What is a Solopreneur?
You feel stuck in your job and are ready to break out of the 9-to-5 grind. And solopreneurship is an alternative you’re considering.
But what does solopreneurship really mean?
In 2019, I walked away from a lucrative role at a fast-growing startup. I've learned a thing or two since then — and I want to share all of it with you.
In this article, I'll explain solopreneurship, give examples of business ideas, and share actionable tips for becoming a successful one-person business owner.
What is a solopreneur?
A solopreneur is someone who runs their own business without employees or team members. They assume the risks of a business without the help of a partner. In other words, solopreneurs are "solo entrepreneurs."
What's the difference between solopreneurs and entrepreneurs?
A question I’m often asked is, "Are solopreneurs and entrepreneurs the same?"
While they share similarities, they're not the same.
Let's break down some key differences.
- Run their businesses solo
- Have smaller, more niche-focused businesses
- Build their business around their personal brand
- Have full control over their business decisions and operations
- Are involved in all aspects of the business, from operations to marketing to finance
- Have a team of people working with them
- Consult with their team or board of directors before making major decisions
- Have a higher potential for scalability with larger-scale growth and expansion
- Build a brand that's distinct from their personal brand, focusing on the business's unique value proposition and market positioning
- Delegate responsibilities and decisions to their team, so they can focus on strategic planning and vision
While solopreneurs and entrepreneurs both run their own businesses, there are notable differences in terms of scale, team size, and decision-making.
Of course, there's no right or wrong way to be a business owner — it comes down to what works best for you.
What a solopreneur lifestyle means to me
Too often, people make the mistake of jumping into solopreneurship without understanding what's really in it for them.
Traditional 9-to-5 work made me feel limited by someone else's schedule and priorities.
Solopreneurship gives me the freedom to create a work-life balance around my own purpose and values.
I'm my own boss.
I set my own hours.
I travel around the world.
I spend time with my family.
And the most compelling part of solopreneurship?
Taking on work with intention.
When you commit to becoming a one-person business, you get to say "yes" to projects that motivate you each morning.
You engage in long-term partnerships with people that you vibe with.
You pursue endeavors that align with your passions, ethics, and long-term goals.
This intentional approach has enhanced my life, led to more meaningful experiences, and much more.
Benefits of solopreneurship
Solopreneurship offers plenty of advantages, including the freedom to call your own shots without anyone's permission.
With effort and the right strategy, you get to enjoy building something that's yours.
Solopreneurship allows me to:
1. Pursue passions
The best way to have a rewarding career is to turn your passion project into a business.
When you're deeply passionate about your work, you're motivated and determined to succeed.
Passion gives you the energy and enthusiasm to overcome challenges and maintain commitment toward your goals.
You're good at what you do, you love doing it, and your clients get great quality. Win-win.
2. Have flexibility and autonomy
Besides working on projects that genuinely excite you, solopreneurship gives you the creative freedom to build a business around your skills, interests, and expertise.
If you've worked at a 9-to-5 job, you have skills. Why not charge a premium for them and offer services to clients — on your terms?
3. Make an impact
When you put intention at the forefront of your business, what comes out of it can be incredible.
You get a greater sense of fulfillment in your work, knowing you're making a lasting impact in your industry.
Build a business that aligns with your values, while creating positive change in your community.
Being profitable is nice (and a goal you should have). But there's nothing like changing other people's lives for the better while you're at it.
What about the cons?
Overall, I say the pros of solopreneurship outweigh the cons.
But like anything in life, there are drawbacks:
1. It's not for everyone
At the core, solopreneurship requires discipline and consistency. Without these, you'll be underwhelmed by the results and may even want to return to your old full-time job.
Here’s a quick way to judge whether solopreneurship is right for you:
Do you prefer to work for someone else with traditional job security and benefits? Are you expecting overnight success?
If so, solopreneurship may not be for you.
Do you like taking calculated risks, expressing creativity, and making an impact by doing what you love?
If your answer is a resounding yes, then solopreneurship may be the right path for you.
Solopreneurship can be a lonely journey, especially in the beginning. Not having colleagues or a team to collaborate with, bounce ideas off, or share the workload can be challenging.
As a solopreneur, you often work alone without the social interaction that comes with working in an office. For some, this isolation can lead to decreased motivation and even poor mental health.
3. Uncertainty and risk
No matter your solo venture, risks are part of the game.
Running a business means you'll deal with financial uncertainty, market changes, and workload fluctuations.
Being prepared for the ebb and flow is key to success as a solopreneur.
