What is a Solopreneur (and How to Become One)

by | Jun 4, 2021

Imagine waking at around 7am and heading downstairs in your PJ’s to make a coffee.

You casually water your hall plant, set up your yoga mat for a nice morning stretch, call a couple of family members, make a nutritious breakfast and finally settle on the sofa in your slacks with your laptop and cuppa.

As the morning passes, you’re answering emails, making calls, creating images, writing posts, coding apps, tutoring students online, or doing whatever your online business requires.

You stop at 1pm to meet a friend for lunch, and your afternoon is full with a class you want to attend, your child’s school play, a favor for a family member, etc.

Your life is your own, your time is your own, and your days are filled with doing what you want to do, from where you want to do it.

work from home dog meme

This just one scenario.

Imagine instead (my life); you’re traveling the world (post covid) and your office for the day is the beach!

digital nomad life

The 21st century has witnessed the rise of the solopreneur.

People are making full use of new technologies to grow companies from anywhere in the world, living fantastic lifestyles and enjoying true financial freedom. (Yours truly included!)

But what exactly is a solopreneur?

And better still, how do you become one?

In this article, we’ll explore the answers to these questions, plus all the tips I’ve picked up from my own 10-year journey as a solopreneur.

First up;

What is a Solopreneur?

It mainly comes down to the word “solo.” A solopreneur is someone who starts & runs a business on their own.

I think, however, the word is a fantastic replacement for the scarier term of entrepreneur, which conjures up images of silicon valley startups, big teams, offices, and overheads.

In my definition, a solopreneur is anyone who starts a small business or side hustle to fund their lifestyle, allowing them to turn passions into profit and to live and work from anywhere.

A solopreneur starts what I like to call a ‘lifestyle business.’

lifestyle business definition

The Fundamental Difference Between a Solopreneur and an Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur is someone who starts and runs a business and takes on the financial risk of doing so.

A solopreneur is the same, but in my definition, the critical difference is in how you view and manage the business.

Just because the word ‘solo’ is in the title doesn’t mean you have to run every aspect of the business yourself.

multitasking octopus - solopreneur

The most successful solopreneurs outsource many of the tasks they don’t have the time or skillset to do themselves. Mainly to contractors and remote self-employed freelancers.

However, they continue to do the tasks they enjoy, are passionate about, or bring the money in. And on the whole, they love what they do, they started the business out of a passion, and they’re running the business both as a route to increase income and to do something they enjoy.

On the flip side, the word entrepreneur lends itself to someone who might invest in multiple ventures, build companies with venture capital funding and exit strategies in mind, and work with large ‘in-house’ teams.

Great examples are serial entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Mark Cuban. They start companies and, within a few months or years, isolate themselves as much as possible from the day-to-day running of the business, handing off everything to a CEO and management team.

Take Note
I am, of course, generalizing, and the terms can mean whatever they want to you personally. What’s in a label, right?
 

The reason I call myself a solopreneur, however, is because my business is my own. I don’t have a board of shareholders, a partner, an office full of people, or any of the other business trappings commonly associated with larger more entrepreneurial businesses.

I also spend much of my time working alone due to being on the road. But I do have a team of freelancers, all based in different countries around the world.

Depending on your personality and goals, being a solopreneur can be much more fulfilling and exciting than being an entrepreneur. It means that YOU are the business, and you have complete control and flexibility over what you and your brand do each and every day.

To summarise, here are the key attributes you will find in a solopreneur:

  • Generally works alone
  • Location independent
  • Focused on one enterprise
  • Runs a lifestyle business

Bottom line: all solopreneurs are entrepreneurs, but not all entrepreneurs are solopreneurs.

Solopreneur Business Examples/Ideas

Here are some examples of the kinds of businesses a solopreneur would typically start.

To make it more simple, let’s break it down into three core categories:

1. Ecommerce

In its true context, ecommerce is the business of selling any product online, be it physical or digital. For the purpose of this article and my entire blog, I attribute the term ecommerce to the selling of physical products.

