For all the talk of scaling and hiring and growing, some small businesses will always be one man or one woman shows. And the solopreneurs who run them – like it that way.
But running a solo business can be a lot different than running a business with a team behind you. To make it successfully, take a look at these solopreneur tips below.
Know What You Want from Your Business
Not every business necessarily lends itself to solopreneurship. Before you make the decision to either hire a team or stick to a solo operation, you need to know what’s going to be best for you. If you want to grow into a huge operation, scaling is probably the way to go. But if you’re happier with the freedom of running a business by yourself, there’s no need to mess with a good thing.
Sometimes though, the only way to know is to try. Larry Keltto, publisher of Blogthusiast and author of The Solopreneur Life is a solo business owner, though he did try to scale his operation by hiring a few employees during the 1990’s. He said in an email interview with Small Business Trends:
“My business was more profitable, but I wasn’t as happy. I was spending a lot of time managing other people and selling, and it took me away from doing the work that I enjoy so much.”
Be Willing to Sacrifice Some Profits
One of the main drawbacks of running a solo business is that they’re not often as profitable as other businesses. You can’t do as much by yourself as you could with a team behind you. So if you feel that solopreneurship is right for you, you have to be okay with sacrificing a bit in the money department.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Since you’re the only one working on your business operations, you’re the only one you can count on to complete tasks satisfactorily and on time. So you have to find a way to hold yourself accountable, either through some kind of rewards system or a very strict schedule.
Don’t Limit Yourself Based on Personality Traits
Contrary to popular belief, successful solopreneurs can be just about anyone. You don’t have to necessarily enjoy spending time alone to run a successful solo business. Keltto says:
“There seems to be a stereotype that solos are introverts; based on my experience with solopreneurs, I don’t think there are more introverts in solopreneurship than in the general population.”
React Quickly to New Opportunities
One of the main benefits of running a solo business is that you don’t have other people to consult with when making important decisions. So if an opportunity comes about that seems right for your business, jump on it quickly. Take advantage of that ability that could potentially set you apart from other businesses.
Take Advantage of Your Freedom
Another main benefit is that you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. You do have to hold yourself accountable. But you don’t have to stick to traditional business practices in order to satisfy other members of your team. So if you work better with a non-traditional schedule or in non-traditional environments, take advantage of your ability to do so.
Constantly Learn from Your Experiences
Being a solopreneur means being the sole person in charge of all aspects of your business. It’s impossible to go into a new venture as an expert in everything. So you’ll have to be open and willing to learn about new business aspects as you go.
Build a Wide Range of Skills
Most solopreneurs start a business because of an existing skill set. You might have a talent for creating art or providing Web design services. But to be a successful solopreneur, you also have to know things like marketing, accounting and more. You’ll have to work hard to build those skills that don’t come naturally.
Utilize Tech Tools
There are, however, plenty of tools that can help with the parts of running a business that don’t deal with your specific talents. Use online or desktop tools to manage things like taxes and scheduling rather than doing everything manually.
Automate Wherever Possible
Automation can also help you save time and sanity when working by yourself. You can automate things like invoicing, sorting emails, and sending out marketing communications with a variety of different tools.
Celebrate Accomplishments with Others
A prominent drawback of running a solo business is that there’s no one to necessarily celebrate your successes or major milestones with. For that reason, make it a point to do so with friends or family if you’ve done something you’re really proud of.
Find an Outside Support System
Just as it helps to have people to celebrate the good times with, the same can be said for struggles. For those times you need advice or just need to vent, count on family, friends or mentors to help.
Focus on Purpose Over Passion
“In the solo space, you hear a lot of people say ‘do what you love,’ ‘do what you’re passionate about.’ But to succeed as a solo, I think you need to be motivated by purpose, not passion. Passion is the emotional, irrational euphoria that occurs at the beginning of a relationship. When solo businesses are based on passion, it’s very difficult to survive serious setbacks. Love can quickly turn to hate.”
Measure Financial Goals
Just as with any other business, finances can be a good way to measure your success. And even though you may have to sacrifice a bit of profit to keep the independence of a solo business, you should still set regular goals for revenue and growth.
Take Personal Needs into Account
However, money isn’t everything for solopreneurs. To make sure that your business practices are actually sustainable, you have to also keep up your personal health and happiness. Keltto says:
“Unlike a non-solo business, solopreneurs must include health of body, mind, and personal relationships when evaluating success. Health in those three areas will determine how successful (and sustainable) your business is in the future.”
Schedule Breaks Periodically
Part of creating a routine that will keep you happy and healthy means taking regular breaks. Keltto says that it’s very common for solopreneurs to work all the time, or at least feel like they should be working all the time. But doing so will likely lead to burnout.
Make Your Office a Productive Space
If you regularly work from home, creating a space that’s comfortable and optimized for productivity can go a long way toward making your business a success.
