There’s an obsession with growth when it comes to business. Grow your company, grow your revenue, grow your team. While I’m more than happy to grow, both personally and professionally, I don’t believe in growth at any cost. Specifically I don’t believe in growth at the cost of freedom.
I’m a solopreneur, and I have every intention of staying that way. Solopreneurship is something that people (and spell checking programs) tend to have a problem with, which always surprises me because in the circles I move in, it’s very much a thing. It’s enough of a thing that my very small but highly targeted blog on the topic, along with my guides for solopreneurs, have thousands of readers, and the numbers are growing.
I’ve come to realise, however, that my readers are split into two camps: solopreneurs by choice vs solopreneurs by necessity. The first camp tend to be free-thinking, freedom loving, lifestyle solopreneurs. The second are short-term solopreneurs, intending to stay in solo mode only as long as it takes them to gather the resources they need for growth: the money they need to build their team.
Both camps are valid places to be, but I’m pretty sure I’ll always be in the first. Here’s why:
There’s amazing freedom in NOT being responsible for employees
Before you think I’m an irresponsible flake, I should point out that responsibility in general doesn’t faze me. I’m a pretty responsible parent, spouse, worker and bill payer. I take responsibility for my actions and my finances. My clients will tell you I’m very responsible when it comes to work, quality control, fact checking and deadlines.
The thing is, I’m already responsible for a lot of stuff. So why would I want to add full-time employees to the list unless I really need to? And I don’t. That doesn’t mean I do everything myself. Far from it. I outsource regularly. I literally wrote the book on outsourcing, but I generally do it on a task-by-task basis, or at most on a project-by-project basis. Not one person outside of my immediate family relies exclusively on me to put food on their table, and I like it like that.
Solopreneurs can be location independent
Whether it’s packing up and taking my family traveling for a year or so, or just the freedom to work from a beach cafe on a sunny day, I love location independence. Remote work is becoming more and more common, and not just for solopreneurs. Many employees can make it work too. In fact if you sign up with a program like Remote Year (which I covered in this piece about interesting experiences for digital nomads) they will even work with you to help convince your boss that your job can be done remotely.
Remote work of any kind is an advantage if you want to travel, live abroad for a while, and generally be location independent. However, as someone who has taken my freelance business on the road as a solopreneur, I can confirm that location independence works even better for solopreneurs than for other remote workers.
Co-working spaces around the world have a tendency to stay open 24 hours a day, to allow for those remote workers who have to stick to normal business hours in their home country. Those workers often look a little more frazzled than the solopreneurs, who have more control over their hours in general, and who are under no obligation to be available eight hours a day, five days a week. My clients know I check emails twice a day, and respond immediately to urgent requests, but they don’t expect me to be answering emails or other messages all day long, which offers me a lot more freedom to organise my schedule around my travel, rather than vice versa.
Solopreneurship is not the same as being alone
As I’ve already mentioned, I outsource, quite a lot. Just because I don’t have employees doesn’t mean I don’t have a team. It’s just that they’re not a full-time, on-the-payroll team. I don’t edit my own books, or design my own covers. Most of the time I don’t design my own graphics or Facebook ads. I don’t always write my own content for my blog. I outsource task by task, which allows me more control, flexibility and freedom than having full-time employees.
More importantly I don’t bounce ideas of the wall. I have an amazing group of people to bounce ideas off, and because they don’t work for me, they’re not a bunch of yes-men who agree with me all the time. They aren’t scared to say: ‘That idea really is shit’ or ‘I think that needs work’ or ‘Are you high?’
I network with other trusted solopreneurs, online and off, and we tell each other what we think, probably more so than most teams of employees, who are relying on not causing waves in order to get to their next pay day.
I’m braver when no-one is watching
In the last ten years, I’ve launched multiple ebooks, a few other digital products, and a couple of websites. I’ve pitched publications I didn’t think would accept my writing, and tried lots of new things in my business, some of which worked, some of which definitely didn’t.
The fact that it’s just me trying out these things makes me braver. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, no-one even knows I tried. I’ve had so many new adventures and experiences as a solopreneur that, as either an employer or an employee, I would probably not even have suggested. Your team or colleagues will always have sensible objections. As a solopreneur, you don’t have to be sensible, especially when you’re just playing with your own time and/or money.
Happily solo, or solo by necessity? If your business is a one-person entity right now, which are you? And why?
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