In a few short years, my husband and I built a seven-figure eCommerce business using Amazon FBA.

amazon fba solopreneur business example

Put simply, this is the process of selling products through the Fulfilled by Amazon service, which doesn’t require you to hold inventory.

Alternatively, you can build an independent ecommerce business that you manage yourself in its entirety.

Using prebuilt website platforms like Shopify, Wix, or Woocommerce, you’ll find or create products to sell, populate the website, fulfill orders, and deal with customers.

For more details, you can read my step-by-step guide to starting an ecommerce business here.

For more inspirational ecommerce ideas, here are some success stories.

2. Information Marketing

Also known as ‘digital marketing,’ this is the business of providing and monetizing valuable information online.

Here are some examples of information marketing business models;

Becoming an Influencer

By building a large audience of people who trust your judgment, you’re able to promote either your own or other people’s products to your following.

The most common examples of influencers can be found on Instagram. People like Kim Kardashian have millions of followers, all keenly waiting to hear what she has to say next.

But really, an influencer is anyone who has a loyal following on any platform.

This could mean 1000 followers on TikTok, a few thousand YouTube subscribers, or even a large email list.

As long as people are keen to hear what you have to say and then make purchasing decisions based on what you recommend, you are an influencer.

Some of the best influencers have a strong presence across several platforms. For example;

  • Gary Vaynerchuk – In the digital space, few influencers are as outspoken and hardworking as Gary Vaynerchuk. His presence is everywhere, and he makes use of all social media platforms to grow his visibility and spread his message.

Gary Vee - IG

Gary Vee - YT

Gary Vee - Tiktok

  • Brene Brown – A researcher and best-selling author and speaker, Brene has taken the world by storm with her books and speeches on vulnerability and shame. She now has a popular podcast and millions of fans across all the networks.
  • Charli Da Melio – Starting with a few dances on TikTok, this youngster has grown into a global brand in her own right. She now has tens of millions of followers across all the social media platforms and is shortly launching a Netflix TV show.

Becoming an Educator

As an educator, you can, of course, also become an influencer, but your primary goal is to use an online platform (such as a blog) to educate your target audience.

You can make money by selling courses, writing eBooks, or promoting other products your audience might use.

Examples of successful educators include;

  • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner – Her blog, Making Sense Of Cents, is one of the world’s most successful money management blogs. Most of her income comes through the sale of her course on affiliate marketing, through which she teaches others to achieve similar levels of success to herself.
  • Amy Porterfield – I confess, I’m a long-time fan of Amy. Teaching people how to build online digital courses and build email lists for over ten years now, Amy is both an influencer, an educator, and a very successful example of a solopreneur cum entrepreneur.

Author

If you’re drawn to the opportunity of packaging your knowledge and expertise and selling it in book format, this is for you!

These days you can easily self-publish physical and digital books using platforms such as Amazon KDP or Ingram Spark.

Amazon KDP allows you to publish a new book and immediately gain access to Amazon’s vast customer base, while Ingram Spark opens the door to physical bookstores.

Both options negate the need to go down the traditional route of raising thousands of dollars to print a few copies of your book in the hope it becomes a New York Times No.1 Bestseller.

Some good examples of successful authors in my niche include;

  • Natalie Sisson – Otherwise known as the Suitcase Entrepreneur, she was one of the first well-known solopreneurs who built a multi-million dollar business while traveling the world. She has now published three successful books that showcase her journey and lays out a roadmap for others to follow.
  • Tim Ferris – The forefront proponent of the remote lifestyle. His most significant book, the 4-hour workweek, is still considered the holy grail of building a location-independent business and being as productive as possible when doing so.

how to become a solopreneur

Affiliate Marketer

Affiliate marketing is a competitive but straightforward business model. You promote somebody else’s product, and in exchange, you receive a percentage of the sale price.

