Solopreneur pros and cons are good to know so that you are forewarned and forearmed. But ultimately, how you handle both the pros and cons will make a significant difference to your success. It’s a question of your mindset. Nothing is a “pro” unless you can take advantage of it and exploit its potential to earn more. Similarly, nothing is a “con” if you know how to turn the negatives of your business into its positives consistently. The pros and cons of solopreneurship feel exaggerated in your life only at the beginning. When you’ve hit your stride, it will all seem par for the course.
- You can soar on your strengths and manage weaknesses if you’re smart
- You can start on a near-zero budget and still look like a million
- You can gain the expertise you need easily and quickly at a low cost
- You can enjoy being your own boss and work on a niche topic you love
- You can earn passive income streams by productizing your knowledge
- You get to keep all the money you can make and can go up to 95% profit
- You can speedily change your business model to get even better results
- You have total freedom and absolute autonomy at your work and in life
- Your work and life can focus deeply on meaning, purpose, and passion
- You may never leave the house and may get “cabin fever” or loneliness
- You’ll never be off, unless you deliberately schedule some holidays
- There could be no social contact for days together unless you engage
- You have to learn skills you’re not so good at including grunt work
- You won’t have a sounding board for your ideas or people to convince
- You’ll have to put up eternally with the stress of your uncertain income
- Your workload will never ever feel like it’s nearing the end anytime soon
- The road to success may take its own time and toll on you and change you
- You have to create your own financial perks and insurance protections
VIDEO: Jacob L E’s thoughtful video about “The Solopreneur-Life Working From Home | Pros and Cons” (Must watch: 4:10 minutes)
Jacob is pretty straightforward in saying that the solopreneur life is not for everyone. He explains what it’s really like working from home and being his own boss. Jacob has done years of both, working in an office and working from home. His views on the pros and cons of solopreneurs come from personal experience. Being a solopreneur, he says, is an entirely different way of working. There are incredible benefits, but you can’t also believe those people who “paint an overly rosy picture of what it’s like”.
1. You can soar on your strengths and manage weaknesses if you’re smart
Strengths and weaknesses have no positive or negative connotations. It would be wrong to see strengths as advantages and weaknesses as disadvantages.
Strengths are the abilities that consistently produce positive outcomes for you. They make your mind feel clear and in harmony with the tasks you do. Weaknesses are abilities that are not your strong suit. They, therefore, produce sub-optimal results. They also make your mind feel fuzzy and unfocused.
As a solopreneur, you can succeed if you soar with your strengths and don’t get preoccupied with fixing your weaknesses. The more you rely on your established or latent skills or knowledge, you can become an exclusive expert in that area of authority faster. Outsource in the areas that are your weaknesses.
It used to be challenging to find the right people to outsource work to till a few years ago. Now the market is full of “gigpreneurs,” i.e., freelancers. You can get them for all kinds of online business tasks in all price-and-quality ranges, and many of them are far more professional than they ever used to be.
2. You can start on a near-zero budget and still look like a million
Being a solopreneur allows you to start lean and mean on a close-to-naught budget. Where resources are small, resourcefulness has to be big. So keep your eyes peeled for chances to get by without spending a cent.
The world no longer sees frugality as a poor man’s answer to powerful extravagance. If anything, people acknowledge frugality in online businesses as “savvy,” and they see mindless extravagance as sheer stupidity.
Solopreneurs need to feel proud of the fact that they have started their businesses at low costs. There is no need to try and sound big or to sound like a corporation. There are so many home-based solopreneurs nowadays that people perceive this way of work and life as the new normal. If anything, no one can tell the actual size of your business anymore because some small business websites look more like a million dollars than even big corporate websites.
Not only can solopreneurs start their businesses at meager costs, but it also takes a minimal amount from month to month to run a solopreneur business. So unless you outsource a lot or become a tool-buying junkie, you can keep running for the first year or two (or even longer) on just sweat and toil, paying only your web hosting costs and exploiting the abundance of free resources on the Internet.
3. You can gain the expertise you need easily and quickly at a low cost
The secret to becoming an expert in any niche is to set apart some sacrosanct time for daily reading. Solopreneurs usually begin business in an area that grabs their fancy – maybe they have some expertise or experience in a particular field, or they have a great deal of passion for a subject. They decide to make that their niche.
