A Solo Entrepreneur (Solo-E) is a professional who chooses to go into business by themselves (“go solo”), collaborate with others, grow their business without boundaries and, more than likely, without employees. The Solo Entrepreneur may also be called a free agent, freelancer, solopreneur, self-employed, sole proprietor, or home based business owner (although not all Solo Entrepreneurs are home-based. ).
Being a Solo Entrepreneur does not mean being isolated or being completely on your own. Solo-Es often collaborate with others and/or build alliances with other Solo-Es according to their business needs. Although many Solo-Es do not have employees, some may have up to five employees to help support their day-to-day business needs or build the business in other ways. Many find creative ways to support themselves, for example, by using virtual assistants.
What Are Typical Solo Entrepreneur Characteristics?
- A desire for personal freedom that affords them an opportunity to make unique lifestyle choices.
- Seeing themselves as entrepreneurs with a vision, a personal drive, and a passion to fulfil their dreams.
- A deep longing to succeed in their chosen area of expertise and a joy for learning.
- Believing in themselves and being passionate about what they do.
- Being committed to their quest to be “solo. ”
- Comfortable using technologies such as the Internet to promote their business, collaborate with others, and learn.
"The thousands of people starting home based businesses confirm my belief that a new breed of person is emerging on Earth. Such a person is of higher value doing self-created work instead of a job thought up by others. This person is both independent and committed to service, highly flexible, constantly learns, and gets better and better every year. " Al Siebert, PhD. , author of The Survivor Personality: Why Some People are Stronger, Smarter and More Skillful at Handling Life's Difficulties. . . And How You Can be, Too.
Where Do Solo-Es Come From?
Many come from the corporate world, while others enter the world of being a Solo Entrepreneur as they change from a traditional-based small business with employees and management responsibilities to being an independent professional.
In a 1996 study, 66% of all people pushed into being solo (through downsizing or being fired), said they’d now rather be soloists than wage slaves. By various accounts, there are between 16 and 33 million Solo Entrepreneurs in the United States, and that number is anticipated to grow to 36.5 million by 2005. Nearly one out of every four working Americans is a Solo Entrepreneur.
What Are The Social Changes Occurring That Are Supporting The Shift Toward Solo Entrepreneurship?
In the paper, The Swedish Solo-Entrepreneur - Extension and Characteristics (http://www.fsf. se/AhusPMkompl_slut. doc. pdf), Eva-Britt Hult and Dick Ramström proposed three factors:
- A general change in attitudes toward individual choices in actions and life direction and away from working in large companies, climbing the corporate ladder in search of more money, and more employees.
- The spread of tools and techniques, including information technology developments, that enable many people to work together on projects, but not be confined to a formal organization.
- The increased volatility of the industrial sector in general, which leads to a quicker change in the fortunes, direction, and size of companies and makes it advantageous for companies to employ Solo Entrepreneurs with the right mix of talents at the right times.
Another more recent white paper written by Dawn Rivers Baker, Editor/Publisher, The MicroEnterprise Journal, addresses the many factors behind this shift, from political to economic to cultural. Read this fascinating, in-depth analysis: “THE MICROBUSINESS WAY OF GROWTH: How microbusinesses substitute operational efficiency for scale, and sacrifice organizational growth for revenue growth. ” (http://www.microenterprisejournal.com/download.html)
Other Places To Read About The World of Solo Entrepreneurs:
“Trading Places”, Inc. magazine, November 1, 2002 (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20021101/24825.html)
“What Should I Do With My Life”, Fast Company magazine, January 2003 (http://www.fastcompany.com/online/66/mylife.html)
Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working For Yourself, Daniel Pink “Self-Employed Business Ownership Rates in the United States: 1979-2003”, Robert W. Fairlie, University of California, Santa Cruz (http://www.sba. gov/advo/research/rs243tot. pdf)
Where Do Solo Entrepreneurs Do Their Work?
A Solo-E’s office may be considered unconventional as compared to an office in a corporate setting. The Solo-E’s office is characterized by low overhead. It may be located in the Solo-E’s home or be a shared office, and it is used as needed. The Solo-E’s conference or meeting room may be the corner coffee shop, a local bookstore, or a client’s office.