There are affiliate programs out there for absolutely everything, from digital courses to hotels, to books. If you recommend a product and somebody clicks your affiliate link and makes a purchase, you make money.

Affiliate marketing comes in many different forms. You can start a vlog, a blog, or even a podcast, from which you can recommend products to your audience that you know they will value.

Affiliate Marketing saves you the labor-intensive process of building and launching your own products, making the barriers to entry for this business model very low.

Great examples of affiliate marketers include;

  • Matthew Woodward – With his blog, Matthew managed to make more than a million dollars in just a few short years, mainly through affiliate marketing in the hugely profitable digital marketing space.
  • Martin Lewis – Founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, Martin has grown a site that makes a fortune recommending highly lucrative financial products to people in the UK.

3. Services

The quickest and easiest way to become a solopreneur TODAY is to become a freelancer.

A freelancer offers their services in exchange for money.

Pretty much anyone can become a freelancer as long as you have moderate skills in areas such as;

  • Web design
  • Graphic design
  • Copywriting
  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Recruitment

(Plus, literally hundreds more categories.)

Need more inspiration? Then head on over to Fiverr.

One of the world’s largest freelance marketplaces Fiverr showcases millions of people making a full-time living offering their services in exchange for money every day.

Freelancers can live and work from absolutely anywhere, and the barriers to entry are almost non-existent.

All you need is to create an account, list the sorts of services you are happy to perform, decide on a few basic packages, your hourly rates, and you’re off to the races.

If you are new to the game, then you’ll probably end up offering low rates to start with, allowing you to build up a portfolio of quality reviews and testimonials.

As you become more successful as a freelancing solopreneur, you can up your rates and build direct, long-term relationships with clients away from these platforms.

The sky is the limit.

Here are a few case studies/guides for how to become a successful freelancer:

The Benefits of Becoming a Solopreneur

As I’ve already said, I consider myself to be a solopreneur, and I LOVE my lifestyle.

Here are the most significant benefits to becoming a solopreneur;

  • Work from anywhere – This could be your bed at home, a coffee shop down the road, or a beach in the Maldives. It’s totally up to you (so long as you have an internet connection, of course!).
  • Be the master of your own destiny – How successful you become as a solopreneur is dependent on only one person. YOU. For some, this is daunting. For others, it’s liberating.
  • Do what you love – No more getting told what to do and when. You decide which parts of your business to focus on and outsource the stuff you hate.
  • Design your schedule – How your weekly work schedule flows is entirely up to you. Decide when, where, and how you work each and every day.
  • Fulfill YOUR vision – You have the chance to fulfill your own idea of how your business looks and operates. Rather than simply working as a cog in someone else’s grand plan.
  • Be as big or as small as you like – Not all solopreneurs need to be millionaires. But many have this aim in mind. How much you earn is entirely up to you and should be primarily based on how much you need to generate to live your dream lifestyle.
  • Make a difference – You can use your business as a force for good. Use it to make a change in a way that you are passionate about. This could mean making products more affordable or even giving back to your community. It’s up to you how you decide to make a difference and leave your mark on the world.
  • Inspire those around you – I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that I inspire others to live their dream lifestyle. If nothing else, I have shown my daughter that she can do and be absolutely anything she wants in life.
  • Meet extraordinary people – By becoming a solopreneur and engaging in the community, you naturally meet some wonderfully exciting people. They show and teach you things you never before thought possible.

Tips for Becoming a Successful Solopreneur

Though it’s a lot of fun, being a successful solopreneur is also a lot of hard work and can get lonely at times.

Particularly when you are in the process of getting your business off the ground. You may find yourself working 12 – 24 hours a day, all the while trying to learn new skills and manage every aspect of your business on your own.

After more than a decade spent living this lifestyle, here are some top tips I’ve picked up along the way;

Time management is crucial

With so many different tasks to juggle each week, you need to learn how to prioritize and manage your time.

It’s no good spending 2 – 3 hours slowly working your way through emails each morning only to find by mid-day, you’ve done nothing to grow your business in any way.

