An illustration of solopreneurs building their businesses.
Starting a business

What is a solopreneur? Beginner’s guide and examples

Solopreneur meaning

A solopreneur is an individual who runs their business alone, without a co-founder or W-2 employees.

Solopreneurship is at an all-time high. There are now 60 million people in America who call themselves solopreneurs—roughly 39% of the workforce, according to Upwork. It’s a trend that will likely continue. QuickBooks data shows that nearly 40% of the population in many states, such as California and New York, plan to start a new business this year. 

A solopreneur is simply an entrepreneur who performs all the duties of running a business alone. They’re often called sole proprietors, self-employed, or a variety of other terms that all refer to being a solo business owner. They don’t have any employees and have the flexibility in how they operate and run their business. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you can still set your business up as a legal entity, such as a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC. This helps offer protection from personal bankruptcy and other risks.

If you're thinking about becoming a solopreneur, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Let’s look at what it means to be a solopreneur, the benefits and challenges of solopreneurship, and some tips for becoming a successful solopreneur

Solopreneur vs. entrepreneur: Key differences

An illustration of solopreneur synonyms, such as sole proprietor and self-employed.

If you’re a solopreneur, then you’re technically an entrepreneur as well. However, not all entrepreneurs are solopreneurs. Here’s a closer look at the difference between solopreneurs and entrepreneurs:

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As you can see, there are some key differences between solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. 

They also have minimal delegation (outside of outsourcing and automation of tasks like accounting), as they are responsible for all aspects of their business. Solopreneurs typically run small businesses with a narrow focus, which allows them to keep costs low. 

Many entrepreneurs start out as solopreneurs because they begin their business without employees.

Pros and cons of being a solopreneur

Just like entrepreneurship, solopreneurship has good and bad aspects. Here’s a breakdown of the advantages of being a solopreneur: 

  • Freedom: You're free to work from anywhere, set your own hours, and choose the projects that you want to work on. Such freedom is great for pursuing passions and achieving work-life balance. 
  • Financial opportunity: You can earn a high income by setting your own rates and financial KPI targets. 
  • Personal satisfaction: There's a lot of satisfaction in building a successful business. You get to see your ideas come to life and make a difference in the world. 
  • Control: You are the business and the brand. Any decisions or strategic changes you make only affect you. 
  • Variety: You can work on a variety of projects or pursue different ventures while being able to pivot within or outside your current niche.

Of course, there are also downsides to having to operate your business alone. Here are some key disadvantages of being a solopreneur: 

  • Loneliness: You may not have any colleagues to talk to about work, which may lead to feelings of isolation and burnout. 
  • Stress: Running a business is stressful, and you're responsible for everything, from marketing to sales to accounting. 
  • Risk and uncertainty: Starting a business is risky —you could lose money, clients, or even your reputation. There's no guarantee of success as a solopreneur. 
  • Potential for lower earnings: It may take you weeks or months to earn enough money to make your business self-sufficient. 
  • Tedious work: If you're doing all the work of running a business, you’ll have to shoulder time-consuming tasks. Many of these tasks, such as accounting and data entry, might be tasks you don’t enjoy.

If you like the idea of being your own boss, with freedom and flexibility, then being a solopreneur could be the right choice for you. Let’s look at some steps you can take to ensure success when starting as a solopreneur. 

How to be a successful solopreneur

An illustration of the steps for creating a successful solopreneurship, such as finding your passion and building your brand.

Successful solopreneurs tend to have a few similar traits, including strong time-management skills and resilience. They also might pursue these seven steps to grow their business. 

1. Identify your passion

The first step to becoming a successful solopreneur is to figure out your passion. Generally, this should tie into things you are good at so that your interests and skills align. 

Here are some tips for figuring out if you can turn your passion into a business: 

  • List all your talents and skills: What do you think you’re good at? What are the things that other people tell you that you’re good at? Include the things you enjoy learning about as well. 
  • Consider your values: Think about the things that are important to you. In what ways do you hope to impact your industry? 
  • Look at your hobbies: What are your interests and hobbies? Take a look at the things you enjoy doing in your free time. 

Taking inventory of these things—your talents, skills, values, and hobbies—is a great way to figure out what you’re passionate about. 

2. Find a market opportunity  

Do you have skills that are in demand in your area, such as photography? Or will you need to use your skills to create a new kind of business? Look for trends surrounding your passion or industry, but be creative and think outside the box. Think about the problems that people are facing and the needs that aren’t being met. 

Once you have an idea in mind, research the competition. Look for ways you’ll be able to differentiate yourself. Talk to competitors, potential customers, and business leaders in that market. Don’t forget to network with entrepreneurs and other solopreneurs. 

3. Start your business

There are a few ways to set up your business as a solopreneur. You can run your business as a sole proprietorship, which is usually the simplest option. However, if you’re looking for liability protection or tax flexibility, you can opt for a single-member LLC. 

