Over 25 million business owners are flying solo in the United States. This number equates to over 80% of all small businesses operating without employees, departments, or team meetings.
We like to refer to these business owners as solopreneurs. While all solopreneurs are entrepreneurs, not all entrepreneurs are solopreneurs. It takes a particular type of person to be 100% responsible for a business’s successes and potential missteps.
Solopreneurs have complete control over their businesses, but managing everything alone is challenging, to say the least. Outsource everything, and one loses ascendancy. But micromanaging everything can completely throw off a healthy work-life balance.
If you’re a freelance writer struggling to find a middle ground, the following tips offer insight into the benefits and processes of becoming a self-sustaining solopreneur.
The trouble with bottlenecks
Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking, once said, “In most organizations, the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle.”
In other words, you can typically find the point of congestion in a business that slows or stops progress at the top. But, unfortunately, when it comes to solopreneurship, the solopreneur is almost always the one standing in the way of their growth path.
The second reason: trying to do it all. You can’t do everything yourself, no matter how much you want to try. Many solopreneurs run into serious operational snags because they need help understanding skillful delegation.
When you’re bound to every step of every day-to-day process, it becomes impossible to develop and implement growth strategies.
The second is: operating solely as a knowledge center. Operational processes should be developed and recorded within a business, even a solopreneurship, in a simple, accessible manner. A solopreneur who retains the inner workings of every operational process will never find a delegation flow that allows them to grow their services, reach, or brand.
How to become a self-sustaining solopreneur
If you want to experience the benefits of becoming a self-sustaining solopreneur, the following tips can help you make the transition faster and easier.
1. Change your perspective
Start thinking about your solopreneurship as an “organization” rather than a business of one. How does this change your plans for operations and future growth? Chances are, you can’t achieve them without a bit of help.
This shift is helpful. You can start by brainstorming what processes you can offload. Commonly outsourced tasks include web design, social media management, data entry, and bookkeeping. You can invest in a researcher or freelance editor or part-time employees.
When it comes to outsourcing, start small. This methodology helps ensure you work with the right contractor before offloading a department or process. You also want to ensure you clearly understand cash flow and how your net worth plays a role in deciding when you’re ready to outsource.
2. Recognize tasks to keep internal
There are some tasks that only you can do, at least to the level of satisfaction a client deserves (and expects). While every solopreneurship is unique, there will always be some tasks that a solopreneur should never outsource. Client-facing activities like onboarding are often one of them.
For example, prospecting and first-time meetings with potential clients are difficult to outsource. When you’re selling your skills, you should do the selling.
Maintaining relationships is another task best handled internally. While text templates may allow a contractor to interact with clients occasionally, like during standard deliverables or invoicing, solopreneurs should handle all other communications.
Think carefully about what parts of your business require your personal touch.
These should remain internal.
3. Document everything
Start documenting absolutely everything about your solopreneurship. Creating SOPs, or standard operating procedures, allow you to easily pass off mundane tasks to contractors as opportunity and budget allow.
From cold emailing to project management to invoicing, an SOP can help you maintain consistency across your brand’s departments while creating a simple way to transfer work quickly without compromising quality.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating an SOP.
- Focus on the inner framework of each process. Tools or software may change, but the goal should be clear.
- Find the balance between being thorough and concise. SOPs are documents, not novels. Clearly define each step without being repetitive or condescending.
- Test your SOP on yourself, then contractors. Ask for feedback and regularly review SOPs for updates and improvements.
4. Create accountability loops
Accountability is easy when everyone on a team (including the solopreneur) is clear about what needs to be done by each organization member. You should provide deadlines, motives, skills, tools, and mindsets and align these with goals for a better shot at success.
Without accountability loops, a solopreneur can’t hold a contractor accountable for performance (good and bad). A solopreneur may also struggle with understanding the quality of their performance.
Accountability loops must include the following:
- Clarity of expectations
- Thorough training
- Functional equipment and supplies
- Timely follow-ups and feedback
- Meaningful consequences for successful or incomplete work
Solopreneurs who hire contractors must agree to these conditions before building a working relationship. There also needs to be an understanding of what happens if standards still need to be met.
Accountability loops prevent contractors from taking advantage of a solopreneur while ensuring a solopreneur doesn’t lose sight of outsourced tasks or their responsibilities.
5. Build a tool stack
Having a virtual stack of tools at your disposal boosts efficiency, helping you regain precious time in your work week. The best tools for a solopreneurship vary by circumstance, but some of our favorite types include the following:
- Photo editing tools – Whether posting on social media or uploading product photos to a website, having the tools on hand to crop, enhance, and edit photos is crucial if you want your brand to impress. Finding the best photo background remover or gaining access to stock photos can ensure your photography and media skills match your vision.
- Email management – On average, people spend 28% of their working hours on email. Reading, writing, and consuming digital communication is time-consuming but not easily outsourced. Email management technology can offer a faster way to manage email while improving focus and productivity.
- Data customization – The business world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. While a solopreneurship likely accounts for the tiniest fraction of this data, it’s still information that can catalyze an organization’s growth—but only if used appropriately. A spreadsheet-to-app converter can let a solopreneur transform data from flat rectangles to interactive inventory management, expense reporting, or deliverables tracker apps with just a few clicks.
- Accounting software – A staggering 40% of small business owners spend at least 80 hours a year performing accounting tasks. Solopreneurs can gain back several vacation days by adding accounting software that simplifies these crucial yet time-consuming tasks. Invoice data capturing technology is one example of how accounting software can streamline a solopreneur to-do list.
The most significant benefits of building a self-sustaining solopreneurship
When you address a bottleneck issue in your solopreneurship, you get out of your way. As you apply a business growth strategy with the goal of self-sustainability rather than simply ticking off the same operational boxes every day, you’re likely to enjoy the following benefits:
- Increased career stability
- More independence in your business and personal life
- Limitless financial opportunities and additional monetary freedom
- Increased business value that may attract investors or buyers
- Expanded working capital to reinvest into the business
- Additional opportunities for growing, pivoting or exiting your business as needs and passions change
Nearly 80%of businesses that outsource to some degree or move towards a self-staining methodology report success. While benefits may range by industry, tasks, and stage of growth, the chances of benefiting from self-sustaining solopreneurship are high.
Work smarter, not harder
Chances are, you became a solopreneur to gain control of your schedule and future. But without the right mindset and processes in place, it’s more likely that your business will run you instead of the other way around.
Creating a self-sustainable solopreneurship helps you achieve the goals that inspired you to start your own business – independence and financial freedom.
Ready to push your freelance business in a new direction with a focus on self-sustainment and growth? We designed our Creative Class to help freelancers run their businesses better by putting processes and systems into place that serve as the foundation for a long-lasting career.