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  • Writer's pictureBüşra Coşkuner

Reflection of a solopreneur: It's time to fly!


Butterfly sitting on a flower
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

I started the year 2023 with my word of the year: Focus.


This is a habit that I've been doing since 2019. I choose a word of the year, like a vision, and cross-check every decision that I make against my word. Here you can find out details on why I chose "Focus" as my word in 2023, and all my other words before that took me where I am today.


But to explain an important point about "Focus": I wanted to pick a topic or a service in the beginning of the year to focus my social media appearance, positioning, what I write about, and my offer on that. Hence "Focus".


I started with 1:1 Coaching and 1:1 Training for mid-level+ Product Managers.

Because I LOVE helping someone grow their craft, and see their Aha-moments in their faces. It's the first time I make this public... but... I cry after each session in which a coachee or trainee genuinely thanked me for my help. Out of happiness that I was truly able to help someone "finally crack it" (their words).


Problem is that only 1:1 coaching a) doesn't pay the bills, and b) isn't scalable. As a solopreneur, you don't have much time so you try to split yourself into multiple pieces and help as many people as you can. Or short: You want to find an 1:n ratio of who you can help to scale your impact, time and earnings.


Soooo, instead of fully focusing on only 1:1s this year, my word turned into "finding my focus".


I wandered around, between me wanting to do more 1:1s despite knowing that it is unreasonable, me becoming "Ms Impact Mapping", me starting to spread my own mental model that connects the dots between product strategy, discovery and delivery which I call "AIM: Align-Identify-Measure"....


Searching my focus...


Here's my reflection on a) me and my "coaching" direction, b) me and my business, c) me and solopreneurship, and d) just me.


And why my word of the year 2024 is "Cocoon".


1. Me and my "coaching": Focus

Have I found focus now?


Yes and no.


I found focus in that what I want my impact to be, and what my most favorite ways of delivering that impact are.


I really, really, really, enjoy helping Product Managers/ Owners break their own barriers in their minds and turn them into confident, effective product leads.


Help them up their seniority and master their craft.


I spent a lot of time on market research this year. I started out saying that I wanted to create a learning platform with courses on different deep dive topics.

Surprisingly, SO MANY creators popped up who have created courses on so many different topics, that the space is even more crowded than before.


So, what am I going to do now?


I'll focus on my mission: To help Product Managers/ Owners master their craft and become confident, effective product leads in high demand.


How?


Through training, teaching, and speaking.

For mid-level+ product managers/owners and product management teams.



1:1 "Coaching" aka Training

I would not call what I do "coaching". It's more a mix of training, mentoring, and advising.


And that's fine.


It works for my coachees/ trainees because this is what Product Managers/ Owners, who reach out to me, are looking for: Someone to train them in specific topics or skills, guide them generally in decision-making, or to help them navigate their new role.


They've taken enough generic courses, read tons of articles and books, watched countless videos and listened to endless podcasts. They want something more detailed, more specific, and something that is directly related to their actual environment, tasks, job, and challenges.


Teaching & Workshops

I noticed how much I love teaching Product Managers/ Owners new or different ways of making decisions and finding the right thing to build.


I will continue teaching Product Management: Strategy & Roadmapping at the university FH Graubünden in Switzerland because I love laying the foundations for raising the next generation of product managers.


And I love running workshops and trainings in a group of people. Both in-house to work on a company's specific topic or challenge, and open to generally teach the method or framework.


Speaking

The German word for how people have called me several times this year is "Rampensau".

I'm sorry, there is no proper English translation for this word.


It's used for someone who owns the stage and creates emotional or physical engagement in the crowd.


I spoke a lot this year.


A lot.


At conferences (Product Drive, Digitale Leute Summit, Product Management Festival).

At meetups (ProductTank Cologne, ProductTank Berlin, Agile Tuesday, and more).

At podcasts (oh god soooo many.....).

At companies (Lunch & Learns, 0.5-1h presentations, 90 min speed workshops, etc.).


I enjoy being on stage.

I decided I want more of this 😄

So I'll be speaking a lot next year again.


Or better: A LOT MORE!


Some highlights SO FAR:

  • Keynote at Product Owner Days in Cologne

  • Keynote at INDUSTRY conference in Dublin

  • Talk at Craft Conference by CraftHub in Budapest

  • Talk at ACE Conference in Krakow

I mean...


WWWW TTTTT FFFF


How cool is that?! (Hypoventilating...)


Focus?

Yes, focus!


I will double down on 1:1 coaching / training, even though it doesn't scale well.

BECAUSE I LOVE IT!


I focus on PMs/POs who would describe themselves as at least mid-level. Because a) there is a lot of good foundational material for junior PMs, but b) it's the more senior ones who want dedicated support because generic courses don't help them any further, and c) Product Leaders want their PMs to master their craft but rather need support with the more senior ones, because senior PMs need more detailed, granular, focused support that is time-wise not doable for busy product leaders. Well, and d) simply because this is where my strengths are.


I will continue teaching. Both at the university and I'll start creating my hands-on courses that will not only help product people to connect product strategy, discovery and delivery based on my AIM model, but also will give them deep dives into specific topics.


I will continue speaking. Because I want to spread the word about how it is to work in a product-led way, how to actually work in a product-led way, and how much this will help companies to drive business results with products that their customers love.