But it takes much more than superficial interest or even deep passion for a topic that allows them to write blogs on the topic on a daily basis. A lot of research has to go into building authority in a topic of interest. The good thing is that if you choose a niche you already love, you will not find it so uphill to gather more and more knowledge on the topic.
Being able to get knowledge freely and easily on the Internet on any subject of choice is easy. It’s also very low cost. It takes time and effort, but not money. That’s why being able to gain expertise swiftly and copiously in your niche as a solopreneur is counted among the pros of being a solopreneur.
When you research a topic in depth to make it your area of thought-leadership you have to be a bit choosy about what you pick to read and learn from. If you foray around the Internet for a bit, you will soon learn to separate the credible sources of information from the fluff – and you will put your learning time to full use on the worthwhile sources of knowledge. You will gain more quality knowledge in a shorter time-frame, allowing you to then exploit that knowledge for gaining wealth.
4. You can enjoy being your own boss and work on a niche topic you love
The secret to becoming an expert in any niche is to set apart some sacrosanct time for daily reading. Solopreneurs usually begin a business in an area that grabs their fancy – maybe they have some expertise or experience in a particular field or have a great deal of passion for a subject. They decide to make that their niche.
But it takes much more than superficial interest or even deep passion for a topic that allows them to write blogs on the subject daily. A lot of research has to go into building authority in a topic of interest. The good thing is that if you choose a niche that you already love, you will not find it so uphill to gather more and more knowledge on the topic.
Being able to get knowledge freely and quickly on the Internet on any subject of choice is easy. It’s also meager on cost. It takes time and effort, but not money. That’s why being able to gain expertise swiftly and copiously in your niche as a solopreneur is among the pros of being a solopreneur.
When you research a topic in-depth to make it your area of thought-leadership, you have to be a bit choosy about what you pick to read and learn. If you foray around the Internet for a bit, you will soon learn to separate the credible sources of information from the fluff – and you will put your learning time to full use of the valuable sources of knowledge. You will gain more quality knowledge in a shorter time frame, allowing you to exploit that knowledge to accumulate wealth.
5. You can earn passive income streams by productizing your knowledge
As a solopreneur, you wear many hats in your business. You handle the product creation, the site maintenance, the admin tasks, the marketing and PR, and the customer care. Given all this, you will surely need to find ways to earn more quickly than by servicing your customers individually.
If, for instance, you offer your niche expertise as a consulting service, you can only earn as much as your hours in a working day will allow. But think about this. If you “productize” your expertise, you can publish pieces of your knowledge as digital info products, like ebooks or courses. You could put these products up for sale on a self-service model for customers via eCommerce.
The income you get in this method is known as “passive income” because you need to do nothing more in an active mode, and your customers from across the globe can drop by even as you sleep and buy your products. There is no limit to the volumes you can sell.
Earning “passive incomes” is one of the big “pros” of being a solopreneur. Your inability to service customers on a one-to-one basis at scale is a challenge. But you can overcome this by productizing your knowledge to sell it at scale and get passive incomes.
6. You get to keep all the money you can make and can go up to 95% profit
Usually, people who become solopreneurs by choice feel confident they can handle all the workload themselves. If, for instance, they thought that they could not write well for their blogs, they would much rather take a low-cost online course on blog writing to polish up their skills than hire outsourced blog writers.
Most solopreneurs are thus fabulous examples of the “lean startup model”. They aim to start a business on a dime and then do as much of the work themselves so that whatever they earn is theirs to keep. Such a model is a very healthy way of doing business without risk because you work at near-zero costs and get very high profits – sometimes even exceeding 90% profit.
The only caveat is that you shouldn’t drive yourself nuts chasing unrealistic goals. That way, you’ll end up not with a profit but with burnout.
Your game plan should be to sell small volumes of your products at high-profit margins. You will then balance out your working hours and marketing tasks without undue pressure on yourself to get hundreds and thousands of sales.
