Solos! Create Your Own Sandbox

Last week was a particularly tough week.  It seemed like everywhere I went someone was slamming a door in my face.  I couldn’t even give my program away.

I asked the coordinator of a local entrepreneur’s network if there was room for one more speaker on an IP panel discussion set for December. I was told and I quote “Hand over a check for $1000 and you have a seat.”

I offered to give a free seat or two away to one of my upcoming workshops as part of the winner’s package of a new start-up challenge.  I was told that Big Name Law Firm sponsor had the exclusive right to all IP matters.

I was chatted up a few weeks ago by a different organization that said “You have to come and talk to our students.”  When I circled back to see if we could schedule something, I was informed that my services were no longer required as their law firm sponsor (another big name Boston law firm) would be giving the IP presentation.

A solo patent attorney friend commiserated with me when he told me how he was asked to leave an event, and not to come back for future events, because the law firm sponsors, who pay tens of thousands of dollars, don’t want him around.   (The sad part is he was approached by some of the entrepreneurs in the program because they couldn’t afford the sponsors’ rates.)

By Friday, I was pretty demoralized.  If this is what it takes to get access to clients, how am I supposed to compete?  Heck, I’m not even competing with the big firms.  I just want to teach IP.

So, I brought the issue up to my mastermind group.  Maybe a bunch of non-lawyers could help me figure out a way to get into the inner sanctum of entrepreneurship in the Greater Boston area on a limited budget.

And that’s where I received the best business advice I’ve ever been given.

One of my fellow group members told me…

“Kelli, this is the way I see it.  The rules have already been set in that sandbox. You either play by those rules, or you create your own sandbox.”

(I get goose bumps just typing that.)

What a simple and powerful message: Make your own sandbox.

As angry as I get that start-up competitions and so-called entrepreneur’s networks ignore legal entrepreneurs in favor of the big, expensive firms, the truth is they aren’t going to give me the time of day unless I can contribute more than just advice.  Service providers pay-to-play in my market.

Those are the rules as they stand right now.  I can continue to beat my head against the same wall and get angrier or I can…

Well, what exactly can I do?

I can continue to network and get my name out there.

I can use social media to build a following.

I can teach.  In fact, I have 3 webinars under my belt.

I can offer innovative products that really help my target market.

I can give my clients something that those big law firms can’t even dream of.

I can stop trying to be one of them and just build my own business.

I know what you’re thinking.  That’s a lot of work.

Yes, it is, but it’s the only work that matters.

Whatever area of law you practice in, you are not one of them either.  There’s a reason you’ve chosen to go solo.

So, stop trying to be them.

I know you have something to offer that they don’t.

Go build your business around that.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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4 comments on “Solos! Create Your Own Sandbox

  • Great inspiration and advice! The “big boys” have created their sandbox and don’t want others “playing” – competing with them – unless you pay the cost. Some of us newly solo, don’t have that kind of money to “play” with. I think your group is exactly right – here’s to making our own sandboxes. And maybe we’ll even let others play with us – just because it is fun.

    • I really do think “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” is true. Play fair. Playing with others is fun, but the big firms are ruled by fear today. They definitely don’t want the competition around, especially solos who could undercut their prices. The truth is I will not compete on price. As many commentators have said, competing on price = a race to the bottom. No one wins.

      I’m going to offer something that the big firms don’t offer, and for me, that’s advice and counsel as opposed to being a mere document provider. I would love to see solos work together and create our own sandbox.

  • Great post, Kelli! I’ve recently come to the same conclusion in my own practice. It’s a lot of work to build your own sandbox but very freeing and energizing.

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