My senior year of college at Penn State University, I chose to complete my capstone Public Relations project – one that entire semester was centered on – by myself. While other students formed groups to divide and conquer the hefty task list, I was the first and only person to ask my professor if I could go it solo. Looking back, this is a standout example of my preferred work style that has played out in many of my professional choices, ultimately leading me to become a solo entrepreneur or “solprenuer” at the age of 23.
Now with more than a decade of experience as a solopreneur, I’ve come to realize the beauty of this business model. As someone who thrives on lean operations, efficiency, flexibility, and control, it fits my personality well. I have never desired managing employees or business partners and for a while struggled with the question of, “Can I grow my business to its highest potential if it’s just me?” The answer I’ve come to learn is a resounding “Yes!” In fact, solopreneurship offers some unique benefits that I feel have enabled me to take advantage of big opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to under a different model.
I want to highlight what I’ve come to know as the rare and valuable benefits of solopreneurship – and how my vision for growing Public Relations business independent of investors, partners, and employees allows me to achieve the lifestyle I’ve always desired.
Low Overhead, High Profit Margins
Solopreneurship makes it easy to keep overhead extremely low. I work from a home office, and the only person on (a very modest) payroll and much of what I need to operate my business (a computer and internet!) is a tax write-off. This means the income I generate is mainly profit – short of taxes and a small budget mostly for technology and professional memberships I use to directly generate revenue. If I chose to expand my business with outside office space and employees (who would need salaries, benefits, office equipment, parking, etc.) I would not likely generate enough additional revenue to justify these costs – and I’d actually add a lot more headache. So, for me, solopreneurship is highly rewarding because it allows me to maintain lean operations and maximize profit.
Shadow Side: The question of scalability – I can’t make more hours in a day, and quite frankly my goal is to get the most out of every hour so I’m not working more than 5 hours a day on average. How then do I increase income as a solopreneur? I’ve written extensively on this topic in a variety of different ways, but my core solution is twofold – 1. become more efficient and 2. deliver exceptional results so I can justify increasing costs. I’ve done both of these things fairly consistently for 10 years now and it’s resulted in increasing my income year over year (in my 10th year I earned 11x what I earned in my 1st year). Moreover, I work fewer hours while serving clients who bring me joy and fulfillment through the work I do for them. So while scalability for solopreneurs is most certainly a possible hurdle to consider, it is possible to strategically maneuver around any limitations by thinking outside the box.
Solopreneurs are both the dreamers and the doers of a business. When clients work with Bennis Public Relations, they get to work directly with me, the Founder and Owner, and also receive senior-level expertise every step of the way. In bigger firms that have a more traditional business model, clients pay premium fees but ultimately the work is being done by account associates or interns. And one way or another it shows. Through solopreneurship I have streamlined processes that remove all cogs in the wheel, leaving a well-oiled machine that can power through projects at unbelievable speeds. Really. Clients often comment on my speedy responses and turnaround time that don’t seem possible. That’s because these businesses have been trained to believe that everything must be made complicated in order for it to be “good.” Something completed quickly must surely be rushed, inaccurate, or done without care. Not so. One unnecessary red tape and roadblocks are removed, tasks become less complicated and work can be completed quickly and correctly.
Shadow Side: You are the doer of all things – This puts a lot of pressure on the solopreneur to handle both innovation and implementation. And this is not a good fit for every personality type. Some people are wired to be one or the other, but not both. So it’s important to know this about yourself and enter solopreneurship with caution. I happen to be both – a big idea person as well as an activator. I dream up the big picture and enjoy leading the way bringing it to life. If you share a similar outlook and skill set, it may be a clear indication that you’re destined to thrive as a solopreneur. In this case, being the doer of all things is not overwhelming but extraordinarily fulfilling.
Complete Autonomy in My Decisions Making
Solopreneurs can really make the claim that they are the boss. All business owners are indeed a boss of sorts, but when there are investors, partners, and employees involved, any decision made that could impact one or more of these groups must be weighed differently. This means making decisions, especially big ones, takes more time and can be subject to more “voices” that get to sway a decision one way or another. While you may be free to have the final say, you will have critics you’ll need to face. Solopreneurs really only have to answer to themselves – which can still be a challenge, mind you. For me, I love that I can make quick decisions based upon my best interests, experience, and gut instinct. It’s served me well thus far and I’m come to learn how to really tap into making efficient but also sound decisions at a moment’s notice. Candidly, I think (I know) I would struggle if I had to transition to a work environment where I did not have complete autonomy in my decision-making. Though, it does come with a shadow side…
Shadow Side: Working on an “island” – On the positive side of solopreneurship, you are able to make your own decisions, but on the negative side of solopreneurship you are able to make your own decisions. See what I did there? It’s really about perspective and preferences. When you feel confident and empowered, having the decision-making power and no one else to answer to is a great thing. But there will be times with having someone to bounce ideas and opportunities off of would really be nice. The good news is this can be found in a supportive spouse, mentor, trusted friend, etc., and even better, you can seek counsel only when you need it.
Freedom and Flexibility
I’ve really found a love for traveling and I feel I’m just getting started. As a solopreneur, so long as I have my computer and a wifi connection I can work from anywhere. And I’ve tested that to the limits! Furthermore, I don’t feel obligated to check in with employees or be present in a physical office at any given time. My clients really don’t care where I’m working from as long as work is getting done, and I make sure that it is/does. Solopreneurship has given me the ultimate freedom and flexibility to set my own schedule and truly work on my terms. Many jobs claim that as a benefit, especially now with virtual work environments at an all-time high, but when you peel back the layers you can quickly spot when this means *true* freedom and flexibility or rather something like “You can run an errand during the day or sign off at lunchtime, but you’re still expected to be chained to your desk from 9-5.” If a client requests a meeting on a certain day or time, it’s at my complete discretion to accommodate it or suggest an alternate time that works better for me. They don’t need to know it’s because of another work obligation, or because it simply overlaps at my preferred nap time.
Shadow Side: Lack of boundaries – I’ll again tie this back to the importance of knowing your personality type and work style. If you’re someone who needs boundaries, deadlines, and supervision to motivate you to stay on task then solopreneurship will present some significant challenges. Or if you’re a self-starter who can handle the responsibility of managing your own schedule and setting your short and long-term to-do lists, you’ll likely thrive having complete freedom and flexibility with your work schedule. I’ve trained myself to respect the workday and prefer to be available to clients during “normal” business hours unless I’m traveling. This gives me structure and keeps me focused. But when I need a break or when I’ve completed my task list ahead of schedule I’m sure to take advantage of that flexibility by enjoying downtime on my terms without needing to explain to anyone else where I’ve disappeared to for a few hours, days, or weeks!
Would solopreneurship fit your personality type or work style? Why or why not? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.