All By Myself or How to Really Become a Solopreneur

Updated: Jan 18


This blog post is aligned with one of our earlier posts on the digital economy. You can read it here. In this post, we will be discussing the inevitability that is being a solopreneur. You might have heard about it and thought to yourself isn’t every kid and their dog calling themselves that these days? Well yes and no but that besides the point. If you’ve got extensive experience, qualifications and want another career choice this post will give you some something to consider. Sound intriguing? Well, just keep reading.

Why be a solopreneur?

The figure below shows what makes a solopreneur happy. Pretty interesting, huh?

Figure: Factors Influencing the Well-Being of Solopreneurs (Belt, Paloniemi & Sinisammal, 2015, p. 390).

Definition

But hang on a minute. What is a solopreneur? A solopreneur is an “entrepreneur who doesn’t employ other persons” (Waas, 2017, p. 155). So, what do they do? Well, solopreneurs are often “small business owners, business consultants, or other business-minded people like online developers” (Waas, 2017, p. 155) who might work in creative or technical fields.

Advantages What are the advantages? - More money - Less uncertainty when it comes to your career - Less stress - Better work/life balance

Disadvantages What are the disadvantages? - You don’t necessarily make more money - You don’t necessarily have more career certainty Nothing is certain which is why you need to be sure you are made of the right stuff for the #solopreneur life. What’s the right stuff you ask?

What you need to have to become one

Tolerance for Risk and Ambiguity In life, nothing is a sure thing. As a solopreneur, this is even truer because you are in effect the boss and employee of your business. It’s incredibly important to be driven, determined and action-oriented. Your level of employment and revenue is based entirely on your ability to seek out work and maintain good connections with companies who are interested in employing your services. Industries can experience downturns, projects can fall through, and contracts be terminated prematurely, and you need to be able to handle those situations.

Tenacity and Resilience

As a solopreneur, you will be doing everything yourself. This inevitably means that things that take time even with a team may take just a little (or a lot) longer. You may try something out and it doesn’t go to plan. It may entail a loss in time, energy or money but you’ve just got to keep going. Rest, reflect and then take action just don’t give up. Remember the following: 1) it’s ok to not feel great about certain experiences 2) don’t generalise or catastrophise 3) find a lesson in the experience 4) vent to the right people if necessary and then 5) move on!

Knowing Your Where, What and Why

If you’re determined to make this a genuine business, not just an expensive hobby you need: 1) an office or workspace – this might be in your own home or a coworking space 2) routines for your work and personal time – you need to be able to organise your own time and get work accomplished to a high standard in the right time frames without exhausting yourself 3) goals and a good sense of why you’ve chosen to go it solo – it won’t always be easy. you need to be able to motivate yourself and know that your work will be helping someone 4) a solid network – just because you’re doing it solo doesn’t mean you can’t make great connections through LinkedIn, contacts through Facebook groups or collaborating on projects with other solopreneurs.

Unique Selling Proposition

To devise your unique selling proposition, you need to be able to answer the following four questions: 1) Who is my target audience? 2) What problem do I solve for them? How do my products/ services help them with this? 3) What are the benefits of working with me rather than my competitor? 4) What promise can you make to your target audience? This has to be something you can realistically deliver upon. Once you’ve clearly answered those questions, summarise the answers in a succinct manner that will have meaning for your target audience.

How to carve out a niche

Have a specialisation

To determine your specialisation, go through the following process: 1) Ask yourself what you are good at 2) Ask yourself why you like these things or are good at them 3) Ask yourself what the negative aspects of these things are 4) Ask yourself if you like the highlight reel version of these things only or do you like the day-to-day stuff as well 5) You are good at these things, but ask yourself, do they suit your personality? 6) Pick one! 7) If you can’t decide on just one thing, is it possible to maybe choose two related things? (e.g. photography and graphic design) There’s your answer.

Have retainer agreements

This has nothing to do with orthodontics and everything to do with a fee that a business will pay you to retain your services. There are some key things to keep in mind when you're thinking about this sort of arrangement: 1) You need to know who your dealing, what they might need you for and how you both can get the best out of this arrangement 2) You need to be able to achieve their targets so be brutally honest with yourself and don’t over promise 3) Decide exactly how you’ll both know that specific task or the project is finished 4) Don’t over or under charge them. Not enough and they risk thinking your work is going to be poor quality and charge too much and they risk thinking your output wasn’t worth it 5) You under promised and now is your time to overdeliver 6) But be clear about what is and isn’t included 7) Also, be clear on what happens if everything goes wrong or amendments need to be made 8) Make sure you get paid in advance rather than waiting till the project is over and factor in “change of mind” fees

Have a rate sheet

What should be on your rate sheet? Your rate sheet should have the following info: - Your name, your business name, social media info, email address and contact number - A list of the services you provide - Your individualised pricing - Your bundles or package pricing

Stay relevant

Some ways to do this: - Keep learning and researching about what’s going on in your industry - Gain extra skills - Follow people in your industry who inspire you on social media - Network like crazy - Practice, practice, practice your skills - Don’t assume you know everything and always be prepared to expand your perspective

Have a business plan

Which include: • Business profile o The structure o When it was established o The date it was registered o The registration number • Contact details o Contact name o Landline/mobile o Email o Postal and physical address • Online/social media details o Website o Linkedin o Facebook o Tumblr o Twitter

1) Executive summary 2) Business background 3) Business strategy 4) My team 5) SWOT analysis and critical success factors 6) Market research 7) Market analysis 8) Competitor analysis 9) Financial plan 10) Marketing strategy 11) Business ownership structure 12) Compliance 13) Assets

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References:

Belt, P, Paloniemi, K & Sinisammal, J 2015, ‘One-Person Enterprises and Business Growth’, Journal of Enterprising Culture, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 381–404, viewed 5 April 2019, <http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=113704640&site=ehost-live&scope=site>.

Chapman, J. & Dixson, K. 2006, ‘The Solopreneur’s Web Site: the Three Critical Building Blocks’, Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 56-61, viewed 5 April 2019, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/docview/204092149?accountid=14205

Frey, T. 2013, ‘The Great Freelancer Movement: Eight Reasons Why Your Next Job Will Be a Project’, Journal of environmental health, vol. 76, no. 5, pp. 46-8, viewed 5 April 2019, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/docview/1462485444?accountid=14205

Kraft, C. 2006, ‘Avoiding the solo trap of entrepreneurs’, Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 78-82, viewed 5 April 2019, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/docview/204087661?accountid=14205

Waas, B. 2017, ‘What role for solopreneurs in the labour market?’, European Labour Law Journal, vol. 8, iss. 2, pp. 154–167, viewed 5 April 2019, doi: 10.1177/2031952517712126.

This is what it means to be a solopreneur. We’ve discussed the highs and lows, the qualities you need to become one and how to carve out a niche. What you do with this information is entirely up to you. It could be another choice that opens up you or a realisation that after all your current job isn’t that bad after all! There’s no judgement here. Not everyone has the same goals and dreams. Truly knowing yourself and not kidding yourself is a strength, not a weakness.

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