By: Sheryl Barlow, Owner, Barlow Business Services, LLC
A solopreneur is not a new concept. They’ve always existed, lurking in the shadows. Doing what they love, and making a great living while they do it. Those who successfully conquered being a solopreneur enjoyed many benefits, like having a strong work/life balance (before that was even a buzz word), being in control of their income and not being exposed to the negativity of a work environment. A solopreneur is often seen as one of the following; a consultant, a freelancer, an individual specialized expert, or simply a business owner.
A solo entrepreneur or solopreneur is a professional who chooses to go into business by themselves (“go solo”), collaborate with others, grow their business without boundaries, and typically, without employees. Often a solopreneur is somebody with years of experience in a profession or someone with an extremely high degree of talent in a particular area. Examples of this may be web design, graphic design, IT and networking services, social media marketing, repair, project management, writing and so on.
How Entrepreneurs and a Solopreneurs Differ
There is a difference. Both wish to own their own business but an entrepreneur is more of a business owner/manager and a solopreneur is a business owner/worker. An entrepreneur may build her business as if it’s a product with the intention to one day sell it to an organization like Google for a nice sum of money.
A solopreneur does not intend to create a business as if it’s a product and sell it for money. Entrepreneurs may start out solo, but the intention is to grow and add employees who she can then manage. Solopreneurs may work with outside vendors and freelancers but do not intend to have employees.
It’s important to know which “preneur” style is right for you. When people get that intuitive itch to start their own business they automatically think they must have a building, lawyers, accountants, a sellable product, and employees.
In my early thirties, I decided I wanted to be a “preneur” and this is what happened: I started a marketing business with a partner. Starting with a partner was an instant complication. This is a personal choice but I would never again start a with a partner. It’s like being married to someone who is not your spouse. This must be an absolutely perfect relationship on all levels; goals, desire for growth, management styles, and money brought into the business relationship. Often times people get a partner out of fear of their own inadequacies, or as a means of capturing capital funds for the business. Just like a marriage, this never ends well. In 4 years time, we had moved twice, added 22 employees, experienced tremendous revenue growth, and acquired plenty of debt. I worked every waking hour. My stress level was through the roof. I hated what I did and what it was doing to me. I did not get to work with clients on all the fantastic marketing ideas I had for them. Instead, I turn that task over to people much less qualified and felt guilty about that every second of the day. See, my real passion was to work with the clients and produce amazing results that would alleviate their problems, bring in revenue to their company, brand them, and make their lives better. Instead, I was managing revenue and trying to figure out a way to continue to make more money.
By my second year as an entrepreneur, I was planning my exit strategy and it took me another two and a half years to accomplish it. Finally, I was able to sell my shares to my partner, for a pittance, but I didn’t care. I just needed out. My partner loved being an entrepreneur, that’s what she should be. I made the mistake of being an entrepreneur when what I really wanted was to be a solopreneur. After going back into the working world as an employee for a handful of years, I figured it out and left that world to become a solopreneur. Eleven weeks later I was absolutely loving what I was doing, 100% confident I had made the right decision and making more money than I had ever made in my life, including when I owned my own high revenue business.
Here’s a chart that lays out, side by side, the differences between being an entrepreneur or a solopreneur. A nice tool to refer back to as you make your decision:
Sheryl Barlow is a marketer, author, and communications enthusiast. She owns Barlow Business Services and works with clients on marketing plan development & ongoing implementation.