This will be different for everyone, but could look like this:
- Building your personal brand to attract inbound leads
- Creating a rainy day fund to carry you through slower months
- Diversifying your income and working with more than one client
How does the solopreneur business model work?
Solopreneurs leverage their skills and personal brand to offer products or services.
They often use technology and online platforms to reach a wider audience.
The solopreneur business model works like this:
- Set your own hours
- Choose your clients and projects
- Design your business around your lifestyle
- Build a personal brand that reflects your unique value
- Identify your skills and expertise that others could benefit from
- Determine a niche that resonates with your passion and expertise
Most common types of solopreneurs
Solopreneurship looks different for everyone.
You can be a product-based solopreneur, sourcing (or creating) and selling your own products.
Or, you can be a service-based solopreneur, offering services like graphic design, writing, and photography to clients.
As you can see, it's possible to launch a solo business if you have skills that are in demand.
Here are 3 common types of solopreneurs:
1. The Freelancer
Freelancers are independent contractors that use their talents to provide services to clients on a project basis in exchange for compensation. They aren't employees of a company.
Since freelancers work for themselves, they're responsible for managing their workload, schedule, and business operations.
Freelancing has become popular in recent years due to the rise of digital technology and the gig economy.
Here are 10 ideas for freelancers:
- Web design
- Video editing
- Content writing
- Email marketing
- Virtual assisting
- Social media management
2. The Consultant
Consultants are professionals with specialized industry knowledge and skills.
They work closely with clients to analyze their current situation, identify opportunities for improvement, and develop strategies to drive growth.
They may offer services in areas such as:
- Human resources
- Financial advisory
- Marketing strategy
3. The Content Creator
Content creators share informative, entertaining, or inspiring content that resonates with their audience.
They play a vital role in shaping and influencing online communities and conversations.
Content creators come in many forms:
- Photographers: Selling portraits online
- Writers: Ghostwriting for agencies, writing content for founders and executives, or producing sales copy for businesses
- Social media influencers: Producing content with the goal of bringing awareness to brands and their products
- Bloggers: Monetizing a personal blog by creating content for sponsors (e.g. a clothing company pays a blogger to write about their newest line)
- YouTube creators: Working with affiliate partners to get a percentage of sales through a unique link included in vlogs, video tutorials, reviews, and more
- Podcast hosts: Featuring paid sponsors in audio content covering a range of topics like business, education, and entertainment
The list goes on.
Examples of proven solopreneur business ideas
There are many solopreneur business ideas.
Here are a few to consider:
- Web design
- Graphic design
- Online tutoring
- SEO Consulting
- Freelance writing
- Social media management
- Content creation (photo/video)
- Blogging and affiliate marketing
- Online coaching in a specific industry
- Personal training (in-person or virtual)
Tips for becoming a successful solopreneur
People often ask me what it takes to become a successful solopreneur, "How can I grow a sustainable, profitable one-person business?"
Here are my top 3 tips:
1. Define your niche
Having a clear niche allows you to focus your efforts, differentiate yourself from competitors, and attract the right clients.
- What am I passionate about? (e.g. writing and tech/tech companies)
- What skills do I have that someone could benefit from? (e.g. long-form blogging, researching, search engine optimization)
- What's my greatest asset that sets me apart from others in the industry? (e.g. SEO experience, thought leadership content creation, etc.)
2. Build a personal brand
Once you decide what you're going to do, it's time to build your personal brand online.
A lot of people overcomplicate personal branding. It is actually quite simple and doesn't need to cost a penny at the start.
Your personal brand should reflect your unique value proposition, expertise, and personality. Combine all three and you'll establish credibility and trust with your audience.
When starting out, stick to one platform — one where your ideal clients hang out.
For example, a freelance writer may benefit from starting on LinkedIn to build a personal brand, as discussed earlier. Plenty of content managers are hiring freelance writers to produce content for them.
After getting traction on a free platform like LinkedIn, you can level up your personal brand with a professional website and newsletter where you deliver consistent messaging. This step will cost some money but is well worth it in the long run.
3. Cultivate relationships
Just because you're making money online doesn't mean you don't have to network. In fact, networking is essential for solopreneurs to gain referrals, collaborations, and potential clients.
Join professional communities, attend industry events, and engage in social media groups to connect with like-minded people.
Nurture relationships with clients, partners, and mentors to create a supportive network that can help you grow your solo venture.
Next steps for your solopreneurial journey
In summary, solopreneurship offers a path to freedom and flexibility.
The best way to build a solo business is, well… to start one.
The solopreneurs that win are those who take the first step and stick to it.
Embrace continuous learning, take care of yourself, and stay committed to your goals.
I’m rooting for you.
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