Some people dream of building an empire. They want to have impact on a massive scale. They want to lead large teams and create a Fortune 500 company.
Many of these people also desire to accumulate tremendous wealth. They are never satisfied with what they have. Bigger is never big enough. They want more, more, more.
Other people are more modest. They want to work on something that matters. They want to be financially stable, but they have no desire for insane wealth. They’d rather be happy and live a balanced life.
I’ve worked within small startups and massive corporations as an employee. I’ve built my own startup and team. For a few years, I explored a vision of creating the next big platform that would eventually become a billion-dollar company.
I’ve also been a solopreneur, which is how I would define my current business. I’ve tried to resist the allure of being a solopreneur. But, I keep being drawn back into it because the benefits align so well with my personality and preferred lifestyle.
The world — especially the world of Silicon Valley — wanted to convince me that my ambition should be larger. Some people would mockingly refer to founders starting “lifestyle businesses.” I was lead to believe that:
I should settle for nothing less than building the next billion-dollar company.
I should want to become a multimillionaire.
I should crave world domination.
However, it’s just not who I am. It took me decades to understand what mattered most to me. It wasn’t fame and fortune.
It was freedom.
More than anything else, I value my freedom. I’m thrilled to see an open calendar day.
I experience anxiety when I’m over-scheduled. I feel down when there are so many demands for my time and attention that my personal life suffers.
Being a solopreneur gives me the freedom I need.
Some quick facts
In 2019, 41.8 million US adults identified as consultants, freelancers, or solopreneurs.
The projected annual growth rate in this independent workforce is 3.6%.
They contribute more than $1.3 trillion annually to the US economy.
84% of full-time self-employed people say that they are satisfied with their careers.
64-70% of full-time freelancers say that working on their own is better for their health.
Source: Spencer Brenneman white paper
My experience supports these findings. I’m happier and more fulfilled now than I ever was before. I love what I do, enjoy my career community, and work with some of the most amazing people as clients. The freedom and flexibility are unlike any job I’ve ever had.
However, being an entrepreneur or solopreneur isn’t for everyone. Many people have no desire to be their own boss or to assume the risks that come with running a business. Those who would like to start a business often prefer the entrepreneurial model of hiring employees and building one that they can grow and scale.
Being a solopreneur means that you are it. You don’t have partners, and you don’t hire employees. If you’ve ever been curious about starting your own business, here are some of the pros and cons that you should consider before deciding to become a solopreneur.
Benefits of being a solopreneur
I’ve been an entrepreneur before. I founded and incorporated my company with partners, built and managed a team of employees, and outsourced various services. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot.
However, I have now returned to being a solopreneur, and that was intentional. There are many benefits that I missed when I was an employee and employer.
1. Decision making is fast and easy
Everyone wants to be agile, but no business is more agile than a one-person company. As a solopreneur, you make all of the final decisions. You don’t require anyone else’s input. You can avoid endless hours of discussions and arguments.
That’s not to say that soliciting feedback and guidance from advisors and mentors isn’t helpful, of course. But, you don’t require anyone’s approval, and no one else can overturn your decisions.
2. You control your business strategy
During my years in the corporate world, I can’t tell you how many times someone would say:
“This is so messed up. If I was in charge of our strategy, I would know exactly what we should do!”
Well, your wish is granted when you’re a solopreneur! You own your business strategy and execution. You decide what’s the right path to take for your business to succeed.
3. You bring your vision to life with no compromises
Similarly, as a designer and design leader, I heard many people continually complaining that the company ruined their vision for a product. What ended up launching wasn’t the fantastic creation they envisioned. Compromises made the final product a shadow of itself.
Solopreneurs don’t have to negotiate with other people in the company or make those compromises. For better or worse, you own the design and creation of your goods and the delivery of your services.
4. You have only yourself to blame for failures
This may sound like a negative, but I see it as a positive. It’s so frustrating to have a project fail because of other people involved, especially when it’s not under your control.
No one enjoys failure. But, I would rather have myself to blame for that failure, know what I should do differently next time, and take ownership of ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.
5. You choose when to work as hard as you want
You can also choose to focus your time and energy on the projects that you want. When you love what you do, it’s easy to become a bit of a workaholic because the harder you work, the more you succeed (which isn’t always true in the corporate world).
I have no problem pushing myself hard. I’ll work late into the evening and over the weekend too. When it’s for my business, I don’t mind.
6. You can also dial things back to enjoy your personal life
Yes, you can work hard when you want to, but you can also play hard when you want to. I have some solopreneur friends who will take entire months off from work so that they can enjoy an extended vacation (e.g., they won’t take on any new clients).
I’ve had times in my life when I was busy with personal projects, time with family, and other activities that needed my attention. So, I would slow down my customer acquisition to free up more of my time.
7. You have the freedom to control your schedule
Depending on what you do as a solopreneur, your customers may influence your schedule (e.g., a client really wants to meet with you at 8 AM on Thu). But, for the most part, you own your days.