7. You can speedily change your business model to get even better results
The marketing word for businesses that can chop-and-change their business model in a cinch is “pivoting”. As a solopreneur, you can freely experiment with your business model when market trends or technologies change. You need no one’s permission to change parts of your business around or even change your business’s entire focus.
In the pursuit of improvement of your business model, technology and automation are your best friends. Automation needn’t be expensive, although people think it is. If you scrutinize automation, most of the automation is “email automation,” i.e., sending the right emails in the correct sequences to the right people at the right time.
Set up your site to work in tandem with your autoresponder or email marketing service. You will then be able to easily program the minimum automation you need to take care of the most mundane repetitive tasks you would otherwise be doing yourself.
While we’re talking here about the ease of changing your business model, remember that it is very different from changing your branding. Changing your branding too much or too often will only make your business look like it has no clue who or what it wants to be. Solopreneurship does give you the flexibility to change your branding, but please do this only after deep thought and meticulous planning. Rebranding is a whole different ball game and needs deep market and consumer research – and expert help – before you can choreograph it with finesse.
8. You have total freedom and absolute autonomy at your work and in life
Have you suffered a lot with corporate life before beating out on your own as a solopreneur? You will undoubtedly remember the endless meetings and committees every decision has to pass through before people accept any change in business methods. Phew, don’t we all sweat at the thought of it!
Fortunately, as a solopreneur, all decisions are made just by you and you alone. You’re not answerable to any chain of command. You can change your mind when you want to and not have to account for your every decision. We all make some decisions instinctively, and these can become very tough to explain if we always have to use logic as a justification.
As a solopreneur, you also set your business mission and articulate its values. You name the goals you want to set for yourself. You plan the methods by which you will achieve those goals. You identify what success means to you, and it may not always be money. You may well feel that your business has to deliver a workstyle you can enjoy as much as the making of money.
You have the freedom to innovate and make mistakes (if that is the way you choose to learn and grow). You evaluate how much of any expenditure is too much risk and draw the red lines around you. You decide your ideal clients and how you’d like to be respected. Even if you are a single-person business, you can still set up a business culture that makes you feel good and makes your customers want to work with you.
9. Your work and life can focus deeply on meaning, purpose, and passion
Some people look at solopreneurship as an option because of the ease of entry and earning potential. Some others value solopreneurship for the meaning, purpose, and passion it can bring to their lives. It’s all about why you want to work. Do you wish to work for a living or a life?
Work-life balance is a concept very different for every one of us. How much do we want to work? How much do we value personal and family life? Should our work enhance our personal life? Or should our personal life strengthen the work we do? These are very individual choices.
We now find people in 9-to-5 jobs retiring very young and going far away from the cities to live a very different lifestyle. I know a young CEO of 45 years who recently retired (availing his company’s voluntary retirement plan). He went away to live in a farming commune growing garlic. The move has transformed him and his family. He and his wife look less stressed. They seem to enjoy raising their kids in this environment and take turns with the home-schooling tasks. They also sell their farm-fresh garlic for enough money that just about covers their financial needs. They don’t want the money-hungry rat race anymore.
We are all going through the pandemic and the economic downturn now. It has made us stop and reflect on how much we want to sacrifice the rest of our lives for work. Many people are now turning to solopreneurship, not just because it’s the new normal to be working from home, but because it gives back lost lives. Work and life may finally get the correct prioritization.
10. You may never leave the house and may get “cabin fever” or loneliness
What is “cabin fever”? The term “cabin fever” describes the psychological symptoms that happen when a person gets confined to their home for extended periods. The person may have feelings of restlessness, irritability, and loneliness.
We see a lot of people with “cabin fever” during the Covid lockdowns. Some solopreneurs get so aloof working from home that they self-induce “cabin fever” by sheer home-boundedness. They get too absorbed in work or staying in that they forget out and about for their sanity.
Loneliness in solopreneurs is also a severe disorder – sometimes even leading to depression. People working from home may forget there’s a connection to keep with the outside world.
The Harvard Business Review states: “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.” That’s how severe loneliness can get to be, so solopreneurs had better guard against both “cabin fever” and “loneliness” as their side-effects of solopreneurship.
