In this article, we’ve gathered fifteen pieces of advice from founders and co-founders to guide those aspiring to start their own business as a solo entrepreneur. From mastering your emotions to targeting your ideal customers, not everyone, these seasoned professionals share their invaluable insights based on their personal experiences. Here’s how to start a business as a solo entrepreneur.
- Master Your Emotions
- Focus on Research, Resilience, Relationships
- Stay Authentic and Open to Change
- Create a Website
- Super-Specialize in Your Niche
- Harness Delegation to Scale Business
- Build Brand and Implement Automation
- Adopt Cost-Effective Inbound Marketing
- Learn Technical Skills for Business
- Prioritize the Journey, Not Outcomes
- Don’t Rush to Quit the Day Job
- Partner with a Venture Studio
- Develop the Mindset Before Entrepreneurship
- Address the Solopreneur’s Social Activity Gap
- Target Your Ideal Customers, Not Everyone
Master Your Emotions
After being a solo entrepreneur for seven years, the best advice anyone can give is to understand your own emotions. Forget about what you’re trying to achieve for a second; if you can’t master your own emotions, being a solo entrepreneur is probably not for you.
This doesn’t mean you have to ignore your emotions. There’s a world of difference between understanding your emotions and ignoring them.
The reason you MUST do this is because you’re going to face many challenges along the way. Some of those you’ll be able to foresee; others will hit you out of nowhere and make you feel like everything you’re doing is wrong. Learning how to understand these emotions within yourself will allow you to tackle problems that come up.
It’s always important to remember, you’re going to have bad days no matter what. The mental approach that “I’d rather have a bad day building my own dreams than have a bad day building someone else’s” is always beneficial.
Focus on Research, Resilience, Relationships
Starting a business is an exciting yet challenging endeavor. The key advice would be to focus on three main pillars: Research, Resilience, and Relationships. Understanding your market deeply is crucial; know your competitors, your audience, and trends.
Resilience is vital; entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare for setbacks and keep adapting. Lastly, building strong relationships with suppliers, customers, and potential partners is important. Your network can become your biggest asset.
Stay Authentic and Open to Change
Staying true and authentic to your personal brand, delivering genuine stories and experiences based on your own journey, it’s important to be open to change as a solo entrepreneur. Avoid setting a rigid vision and feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve it.
There are many aspects to handle and tasks to accomplish as a solo entrepreneur, and it’s crucial not to stress yourself out by striving for perfection and missing out on potential opportunities. Instead, listen to your leads and customers, and pivot your approach to meet their true needs. Learn and grow from their inquiries, and be willing to try new things.
For example, not initially envisioning providing mentorship and upskill-training programs, they were only started because of challenges selling other services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, these programs turned out to be successful because tailored solutions were created for leads based on their specific needs.
Create a Website
Creating a website is essential in today’s world because it represents you as a credible business. A website is great for advertising daily deals, celebrating customers’ birthdays, and fostering a sense of community, even if your service region is confined to foot traffic only. We sell pens; however, people usually buy pens from a shop and not online. But still, we chose to have a website to showcase our products and to stay connected with our customers.
Creating a website is essential for a solopreneur, especially for marketing purposes. Also, it has become very easy now to create a website of your own as there are resources out there to assist you in creating your own website utilizing pre-made layouts.
Promote your website on all of your marketing materials, from business cards and letterhead to bills and delivery vehicles. One of the best places to share your company’s backstory is on your website. So, invest in a website and see your business thrive.
Super-Specialize in Your Niche
Creating a successful online marketing agency from scratch suggests that the best move is to super-specialize in your niche. Drill down to small sub-categories and choose one service to excel in. Become the go-to expert in it and build a reputation as the best in your sub-niche.
For 10 years, providing all possible services in a niche made it difficult to attract clients. Specializing in two main niches (medical and finance), each with separate presentations and portfolios, and offering a super-specific service (website audits) allowed for a doubling of income each year for the past three years.
Harness Delegation to Scale Business
Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean having to do everything yourself. Hiring contractors to help manage workloads is a viable option. Of course, it costs money to get the right people on board, but time is money. Contractors also come with the right skills, leading to higher-quality work and better results in areas where proficiency may be lacking.
