Whether you’re revving up a side hustle or starting a full-fledged business, there are things you need to keep in mind as a solo entrepreneur.
Whatever your plans are to scale, you can’t do it unless you have the money (or someone else’s money) to do it. Don’t give your equity away, but do work towards finding trusted advisors and partners that will help you grow. Nobody really ever does it by themselves.
When you do it alone, you have one – one brain, one set of hands, etc. Of course, you can outsource and collaborate with contractors, but they are contractors and technically not collaborators. When you have others around you who are working on the same projects and motivated towards the congruent endpoint, things just work better.
So, is it possible to have sustained success as a one-person business? Yes, if you earn enough money to support yourself financially. Full stop. Period. This question doesn’t translate well into a written answer. It’s easier and it’s harder. There’s a freedom that can’t be beaten, but it can be excruciatingly isolating and lonely at times. It can be efficient and completely inefficient. We don’t have to, but many one-person businesses or solopreneurs reinvent a lot of wheels. We have to pay consultants or coaches to accelerate our learning and success curves. Let’s face it: there are many conveniences that come with living with another person – it’s similar for a one-person business. You float the rent as one (unless you’re in a shared office or coworking space), utilities, supplies, printing expenses, etc. If you sell software, it doesn’t matter as much as if you’re a consultant or a coach like me. I’m often billing for my time – I can only “clone” myself so much.
Investing in technology to automate as much as possible is the lifeblood of the solopreneur. We must clone ourselves, create hacks and set up systems that allow us to do more with less. The simple answer is to use technology, software, automation, and outsourcing. And while that is true, the specific recipe or “stew” of tools that you incorporate into your business will depend on the type of business, the client experience you’re trying to create, willingness to invest, and WILLINGNESS TO ENGAGE (actually incorporate the new tools). A brief list of examples would be:
Email – use folders, smart mailboxes, filters and rules to weed out spam and organize your email work flow.
Scheduling – I found that on some days, managing my calendar and all of my sales and client appointments was eating up several hours per day at times. Calendar management software is my “Fix of 2019”. I’ve created a scheduling and booking site through Square (my credit card processing provider). It’s free and allows my clients, partners, prospects – whoever I send the link to – see my calendar and book time with me. It saves me a ton of time and aggravation keeping up with the back and forth and it allows me to book more meetings with less effort.
Marketing / Communications – get out of email and use campaign tools like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Email campaign/automation tools.
Social media planning/scheduling tool – keeping up with social media is a full-time job. If you’re working “IN” your business, it’s hard to work “ON” your business. HootSuite, SproutSocial and some other social media management tools allow you to do more when you can get to it and schedule the posts at your ideal times.
CRM automation tools – Client relationships management tools can be though of as process mapping, business mapping, and operationalization (weaponization) tools. The collect information, help you communicate with various constituents (clients, prospects, partners, alumni) and facilitate in-bound marketing strategies, client engagement, and prospective client data capture in ways that make sales and marketing efforts more robust and efficient for the solopreneur.
Find trusted partners – think of them as “surrogate” team members, employees or partners. You’re paying them to help you deliver on your company promise. Isn’t that what employees and owners do as well? You don’t control them and they work with other clients, but that can be a good thing as well. You get what you pay for and you can hire/fire anytime. Outsourcing admin support during busy times, having an on-call graphic designer, content marketing, public relations, or social media consultant is the only way to scale up and not pull your hair out as you grow.
You’re wearing so many hats, but you can only wear one at a time or you’ll look silly. Start small, for the projects you can trust to someone else easily, or for processes that warrant a low-risk solution (like hiring a bookkeeper a few hours per month, getting a freelance writer to edit/enhance your content, etc.).
When you run a business alone, you face resistance alone. Resistance is simply another word for fear. Resistance slows us down, trips us up and delays the activities or actions that we need to take to complete tasks or projects, tell our story, market your product or service, and generally get sh*t done. It takes on so many forms (procrastination, avoidance, doing what’s easy or urgent vs. important, and the list goes on. But the resistance always leads to the same outcome – it slows you down, drains energy, and negatively impacts your confidence.
Every time you face resistance, speak truth to the vulnerability you feel. Talking about it and engaging the resistance head-on is harder when there’s nobody beside you to jolt you out of the paralysis that fear, uncertainty, indecisiveness, and over-analysis create. Talk to other business owners, your partners, consultants, or coach. The discussion or feedback can spark new and better ideas, but that’s not the reason I suggest getting feedback. Here, getting feedback can provide you with the validation and accountability you’ll feel when having someone besides you and your four walls to deliberate with. The feedback affirms or validates what you know needs to be done and helps you move forward with the action more quickly and with more confidence.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.