I talk a lot about product-led (product driven, product model, product oriented... however you want to call it) organizations/ teams based on my own experience. I worked in too many not product-led organizations that were not focusing on customer value and business value equally. At Doodle in 2016 we transformed the company from a purely investor dictated to an early product-led company within 2 years. I know how it is to work in non product-led and product-led structures, what's needed, how the result looks like. So I'll continue to spread the word and help leaders to get a position where they can balance time to value with time to market.


Also, I will do more in German ;)


Doesn't sound like focus?


It IS focus.


Focusing on what energizes me most:

Helping you master your craft of product management.



2. Me and my business: Cocoon

I started my business with the idea to build a digital product.


By accident it turned into a coaching, training, education business.


What I'm good at is building a product/ service. But what I totally underestimated is the effort it takes to get your business running, and keep it running in a sustainable way.


As product people, we are not trained in thinking "Sales" and "Marketing". We are so focused on building the right thing and meeting product goals that we underestimate the complexity of actually selling.


Today, I teach my PMs/POs that they can forget about building a product if they don't have an idea how to sell it. This is what we call "Business Model", which includes channels and sales tactics.


As an altruistic person who would want to just hug the whole world and help where ever she can, I found it very difficult to get out there and ask for payment. "Selling" felt "dirty" to me.


BUT

1. if I run a business, I have to sell.

2. if I don't ask for the reimbursement of my effort, I can shut down my business and can't help anyone.


I had to learn this. And needed to get help to market myself. And to sell.


So I joined a program called Content2Client (C2C) by Chris James. It would help me use LinkedIn as a channel to position myself and sell my offer.


I'll be honest, it scared the hell out of me to join the program. But thanks to the program I learned to not feel "dirty" anymore when I ask for payment. I learned how to craft a compelling offer. I'm still iterating on it but the clarity process is just mind blowing. I learned How to stay myself on LinkedIn and not become a general LinkedIn monster but use it more effectively for my positioning. And most important: I learned how to talk confidently about what I do, the value it brings, and how much it will help product people.


The best is the community at C2C. You don't feel lonely because there are about 90 people who go through the exact same wobbles and wins in and out. You have a question? Likely there is someone in the community who can help you. You want to outsource some work? Likely there is someone in the community that you can trust the work. You have a win to celebrate? Celebrate it with the others who go through the exact same challenges like you.


It helped me a lot in changing my mindset from "omg I don't want to ask for money when I help others" to "I will ask for a proper reimbursement because what I do is very valuable. And the better I do with my business the better I can help product people out there".


And it turned me from a pessimist who thinks "she has not what it takes to be a solopreneur" into an optimist who sees options everywhere and bravely tries things out.


Having spent the time this past year to do my proper market research, to work on my offer & positioning, AND to work on myself & my mindset, it's time to push all the positive energy into my business.


It's time to slip out from my cocoon and make my business thrive.


Hello 2024: Let's crack this "Cocoon" ❤️🦋



3. Me and my solopreneurship: partnerships

Being a solopreneur is pretty "Solo". I wrote about it in last year's reflection.


In 2023 I learned how much less "solo" you are when you are surrounded by likeminded people. The C2C community is one.


The other is a prospering community of product coaches where you can always find a helpful hand. Either with information, or experience, wisdom, tips & tricks, or for an intro.


Or for chats, partnerships and collaborations.


There are too many people to mention each and every one by their names but I am SO THANKFUL for the conversations with each and every single person that I've met. I feel less lonely due to partnerships and frequent conversations/ exchange (Petra, Randy, Tim, Tim, Ant, Tobias, Janet, Niko, Alex, Phil, Itamar, Eran, Saeed, Jason, Greg, and so many more).


You have to know, asking for help has never been easy to me. I would describe myself as not the ugliest person in the world, and as such a person it happened to me way too many times in the past that people who helped me expected some return - return that you can imagine shocked me. I count myself lucky that a strong "no!" always stopped that awkward conversation. But it also made me stop asking for help.


I am more than happy to have found people and groups where helping is not a matter of return. At least not that kind of return.



4. "Just" me

I am doing good.


I went through some depressive times. Not knowing my direction, and not knowing what to focus on had quite an emotional effect on me and my family.


I had moments when I thought about being hired again.

And I remembered that when I started my journey it wasn't about being self-employed forever.


I DO want to be hired again at some point.

Admitting this to myself gives me a big relief.


The exchange with wonderful friends in my life (Cam, Dawid, Cosima, Agnes, Tanja, Vanessa, Frederik, Hayder, Monika, Joseph, Arjanna, and more) has helped me come back to my true self, and open my compass again to navigate in the direction I want to go.


Work wise but also personally.


And looking at the shocking events that happened in the world in the last two years, everything became relative to me.


I am blessed and thankful every single day that me and my family - my little daughter, my husband, our families - are living a safe life. That I can hug, kiss and cuddle my little one and my love every day.


We don't live in an area with life-destroying natural catastrophes like the biggest earthquakes in Türkiye's history that my family had to go through early this year.


We have shelter, we have food, we have water, we have heating in winter.


We have functioning hospitals and enough medical equipment.


We don't fear to be attacked at any point in time.


We don't fear for the life of our loved ones.


We don't have to fight for our lives.


Not having nailed my business portfolio yet is really not a big deal.


I'm thankful we are safe.


May 2024 be bright for all of us - Cocoon ❤️


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