Solo-E’s often use other tools and services such as a laptop, mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, and text messaging to support their business mobility needs.
What Drives The Solo Entrepreneur?
Daniel Pink, author of the best-selling book, Free Agent Nation, describes a revolution in how we work and live in the United States. According to Pink, four major factors are driving this new work ethic and propelling professionals to become Solo Entrepreneurs. These factors, which are listed below, are echoed in the 2000 Swedish study referenced above:
Freedom: the ability to exercise one’s will. (Pink; Free Agent Nation, 2001; p. 66) For Solo-Es one of the biggest complaints about their lives as a employees was that they disliked office politics. They felt imprisoned by all the games played in corporations.
By having freedom, Solo-Es determine when they are going to work, with whom they want to work, and where and how they are going to work. They use their freewill to make business decisions. Solo-Es feel liberated and motivated by their new freedom.
Authenticity: People want to be themselves—not wear a “mask” at work to fit into the corporate culture and environment.
Traditional work environments tend to force people to fit into a mold, and individuality often is suppressed. People express discontent with not being able to be themselves at work.
Solo-Es are able to allow their personalities, individuality, creativity, and uniqueness to shine, while being true to themselves and not having to “be someone else” in front of the boss or their peers.
Accountability: “putting one’s livelihood and reputation directly on the line. ” (Pink; Free Agent Nation, 2001; p. 73) Solo-Es are on the front line of their businesses. There is no one to hide behind or any coattails to ride on. This means Solo-Es are accountable for everything they do, including their business’ marketing, the quality of their work, delivering what they promise to their clients, the success of their business, etc. They accept these business challenges and reap the rewards and lessons learned along the way.
Self-Defined Success: the measures of success are being redefined by Solo-Es. For Solo-Es, money and the promise of a promotion to the next rung on the corporate ladder are no longer motivators or factors in defining what it is to be successful. Solo-Es use a different measuring stick to define their success. Money remains an important factor to many, because they have to pay for their bills—but it typically is not the primary measurement of success. Instead, success is building the business they dreamed of building for years, and following their heart’s desire (or calling)-and that is what they deem success!
Success may also be defined by having the freedom to choose the work they do, the freedom to present their authentic selves in the work they do, the ability to integrate and balance their work with their life, the freedom to grow their business as they deem appropriate, and the list goes on. The criteria for success are self-defined by each Solo-E. In the 2000 Swedish study, one woman said, “My lifestyle is my big profit. ”
What Are The Challenges Facing The Solo Entrepreneur?
Solo-Es often have many challenges and demands on their time, self-confidence, finances, and other resources. These challenges include:
- Having a desire to be solo, with no idea of where to start or of what is possible.
- Working through the initial start-up phase and not giving in to the temptation or pressure to go back to a corporate job or other “safe” haven.
- Having skills, products, and/or services that are in demand, but little experience or knowledge of how to package, market, and sell.
- Understanding how to cohesively fit together the relationships and elements that are part of running a business.
- Determining how to create a unique and solid brand for their business that helps position their strengths.
- Having a desire to go solo, but not knowing how to build a support network.
- Developing ongoing personal leadership skills that help them connect in more meaningful ways.
- Finding a way to transition from doing “tasks” to managing and building their business.
- Figuring out they do not have to do everything themselves, and then learning how to find and build the right alliances, as well as initiating collaborative efforts to support their business.
- Recognizing they are not alone as they make the move into the Solo-E market.
- Determining how to embrace their new career move and establish realistic and achievable goals.
In spite of these challenges, Solo Entrepreneurs find that the rewards are worth it! Being a Solo Entrepreneur is not so much a job, as a lifestyle. Solo-Es get to work when they want, doing the work they love, with people they enjoy working with. It’s a fantastic choice – one that we think more individuals will be making in the years to come.
Copyright © 2005, Solo-Entrepreneur.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
Terri Zwierzynski is dedicated to the success of lifestyle-inspired Solo Entrepreneurs. She is the CEI (Conductor of Extraordinary Ideas) at http://www.Solo-E.com and the author of 136 Ways To Market Your Small or Solo Business. Terri is an MBA honors graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, and has been working with solo entrepreneurs since 2001. You can reach Terri at http://www.TerriZ.com
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