You need to clearly map out which tasks must be accomplished each day and set in stone a guideline of how much time you will dedicate to each job before moving on.

Similarly, you need to put in the hours to get things done.

As a solopreneur, no one will tell you off for laying in late each morning or clocking off before you’ve finished your to-do list. In the long run, it will just mean that you don’t do what’s needed.

Simple alarms throughout the day are great for helping with time management.

Break each task down into chunks no longer than an hour at a time. Then, set a timer for how long you dedicate to each task and make sure you are done and moved on by the time it goes off.

Hot Tip
Download the PomoDoneApp (Free). It’s a handy little app using the 25 min Pomodoro technique to help you be more productive. It also syncs with other productivity apps like Trello etc.

Make use of organizational tools

With no physical office and filing system, you need to find ways to organize your digital business.

Many of the very cool online tools are free, while others can be purchased for small monthly fees.

Here are some great organizational tools I recommend;

  • Google Drive / Workspace – A fab platform allowing you to store and organize all of your files in one place. Be they spreadsheets, word documents, images, etc. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access these files from one central place, absolutely anywhere in the world. And as your business grows, you can simply upgrade your plan to suit your storage needs.
  • Slack – As your team expands, you’ll need a central messaging platform to communicate each day. Slack is my favorite as it’s built specifically for digital companies.
  • MindMeister – This is an excellent tool for mapping out new, creative ideas for your business. If you are an ideas person, it’s a valuable tool for tracking and exploring new concepts as they pop into your head.
  • RescueTime – A great tool to help you see how and where you spend your time each day. It tracks which sites you visit and for how long, allowing you to look back at each day and see how you can improve your productivity and focus.
  • Trello – My favorite organizational tool, Trello, allows you to create simple (or complex) to-do lists each day and easily mark off tasks as you go. You can set deadlines or even set a job to re-occur each week so that you don’t forget.

Outsource to grow

As discussed earlier, just because you are a solopreneur doesn’t mean you need to do EVERYTHING.

Instead, successful solopreneurs know which tasks they are good at and which they are not. They then outsource their weak areas to freelancers.

The goal of outsourcing is to achieve what is known as the 80/20 principle. Pareto’s Law tells us that roughly 80% of the results you see come from 20% of the work done.

So, which tasks lead to 80% of results? It could be emailing potential clients, cold calling leads, uploading new content to your blog, or reaching out to big websites for guest posts.

Decide which tasks will make the most significant impact on your business and double down in those areas. Then outsource the less critical, mundane tasks to others.

Better yet, outsource all of the jobs you don’t like doing or don’t have the time or skills to learn how to do.

Most solopreneurial businesses involve some aspect of;

  • Graphic design
  • Web design
  • Email marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Cold calling
  • Digital advertising
  • Social media marketing
  • Research

My Motto; do what you do best and leave the rest to freelancers.

Hiring support for your business

No matter what support you need, the best places to find freelancers are UpWork and Fiverr. These are the world’s two largest marketplaces for talented freelancers.

Through these two sites, you’ll find pretty much any skilled resource you need – certainly all of the tasks listed above.

Simply search for whatever skill you need and scan until you find a few individuals you think fit your budget and skillset.

You may have to work with several different people until you find the right fit, but keep going; the ideal person is there for you.

NB: These marketplaces will charge a small fee for all work you hire through them.

If you want to avoid any fees, you could instead hire someone through another means. There are various Facebook Groups filled with thousands of freelancers, so you could put a job listing in there and then rifle through all the applicants.

Alternatively, use a forum such as ProBlogger. Either way, the principles are the same. You will need to work with a few people to settle on the right person for your company.

Find support groups

If you are becoming a solopreneur after years of working in a typical office environment, loneliness and isolation can quickly get to you.

That’s why I recommend finding different support networks to help you maintain that sense of community.

After all, you’re not the only solopreneur out there.

