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A “solopreneur” is, as the name suggests, an entrepreneur who sets up and runs a business solo — that is, without the help of staff or team members of any kind. While “solopreneurs” of various forms have existed for some time, there is a major boom in the prevalence of the “solopreneur” life these days, largely as a result of the internet and recent advances in computer technology, which have allowed people to achieve far more, individually, than would ever have been feasible even a short time ago.
There have also been various high-profile “solopreneurs” spreading the gospel of the lifestyle to others, with perhaps the most notable example being Tim Ferriss, and his book, “The 4-Hour Work Week”. In this book, Ferriss describes how he spends the majority of the year travelling for extended periods of time on semi-retirement, while dedicating only the smallest possible amount of work to his business ventures — a few hours here and there — thanks to the wonders of automation, and the various systems he’s put in place to ensure that his business ventures are largely self-sustaining and require only occasional oversight from him.
Many young professionals, in particular, have been enraptured by this vision of what professional life could be, and are taking steps to live the solopreneur life of their dreams. But, although Tim Ferriss might paint the picture of a life of wonder and relative ease, becoming a successful solopreneur — much less one who has an abundance of free time — is far from easy, and requires a good deal of careful thought and planning.
So, if you’ve set off down the path of the solopreneur and want to do what you can in order to maximise your chances of success, here are a few things you should do for your solopreneur business in order to help it to thrive.
- Make sure you have a good antivirus and security system in place. A “Solopreneur business” is almost synonymous with an “online business”, or at the very least, implies a business with a substantial online component. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the fact that virtually all businesses these days rely on their web presence to a substantial degree. As your solopreneur business is likely to depend more than most forms of business on its web presence, as well as on the use of various digital tools and services, to help leverage your time and energy as effectively as possible, you’ve got to make sure that you’re protected from cyber-attacks, infiltration, and all the rest. Good cybersecurity training and auditing services, such as those provided by Alpine Security, can help to make the difference between your business being able to thrive, undisturbed, and in being ruined, robbed, or shut down by the various nefarious elements that exist on the web.
- Set up a professionally designed website, and feature a professional headshot. Continuing on the theme of the importance of your web presence, as a solopreneur, having your website presented in as professional a manner as possible goes a very long way towards setting you up for success in your professional endeavours. The simple fact is that you’re at a particular disadvantage as a new business owner, let alone as a solopreneur. That disadvantage is that you don’t have as many signifiers of professional trustworthiness as larger, more established businesses, will have. And those signifiers are no small matter, either. They are, in fact, integral to building trust among your prospective client-base, and reassuring people of the fact that you’re “the real deal”.
A well-structured website is essential in this regard, but particularly, you should focus on making sure that it looks as “professionally done” as possible from the outset. That means either crafting yourself a highly modern, attractive, streamlined website, or else paying a professional website designer to do the job for you. It’s also important that you have a headshot of yourself on your website, and that this headshot should be professionally taken. A professionally taken photograph, of you looking smartly dressed but not overdressed, helps to reinforce the idea that you’re a serious, established professional, even if you’re just starting off. A grainy photo that you’ve taken on your phone, against the wall of your flat, isn’t likely to have the same desired effect.
- Get some testimonials, portfolio pieces, and other relevant info, up on your site as soon as possible. While a professionally designed website, and professional headshots, are the first steps to establishing your professional brand via your online presence, you should take things up a level as soon as possible by including testimonials and, if relevant or possible, portfolio pieces, on your website. Many people do testimonials wrong. It’s important to keep in mind that a testimonial is only effective in gaining client trust, if it’s clearly authentic. This means, in practice, including the quote from your happy client, ideally in addition to a photo of them, a full name, and, if relevant a job title. Testimonials which lack all of these features and just read “this service was really great – Bob” are liable to be dismissed as fake, even if they are genuinely authentic.
- Identify a productivity system that can keep you moving forward reliably and consistently. It’s absolutely imperative for entrepreneurs to be as self-disciplined and productive as possible, but unfortunately, a solopreneur is likely to find themselves in a more difficult position in this regard than an entrepreneur who works with team and staff members. The reason for that is simple; accountability. It’s always easier to stay on track and to overcome the tendency to procrastinate, or to become distracted, or to simply lose focus, when you know that other people are depending on you and are judging you, simultaneously.
Many people, when they first embrace the solopreneur life, are shocked to find that they struggle significantly to just get their heads down and do the required work, in the absence of coworkers, bosses, and the checks and balances that are well-established in a traditional business, for the purpose of keeping everyone on track and in line. To ensure that you’re able to keep yourself moving forward reliably and consistently — not to mention productively — in your solopreneur career, it’s imperative that you identify and adopt a productivity and organisational system that works for you. There are various different systems and measures that might work. You might find that using a web-based task-management tool such as Microsoft To Do is enough to keep you on track, or maybe a system as refined and multi-faceted as David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” technique will be what’s required.
- Set aside a designated “office space” where everyday life doesn’t interfere. Many entrepreneurs struggle quite dramatically with establishing the right balance between their “personal” and “private” lives. Generally, this manifests itself as working around the clock, missing out on sleep, having little to no time for family engagements and obligations, and so on. Not only is this bad for your social and family life, but it inevitably tends to lead to burnout, lack of enthusiasm, and loss of creativity and dynamic thought, at work. Establishing a basic work-life divide is important, and to achieve this as a solopreneur, one of the best practices that you can adopt is to set aside a designated “office space” where everyday life doesn’t interfere with your work, and which prevents your work from spilling over into the domain of your everyday life. This could mean setting aside an entire room in your home or apartment as an “office”, or it could simply mean sitting aside a desk to be used for work. Try to create a clear divide, in either case.
- Get your business vision and target audience clear in your mind, and begin marketing to them specifically. It’s a truism in business that you could be marketing to an endless number of people, in an endless number of ways, at any given moment. Of course, you’ll never be able to cover all of the possible bases, in practice, and by even trying to spread your marketing net as wide as possible, you’re liable to disperse your energies too widely and fail to hit the mark with any of your would-be clients. To simplify the process and focus your efforts as effectively and meaningfully as possible, it’s very important that you are able to get a clear idea of your business vision and your target audience in mind, and to begin marketing to them specifically, in a way which is likely to be effective and authentic to that demographic. These are essentially writing exercises that you should undertake. Your “business vision” should include a clear statement of your vision and ambition for the future, and the key moral, or purpose behind your businesses existence, in the first place.
Your target audience should be defined clearly in terms of age, sex, occupation, income bracket, interests, and anything else that might be relevant. If possible, you might find it helpful to construct a template of your “target audience”, in the form of a short hypothetical biography and character.
Note: this post contains contributed content.