Consider a Co-working Space
Or, if you’d prefer to work with other people around, there are plenty of coworking spaces popping up around the country. Find one that’s affordable and that offers a plan suitable for your needs.
Join Online Communities of Like-Minded Entrepreneurs
There are also plenty of communities online that will allow you to regularly interact with people in your industry or with whom you share common interests. Find some online forums, Twitter chats or other communities that will help you share and gain insights from your peers while you work to grow your business.
Be Prepared for Inconsistent Income
Along with sometimes lower profits, a solo business can also mean inconsistent income. If you’re sick, on vacation, or just experiencing a sales slump, you’ll make less than you would during a good month. So it helps to have a backup savings account or other income stream to offset those difficult times.
Be Patient When it Comes to Success
It can also take a bit longer for solo businesses to grow to a place where you’re comfortable. If you’ve just started out and are experiencing inconsistencies or low profits, don’t just quit. Growing a successful business by yourself can take a lot longer than growing one with a team. If it’s what you really want, you need to work hard at it and show some patience.
Solopreneur, Desk, Celebration, Co-working Images via Shutterstock
Wonderful advice, although I’d disagree with one idea. If you automate, use technology and outsource as a rule, you don’t need to learn everything yourself. Outsourcing is your secret weapon.
I agree Dina, working for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean doing everything yourself – you just have to make sure it gets done. Outsourcing can help you snag clients that have needs outside of your expertise.
When you’re working by yourself and something goes wrong, it is quite hard to hold yourself accountable. I guess it comes from our own fear of failure. But you’ll find out sooner or later that once you hold responsibility for your actions, it is easier to take the next step.
I love the advice about working your own way and not having stick to traditional business practices when it’s just you.
That’s what I love about being a solopreneur.
However one aspect to don’t enjoy is when you want to discuss a certain issue about the business, but you only have you. You can’t ask family, friends or outsiders because they have no idea how the business operates internally.
Good article Annie. Many of your points confirmed some of my experiences – especially the one about feeling that you should always be working. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission not to feel guilty about not working all the time.
Such a nice article .Seriously the biggest drawback about being a solopreneur is you only have yourself to discuss issues:)
Annie: Nice list of tips. I would argue that the anti-business concept of sacrifice doesn’t belong together with profit. You invest time and energy to harvest your profits later on. That is not the same thing as a sacrifice.
I am trying to be a solopreneur, in the event planning business, I don’t have any professional experience…only that of planning birthday, thanksgiving, christmas and romantic dinners for two on a personal level. My question is do I need a formal business plan of action or do I just work as it comes. Also, how do I go about receiving income for my services. I would like some advice, Thank you.
I know this thread is a few months old. But just found it, so hope this helps:
There is a lot in your question, but here are 3 places to start:
1. Poll and research demand and payment ability first. Are other firms doing this? If so, how, and how much do they charge? Do they by chance publish client lists? (Some larger firms will, to attract other large firms.) Doing something for friends and family is at best a general indication of market interest. The chasm between what people will ask for and appreciate—and what they will *pay* for—is wide. Research is your friend, and can be done inexpensively on sites like Fiverr or FancyHands (no affiliation with either service).
2. The results of #1 above will guide your business plan decision. As a general rule: yes, you’ll want at least a high-level plan, with some specific first and second year targets.
3. For receiving payment, PayPal is still the golden standard for new businesses. It’s very easy to set up an account, and now they even provider custom “pay me” links you can send to people. Building on #1 above (market validation being key…), you can experiment with sending a PayPal.me (no affiliation) link to friends / family you’ve planned.
This does two things:
(1) Provide additional validation for your business idea. If people will pay you using the link, then other people will pay as well.
(2) It gets you comfortable with asking for, and receiving payment for your services.
You could literally do everything above for less than $30 USD. Plus, taking these valuable steps will save you countless hours / years / dollars down the road. AND, you’ll be ahead of 99% of other small businesses that never do the validation.
All the best on your new journey!
Annie: This is a good list. Inconsistent income can be nerve racking. The roller coaster of revenue ups and downs can be smoothed out by creating multiple streams of income and especially passive income. It’s important to track your business numbers and be pro-active in smoothing the income stream.
Yep, great ideas, most of which I already implement as a seasoned veteran small business owner since 1982. But there’s one thing you forgot to include, what to do when some unforeseen accident or health issue renders you unable to tolerate the physical and mental demands of your work. Tech & automation can help. But we’re increasingly being left with tech & social media now requiring special skills of its own.
Holy smokes! Solopreneurship is a crazy, wild ride.
A roller-coaster of emotions, years of hard work, and personal growth beyond belief.
Solopreneurship is anything but mundane.
I think the trick is to enjoy the process, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, and concentrate on small achievable goals. Getting from a to b is a journey, so you might as well enjoy it.
Anyway. I love posts like this one, so thanks for inspiring me.