While we are all quite familiar with the term, “Entrepreneur”, there is another word that has been slowly gaining momentum, especially in a world where we are so digitally connected. Solopreneurship is the ability to own, work and run your business all by yourself. The term solopreneur has been around a long time, even though the idea of being one has only recently gained popularity.
Being an entrepreneur requires hiring the right people in places that you can no longer focus on while your business is growing. Having a team spreads the work duties among people who like or are experienced in those roles. Solopreneurship means that everything falls on you, and for some people and their businesses, the less they must depend on others to get the job done, the better off they are. However, the pressure to succeed in their chosen industry is always there, for solopreneurs and entrepreneurs alike. The question you are left to ask yourself is, which one is the right fit for your career aspirations?
An Executive Assistant to the CEO of a company once told me that her job was to manage the little things so her boss could focus on the bigger things. As an entrepreneur, you probably know the feeling. You do not want to be inundated with multiple tasks that keep you distracted from the bigger tasks at hand. To be surrounded by a dynamic and motivated team can truly move your business into another realm of success that you may have never dreamed of in the humble beginnings of your business.
At the same time, being a solopreneur means that you have sole control of all that you do in your business. There are no worries on if someone will complete the job correctly or at all. You can pick your own hours, clients and procedures, without the hassle of being met with resistance or apathy. There is no ‘passing the buck’ on whose fault it was should an issue arise, as the only person who must answer to is yourself.
Which one is the right fit for you?
I look at both different types of leadership philosophies, and compare them to that of sports. Entrepreneurship is a team effort, like basketball and football, where solopreneurship mirrors the extremely individualistic game of golf. Playing on a team can be fun, frustrating and rewarding when the players are syncing and working together, as opposed to against each other. Being an individual player can also feel the same way, but there is no one to blame but yourself when things start to go awry on a project.
There is obvious success in either path, as many entrepreneurs and solopreneurs alike have found it. The only way to know what the right path for you is to look at your own aspirations, business industry and unique personality. You also should ask yourself some of these important questions:
- Can I handle taking on my business alone?
- How are other people in my line of work running their business?
- Am I willing to keep up with the social media, website and the financial aspects of my business all by myself?
- Where do I see my business at in five years?
- Am I okay to make the big decisions on my own?
- What would make me the happiest in the end?
Once you take a hard look at those questions and figure out your answers, will you then be able to take the next steps in your business or your career goals.
The New American Dream
The American Dream is defined as the belief that through hard work and ambition, one can achieve prosperity and class mobility in a society with little deterrents or strict regulations. Renowned U.S. entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford are some of the most well-known achievers of this ethos. Their dedicated, ambition and work ethic lead them to find the ultimate success in the business world. Their stories are inspirations for those who strive to find the same path of success, and build an empire that will flourish for generations.
This dream has transcended decades, and many successful entrepreneurs have been able to achieve this goal. Could the same be said for those looking to take the solopreneur road? I believe that while solopreneurship has been around for some time, we have yet to see the real pioneers come through. In this digital age, where we are connected to each other now more than ever, makes the processes easier for people to make business decisions or obtain sales. Due to this change, I think we are going to see the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Fords of solopreneurship shine through. The American dream will soon encompass not just successful entrepreneurs, but also those who choose to go solo on their path to business success.
What are solopreneurship careers?
Some of the most well-known solopreneurs, are consultants who specialize in certain career types (marketers, engineers, finance gurus, etc.). These people do extremely well for themselves, especially if they are just one of the few specialists out there in their field. You must be driven, ambitious and organized to keep yourself and your career together as you take on this solopreneur journey.
You may meet some roadblocks along the way with being a consultant. You may find it discouraging when trying to get into a business who doesn’t want an outsider’s perspective. You may also find people have a bad taste in their mouth for having a consultant come in due to their former experience with them.
Some businesses may feel that consultants are just words, and more about ‘talking the talk” than “walking the walk.” Prove that you have value and knowledge to add, along with an action plan and the ability to show you are more than just words on paper.
