Walking your own path is a wonderful thing. Yes setting up on your own brings struggles, uncertainty, and setbacks. However the satisfaction of being your own boss is a powerful antidote. It motivates you and keeps you moving forward.
In spite of the upsides, feelings of loneliness are common for people going it alone. As increasing numbers embark on careers as solopreneurs, the experience of solitude can feel overwhelming at times.
The reality is not so cut and dried though. While you may feel out on a limb, you are never truly alone in your solopreneur adventure. Every week thousands of people are doing the same as you and making the leap. The community of solopreneurs is a powerful thing, provided you know how to access it.
Why go solo?
A solopreneur is someone who undertakes a business venture on their own. But why would someone choose to strike out by themselves? Many cite the freedom and flexibility that come with solopreneurship, and a desire to avoid the bureaucracy and office politics associated with conventional employment. “Solopreneurs have an inherently entrepreneurial mindset, and they prefer single-handedly managing their business”, according to an article by SmallBizTrends.
So if the price of freedom and flexibility is a little loneliness, isn’t that a price worth paying for in the scheme of things? Well, it might be if that were the case. The truth is that a solopreneur who locks herself away from the rest of the world is not going to fly solo for long. Solopreneurs need other people to make their business ventures real.
Management theorist Peter Drucker said the purpose of any business is to create customers. A business without customers is not a business. The island solopreneur is a contradiction in terms.
Committing to solopreneurship is an inherently sociable act. You must interact with others to succeed. If nobody knows about your business, how will anyone do business with you? Get out there and be visible.
Developing relationships within your network is a great place to start. Find people you know, whether friends, former colleagues or family, and talk with them about your business. Embrace the opportunity to sharpen your ideas among people who care for you and your success.
Expanding your professional network is another critical step when setting out on your own. You need to forge new relationships if you want to succeed.
The stories out there of people whose first contract came from a chance conversation while on the move, or from a friend of a former colleague who you contacted on the off chance, are numerous. While you cannot engineer precise instances of luck, you can create an environment where good things are more likely to come your way than not.
Take as many meetings as come your way. Drink coffee, break bread, and get your name and your face out there. Explore industry groups or associations in your local community. Strike up conversations with people you might not normally start a conversation with. Certainly not in the old days of conventional employment.
Remember that all of the these things will not happen overnight.
Established solopreneurs and small business owners speak of a period of disillusionment kicking in between months three and six. During this time it feels that nothing is working in spite of your best efforts.
Don’t despair. Pick yourself up and move forward. Perseverance is the differentiating quality between those who succeed in their ventures and those who don’t. As the saying goes, success is going from failure to failure without giving up.
Get as many balls rolling with as many different people to maximise your chances of bringing the bacon home.
Conventional business wisdom is not to show weakness. It dents your confidence, and makes you vulnerable to your competitors. This is bad advice. The best business people out there achieve success while acknowledging their struggles and shortcomings.
This doesn’t mean talking yourself down to the extent you give yourself a bad name. It’s important to project a sense of confidence around your ability to deliver your core services.
But being open about the fact you don’t possess superpowers and you don’t know everything is refreshing in a world where surface veneer only rarely meets with reality.
It is healthy to share problems. The act of talking something out helps put an issue in perspective. People want to help, and opening up about your needs can lead to offers of support that you hadn’t considered.
It requires bravery to admit to the things that make you afraid, but the response you receive will be worth the risk. Also, by sharing your concerns you are inviting others to share back with you. New and unexpected business relationships can arise as a result.
Of course, be smart. If someone might not have your best interests at heart, sharing your vulnerabilities can be used against you.
Winds of change
There are several reasons why solopreneurship is on the rise, not simply the emotional pull of being your own boss. Greater economic uncertainty in a post-industrial world has seen the precipitous decline of “a job for life”. People entering the workforce nowadays expect to move between jobs every few years on average.
The rise of mobile working fuelled by the proliferation of tools and technology that make it simple to run a business is another driving force. It has never been easier to form a business, to set up invoicing, to receive a payment, or to create and maintain a website.
This allows solopreneurs to focus their time on the higher-value, strategic work that not only makes an impact on a client’s bottom line but advances their own business. It also helps keep costs down. “Individuals can essentially run the equivalent of a small-business organisation with a combination of low-cost technology, outsourced support, and high-level consultants instead of an in-house staff”, business expert and solopreneur Pia Silva writes.
Join the tribe
Whether you start your solo venture as a side hustle or jump straight in, take advantage of every opportunity to engage with the wider business community.
Find podcasts and business books that fuel your interest, and share them with people in your network. Industry events like Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday offer excellent PR opportunities designed to spark conversations with your community. Stay receptive to those who wish to talk with you. You never know where the next opportunity will arise.
As a solopreneur doing it your own way, we salute your courage and your conviction. Just remember you are not alone. You are a member of a growing tribe of people doing things on their own terms and making rules that work for them. It takes a village to fly solo well.