Ready or not, the digital-first economy is here.

Thrive In A Digital-First Economy: The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated an already existing trend — that we are increasingly comfortable with managing more of our lives digitally. From working remotely to buying all of our day-to-day needs off of Amazon, we’ve reached a point where we’re truly in a digital-first world.

For some industries, this can seem like a tough transition. But in reality, entrepreneurs in any niche can leverage new technology to thrive like never before — as long as they have the right attributes.

1. Flexibility

For digitally-inclined entrepreneurs, the idea of flexibility usually evokes images of being able to work for your clients on your own schedule, and from anywhere you can get an internet connection — even the beach.

But the need for flexibility goes farther than that. Tech is continually advancing. AI and machine learning tools that are commonplace now would have sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie not too long ago. You can bet that other tech advances are well on the way, and they will continue to disrupt and change the way we work.

Entrepreneurs who want to stay relevant and profitable need to adopt a flexible mindset that allows them to evaluate new tech and make rapid change when needed. After all, early adopters often reap the biggest benefits of new tech.

2. Comfort With Outsourcing And Automating

Old-school entrepreneurs may be used to doing everything themselves, but this is hardly the most effective way to run a business.

As Alexander Friedhoff, co-founder and CEO of Etaily explained to me in a recent conversation, “Savvy outsourcing can do wonders for your profits and productivity. With Etaily, for example, in the retail space, we see countless brands bog themselves down with repetitive tasks like order fulfillment or warehouse and marketing management, when they should instead be focusing on their core business. Our ‘in-house’, end-to-end e-commerce service supports a diverse range of consumer product and content brands for instant retail optimization across a number of channels and territories to help them do just that. Outsource. Automate. See an immediate uptick in efficiency.”

Yes, outsourcing and automating means giving up some measure of control over your business. But it frees up your time so you can work smarter and more efficiently. It’s time to wave boring number-crunching goodbye.

3. Digital Communications Skills

In our digital-first world, clients expect a surprising level of transparency and openness from the businesses they work with. As a solopreneur, strong digital communication skills are a must if you want to maintain great relationships with your clients.

This doesn’t just mean that you have the basics of online communication — a website, email address and social media accounts — set up and ready to go. It means you know how to use them in a way that is appropriate for your business and its clients.

Simply giving your clients multiple avenues to reach you and then responding to them in a timely manner can go a long way in improving satisfaction and retention. Of course, when you proactively reach out, that’s even better. Consistent communication will keep expectations in check so everyone is on the same page.

4. Understanding Customer Expectations

The digital-first economy has changed the way we work — but it has also changed what clients expect when they do business with you. Now more than ever, clients expect seamless interactions and quick results. They expect you to be proactive in addressing their questions and concerns.

In this way, a digital world comes with pros and cons. Some clients might expect you to be available to them 24/7 — not really conducive to a good work-life balance. Managing communications with clients who live several time zones away can also be a challenge.

The key is setting clear expectations upfront, while also striving to know your clients and their needs. Gathering information during your initial conversations and explaining what you can (and can’t) do for them will keep everyone happy while ensuring that digital availability is a benefit rather than a headache.

5. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity certainly doesn’t have the same sex appeal as automating mundane tasks or being able to work from anywhere in the world, but it is still an essential consideration for entrepreneurs who are taking their business digital.

Like it or not, the fact that you are a “business owner” (even as a solopreneur) makes you a more attractive target to hackers. With so many accounts and connections with clients and vendors alike, there are many opportunities these losers could use to gain access to sensitive information. As more businesses go digital, the number of these attacks will only increase.

The last thing you want is for a malware attack or phishing scam to compromise your financial data — or that of your clients. Exposing their sensitive data through a security breach is a guaranteed way to lose their trust and their business. A basic investment in cybersecurity is an absolute must to ensure that your website and other digital accounts don’t become a liability.

Time To Thrive

Navigating an increasingly digital world comes with many challenges for entrepreneurs — but it also opens up more opportunities, especially for solopreneurs and freelancers. As you increase your digital know-how and comfort, you will be better positioned to reach a wider range of high- value clients than ever before.

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