As the gig economy starts to reach its stride, an increasing number of professionals are choosing to start a business with no intention of scaling up and adding staff. Known as “solopreneurs,” they share some etymological similarities with entrepreneurs, but the two are very different ways of working and conducting business.
Solopreneurs tend to be doers—people who love to work and produce. For a solopreneur, if a task needs to be done, they’re more likely to roll up their sleeves, dig in, and start working on it than they are to want to delegate it. And they don’t know how to execute the task at hand, they are more likely to look up a resource, take a class, or seek the kind of guidance where they can learn to do it themselves.
Many become solopreneurs because they want to enjoy a greater amount of control over the work they do. Design studios, web developers, copywriters, and marketing agencies are all fine examples of the types of work that tends to attract solopreneurs. Having crossover skills—such as a copywriter who is also a branding genius or a web developer with a marketing strategy background—can be indispensable for the solopreneur, as a broad skill and talent base adds value for the client.
Solopreneuring can be immensely rewarding for people who seek artistic control and a certain amount of workplace and personal freedom. But it also comes with its own peculiar headaches, many of which are simply the result of wearing too many hats—often all at the same time.
Before you reach for the ibuprofen, check out these tips to help you go from surviving to thriving as a solopreneur.
1. Set realistic goals for yourself and your business.
It doesn’t have to be about the money (though that is a pretty essential part of being in business). Being a solopreneur allows you to live—and work—on your own terms, so be sure to define what those are and review your findings from time to time to make sure you’re still on track.
2. Choose your clients carefully.
When you are just starting out or when the business is struggling, it can be tempting to accept whatever work comes along. In the end, it’s best to work only with clients who genuinely value your work and pay you not just for your time, but also for what you uniquely bring to the table.
3. Stop multitasking!
It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll do your best work when you give it your full attention. Block out unnecessary distractions. Minimize social media during work. Limit your email alerts to certain hours or times of the day. Of course, you want to stay flexible and agile, responsive to the challenges of the moment, but too often flexibility can run amuck and undermine your best efforts. Focused efforts equal less stress and more ease and proficiency.
4. Separate home and work life.
Setting strong, clear boundaries around your time and habits helps minimize stress and the feeling like you’re never done. Set a regular schedule that takes into account your business development needs, the work on tap, and your personal needs—like time to workout and socialize. Because many solopreneurs work from home, too often the distractions of home life can encroach upon work and cause conflict. If possible, dedicate a room as your home office. If that’s still not enough, look for a co-working space where you’ll not only have the physical separation of work and office, but you’ll also have camaraderie and resources in a shared business environment.
5. Find support.
Many solopreneurs are driven by the desire to be independent above all else: no boss telling you what to do, no corporate overlord dishing out dress codes. But it can also be somewhat isolating at times. Finding solidarity, support, and even professional advice can help grease the wheels when you feel stuck or alone. You might find a local or regional professional organization for your niche. Or hire a business coach to help you develop your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. Don’t make all your “face-time” activity about networking and hunting for clients; make sure you invest some time in finding a community of kindred spirits and like minds.
One final bonus tip: Take some of the hats off. Wearing all the hats all the time is exhausting and unsustainable. Play your strengths, strengthen your weaknesses, and in between, relax a little. All hustle and no joy makes for a very dull business.