How to Stay Sane and be Successful as a Solopreneur
If you are a solopreneur, you wear many hats. You may hire some freelancers to do some work for you, but you still do much of the work yourself. Wearing those many hats all day every day may be exciting but also exhausting. How can you do it all while staying sane and productive, and how can you be successful wearing the many hats of a solopreneur?
In this blog, I first explain the subtle difference between a solopreneur and an entrepreneur. Then, I will specify the solopreneur’s most valuable asset. Subsequently, it is time to discuss productivity. Once you understand all those things, it is time to raise the bar and become successful as a solopreneur.
4 differences between solopreneurs and entrepreneurs
As John Rampton says, the differences between solopreneurs and entrepreneurs can be subtle, especially since some entrepreneurs work alone until they can build their businesses enough to make a team. However, there are distinct differences between those who choose solopreneurship over entrepreneurship without plans to change and those who choose entrepreneurship.
1. Solopreneurs do not wait for a buyout
An entrepreneur works hard to build one’s business but one is not quite as attached to the concept as a solopreneur. Many, but not all, entrepreneurs build their businesses with at least a small hope that a much larger company comes along and offers millions for it once it grows. At that point, one could easily move on to the next great venture.
Of course, many entrepreneurs have turned down buyout offers to continue pursuing a passion, so this is not a defining difference. However, a large divide between the two may come when an entrepreneur can run a variety of businesses over the course of one’s career, while a solopreneur tends to work at one thing consistently.
2. Entrepreneurs put a face to a company
While a solopreneur tends to spend hours working hard to build one’s business, an entrepreneur frequently prefers to be out making connections and getting the word out about one’s business. An entrepreneur may be perfectly happy doing that and that alone, leaving one’s team behind to do the work.
Solopreneurs can be great networkers as well. One major difference is that an entrepreneur may be more comfortable spending all day at a variety of networking opportunities and client meetings, while a solopreneur is content simply doing the work.
3. Entrepreneurs are managers
When someone is an entrepreneur at heart, even as a solopreneur, one is waiting for the day when one can build a team. One may even begin working with freelance workers and virtual assistants to delegate the work. One is comfortable leading a team of people toward a defined goal.
Solopreneurs, on the other hand, are usually in no rush to hire an employee to manage. Even if the day comes when they must outsource work or bring in a team member, a solopreneur may find oneself pitching in and doing the vast majority of the work oneself. One may even have a hard time letting go of tasks since one simply wants to jump in and work hard to grow one’s business.
4. Solopreneurs are workers
While entrepreneurs can work harder than anyone they know, a solopreneur is a worker by one’s very nature. If a task needs to be done, one’s first thought is to roll up the sleeves and start working.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have no trouble delegating, even if they have to delay that process until they have enough money to bring additional workers on. They realize the sooner they can delegate tasks like billing, web development and database management, the sooner they can focus on building and growing their businesses.
The solopreneur’s most valuable asset is time
There is only one thing you do not have in unlimited supply, Karen Talavera of onlyinfluencers.com says, and that is time. We are all limited to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That means you will be forced to make choices in life about how you use that time. Do you put it into the pursuit of wealth, adventure, position, family, your relationship or social change, and if so, how much? Life is full of trade-offs, and how we use our time usually indicates where our priorities lie, Talavera claims.
Indeed, we can change our minds as we go along if we want and some of us do. Nevertheless, if you are a solopreneur, how you use your time makes the difference between success and failure. It makes the difference between whether you eat or not, whether you are scraping by or prospering, whether you are paying the rent or racking up debt, whether you are investing in yourself so getting new business is easier or whether you are constantly pounding the pavement.
As a solopreneur, you must value your time as if it were gold. Talavera promises that if you are willing to accept that fact, not only do you have a fighting chance of staying sane on the challenging journey of solopreneurship, you also have a solid shot at sticking around.
How to boost personal productivity as a solopreneur
Sarita Harbour of staples.com says that one of the solopreneur’s biggest obstacles to success is dealing with distractions that threaten your personal productivity. As said, time is your most valuable asset. Being more productive means getting more done in less time.
Harbour, Talavera, and Dennis Williams of blog.and.co have some tips for boosting productivity that I would like to share with you.
1. Know your “why”
In general, it is easier to work for someone else than to go into business for yourself. So, what is your motivation for taking the harder road? It does not matter what it is; what does matter is that you know your “why.” When the going gets tough, that driving reason that motivated you to do this in the first place will be the burning ember that keeps your fire alive.
