From the gig economy to work-from-home schedules, the way we define employment has drastically changed in recent years. And alongside these fundamental shifts has come a brand-new term—one that seems to be everywhere and only growing.
That word? Solopreneur.
But, what is a solopreneur? Is there a difference between solopreneur vs. entrepreneur? And, even more importantly for the budding business folks among us, what makes a successful solopreneur?
Let’s find out!
Let’s start with the basics: What is a solopreneur? Simply put, a solopreneur is someone who starts and runs a business completely on their own.
Whereas bigger companies have multiple people to share the workload, solopreneurs do it all themselves—from the actual service provision to the business admin.
So, for example, in addition to their primary work of graphic design, a designer-solopreneur would do all the business marketing, lead generation, invoicing, customer service, etc.
In case you didn’t know already, the term “solopreneur” comes from “solo” + “entrepreneur.” Makes sense, right?
Solopreneur vs. Entrepreneur
So, what’s the difference between a solopreneur and an entrepreneur, you ask? There are several distinctions between these two types of business leaders, but most of them boil down to the same thing: Scale.
Solopreneurs are entrepreneurs—only at a smaller scale. (Quick clarification: All solopreneurs are by definition entrepreneurs, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true.)
Because solopreneurs run the entire show, their businesses necessarily operate at a smaller, tighter scale.
Here are a few points of comparison to illustrate this:
- Solopreneurs manage their business alone, without future plans to scale beyond themselves. Entrepreneurs often launch businesses with plans to scale and sell.
- Solopreneurs usually offer a single service with the aim of doing it really well; entrepreneurs often create businesses with multiple “all-in-one” service solutions.
- Solopreneurs are directly responsible for creating products/services, whereas entrepreneurs manage the people who do that. (Solopreneurs may hire an intern or outsource to a contractor as needed, however.)
- Solopreneurs most often operate as a sole proprietorship or LLC (in the United States), whereas entrepreneurs tend to run businesses as corporations or other larger-scale entities.
- Soloprenuers typically run businesses out of their own pockets, whereas entrepreneurs may require significant capital investment to get started.
The easiest way to figure out whether you’re a solopreneur vs. entrepreneur? Ask yourself this question: If I left the business, could it continue to operate? If the answer is no, then you’re definitely a solopreneur.
Top 3 Benefits of Being a Solopreneur
The growth in solopreneurs over the last few years is hardly a surprise! If you’re happy with the responsibility of running your own business, this lifestyle (because that’s what it is—a lifestyle) offers a ton of benefits.
Here are the biggest three. . . .
1. Control over Work
When you’re a solopreneur, you are your own boss. That means you get to set your own working conditions, including:
- The size and scope of projects you take on
- The type of clients you work with
- The time frame for accepting new projects
- The turnaround time for work
Since you manage and execute your own projects, you also don’t have to worry about the logistics of delegating work or managing team members—two business tasks that can take a lot of time (and eat into your sense of control over the business).
2. Time Flexibility
Since you are your own boss, you’re also your own scheduler! Solopreneurs get to decide when they work and when they don’t.
Save time in the middle of the day for a yoga break, or start your day late so you can get your kids to daycare. There’s no external time pressure.
3. Location Independence
If you’ve always wanted to explore the world (or just prefer to work from home in your PJs), then the solopreneur lifestyle is for you. Work from anywhere that has the amenities you need, which oftentimes means internet and enough space for a laptop.
Location independence—and the opportunity to become a “digital nomad”—is one of the biggest drivers for solopreneurship today.
Solopreneur Ideas & Examples
Great news: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to become your own boss, ranging from handmade goods to scrappy service-based businesses to 100% online enterprises.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular and profitable solopreneur ideas:
- Digital marketer
- Social media manager
- Professional service provider (accountant, graphic designer, etc.)
- Content creator (writer, podcaster, etc.)
- Online language teacher
- In-home childcare provider
- Pet sitter or groomer
- Home repair person
- Lawn care service
- Social media influencer
- Business consultant
- Academic tutor
- In-home care provider
- Live streamer (on Twitch, etc.)
- Ecommerce store owner
Solopreneurs can operate completely online (through Etsy, YouTube, online freelancing platforms, and the like) or they can run a brick-and-mortar-style shop. Both can be profitable and satisfying!
How to Become a Solopreneur in 3 Steps
So, you’re loving all these benefits and want to strike out on your own? It’s easier than ever to become a solopreneur! Start with this quick roadmap, and you’ll be your own boss in no time.
1. Do Your Research
There are so many benefits to owning your own business, but there are very real downsides, too.
Especially if you’ve been stuck in an unsatisfying job situation, it can be easy to gloss over the challenges of being a solopreneur, imagining that everything will be rosy and perfect.
The advice: Try not to do this.
Before you make the leap into solopreneurship, spend some time really considering the pros and cons.
- Are you ready to be 100% responsible for your business success?
- Can you make things work financially while you transition?
- Are you prepared to do the work to market yourself, find clients, and nurture relationships?
- Do you know your value and how much you can charge?
- Have you considered the implications of working solo and how it might affect your mental health?
- Have you made a plan for insurance, retirement, and other benefits typically provided by a more traditional employer?
Knowing what you’re getting into will help you find your footing faster. Check out this guide for more insights:
2. Find a Niche
If you feel confident that solopreneurship is worth trying out, it’s time to decide what you’re going to offer.
Maybe this is a slam-dunk, no-question-at-all kinda thing because you know exactly what your most marketable skills are. Or maybe you need some time to figure it out. Both are perfectly okay!
To determine the best niche for you, ask yourself:
- What unique skills and experience do you bring to the table?
- What existing relationships or networks can you leverage?
- What do you do better than anyone else in your industry?
- Who is your ideal client (in terms of personality, budget, industry, etc.)?
- What kind of relationship do you want to have with clients? (Ongoing, one-off, long-term, short-term, etc.)
This is one area where solopreneurship is just like any other business. The more clearly defined your niche is, the more likely you are to find good-fitting clients and be able to stand out.
3. Build a Brand
So, you’ve got your business niche and are pumped to start offering your services. Whether you’re working online or in person, there’s one more step to go: You need a brand!
Avoid the temptation to skip this step, thinking that only your goods or services matter. Branding is just as important to solopreneurs as it is to larger businesses—making you more memorable, more professional, and more marketable.
Fortunately, there are tons of tools to help, starting with Shutterstock Create!
You don’t need any graphic design experience or skills to use our online creative tool. Just pick a template, customize it online, and then put your new brand assets to work. You won’t need a million graphic design tools to get the job done.
So, what exactly goes into a brand, you might be wondering? For most solopreneurs, these are the absolute must-have assets:
That’s it! With these starter assets, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and start marketing yourself as a solopreneur—meaning you’re now your own boss. Congrats!
For even more tips on getting your solo business up and running, check out these beginner-friendly solopreneur branding resources:
License this cover image mockup via Harbucks, bfk, and IIIerlok_xolms.