Are you a solopreneur? 3 perks and 3 downsides you can easily combat

Going solo in your business is either a launch strategy or a deliberate business model choice. Sometimes you are just getting off the ground and you’re a party of One, doing everything from accounting to marketing to product development. Other times, though, you are intentionally creating a lifestyle business and don’t want extra complication from staff, tax requirements or overhead.

I’ve deliberately chosen a “solopreneur” model for my business and have no plans to build an agency. I like being in control, not managing people and being able to handle the ebbs and flows that writing and consulting bring. Plus, I find it’s easy to keep overhead low and ramp up or pare down by partnering with others as needed.

Being a solopreneur both rocks and sucks – but you can combat the latter (Tweet this!). Perhaps you can relate?

Three perks to being a solopreneur business:

  • Control: You maintain control over all business and marketing decisions. There are no politics to deal with or egos to soothe. After my long stint in corporate America, this is a godsend for my stress level.
  • Creativity: You can get crazy creative on marketing ideas, promotional pushes and even which projects you take on.
  • Speed: When you make a decision, you’re done and off to the races. No internal selling, pleading or persuasion required. I have decided on marketing efforts in the morning and implemented them by that afternoon, easy peasy. I can take advantage of last-minute opportunities and react fast.

OK, couldn’t resist a 4th bonus perk:

  • Selectivity: You can work with who you like, when you like. And if it doesn’t work out, you never have to sub-contract that person or continue with that client or customer ever again if you don’t want to.

With upside, comes downside, though.

Three challenges of being a solopreneur – and steps you can take to alleviate the pain:

  • Lack of collaboration: If you’re extroverted like me, one of the joys of working on a team is a meeting where you’re all hashing out ideas on a whiteboard. You can get out of your own head and vet ideas with other smart people. Working solo, you miss out on that sanity check from others and potentially limit your thinking, creativity or perspective. Those voices in your head may be leading you astray and you might never know it.

COMBAT THIS! Pull together your own makeshift Board of Directors or accountability group of other solopreneurs. Choose people you respect but who also come at things from a different point of view. I collaborate with a few key partners and often ask to bounce ideas off of them or seek their advice when making a major decision. Another colleague of mine often will email a close group of trusted partners to get a consensus or conversation going when she needs to make a quick decision. Your collaborative team won’t be handed to you when you work alone, spout one together yourself – and offer to play that role for others if they need it.

  • Loneliness: If you’re an extrovert like me, this is kind of related to the one above, but it’s more than that. I miss shared office moments, blowing off steam with others, lunch dates, heck even water cooler gossip. I even go in to my husband’s office or a coffee shop every now and then to work just to be around other people. Talking to the dog only gets me so far, and even gets bored with my running commentary and retreats to the other room every now and then.

COMBAT THIS! Get social on your own. Make time for coffee dates to form relationships with other freelancer colleagues. Join local groups and associations. Participate in online forums. Attend conferences. Force yourself out of your office at least 2-3 times per week just to be social. Or arrange phone  or Skype meetings with other solopreneurs where you can each just unwind for 30 minutes, laugh, share, vent and support each other.

  • Lack of resources: It’s all you, baby! You are chief cook, bottle washer and accountant. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. Your  to-do list is never complete and there are always way more ideas than hours in the day or mental energy that you can expend. It can be hard to unplug when you are all you’ve got. And this can lead to stress, headaches, poor health and damaged relationships.

COMBAT THIS: Ask for help. You are not supposed to be an expert at everything. Why do you think companies and org charts exist? If you are not technical, outsource your website maintenance and design. If you hate writing, hire a part-time writer to put together your materials or blog posts. If you know something will never get done if it stays on your To-Do list, hire someone else to do it for you! The flip side is that this scarcity mentality helps you pare down to the most important tasks in your business right now. Save the stuff you love to do, or the tasks only you can do for your precious time and attention: everything else? Get help. Hire a virtual assistant. Send your receipts to a bookkeeper. One big caveat here: don’t barter for everything. You simply exchange one set of tasks taking up your time for another. If you want to really free up time, make the investment in paying someone else to do it.

Photo credit: 55Laney69 on Flickr

Your turn: Are you a solopreneur? What do you love best? What do you love least and how do you deal with it? Are you temporarily a solopreneur or do you have plans to stay that way? We want to know so please share below in the Comments!


What is your artistic work manifesto? Yep, you need one….

Run, don’t walk and pick up a copy of Seth Godin’s latest delight, Linchpin. It’s a super easy read with a powerful message – and you need this message whether you run your own business or work for someone else. It is absolutely changing (and validating) how I approach my work.