One of the best perks of being a solopreneur is freedom. I manage my calendar to make sure that I have time for meals with my family, daily exercise, reading and writing, and other tasks that are important to me. I didn’t have this much flexibility when I worked for someone else or with other people.
8. You can pivot rapidly when necessary
When you are solely responsible for your business strategy and decision making, you can pivot quickly when something isn’t working out. You don’t need to “take a vote” or stick with a failing strategy because everyone else wants to keep trying.
I frequently experiment with new services for my career community. Sometimes they work well; sometimes they don’t. But, no one forces me to stay on a path that I know needs to change.
9. You control the quality of what you create and deliver
Part of being a manager and leader is letting go of the work you used to do as an individual contributor. You can set the quality bar for your team’s deliverables, but you can’t directly control that quality.
As a solopreneur, you have complete control of the output of your business. You decide when it’s good enough or needs more work.
10. You can quickly terminate projects that aren’t working out
This is similar to the benefit of pivoting. You can terminate a project, “fire a client,” or quit working on something that is failing.
You don’t need to justify your decision to a boss or explain why you are canceling a project to your team. You determine when something isn’t working out and take action immediately.
11. Your profits are 100% yours
The revenue model is quite simple when you’re a solopreneur. You do all of the work, and you receive all of the profits.
You don’t have employees who are expecting a steady paycheck, even when business is slow, or you’ve lost clients. You can decide if you want to invest more of the profits back into your business or pay yourself more in any given month.
12. Hiring is very flexible
Solopreneurs don’t hire employees, so you have less financial risk than your entrepreneurial peers. You don’t need to provide ongoing compensation, insurance, and other benefits to anyone else.
However, none of this means that you never hire people. Solopreneurs frequently purchase services, hire contractors, and outsource work that they don’t want to do or know how to do well (e.g., accounting, legal, marketing). But, the arrangement is flexible and impermanent.
13. You learn everything top to bottom and end to end
Maybe some people don’t see this as a perk, but I do. I’m curious, and I love learning new things. Running a business has expanded my knowledge and skills way beyond anything I was learning as an employee.
As a solopreneur, you’re somewhat forced to learn how everything works, even if you decide to outsource specific tasks later. I’m responsible for marketing, sales, research, design, product development, website creation and maintenance, tech support, customer support, and everything else required to keep my business running.
14. You make the final call on everything
Are you a control freak? If so, the solopreneur model may be right for you.
This is related to the perk of rapid decision making, of course. But, if it isn’t already clear, you have the added benefit of owning the final decision on everything.
15. You can work from wherever you want
I’ve talked about this perk before in the context of what I mean by an “invincible career.” You have the freedom to work when you want and where you want.
That freedom certainly didn’t exist before for most employees or even entrepreneurs who provided a workplace for their teams. Even now — with many people working at home — they don’t really have the freedom to work from wherever they want.
For example, some employees are expected to be on Zoom video calls all day long. They sit in front of their laptop screen, and they can’t leave their home office.
Solopreneurs don’t have that restriction. They can choose to work from their home, the beach, a ski resort, or wherever they damn well please.
Negatives of being a solopreneur
It’s not all sunshine and puppies. There are some downsides to solopreneurship.
It’s harder to scale your business alone.
Your weaknesses become the business’s weaknesses.
Your income can fluctuate from month to month.
You miss having people around for quick feedback and brainstorming.
Work grinds to a halt when you’re ill or tired.
You are often limited by the time you can personally commit.
It’s challenging to take a vacation.
You risk burning out when you run everything.
You often have to solve problems on your own
The isolation can be lonely.
How do you manage these risks? How can you enjoy the benefits of being a solopreneur and limit your downside?
Outsource tasks to reduce your workload.
Sell your wisdom, not your time.
Scale your business using digital goods and services.
Diversify your income with passive income streams.
Leverage automation to streamline processes.
Form flexible partnerships with other solopreneurs.
Join entrepreneurial communities for support.
If you want some help thinking through potential ways to structure your business, reach out to me.
Follow the path that fulfills you
I’m not trying to turn anyone into a solopreneur or entrepreneur if they have zero interest in becoming one. It’s not an easy path, by any means.
You can achieve great career success and find fulfillment working as an employee. Millions of people do. You can also become quite wealthy working for the right employer if that’s important to you.
I wrote this because I’m tired of people mocking others who choose to become a solopreneur. I don’t understand why they try so hard to discourage others who are interested in this path.
“Oh, that’s not a real business.”
“You’re just a contractor.”
“Nice lifestyle business, but you’ll never get rich that way.”
As I’ve mentioned before, don’t let the expectations of others influence you. Ignore their opinions.
The reality is that being a solopreneur gives you incredible freedom that is hard to find in any other business model or employment relationship. When you structure your business the right way, you can enjoy the benefits and avoid most — if not all — of the potential downsides.
🙏 Special thanks to the following people for their helpful ideas for this article!
Lisa Marie Stone
Do you have friends who are considering becoming solopreneurs? They may find this article helpful!