Books that changed my life 1: Soloing

I’m often asked for good books to read, so I thought I’d share a few of the ones that have had a real impact on my life. Not just books that were interesting. Ones where I changed the way I do things as a result.

First up is Soloing, by Harriet Rubin. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve recommended this to when asked for advice on how to start up and grow a consultancy that’s small in size, but big in ideas. This book was a great source of inspiration for me when I left the cosy corporate world to go it alone and start the brandgym back in 2001.

At the heart of the book is the difference between soloing (creating and promoting a concept that draws people to you) and freelancing (chasing after low-paid work):

Soloists                                               Freelancers
Work to experiment on their craft        Work to pay the bills
Take on daring clients                         Solicit safe clients
Risk working in new fields                   Perfect what they know
See work as adventure                         See work as stature
Rather mess up, than miss out              Rather miss out, than mess up
Ideal is being an artist                         Ideal is being a professional

Harriet has some lovely phrases that made working for yourself sound like the sexiest thing in the world; just the pick-me-up I needed when booking my own flights, sorting out the accounts and finding my first office space! She kept reminding me of why I went solo. Here are a few of her pearls I underlined:

"I felt something of the thrill that lured adventurers to the  brink: the sheer aliveness of believing in myself and what I was doing enough to do it solo"

"Soloing is the ability to see the world in a grain of sand, because your span of control shrinks, but your power to influence others increases"

"The pure light of attention is your new environment. A soloist is more like a performer than an accountant, a deal maker, an editor"

5 years on I’m a big believer in the opportunity for people to create their own small consultancies. And use the principles of branding to compete with the big boys: create a vision, differentiate, stand for something, deliver it consistently. There is a whole "eco-system" of small businesses like this in London that has been created by folks from my old haunt, Added Value. When we at the brandgym do projects we can tap into people who are great at things as varied as semiotics, qual. research, design, trends work and internal engagement.

I even have a book in my head that takes some of Harriet’s inspiration and mashes it up with my brand stuff. Do you think there would be a market for this?