Seth is essentially calling us to “be artists”: whether you are a product designer for Apple or a waitress.  It’s not about the slog of punching a clock, or working for the man, or putting yourself on autopilot until 5 pm. What the world needs now are creative problem solvers. They are the ones who will achieve job security because they will make themselves indispensable. They will not be order takers, but change makers who innovate in countless ways big and small without being asked or “paid to.” He talks about our cultural shift from an industrialized workforce to an artistic workforce.

The beauty of this is that it applies no matter what your job. Bringing artistry to your work does not mean you have to work in paints or clay. It is the barista who sees you coming and immediately has your regular coffee drink ready at the bar, thus delighting you and starting your day off right. She may be working for $9 bucks an hour, but she has just made herself indispensable by being an artist. Is it in her job description to do this? Heck no. But her passion to make you happy, to overdeliver, to humanize the transaction has now created a loyal customer – and I would bet, given her more back in return in job satisfaction and appreciation.

We’ve often heard the phrase, “If you’re going to be a trash collector, be the best damn trash collector you can be.” There is nobility in that. And the world needs more of it.

For me, it comes down to caring about your work and being the best (blank) you can be by creating, problem solving and innovating. if you have a knack for taming angry customers and turning them around, that is an art. if you can lead a meeting effectively so all attendees leave motivated, aligned and clear on direction, that is an art. If you can brighten every person’s day who steps on your bus, that is an art. You can change one person’s life, viewpoint, mood or business by acting in this way. You can change the world.

Thinking about all of this, I wanted to see what my own artistic work manifesto would be. My personal and business mission is “To engage, inform and delight.” But what does that really mean day to day? Here goes –and would be interested to hear what yours might be as well:

  • I will delight clients by articulating their mission and brand in exactly the way they desire, so they get goosebumps and shout, “Yes! That’s it! That’s is what I’ve been trying to say and could never find the right words!”
  • I will care more about their business than even they might by always giving honest and candid feedback – even if that means extra work or losing the account.
  • I will touch and inspire every partner or client I work with by showing passion, energy and kindness during our time together. I will treat people well.
  • I will connect people that can help each other just because it’s the right thing to do, not because I get anything from it.
  • I will teach others how to think about their business as a mission that enriches lives in some way and not just a widget-producing factory solely after profits  – and I will show them that passion and profit are not mutually exclusive.
  • I will surprise people by remembering their interests or our conversations and send them an article, press lead or whatever just to show I care.
  • I will seek to work with clients who are passionate about their business and avoid those who I can clearly see will suck the energy out of me and my team. This will keep us positive, motivated and give us “mindspace” to delight the clients who are worth it – even if this means less money for the year.
  • I will continue to write and tell stories that inspire, provoke thought, inform  or even just entertain, whether on via my blogs, my books or my speaking engagements,


What is your artistic manifesto? Please share in the Comments!

Challenging our platitudes and renouncing the ‘war on work’

Danielle Laporte wrote this amazing post apologizing to the 9 to 5 crowd and all her pre-conceived notions about the type of people they are: robots, zombies, bored out of their skull. In it, she includes a remarkable TED talk from Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs that you simply must carve out 20 minutes to hear. His articulate, spellbinding and intellectual talk illustrates the need to question the ideas we have everyday: about innovation, safety, “following your passion.” “We’ve declared war on work” he says. We have done injustice to how we portray working people, or 9 to 5-ers, or those without the gumption to start their own business or invent new things.

He says we get lulled by Madison Avenue in that we deserve to have more free time, easier work lives, more technology, more innovation. He says that has caused a “marginalization of certain types of jobs.” His honest admission to “getting a lot wrong” is refreshing and that perhaps we need a “PR campaign for work, for skilled labor.”  Whatever happened to the nobleness and necessity of our blue-collar jobs, the ones our Grandfather’s had, the ones that built our infrastructure? Well, his theory is that these jobs have been victims of this war, and are getting a “bad rap.”

I was especially moved by his statement that “following his passion” was some of the worst advice he’s ever received; that sometimes “passion” just won’t pay the bills. And he’s right, to some extent. We celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and so-called lifestyle, but it may not be feasible for all of us. And it certainly would not be feasible to have a nation of independent workers all following their passions with no one to build roads, pick up road-kill or take care of our trash – or from a desk-job perspective, corporate accountants or government administrators.

Instead of renouncing these jobs and lifestyles as meaningless or “less than”, we should be finding ways to celebrate them and cultivate innovation and new ideas within them. Plenty of 9 to 5’ers lead happy, fulfilled lives contributing to their workplace, their colleagues and their communities. They are not necessarily “selling out” or “settling.”

We’re all trying to make things easy for ourselves. There are people out there who will show you how to make millions of dollars on the Internet, how to only work 4 hours a week, or how to take 6 months to dwell on your own thoughts, fears, and passions without ever taking a real step anywhere. Maybe it’s time to simply just get on with things  and get to work, in whatever forma that means for you.

What do you think?