Work ON your business
There's a classic business lesson and phrase that says entrepreneurs should "work on their business, and not in it."
Generally speaking, working IN your business means doing the core work.
If you owned a Korean chicken restaurant (I'm a BonChon fan), it would mean you're the one frying up the chicken, answering the phone to take orders, etc.
Working ON your business means improving the business itself.
In the Korean chicken restaurant example, working on the business would mean figuring out ways to ensure you develop processesand systems to deliver consistently crunch and tasty chicken, get more customers, hire and retain employees, or even potentially expand to other locations.
In the 1099 world, working IN the business means actually doing the job you were hired to do and that a W2 employee could do if hired.
So what does working ON the business mean for a solo 1099?
- Developing systems to generate more leads
- Developing a signature working style, process, or skill that consistently makes clients happy
- Developing processes to minimize the time you spend doing business admin stuff
To generate more leads, maybe you send out one cold e-mail per week, set up one happy hour per month with a professional colleage, or share blog posts on LinkedIn about your field of expertise.
To improve client delivery, maybe you do something like send a weekly status e-mail directly to your client that analyzes the current work situation and recommends next step.
To streamline business operations, maybe you invest in some time-keeping/invoicing software.
As a soloist, of course, you'll be working IN your business as well. There's no getting around that.
But to do this long term you need to set aside time to work ON the business too.
For a good book on the topic, you should read the classic book the E-Myth
It's not focused on solo 1099 sub-contractors, but it'll make you think bigger picture about your 1099 career as a "business" rather than just you slinging some Excel sheets for clients.