For most of the seven years I’ve been in business, answering some questions about my company has proved a bit tricky. While I breeze through my background, skills and unique values that I offer to clients, whenever asked about my “staff” or “employees” I never really know how to answer. While most small businesses are true to size, my company is really small — it’s a group of one. Thanks to a lot of confused facial expressions, it didn’t take me long to realize that being a one-woman shop was both untraditional and somewhat taboo. Even as solopreneurs have become increasingly more common, it’s clear this type of professional is still largely misunderstood.
I suppose when one considers the name, it is easy to understand why. Solopreneurs are typically viewed as introverted, uncommitted or lazy and higher risk versus a larger agency. Of course, none of these are true or fair opinions. On the contrary, the very nature of working alone requires one to be an ardent self-starter, socially engaging and completely committed to one’s work — regardless of whether one also has a full-time job or the business is their primary source of income. (I fell into the latter category for many years.) There is no one else to secure new deals or maintain current ones; this in itself requires the ability to multi-task and remain focused on the end goal. Solopreneurs also provide close, individualized attention that clients truly crave but will never really get from an enormous marketing firm.
Sure, we have the pleasure of working wherever and whenever we please, and have the privilege of calling the shots in business deals. That comes with the territory and is definitely amongst the greatest perks of this career path. But make no mistake, it certainly isn’t the easiest road and not ideal for everyone.
An article I found (read it here), had some interesting perspectives on what it takes to be a successful solopreneur, but I’m not sure I agree with all of them. Below, check out where they got it right, what’s a myth and the best tips for running a one-person powerhouse.
Tips For Success
Have A Vision That Works For You
It’s true that not every business idea is a suitable one for solopreneurship. The important thing is to have a vision of what you would like to accomplish and ensure it’s a plan that works for you and your desired lifestyle.
Accountability Is 100% Your Responsibility
Being a one-person shop absolutely requires a great deal of accountability. It is up to you to complete tasks, meet deadlines and troubleshoot on behalf of clients. Solopreneurs get to enjoy all of their successes by themselves, but also must deal with failures as well.
Close The Deal By Reacting Immediately
Since solopreneurs don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves, it makes it much easier to react immediately to potential business deals. Speed could be the deciding factor between the potential client signing with you or someone else. Always, always follow up and keep lines of communication open.
Use Your Freedom To Think Outside The Box
Another perk of having no one else to answer to: solopreneurs can go outside traditional business practices or environments to add a level of personality to the deal. This often helps a client to get to know you on a different level; if they like you personally, chances are good they’ll work with you professionally.
Constantly Add To Your List Of Skills
Although most solopreneurs start their business with one specific set of abilities, they stay in business by building on it and adding valuable skills to their resume. (For example, I didn’t always know how to design websites or be an event photographer.) The goal should always be to learn every aspect of a business; it’s much easier to land deals when everything can be kept in house, as opposed to fragmented with different vendors.
ABL: Always Be Learning
It is really rare to start a solo venture as an expert in every facet of business. Instead, solopreneurs must be ready to learn as they go along, making mental notes when things go well and also when they don’t. This done over time is how one-person businesses become experts in their given field.
Solopreneurs Always Work Alone
Sure, officially your business may be comprised of one person. That doesn’t mean however, that solopreneurs always work alone. Partnerships with other vendors (or solopreneurs) in complimentary industries will not only help provide value to clients while also reaffirming connections with your project partners. For example: I am able to take event, venue and food photos for clients but I always hire John Robinson Photography since his work is always top-notch and get’s the job done (allowing me to focus on other things).
Solopreneurs Must Sacrifice Profits
While it is true that solopreneurs typically do not have the same gross revenue that larger businesses have, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fantastic money to be made. By partnering up with other vendors (as explained above) or hiring an intern (unpaid if you can swing it), you’ll make money even if you aren’t actually doing the work. (You’ll also be helping your clients since you want to provide the best service possible, right?)
Consider Using A Co-Working Space
One of the greatest benefits of being a solopreneur is that there are a lot fewer overhead costs then a traditional business typically has. The ability to work wherever, whenever is great but it is even better because it’s easy to do for free. Co-working spaces are fancy and all, but will add to one’s overall business expenses and is therefore not absolutely necessary. (A Starbucks or a library works just fine, too.)
Remain Patient + Success Will Come
Of course, successful solopreneurs are not made overnight. However, most attempt to be patient and ultimately become complacent — this is one of the WORST things one can do when running a one-person operation. To be successful, solopreneurs must stay hungry and constantly focused on achieving their goals.
Solopreneur Income Is Always Inconsistent
While this can be a true statement depending on how one sets up their business model, it doesn’t always have to be. Historically, I prefer to develop strong, trusting relationships with clients so they know what to expect and so do I. Doing so has helped me to retain the majority of my customers for a number of years, therefore resulting in consistent flows of income. (With that being said, having some savings just in case is never a bad idea!)