2. Prioritize your activities by economic value
You need to know which actions are high value, low value or fall somewhere in between. Make a list of what you do in a typical day and week, then scrutinize it to learn what generates revenue. Which actions are required to sustain the business and which ones to grow it?
Too often, solopreneurs get mired in the weeds of administrative busy work that could and should be outsourced if not deprioritized – like accounting, website maintenance, social media promotion, “meeting for a coffee” etc. Just because you like it does not mean you should do it, and vice versa.
Uncomfortable prospecting and following up on leads? Too bad, it is a high-value activity, so if you do not want to do it yourself, outsource it. Do not like speaking or attending events to gain visibility and clients? You might want to rethink that one too.
Again, life is full of trade-offs. Invest your precious time in what grows the business so you can become prosperous enough to outsource what you do not like. Otherwise, you will waste time on low-value activities on your way to the poor house.
3. Schedule your day to minimize distractions
As a solopreneur, you are the go-to person for all business communications, but there are times when you need to be focused on the task at hand without distractions, especially when you are working on tasks critical to growing your business. Maximize your productivity by scheduling the tasks that require your undivided attention during times when distractions are less likely. This may mean you get most of your difficult, hands-on work done early in the morning or late at night. Working odd hours may help you because you are free of certain distractions.
4. Block off time for specific goals
Be ruthless with your time. Get smart about it and bundle similar activities together. Mentally, it is much easier to stay in flow than constantly switch tasks. Block time on your calendar every day or week for high-value activities. When you are the only one working on building your business, it is critical to keep your sales and marketing activity levels on track. If you are not consistently keeping up with your email, reaching out to potential customers or following up with warm sales leads, you will not get more business.
There is plenty that can get in the way. Fires can pop up throughout the day that can prevent you from getting these tasks done and they really put a hamper on your personal productivity. If you start scheduling the important things in a daily planner and stick to it, nothing else can take that time from you. Block off a time each day and dedicate it to sales and marketing.
5. Know when to use money to buy time and when to use time to save money
This one is easy: what do you have more of? If it is money, use it to buy yourself time by outsourcing low-value activities, things you do not do well even if you like them, or things you do not like. Have more time? Use it to get done what you cannot afford to pay for and can do reasonably well.
6. Create leverage via technology, partnerships or both
Form alliances and partnerships that bring you into new opportunities or in front of new audiences. Maybe you have a silent subcontracting agreement that fills in the peaks and valleys between clients and projects. Maybe you can position yourself as the “intel inside” organizations complimentary to what you do.
7. Embrace apps and systems for efficiency
Today’s technology gives small business owners many inexpensive or free apps and software systems to maximize personal productivity. Use an app to track your appointments, tasks, events, and to-do list. Sync it across your devices for maximum efficiency.
8. Invest in visibility and leverage the crap out of it
In the Internet era, there is absolutely no excuse not to and it is easier than ever before. To generate leads, prospects need to know you exist. Develop a blog or content publishing schedule that drives traffic to your website; then syndicate and distribute that content far and wide. Use your business social media accounts to spread your message and listen for problems you can solve. Go to networking events, conferences, and join groups that give you face time in front of actual prospects, not just other solopreneurs.
9. Strive for a balance between working “in” your business versus “on” your business
Most savvy solopreneurs eventually realize that job number one is not to deliver goods and services to clients (working “in” your business), but to sustain and grow the company (working “on” your business).
10. Pay attention to your attention
Pay close attention to when you feel most energetic and alert, and try to schedule your critical activities for those times. You probably still have work to do at times when you feel easily distracted, but try to stick to tasks that do not require maximum focus at these times of the day.
11. Embrace the haters
Contrary to popular belief, the most successful solopreneurs are open to criticism and feedback, utilizing contrarian ideas to fuel progress and help innovate their businesses. Use employee and customer complaints or found faults to make your business stronger. Even though all feedback is not actionable, gathering this information from other points of view can help you make better business decisions, whether that means implementing a new product or developing new internal processes.
Thinking about starting as a solopreneur?
Starting as a solopreneur may be a scary thing at first. After all, how do you create work for yourself? Well, it takes time and dedication. If you are thinking about becoming a solopreneur, you can use all the help.
In my blog Tips for Success for the Solopreneur, I explain the difference between solopreneur, entrepreneur, freelancer and self-employed. Then, I give you six tricks to get clients to take you seriously, twenty-three tips for succeeding as a solopreneur, and six solopreneur branding mistakes to avoid.
If you need your website in more than one language to give your brand-new company a good start, please contact me!