The Upside

You’re Not a Business Owner Unless You Do This

Platforms. They’re everywhere. From social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, to rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft, to e-commerce platforms like Goldbelly and Etsy, we’ve been swept off our business feet by platforms that aggregate services, products and customers in one convenient place. 

But hear me out on something: although platforms have allowed millions of people to grow revenue streams and find independence beyond the 9-5, ultimately their value lies in finding your customers for you, all in one place.

And what’s critical to point out is that they, not you, own the customers, clients and followers. 

I should know since that’s how The Upside first started in 2017: as a client-consultant matching platform. That is, until those consultants kept coming back asking for more clients and I realized that The Upside wasn’t actually helping them become the business owners they needed to be. 

In other words, the success of platforms depends on your inability to find customers, clients or followers on your own.

For example, a driver who can build his own client list and implement his own book and pay process, wouldn’t need to pay Uber a 25% commission on all fares.

If a jewelry maker could design her own simple e-commerce website and learn how to drive traffic through organic and paid digital marketing, then she wouldn’t need to pay Etsy a 5% commission on all sales…on top of the 3% credit card processing fees.  

If a freelancer knew how to grow his own client base, then he wouldn’t have to pay Upwork a 10 – 20% commission on all contracts. 

Even agencies are a type of platform. If an art director working at an ad agency knew how to bring in her own Fortune 500 clients, then she wouldn’t need to work for an agency where she has set hours and pay caps. She’d instead have unlimited income potential, flexibility and total control of her schedule. The value of an agency is that they are funneling in the clients for the talent that works there. The value of hiring an agency is that they have all the best talent (in theory) under one roof. The job of the owner of an agency is to bring in clients and hire good talent. It’s just so simple: learn to get your own clients and you don’t need to work for an agency.

And this is exactly why a handful of entrepreneurial bands and artists, like The Grateful Dead and Chance the Rapper, grew their fans and customer base without the backing of a major music label, which is yet another type of “platform.” 

In addition to the price you pay to use platforms, there’s also tremendous risk. 

For example, if Amazon raises it’s seller fees (which it has) and your entire business is selling through Amazon, your profitability is now in grave jeopardy. 

If your entire following depends on a social platform and suddenly they block you or change their rules (ahem, Trump), then you’ve also lost your megaphone and the entire value of the following you worked so hard to build…on someone else’s platform.

This is why if you 100% depend on another business to operate or grow your business, then you are not building any value in your own business. 

But there is a budding trend that has me excited and optimistic about the future of solopreneurship and freedom from platforms: digital courses and learning programs. 

I’ve taken digital courses ranging from $27 all the way up to $1,997 to teach me everything I need to know about growing my business on my own, free from any platforms. 

And I’ve also launched my own digital accelerator program to teach consultants how to build a successful business and find high-paying clients on their own, without ever using client matching platforms.

What’s even more exciting is that these digital courses are everywhere and cover every topic you could possibly imagine. 

There are experts like Tracy Matthews teaching courses on building your own 5-figure/month jewelry business using your own website, not a platform. 

There are experts like Gemma Bonham-Carter teaching courses about building your email list–a customer following that you actually own and that can never be taken away from you, unlike social media accounts. 

There are even digital courses from experts like Danielle Leslie and Amy Porterfield teaching people how to build and launch digital courses!

There are experts teaching courses on copywriting, sales pages, organic traffic, paid traffic, legal contracts and everything in between and covering every single industry and niche you could possibly think of. 

This growing digital course community is teaching solopreneurs how to be their own boss in a way that puts all the power in their own hands, and builds real value in their business. 

Because ultimately, if you’re depending on a platform for customers, you’re only as viable, profitable and valuable as the platform you’re on.

Want more resources to help your consultancy thrive?

There are two great ways we can work together: 

Are you a consultant looking to expand your network and advance your business? Then The Upside Membership is for you. 

Are you an early-stage consultant (or on the fence about leaving your 9-5) and want a bootcamp-style program to build a thriving consultancy? Then The Upside Accelerator is for you.

Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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