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5 Roles, 2 Systems and Why You Aren’t First in Line – RFG 3

Welcome to part 3 of the Role Fitting Guide! Hopefully you’re reading this in order of the series for maximum benefit and you have just learned in the previous series how roles work as a part of a system. Now to discover the 5 roles and how they work directly in your business.

As a solopreneur, the title doesn’t matter – not one bit.

You’re the customer service rep, the troubleshooter, the CEO and the grunt. Soup to nuts, it’s all you.

Actions and the work we actually do, our true output – that’s what matters most as a solopreneur.

It’s time to strip away the emperor’s clothes and get down to the hidden truth.

Naked Roles.

Your Business Has Five Primary Roles:

  1. Novice
  2. Specialist
  3. Expert
  4. Generalist
  5. Broker

Wow. Were you expecting something else?

Well, you’d be surprised to learn how misunderstood roles really are even these five.

As simple as the list may seem, you don’t know what these roles really mean to your business, atleast not yet.

Why, because these roles plug into a business system in a way you probably don’t expect or understand, but you will soon.

So, before we dive into the five primary roles, let’s establish the importance of the business system these roles plug into.

The Two Primary Business Systems:

  1. Direct to client
  2. Subcontractor

Simple, deceptively simple.

That’s the whole problem.  This is so easy to overlook it takes people years just to figure out these two business systems and how to Role Fit properly. And as a solopreneur, this is a huge part of your business and you may very well be plugged into both systems at the same time.

It’s possible to have the same role in either system, yet have totally different experiences based on whether or not you are working directly with the client project or not.  This can be a maddening experience if you don’t understand it.

Follow along as we map this out.

Direct to client

This means you are working directly with the client (owner or decision maker) and you’re required to interface with them directly for the work being done.  In this case, the client knows you and has direct expectations of you and your work.


In this capacity, you are directly interfacing with another person on behalf of the actual client project. In this case the client probably does not know about you and you most likely have two sets of expectations on you – your direct client (the person who subcontracted you) as well as the client’s expectations which is being screened and filtered to you through the person who subcontracted you.

Clearly these two systems are not the same and they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Here’s A Hard Pill to Swallow, Are you Ready?

A majority of your challenges will stem from understanding your role and your approach to the business system you are pluged into.

Now for the Real Tough Love.

Are you ready?

It’s. Not. About. You.

When it comes to the customer, the person who is paying you, it’s never about you – it’s about them and this is why role fitting is tremendously important.  Not only is it about the customer, but it’s about what the customer thinks they are getting for themselves through you (your role in the system).

There just isn’t room enough for it to be about you and about the customer – so the customer is always first in line.

It’s not uncommon to approach everything like it’s about you and your business. Aren’t you so special the client project wants you? Nope, not yet.

But if you skip yourself and just go straight to making it about the customer then you are able to see yourself as they see you and you’ll be able to show them exactly what you want them to see.

Let’s dig deeper into these two business systems.

So, if you are working direct to client you’ll behave differently than if you are a subcontractor through a third-party.  All your communications, expectations, accountability and execution will all be affected by this.  You’ll have the same roles, but act differently because they are very different business systems and the system dictates expectations and roles.

Picture yourself directly with the client for a moment.

It’s you shaking their hand, chatting with them on the phone, trading emails and discussing client project matters.  It’s the two of you rapport building and developing a relationship and discussing what’s worked or failed. It’s you creating context for the client project.

It’s also you answering the hard questions, doing the follow up calls, overcoming challenges and talking through hot topics.  It means you and the client project are a team trying to get the work done.

Your working with their staff and getting to know all the people and things that are directly related to the project and usually a lot of other things that are on the outside including people’s personalities, work style, and interest (or lack of interest) in the client project.

Who’s in charge?

This direct to client system brings about all sorts of considerations on whether it’s you or the client leading the way.  Who is doing the asking and telling? Who is making the decisions and creating expectations.  In short – who’s got what role?

Ok, got it?  That’s working directly with the client.  That’s the “direct to client” business system.

Now then, picture yourself for a moment as the subcontractor.

Who’s your client here?

If you said “both” you’d be right. You are now the proud owner of two clients – the one that brought you in as a subcontractor and the man in the ivory tower who doesn’t even know you exist, what you’re good at, and what you bring to the table.

You’re now dealing directly with a secondary person who “owns” the client project.  This can be fantastic news for you. It could result in highly efficient conversations, little to no hand-holding, and a much appreciated “I trust you” business relationship.

You very much need to ‘win’ your relationship as a subcontractor and the way to do it is very different than it is when dealing directly with the client.

As a subcontractor (remember this is a system not a role) you are trying to meet client project expectations plus make your direct contact see you as a great resource to be included over and over again.

Do this right and the flood gates can open resulting in a steady stream of client projects!

Do this wrong, accept the wrong role, or misunderstand your role and see this dry up like a desert before your eyes.

So in this situation it will still come down to knowing who is in charge? Who’s calling the shots and knows what’s right and what’s wrong?  Who as final say?  Who’s got the higher bill rate?

Want to Raise Your Rates?

The easiest and most effective way to raise your rates is to own your role and demonstrate the value of the role you play in the system.

As you just learned, the dynamics of each system vary.  So the things you do to enhance your value differ.  What never changes is the fact that it’s always about them, the customer.

When you are a subcontractor, you have two customers.  And don’t you forget it, so many subcontractors do then they wonder why they lose future business.

And remember, you’re always there to make the customer look good, to take problems away, not add to them.

So, now that you know the two business systems, let’s talk about your roles.

Your naked roles.

We’ll cover that next. But for now, let’s close out this section with a quick recap.

You have five roles available to you and you’re plugging into the “direct to client” business system or the “subcontractor” business system.  Your role may vary for each of those systems and the expectations definitely vary according to which system you are plugged into.

On the next section, we’ll dive deep into each of the five roles of the Solopreneur and how to intentionally be the lean mean Lion without accidentally becoming the fat lazy Buffalo.

In the mean time, Can you see how these systems have a huge impact on your business?

About H Q

HQ is the General of and directs troops in UNIT 51, the special forces section of the site. HQ is responsible for badass and making sure it happens often. Not usually described as fluffy or gentle, HQ doesn't care much for the color pink, the smell of honeysuckles or the size of your logo on your business card. He does, however, enjoy a great lecture, business non-fiction book and lively discussions on what makes business work. He smiles when it's necessary and thinks you'll grow up to be a fine soldier in business if you decide to get your head out of your ass and learn to use elbow grease. Prefers trained dogs to puppies, but sees the potential in everything except poodles and cats. Damn cats.