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Practice Builder EDGE: 7 Challenges of Going Solo (and How to Tame Them) (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Today's post is by Rod Burkert. In one way, shape, or form, Rod has been performing business valuations since the late 1980s. In July 2000, he started Burkert Valuation Advisors in Philadelphia where he ran a "traditional” valuation practice for 10 years.

From March 2010 to March 2022, Rod traveled full-time throughout the US and Canada in an RV with his wife and their dogs. When he saw the possibilities of a location-independent BVFLS practice, he started rbCOACHING, which focuses on strategies, tactics, tools, and tech that can build/grow/scale BVFLS firms.

Today, Rod has settled in Bisbee, AZ and focuses solely on his practice building coaching … all created by leveraging his professional network, content marketing, social media, virtual assistants, and available technology.

The past few years have been pretty crazy. Many professionals have left established firms to start their own practices. Others are wondering if they should do the same.

I started my own firm – and have been a solo – since 2000. It was the right decision for me, given where I was (in all aspects of my life) at the time. But it’s not all the freedom and merriment it’s cracked up to be. However, there is some freedom and merriment despite how cracked up it can be!

So, what do you need to know?

It’s you against the world, BUT…

"Being a solo is tough. It's especially tough in the beginning. It's you against the world. It's you creating something out of (almost … or what feels like) nothing. BUT you have a vision … while others want someone else to provide the vision. You're different. You’ve figured out a way to manage the process and get going. Now you're going to keep going, but the path is not clear. There are 'challenges'. I’ve come up with seven – and potential solutions for them – based on

my experience as a solo and others I have talked to over the past 20+ years."

Challenge #1 – You will feel unqualified and unprepared

In my first hours as a solo, I sat in my new chair at my new desk – with my brand spanking new laptop, phone, fax machine, legal pads, and pencil cup all neatly arranged – and thought to myself: “Now what?”

As in: what did I do?

Impostor syndrome hit me.

As in: who am I to be doing this by myself?

There were a few things I knew how to do really well. So, I focused on that. Then I got new clients who asked me to do new things. It forced me to level up and do projects I didn’t yet feel ready to do. Impostor syndrome comes back.

When I mastered that level, I would be asked to level up yet again. It is (present tense) a never-ending spiral, but an upward one.


"You learn in conversations with other solos that everyone feels (present tense) impostor syndrome. Unfortunately, these conversations are rare because we’re not disposed to being vulnerable and sharing our feelings of inadequacy."

A possibility is to only ever do what you are comfortable doing. Stop striving … stop stretching yourself to be the professional you aspire to be. Yeah—that’s not likely to happen.

And you don’t want it to happen.

So, the solution is to pack your impostor syndrome in a suitcase and bring it along with you on your journey. Knowing the rest of us have these feelings makes it a little less scary, but it's never easy … it just gets less difficult.

Ultimately, you develop thicker skin and reliable coping mechanisms, and the suitcase gets smaller as you get better at what you do each day that you do it.

Challenge #2 – You will feel overwhelmed

Initially, the big influx of work I got felt great … euphoric even. That’s exactly what I was hoping for!

Until it’s not. The novelty of being busy wore off … quickly. My backlog grew, and deadlines started piling up. That “influx” gave way to a feeling of drowning. It was freaking stressful.

Is this why I started my own practice?

At the firm I was at before going solo, valuation analysts worked for me. There were shared administrative assistants. I had people! Who were now gone. Everything I had to get done had to be done by me.


The first part of a solution is to raise your fees. This is particularly true if your influx of work resulted from you being a price taker. Your premium quality work in exchange for low fees leads to more work than you can handle. You don’t want more clients; you want better clients who can afford to pay higher fees. (To this day, I still regulate my pipeline of work by adjusting my fees.)

The second part of the solution took me three years into my solo practice to fix. My wife, Amy, and I hired help. Marley took over everything you imagine it takes to run a house and a household. Then, she took over all of the admin tasks you know it takes to run a practice.

I had people (well, a person) again!!

Today, I have a virtual assistant who is focused on things I think it would be “nice to know” how to do but are so outside my unique ability bullseye.

So seriously, why are you waiting to hire a real or virtual assistant?

(to be continued...)


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