Remote digital nomad lifestyles are increasingly popular, and there are lots of communities out there happy to welcome you in and help you grow and prosper.

Here are some of my favorites:

To find more, I recommend searching for forums on Google or for Groups on Facebook.

In particular, focus on groups filled with people operating businesses in the same niche as you.

Always be learning

The beauty of building a solopreneur business is that the world of making money online is constantly changing. My businesses have grown over the years by following trends and changing my approach.

A large part of our success has been focusing on always setting aside time to learn new skills. Either through taking paid courses or simply reading industry blogs each day.

If you choose to go down the route of running a service-based business, this could mean taking new exams each year and earning different qualifications.

You never know what opportunities the next few years will bring, but by staying on top of things and learning new skills, you place yourself as one of the solopreneurs poised to succeed for years to come.

Examples of Successful Solopreneurs

Here’s a look at some inspiring solopreneurs who show how rewarding life as a solopreneur can be.

  • Adam Enfroy – After years spent working in the corporate world, Adam left his high-paying job to start a blog. Within two years, his blog was making more than $80k per month! He bucked the blogging trend by treating it as a business from the outset and flipping the whole dynamic of a blog on its head.
  • Kirsten Rich – Otherwise known as The Blonde Abroad, Kirsten started her travel blog on a whim after deciding she was fed up working endless hours at a high-paying job. Within a few years, that blog was making more money than she was earning with a “regular job.” Ten years on, she is a successful solopreneur making money through dozens of different avenues. Such as hosted retreats, influencer campaigns with huge brands, and affiliate marketing. All a direct result of her blog.
  • Erika Leonard – Better known by her pen name E.L. James, Erika was once a relatively unknown author. But after writing and self-publishing the first Fifty Shades Of Grey book on a fan website, it quickly went viral. She then had the book properly published and soon had the fastest-selling book series in UK history. Today, she is one of the wealthiest authors in the world.

Book / Podcast Recommendations for Budding Solopreneurs

If you’re looking to broaden your understanding further of how to become a successful solopreneur, here are a few resources to check out;

  • 4 Hour Work Week – In this excellent book (which I have read several times over), Tim Ferriss reinvents the wheel, showing you how to become truly productive and get the most out of every single hour you work. Sure, you can work just 4 hours a week, but it’s more about showing you how to cut out all the tasks you don’t need to be doing.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show – In Tim’s podcast, he interviews other entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, covering dozens of different industries. As of writing, it has received more than 600 million downloads making it one of the biggest and most successful podcasts around.
  • The Money Tree – This excellent podcast shows you how simple and effective it can be to launch a business with less than $500 in startup capital and make full use of the skills and knowledge you already possess. Plus, it’s told through an entertaining and exciting narrative.
  • Atomic Habits – Becoming a successful solopreneur requires discipline and productivity. This book teaches you how to achieve exactly this, all through recognizing what makes a good habit and how to build them into your daily routine effectively.
  • 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People – This revolutionary book from Stephen Covey results from a lifetime spent working with people and businesses to boost productivity and overall effectiveness. It breaks down the complexities of what makes some people far more effective than others. Then teaches you how to achieve this same success by focusing on seven core habits.
  • The GaryVee Audio Experience – This is a podcast that features a compilation of Gary’s best and most practical advice dispelled over the years spent running the GaryVee Show, plus interviews, keynote speeches, and current thoughts on everything from building a successful business to leading a happier life in general.

Starting your journey as a solopreneur

We are without doubt living in the age of the solopreneur.

The internet has made it entirely possible to start and grow a successful venture online with little more than your laptop.

As long as you’re willing to put in the work, continually learn, and be creative, there’s no reason why you can’t become a successful solopreneur yourself.

This entire website revolves around providing solopreneurs with the skills and techniques needed to help them succeed.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some other helpful guides I have published;

Thanks for reading! Good luck with your journey. 🙂

Please share with anyone you think this might benefit. Thank you 🙂