11. You’ll never be off, unless you deliberately schedule some holidays
Your life’s balance won’t work itself out. You have to make it work. Just as you schedule in work hours, you have to deliberately and consciously plan for off-days and non-work hours.
Many solopreneurs stay terrified of falling sick. They fear that when they fall ill, so will their businesses. They eternally feel as if their enforced time off will kill their budding businesses, chase away every potential customer, or set them behind on goals.
Living with such fears is no kind of life to live as a prisoner of your mind. If you get anxious that your days off may mean a loss of business, there could be two reasons.
You may be making your work too crucial in life and fearing its adverse effects rather than enjoying its positive impact. Or you may be ill-prepared mentally to get in outsource help if you should need it. It’s better to keep some outsource service vetted and ready to fill in for you when you take a vacation or fall ill. Being proactive can help, whereas being be reactive in getting outsourced help in an emergency will be hard.
12. There could be no social contact for days together unless you engage
A solopreneur life gets so lonely sometimes that many solopreneurs get addicted to making online friends on social media. But mere online socializing won’t be good enough. Physical socializing is very important to human health.
Even introverted solopreneurs need physical connections with others. Introverts crave meaningful and deep connections but with not more than one or two people at a time. Going a whole week in complete and absolute solitude, with no single soul to interact will probably drive even an introvert insane.
A strategy that successful solopreneurs swear by is working some days at a coworking space with other solopreneurs. Generally speaking, the definition of “coworking” is when people assemble in a neutral area to work independently on different projects. It’s different than a typical office workspace because the people in a coworking environment generally aren’t working for the same company.
A coworking space needn’t be a formal working space. It can be a nearby cafe or a park where all solopreneurs congregate to work. They feel the presence of others around them, all doing their own thing, but the feeling of being amidst others feels connected and uplifting.
13. You have to learn skills you’re not so good at including grunt work
Some romantic notions of solopreneurship include the idea that you will keep learning new and exciting things. That’s true to some extent. But side by side, you may also have to learn some skills like accounting, project management, proofing, editing, or coding. Not all skills are exciting. Some work is downright dull.
As a solopreneur, you have to understand that you wear many hats in your business. But not all of them may fit you well. You may love some kinds of tasks and hate others. But they are all on your plate, so you have to take the good with the bad.
Worst of all is the grunt work you have to do. “Grunt work” is an expression used to describe thankless and menial work. Grunt work can also refer to jobs that either lack glamour and prestige or are boring and repetitive. For example, your grunt work could include: making regular backups of your work; ensuring your computer disk is defragmented and cleaned up of junk; cleaning out your mail folders; replying to emails that you’ve been putting off; decluttering your workspace; refreshing your to-do lists; rescheduling your entire week when one client cancels a critical meeting on Zoom.
Remember the 80-20 rule. It operates in all businesses, even in solopreneur outfits. 20% of the work you do will be exciting and productive of maximum earnings. 80% of your work will be “back-office work” that you can indefinitely postpone – but at your peril eventually.
14. You won’t have a sounding board for your ideas or people to convince
One of the things solopreneurs rue most about their work style is that there may be no one whose brains you can pick. There’s no charm in work if you cannot occasionally have a healthy debate with someone when looking for brainstorming.
Also, without the restraining force of contrary thinking, you may make some unwise, uninformed decisions. Everyone can benefit from having another person act as the Devil’s Advocate. Hearing contrasting opinions can help you temper your over-the-top ideas to a level of realism.
Further, not having a qualified team (as you do in 9–5 companies) may rob you of exhilarating exchanges. You may miss having an in-house group that can spur you to go for big ideas. Many solopreneurs say that unless there’s an internal challenge, there isn’t much incentive for innovation.
Another minus point: you’ll have to be your cheerleader when you have successes. There will be no team celebrations of small and big business victories. Even landmark days will feel blah because it’s never the same sipping champagne all by yourself.
15. You’ll have to put up eternally with the stress of your uncertain income
Even before the global coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout, an American Psychological Association (APA) study found that 72% of Americans feel stressed about money at least some of the time. With the recent economic difficulties, even more of us are now facing financial struggles and hardship. Many of the solopreneurs we have today have come off jobs into solopreneurship to find some avenue for income, but going into a slow business can also be heavy.
