Solopreneur – it’s kind of a goofy word, but it’s one that’s enjoyed a tremendous rise in popularity and usage over the past decade. More specifically, it’s taken off in the last three to five years. And if you find yourself among this burgeoning group of young professionals, it’s often helpful to understand what works. In this article, we’ll dive into some of the rules and tips for success (as learned by your peers).
What is a Solopreneur?
While you can find any number of definitions online as to what constitutes a solopreneur, it’s essentially an entrepreneur who prefers the freedom to run a business on their own without any W-2 employees.
You’re probably asking yourself: Isn’t that just an entrepreneur? Well, yes…and no.
It’s easiest to think of it like this: All solopreneurs are entrepreneurs – you have that part right, but not all entrepreneurs are solopreneurs.
Typical solopreneurs include freelance writers, web graphics designers, consultants, virtual assistants, accountants, tax preparers, and social media managers.
A solopreneur is both a founder and the employee. He or she manages every aspect of the business. The solopreneur starts the business, creates the product or service, and without them, the business ceases to exist. An entrepreneur is the founder, and very well may do some of the work, but hires and manages a team. Theoretically, the entrepreneur should be able to take two or three days off for vacation and the business would still run smoothly.
Another differentiating factor is that solopreneurs have a single business focus and aren’t necessarily looking to build a business at scale. They plan to run the business indefinitely and have no expectation of selling it off in the future. (Typically there’s nothing to sell even if they wanted to exit.)
4 Tips for Successful Solopreneurship
Life as a solopreneur can feel lonely, isolating, and difficult at times. You carry all of the burden and there’s nobody to ease the relief. There are only so many hours in the day and you can’t always get everything done.
Life as a solopreneur is also highly rewarding. You’re building something on your own – something you can feel good about. Plus, with no other employees or stakeholders, all of the profits are yours. This makes it lucrative and sustainable.
As you swing back and forth between the good side of solopreneurship and the tough side, here are a few tips you can use to get ahead:
- Let Your Mind Go There
When you’re out on your own and 100 percent responsible for your own income, it’s easy to get scared. And instead of focusing on what you should be doing, you worry about what could go wrong. Many will tell you to squash these thoughts, but that might not be the best advice.
“Instead, embrace it,” entrepreneur Matthew Hodges writes. “Let your mind wander to the worst case scenario, and you’ll realize that it’s not all that bad. If you fail, is it the end of the world? No. You’ll simply have to reroute and adjust.”
Once you’ve imagined the worst-case scenario, you’ve set the baseline. Now you’re free to dig in and get to work.
- Stack Your Skills
Think of skills like tools. While it’s nice to have one powerful tool, it’s even better to have two or three. If you only have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. But if you have a screwdriver, saw, and chisel, you look at the world differently.
In solopreneurship terms, you need to add and stack skills. Being able to write copy is nice, but it’s better if you can write copy and do some basic graphic design work. See the difference?
- Network Like Crazy
As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know. This is especially true for solopreneurs who are out on their own. You need to build up a solid group of connections that you can lean into for guidance and/or assistance when you’re feeling stuck. Otherwise you’ll find it difficult to get through the tough times that always come with solopreneurship.
- Progress Over Perfection
It’s easy to get so caught up in planning that you end up pursuing perfection. For example, you have this great idea for a marketing campaign that you can run over the next three months to generate buzz around a new service you’re offering. So you plan, plan, and plan some more. Then you look up and three months have already passed, and you haven’t actually executed.
Too much planning leads to paralysis. Remember that progress is more important than perfection. Dive in, do it, and learn from the results. Good or bad, you can continue to iterate and pivot until you get where you need to be.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Every solopreneur is unique and there’s no playbook for success. What works for a 23-year-old copywriter in Nebraska isn’t always going to be an effective strategy for a 47-year-old CPA in New York. Yet at the same time, there’s this mutual connection between solopreneurs – a sense of understanding and appreciation. As you move forward and grow, leverage the knowledge you gain, surround yourself with the right support group, and don’t be afraid to take calculated chances. You are, quite literally, your only limiting factor.