futureofwork. Community, connections, convenience for #women #solopreneurs #consultants #freelancers #creatives. #worksolonotsilo
May 11, 2017
About three years ago, Corinne Neil and Megan Boswell began talking about a trend they noticed: Women promote other women more than they promote themselves. They realized it was even true within their friendship.
“We realized we were bolstering one another, and learning from one another,” said Neil, a freelance curriculum developer. “And slowly, we wanted to expand that to other people.”
Neil and Boswell, a brand strategist who spent 12 years working for American Girl, decided to form a company they say harnesses that energy: Jills of All Trades, an online network where women working as freelancers can connect and mutually reinforce each others’ careers.
The idea is that “solo-preneurs” of any stripe — from web developers to fashion designers — can enjoy a “watercooler effect,” and stay on top of trends and best practices for freelancers. It’s also a platform where the “Jills,” as Neil and Boswell call them, can find work. The hope is that they’ll recommend each other and promote each other in their own networks and perhaps collaborate on projects.
“We believe that women will champion other women,” said Boswell.
The network is also a place where potential customers can look for a freelancer who meets their needs. In that regard, there is already some steep competition: The website Upwork is a well-established global platform for freelance gigs. But Neil and Boswell assert that Jills of All Trades puts the customer and the professional on a more even footing.
On Upwork, clients name the terms of what they’re looking for, and freelancers compete for jobs by outbidding one another. On Jills of All Trades, bidding is not part of the equation. The focus is on clients doing a bit more legwork to find the right person for the job.
People can search through the gallery of Jills, which currently features 37 entries, to find a freelancer.
“The talent shouldn’t be in the dark. The talent should be forward. They need to be in the spotlight,” said Boswell.
While the platform is designed with women in mind, men — “Jacks” — can also join.
Boswell and Neil say they want to keep expanding the network, and eventually bring on other people to serve as “gatekeepers” for Jills in hubs across the U.S. They’re also trying to build out features, like an option for paying clients through the website, and forums where members can chat.
The two pitched their company at the most recent 1 Million Cups presentation, a weekly event sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation that highlights young businesses in Madison.
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There is so much to think about as a new business owner. From bank accounts to business entities, logos to managing social media, and about a million other pieces in between. it's enough sometimes to make you feel like there's just too much to do to even get started.
But don't get caught up in that kind of thinking. And don't start with the paint colors.
Start instead by understanding the business of YOU. Take the time to figure out your WHO, WHAT, WHY, HOW, and WOW, and you'll have the necessary foundation to build out the rest of your business.
WHO: Determine exactly who it is that you help? We all want to imagine that we can help everybody with our special talents and skills; that our door is open to everyone and anyone. But really understanding who you want to work with, and who your talents help the most, will allow you identify target customers. Taking time to do this work, helps you create your niche and the business you really want.
WHAT: Clearly define what it is that you do. What exactly are you doing that helps the target customers you defined. What pain point are you alleviating? What gain are you offering? What assets do you have? What activities are you performing? Being able to articulate the work that you do is essential. If you offer a variety of services, can you providing an overarching label for all of them. Considering your defined customers does it make sense to elevate one of your services? What about personal satisfaction
WHY: Ask yourself why are you helping these people and it can't just be to make money? Okay, it can be to make money, but that won't be enough to sustain you or your business. So don't be afraid to dream big on this one. How might the world, the community, your country change if you can successfully do your work for your target audience.
HOW: Articulate how you help these people? Different than your 'what', explain the way you work. Think first about speed, quality, and cost. Then consider the ways in which you interact. Are you highly personable and relational? Do you work seamlessly in 'the background'. Do you always make a deadline? Are you thought provoking? Do you challenge the status quo? Are you big picture, or small details? Be authentic about you 'how'. Trying to be someone else inside your own business is likely to lead to unhappiness for you and disenchantment for your customers.
WOW: Know your WOW! It is the combination of your WHO, WHAT, WHY, and HOW that makes your WOW. This is where you can begin to define your 'special sauce'. Think of how you can combine all this thinking into a sentence or two. I do 'this' for these 'people' in 'this' way so that 'this' can change for them, and 'this' can happen in 'our society/ community/ country/ planet'. Write it out as many possible ways as you can dream up, let it simmer, then see what version seems right for now. Practice your wow statement on family, friends, and clients. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in car. Practice with your pets. Try on lots of different versions. The point is to get really comfortable with your WOW statement. You'll revisit this statement over and over in the lifetime of your business as you change and grow. And this is exactly what you want.
You definitely don't have to have every piece of the puzzle figured out before you can start as a solopreneur, but knowing your WHO, WHAT, WHY, HOW and WOW can get you started.
And it'll likely help you figure out your paint colors too.