Then, you can request an employer identification number (EIN) or use your Social Security number to open a business bank account. 

Like larger businesses, many solopreneurs also create a business name and logo. Some solopreneurs may opt to simply use their name. For example, if you’re a web designer, it might make sense to operate under your own name for your business. 

4. Build your brand

Now that you have your idea and business plan, it’s time to build your brand. The biggest part of brand building is thinking of ways to attract customers. An effective marketing strategy will rely on various online channels—including websites, social media, and email. 

However, as a solopreneur, it’s also important to remember that you are your brand. How you present yourself and the experience you provide to clients will factor into your branding.

quote image
To find success, make sure you: Pick a niche, develop a good product in that industry, and go all-in on your vision.
Charlie Chang, serial entrepreneur

5. Keep learning 

As your company starts growing, take breaks to see how your business is doing. You’ll want to take the time to review your progress. 

Ask yourself these questions to gauge how you’re doing—and answer them honestly: 

  • What are the things that are going well? 
  • What needs improvement? 
  • Am I using my time and resources wisely? 
  • Are there areas where I can expand? 
  • Can I offer an additional service or product? 
  • Are my prices still competitive? Should I consider increasing them? 

Focus on areas where you’re underperforming and double down on what’s working. Monitoring and learning from what’s working (or not) in your business will help you grow sustainably. 

6. Stay flexible 

As a solopreneur, it's important to stay flexible. You’ll want to adapt or pivot to address challenges and opportunities. You don’t have to stick to your initial business plan. If you need to adjust your vision to accommodate growth, do it.

When it comes to staying flexible, here are some tips: 

  • Prepare for change (as much as you can): Things change all the time, so it's important to be prepared for the unexpected. Have a plan for how you'll handle changes in your business, your customers, or the market.
  • Be willing to adapt: When things change, you need to be willing to adapt your business accordingly. This may mean changing your products or services, your digital marketing strategy, or your business model.
  • Don't be afraid to say no: It's important to be able to say no to new opportunities if they're not a good fit for your business or your goals. This will help you to stay focused on your priorities and avoid taking on too much.

Staying flexible is an essential part of being a successful solopreneur. One way to help you remain agile in the startup world is to embrace technology—in particular, leverage it to help you automate and outsource tasks you don’t love. 

7. Automate and outsource 

When going at it alone, you’ll want to set up systems and procedures that allow you to get the most done in the least amount of time. Find ways to offload repetitive and time-consuming tasks. 

Some easy ways to automate and outsource processes in your business include: 

  • Schedule your social media posts with software. 
  • Use lead generation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. 
  • Implement templates where possible. 
  • Find appointment scheduling software that works for you. 
  • Automate your accounting. 

That last tip is an easy way to put many repetitive tasks on autopilot, such as payment processing, invoicing, and cash flow management. 

Automating your solopreneurship is a great way to save time and improve your productivity. This way, you can free up your time and focus on the things you enjoy about your business. 

Traits of solopreneurs

An illustration of the must-have solopreneur traits, including passion, creativity, and self-discipline.

Pursuing a solopreneurship can be thrilling and overwhelming at the same time. Here are some traits that many successful solopreneurs have or develop: 

  1. Passion: A deep passion for your business idea is crucial to keep you motivated and driven to succeed.
  2. Resilience: Starting and growing a business can be challenging, and solopreneurs need to be resilient to overcome setbacks, failures, and criticism.
  3. Creativity: Solopreneurs need to be creative problem-solvers who can think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas to stay ahead of the competition.
  4. Resourcefulness: Solopreneurs need to be resourceful and able to leverage limited resources to maximum effect. This includes finding affordable tools, software, and services to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
  5. Self-discipline: Working alone requires self-discipline to maintain focus, prioritize tasks, and avoid distractions. Solopreneurs must also be disciplined in managing their finances, scheduling, and time management.

The business world is constantly changing, so solopreneurs need to be adaptable. Having or developing the above traits are key steps in a successful road to solopreneurship.

Solopreneur business ideas for 2024

An illustration of business ideas for solopreneurs, such as social media marketing, online retail, and consulting.

You can start a solopreneur business in just about any industry. Here are some of the most common solopreneur ideas: 

  • Accountant
  • Blogger
  • Caretaker
  • Content creator
  • Copywriter
  • Digital marketer
  • Dropshipper
  • Event planner
  • Freelance writer
  • Graphic designer
  • Personal coach
  • Photographer
  • Podcaster
  • Software developer
  • Virtual assistant

Solopreneurs can work in a variety of industries, from consulting and professional services to product sales. 

Start your business with confidence

If you're willing to put in the hard work, solopreneurship can be a gratifying experience. You will have the opportunity to be your own boss, set your own goals, and work on projects that you are passionate about. 

There are shortcuts to reducing the hard work, however. Start by automating as much as you can. Take advantage of accounting software like QuickBooks to streamline your finances.

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