A solopreneur is a person who builds, owns and manages a business and oversees all associated responsibilities with no employees. The obvious benefits of solopreneurship are being your own boss and more flexibility. But as the saying goes “with great freedom comes great responsibility”. In order to reap the benefits of solopreneurship, you need to be equipped with determination, discipline and fearlessness. You’ll also need a healthy dose of financial literacy, planning and organizational skills and support.
1. Define your goals and interests
Find your purpose. In the thousands of decisions you will make as a small business owner, staying focused on what you want to achieve is essential. Do you want to open a social dance school because you love to teach dance? Or because you want to become a social dance champion, create the ultimate social dance shoe, or run a multinational social dance company with franchises on five continents? Having a clear purpose – defining your real goals and interests – is like a compass that guides your decisions and makes managing your business much simpler.
2. Think preventively
Fixing problems is time-consuming. It’s much smarter to prevent problems before they happen. This is particularly important when you are negotiating any type of contract. All small business owners should anticipate possible problems they might have with clients down the road while they are in the negotiations – it’s usually hard to fix them after a deal is signed. This just means doing some homework beforehand. Preventive thinking is still important when fulfilling a contract: you need to hone your communications skills to ensure you avoid misunderstandings with clients.
3. Be a planner
There is a bit of “just winging” involved when it comes to being a solopreneur. Yet, if you want to be successful you need to start with a plan. Don’t jump from idea to launch. You need to take the time to think through your idea and create a working business plan. Slowing down and putting together a plan will force you to make sure it’s viable and not just a pipe dream.
4. Boost your financial literacy
Most solopreneurs are sole proprietors which means all financial liabilities fall on you personally. Because of this you need to be sure you have the financial resources and capital to take care of your business and personal needs. If your personal finances aren’t in order, you should work on that first before starting a business.
5. Focus on customers
Time is your most valuable asset and as a solopreneur it may seem like you never have enough of it. That’s why you need to be hyper-focused on what matters most in your business which is bringing in new customers. This means you need to focus on marketing and sales. It’s the driving force behind your success, so be sure to make it a priority.
6. Be disciplined
If you suffer from “shiny object” syndrome, solopreneurship isn’t going to be easy. You need to hone your discipline muscle and learn to organize your time. Since you are your own boss, you must learn how to manage your time and create systems and processes. Set boundaries with yourself and your customers and be disciplined.
7. Learn to delegate
You can’t do it all. While as a solopreneur you don’t have employees, you can hire freelancers, contractors and virtual assistants. Yes this costs money, but your time is money. It’s important to learn how to do things and being resourceful, but you have to be smart with your time. Of course you can learn to create a website and it might take you 40+ hours.
Or you could hire a freelancer for $2000 who could get the job done faster and better. If your time is worth $50 per hour, paying a freelancer is worth it. It allows you to be out there drumming up business. And don’t forget to leverage technology. From quickbooks to project management software, there are endless programs designed to make your life easier and your business run smoother.
8. Choose the right social media
Concentrate on one social media platform. There is no easier way to fritter away valuable time than by going down the social media rabbit hole or chasing too many social media rabbits. With newer, sharper, more interesting platforms popping up regularly, it’s tempting for self-employed business owners to jump on board. But, experience has shown that multiplying platforms complicates life without yielding worthwhile results. Most social media experts today recommend concentrating on one platform that works.
9. Be organized
Whether you are a writer, dog groomer, real estate agent, actor, lawyer, or graphic designer, managing a small business means wearing a lot of professional hats. Self-employed workers are their own sales manager, publicist, contract negotiator, accounts-receivable manager, bookkeeper, accountant, president, IT department, and more. Folders – whether paper or digital – are indispensable tools that every small business owner needs.
A folder is essentially a box where you store a problem, a concern, or an idea with others of the same nature. They help you solve problems and take advantage of opportunities quickly. Filing folders help you organize your thoughts and make information handy and findable. One word of caution: don’t go overboard. But it’s important to go through your files regularly to throw out the stuff that’s no longer useful. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a daily filing habit will keep your business active and healthy.
Filing papers can sound like a second-tier priority for many small business owners – especially when you are starting out. But it’s fundamental to your peace of mind and productivity. Regular jobs like bookkeeping, billing, and following up on receivables tend to pile up and get pushed aside by more urgent issues, like sales and operations, or computer hacks. To avoid facing a messy mountain of receipts, bills, and deductible expenses at the end of the month, do a little filing every day.
10. Be willing to turn down business
Learning to turn down business is hard for most small business owners, especially new ones. For most small businesses, finding new clients is the name of the game. Getting rid of complicated customers can be hard, especially when starting out. But keeping things professional is one of the best ways to simplify the management of your business. It’s a good idea for every small business owner to do occasional house clearing and purge customers who complicate your life or don’t deserve your time.
11. Get support
You truly can’t run a successful business alone, you need support in some form or fashion. You should cultivate a group of advisors, peers and colleagues you can meet with regularly. Whether you do this in-person or virtually, be sure you’re surrounding yourself with people that challenge you and keep you moving in the right direction. Of course be sure you have a good accountant, insurance agent and lawyer on your team. Those three professionals are priceless to business success.
12. Take care of yourself
Running a company of one isn’t for the faint of heart. It will take a lot out of you. This is why you need to make time for yourself and your personal life. Figure out what taking care of yourself looks like for you and prioritize it. Learn to respect office hours and avoid the office (except for emergencies). Also, respect home hours and avoid constant interruptions of work emails, texts, and phone calls.
While many of today’s entrepreneurs are more business savvy than startup small business owners of the past, there’s still a lot they don’t know about actually running a business. It is absolutely possible to be a successful solopreneur and have a fulfilling personal life. Just make sure you cultivate the traits and behaviors above. Your goal is to operate like a well-oiled machine and stay sane.