21 Rules for Solopreneurs to Live By

solopreneur tips

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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.

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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.

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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

Keltto explains:

“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.

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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

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.