5 ways to be a business trailblazer

February 28, 2012


Freelancers and small business owners can’t afford to be wallflowers. Success depends on breaking away from the crowd but in this age of competition, what does it take to stand out as a trailblazer in business?

We asked folks who’ve distinguished themselves in their fields to drill down into the common elements of their success. These ‘blazers are public relations specialist Vikki Rimmer who won a Freelancer of the Year award in the U.K. for her work with Ed Stafford and Sean Carnegie of the two-person design team Lewis Carnegie based in Austin, Texas, winner of an Addy award.

Here are 5 ideas to help you rock the solopreneur world:

1. Use what makes you, you

The more personality, the better. “More often than not, freelancers work alone and this ‘one-man-band’ element guarantees delivery of ideas unique to the personality of the freelancer,” Rimmer said. “If you find one that’s naturally energetic, driven and enthusiastic, then it generally follows that their ideas and their products will be energetic and unique.”

2. Expand your social ecosystem

“We are always doing our best to stay surrounded by artists, books, friends, crafts and ideas,” said Carnegie. “We just mastered the process of silk screening, which translated through to ideas in overprinting on both print and web projects, as well as controlling hierarchy in a non-traditional way.” Rimmer noted that her success has a lot do with the company she keeps. “I have only ever worked with people I like and respect. I tend to work with individuals who undertake unusual and unique projects or endeavors – explorers, adventurers and pioneers. I’ve found that it’s been essential to back their vision 100 per cent and to trust and believe in them.”

3. Stay on top of your industry

Rimmer pointed out that as a PR professional, it’s up to her to tap into her clients’ stories and present them in a way that will capture the attention of the world. That calls for excellent story-telling skills – something she always reads up on. “I read, watch and follow as many stories as I can to soak up the many and varied ways there are of telling a story.” Both Rimmer and Carnegie see themselves in a certain light – Rimmer as a storyteller just dying to tell the world about the neat things her clients are up to, Carnegie as a “design thinker” who goes beyond aesthetic development. Their personal and professional reflections shine through and help them stand apart from competitors.

4. Pitch solutions

Carnegie said that his company has to understand trends in the design industry if it wants to stand out. And one of the trends he’s noticed is a commoditization thanks to technology. “Anyone with an Internet connection can very easily order a logo, website and a brochure for $500 and be in business…. We have done our best in being more than just ‘makers of things’ but and as collaborators and ‘design thinkers.’ We do our best to provide design solutions and strategies for our clients that create, analyze, transform information and interact with users in new and memorable ways…. It is truly the only way we can be different from our competitors.”

5. Refine & Specialize

Carnegie advises you to hone your skills: “become an expert in form, type, colour and craft”. But don’t confuse specialization with narrowness. “Do your best in becoming skilled in a broader range of interests that might include economics, collaboration, sociology, improvisation and story-telling. With a well rounded education and background, we think that designers visualize solutions and strategies in a much more meaningful and personal way.”


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.