Another well-known solopreneur career is taking on the freelance route with writing, graphic design, social media management or web design. Many freelancers have really found their step and have made a great career out of their freelance endeavors. Freelancing can be a gambling choice in a career path though, as you never know what kind of work you may have week to week. The goal would be to establish as many connections as possible, while simultaneously forging strong relationships with your clients. If you can prove your abilities with dependability, the longer you see clients stick around or come back to use your skills.
One other important solopreneurial route to mention are the sellers of goods (clothes, antiques, homemade products) online. Popular sites like eBay, Amazon and Poshmark have paved the way for people to sell or resell their goods at a profitable rate. Many individual resellers have really created an online empire and community with their daily upkeep and evolution of their products. For example, some “Poshers” have made a career out of their Poshmark online boutique, with only having a humble beginning reselling their tired or never worn outfits at first. As time progressed, they realized the endless (and profitable) possibilities of creating a popular online closet, and eventually made a career out of something that simply started out as a hobby.
Finally, one solopreneurship career that has been around for quite some time, has been taking the author route and becoming published. While not everyone dreams of becoming one, or even wanting to become one, authorship has been a way that many people pursued a solopreneur career. Dreams of writing a best-selling novel are the goals of many people, but getting noticed and published is not what it used to be.
Websites like Amazon make it easier for more people to publish a book, even if it’s not even close to the par of some of the best writers out there. You must do a lot more promotion, social media engagement and spend a little money to get your book noticed in the ocean of book options that are out there. You also must keep yourself and your work relevant as well, since not everyone can end up like Harper Lee in the novel world.
Why are solopreneurship careers on the rise?
Due to the nature of our world always being socially and digitally connected, we can now spread our knowledge or abilities to places we never dreamed of. With social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Etsy, Instagram and freelancing websites like Upwork.com, solopreneur careers are a possibility now more than ever before. With online communities more readily available, it makes the likelihood of finding success in a solopreneur-type career an aspiration you may not have had at first.
Begin to look at some of those websites, and find some of the most well-known and successful sellers or freelancers out there. Many solopreneurs simply turned their hobby or passion into something greater as a result of utilizing the different the communication mediums out there. By reading their stories, you may find yourself inspired to pursue a lifelong dream of your own. Sometimes all you need is that extra push and words of wisdom from those who took the solopreneur road on their business journey.
Pros & cons of a Solopreneur career
As you weigh, or simply begin to think about pursuing a solopreneurial path, laying out the pros and cons to both can always be helpful. Below is a checklist of summarized positive and negatives points in taking on a solopreneur career:
- You are in control, no one can make a decision that you may not like or agree with
- You decide where to work, what time to work and the hours you put in
- Nothing is more rewarding than doing something you love and making it your career
- No overhead
- No employee issues or worries about having conflict within your team
- Independence at its finest: no one to depend on, but yourself
- You are your own cheerleader, only you have the power to drive success because there is no one else to depend on
- Long hours building a portfolio, client base and sustainable relationships
- Discouraging if you spend many hours, days or months on your business with no real great return on investment
- A lot of time spent doing the little daunting (but important) tasks that could take away valuable time that would otherwise be spent working and making money
- Worries about covering your own health insurance, retirement plans with no paid vacation, holidays or personal days
- Missing out on hiring some of the most qualified people out there to help grow and evolve your business
In looking what it means to be a solopreneur versus an entrepreneur, it is about finding the proper balance of work, life and in making your dream into a successful reality. While people may have different ideas of what being successful means, so are there different opinions of what it takes to run an accomplished business. The road in becoming an entrepreneur or a solopreneur is always uncertain and a bit scary.
However, you only have one life to live, and one chance to make your dreams into a reality. Rather you choose to take on the business world by yourself or with others won’t be the ultimate measurement of your success, only you can be the judge of what will bring you utmost happiness, both in business and internally.
Good luck – I will be rooting for you and your dream!