Rise of the Independents: Solopreneurs
- Two highly successful contemporary business leaders started out as solopreneurs: the founder of Spanx and the founder of eBay
- Be aware of this difference: going it alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone—creating a network of people and companies that can help you move forward is key
- As of 2019, 41 million Americans are running their own businesses, and generating $1.28 trillion for the U.S. economy
What is a solopreneur?
Like solopreneurs themselves, we are not going to procrastinate or beat around the bush. In true solopreneur spirit, we’re going to step up and deliver the definition as promised:
A solopreneur is an entrepreneur who sets up and runs their own business. Most all of the work involved is performed and completed by the solopreneur themselves.
The Solopreneur Institute gives a slightly more technical definition:
[A solopreneur is] an entrepreneur who prefers the freedom to run a business without any w-2 employees.
In addition to those who run their own businesses, solopreneurs can also take the form of consultants, contractors, freelancers, and more.
Think of it like this—as a solopreneur, you are running the show. You may work with others to get needed tasks accomplished in lieu of staff (some of whom could be solopreneurs in their own right), but at the end of the day, it all starts and ends with you.
One of the most successful solopreneur examples: Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Although she made the 2019 Forbes Billionaires list, she started the company by herself and on her own. Today, her net worth is estimated to be $1.1 billion (yep, she’s since gotten some help). It all started because she didn’t like the seam of her pantyhose showing when she wore open-toed shoes. Soon after cutting off the feet of her pantyhose, Spanx was born.
Another famous solopreneur example: Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay. He started the company because his future wife was a passionate collector of Pez dispensers. He wrote some special code into his personal website so that she could buy, sell and communicate with other collectors. Soon, other collectors came on board. He soon moved the website to a larger platform and collected a few cents for every item sold. You know the rest of the story. Currently, Omidyar’s net worth is an estimated $12.4 billion.
If you consider yourself a solopreneur or aspire to become one, you are not alone. As of 2019 (the latest statistics available), 41 million Americans are running their own businesses, and generating $1.28 trillion for the economy. That’s very close to the total gross domestic product (GDP) of Spain.
Although there are no 2020 statistics available yet, it’s a pretty safe bet that the COVID-19 crisis has added even more solopreneurs to the ranks.
A recent study on solopreneurs shares some interesting developments:
- Over half of full-time independent workers feel more financially secure as independents than in traditional jobs
- Some solopreneurs start it out as a side hustle. This is usually to supplement their full-time income. These types of hustlers numbered 15 million in 2019, rising 6.3% from the year before. That’s a 40% increase since 2016.
- Independent work is growing at three times the rate of overall employment. By 2024, the total number of independent workers could rise to 47.2 million Americans.
There are a few distinctions that differentiate a solopreneur from a more traditional entrepreneur:
- Working without thinking of an eventual buyout—because this is your lifelong passion and pursuit
- Being able to do the work without the need for credit—it’s the business that matters, not the ego
- Being a bit of a control freak—you subscribe to this philosophy: “if you want something done right, do it yourself!”
- Working in the weeds—even if it means allowing a little longer for your goals to be accomplished
Why Become a Solopreneur?
Here are a few common reasons why people choose to become solopreneurs:
- They’ve tired of the traditional 9-5 grind and want more flexibility in their work lives
- They thrive on the freedom to work and build something new on their own
- They are often self-reliant by nature and welcome challenges
- They want to boost their income without completely abandoning their careers (enter: the side hustle)
- Their earnings belong to them (aside from expenses, taxes, etc.)
- They have a dreams unfulfilled
How to get started—and to thrive as a solopreneur
- Pace yourself. Working alone is not always a smooth ride. You’re going to get overwhelmed with paperwork, customers, clients, vendors, marketing, and getting paid. Remember to breathe. Prioritize daily. Try to focus on one thing at a time rather than multitasking. Don’t try to build Rome in one day.
- Keep your antenna up. Ideas and opportunities are everywhere. It’s actually exciting to build your business while keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open to what may come your way. Focus on your business, but be flexible enough to still be connected to the world.
- Build a network. Going it alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. There is a world of professionals out there who may help your business in ways that you may not have imagined originally. Generate a list of people who can answer your questions, give advice, or make referrals.
- Get support where it counts. You may not want to work with a team, but you want to make sure you have the support tools you need to build your business.
Solopreneur: the new way to work, think, live and thrive
If the pandemic is showing us anything, it’s that there are options for work or business that don’t involve sitting in an office all day. The crisis means tough times for everyone, but it has also provided solopreneurs with opportunities to help fill needs and provide valuable services while doing it on their own terms—whether it’s on a full-time basis, or as a side hustle.
Above all, solopreneurs love what they do. Can you be one of them?
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