Like any source of overwhelming stress, financial problems can take a massive toll on your mental and physical health, relationships, and quality of life. Feeling beaten by money worries can impact your sleep, self-esteem, and energy levels. It can make you angry, ashamed, or fearful and increase pain and irrational mood swings.
In business, at the best of times, you have to manage with uncertain incomes. You may not always be lucky to have a regular contract with a monthly-paying client. While uncertainty is par for the course, it’s easier said than done when managing stress levels.
A spot of outstanding financial help from an expert will help. Many of us think financial advisors are only for wealthy people, but no one needs advice more than a person who doesn’t know how to make the most of uncertain incomes. So seek help. You may learn the knack of saving from whatever you get for the rainy day (yes, you can). And you will sleep better knowing you have an expert helping you.
16. Your workload will never ever feel like it’s nearing the end anytime soon
Many solopreneurs I have met always mention that they too have the “one more thing syndrome”. It’s that feeling that you will never complete your To-Do List. You always feel like closing your computer only after you have done that “one more thing” – and then there is “one more thing” and another “one more thing”. Before you know it, your shut-off time has gets postponed by an hour.
See, there is an adage that “Work always increases to fill the time available”. So unless you are very particular about adhering to shut-down times, you will find many things to do that you could squeeze in.
Solopreneurship demands that you know when to stop and when too much work crosses the line into personal and family life. You cannot allow your To-Do List to tyrannize you, and especially not the trivial items on it.
Some solopreneurs have even told me that no 9-5 boss has never been as oppressive as the To-Do List. Isn’t that so true? The next time your To-Do List stares at you, put it off your screen or your desk or wherever it usually sits. It can wait another day. The world is not about to end.
17. The road to success may take its own time and toll on you and change you
Do a lot of people succeed at a solopreneur business? Unfortunately, the answer is “No”. It is a statistically proven fact that only about 5% of businesses in the online world survive beyond the first year. That percentage applies to solopreneur outfits too.
Why is the rate of success so dismal, you may ask. The numbers of wins are so low almost all of the time because solopreneurs may enter business with entirely wrong expectations. The truth is that online ventures are very low-cost to start and very highly profitable once they start succeeding. But there is a long gestation period between starting and the point at which you may succeed and begin earning. Much of it depends on your relentless persistence and hard work continuing even when there are no signs of success.
Online business is similar to the Chinese bamboo tree. Experts say that the Chinese bamboo takes up to five years to show up a shoot above the ground. But after that, in just about four months, it may grow to a height of almost 80 meters. When there seems no progress at all, the plant is busy developing its strong root structure to give itself a foundation for the extraordinary heights it will achieve.
Most impatient solopreneurs find this gestation period so daunting and dispiriting that they quit before giving themselves enough time to see growth and money. Successful entrepreneurs plod on through the tough times, keeping their faith in the process. They learn to love the journey as much as the eventual success. One more thing: since success has an evolutionary period, you will often find it may change you as a person. Life teaches important lessons to those whose patience and consistency it tests.
18. You have to create your own financial perks and insurance protections
At a conference I attended, there was an exciting conversation going on between two solopreneurs. One was saying jocularly to the other, “I don’t know if I am going to get a raise this April. My boss is in two minds.” The other solopreneur replied in the same joking style, “I think I can ask my boss to work on your boss to give you that raise.”
Both of them were both the bosses and the employees of their businesses. Still, this delightful exchange shows that solopreneurs have a hard time convincing themselves that they can take more money from their businesses for themselves. For instance, in a solopreneur business, there are no schemes for health insurance, retirement plans, or paid vacations unless you decide these must b budgeted for from the money your business earns.
If you miss these perks of a 9-5 job, you’ll have to provide them for yourself. There are good schemes from banks and Governmental authorities for the self-employed and freelancers. Yet, solopreneurs never discover them unless they do a lot of research to see what financial packages are available.
Get an advisor familiar with handling self-employed people, or access your local Small Business Association, to get a lot of information on what kinds of plans may help you specifically. Evaluate how much you must budget for self and business protection, and make a plan to build up your fall-back money.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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