Delegating is also important for scaling a business. As the workload increases, the number of contractors can be increased to meet the demand. Contractors are often highly motivated to complete tasks in the timeliest and most professional way possible because their reputation depends on how well they do the job. The results are faster project completion and enhanced productivity.
Build the Brand and Implement Automation
The best advice for solopreneurs is to build a strong brand presence and to implement highly automated systems. This advice is based on experience helping solo entrepreneurs grow a lean, highly profitable business without just adding staff, premises, and overheads.
These two are interconnected strategies that will empower you to operate efficiently and effectively.
Your brand represents the promise you make to your customers, reflecting the value you provide.
Automation ensures that you can deliver on that promise consistently.
As a solopreneur, you’ll need to wear multiple hats. That’s why automated systems become your time-saving allies, allowing you to accomplish more tasks in less time.
In essence, by focusing on both brand building and automation, you not only enhance your reputation but also optimize productivity, enabling you to excel as a solopreneur in a competitive business landscape.
Nicholas Robb, Founder, Design Hero
Adopt Cost-Effective Inbound Marketing
Inbound Marketing is a viable option. Starting a business as a solopreneur involves handling everything independently. Marketing is crucial for growth, but it must be done in a cost-effective manner.
Spending excessively on commercials, billboards, or newspapers isn’t necessary, a lesson learned after investing heavily in these marketing tactics. Promoting a company is essential, and inbound marketing, or attractional marketing, is often viewed as more cost-effective and efficient than traditional advertising.
Tactics used in inbound marketing include blogging, social networking, video, podcasts, email, and influencer outreach. It has proven to be a significant cost saver. If strategy development assistance is needed, a digital marketing agency is available. This strategy is effective, but only if it is affordable.
Learn Technical Skills for Business
When I started my company from my hometown bedroom, I realized that while I had the vision to run a business, I had to learn a lot of different technical skills. Because I was starting out on my own, everything, from creating a financial budget to designing marketing materials, depended on me.
My advice is to be prepared to learn how to do these things and understand them inside out. It will not only save you money, but will also make you well-versed in the fundamental components of your business.
Prioritize the Journey, Not Outcomes
Starting a business as a solo entrepreneur is a journey, not a sprint, and it’s crucial to focus on what you can control. In my experience, getting fixated on outcomes can be a recipe for stress and disappointment. Instead, channel your energy into consistent effort, persistence, and a willingness to learn. These are the variables you can actually influence, and they’re often the ones that lead to the most rewarding results over time.
As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve seen how this mindset shift can make a vast difference. It’s helped me in managing my team, creating social media content, and even in my one-on-one coaching sessions. By focusing on the journey and being open to growth, you build resilience and adaptability, which are invaluable skills for any entrepreneur.
So, concentrate on the steps you’re taking, learn from each experience, and remember that your growth along the way is just as important!
Don’t Rush to Quit the Day Job
Don’t quit your day job—at least not yet. When I started freelancing, I waited a whopping nine months before leaving my desk behind. It wasn’t because I didn’t have enough clients or didn’t feel confident in my skills. It was because I wanted to ensure my success wasn’t “beginner’s luck” and that I could sustain my success.
After nine months, I not only had a strong client base but also plenty of savings from working two jobs. This gave me more confidence in my leap of faith. Looking back, I would do it that way again.
Partner with a Venture Studio
Consider partnering with a venture studio, which can both serve as a quasi-cofounder to you and as your capital source. The right one will help on two fronts: de-risking and accelerating the entrepreneurial journey.
Working with Boundless Venture Co. to help launch Truckbase, they have been invaluable partners across sales, marketing, product, engineering, and design. It can be a lonely journey as a solo entrepreneur, and a venture studio can make it less lonely without having an actual cofounder.
Develop the Mindset Before Entrepreneurship
The most important piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to start a business as a solo entrepreneur is to get their mindset right first. I’ve been a part of many different coaching programs where other students have spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop certain skills, and it’s consistently been the ones who don’t feel worthy and are not mentally ready to transform their lives that end up wasting their money.
What I found that made the difference for me is that I had spent six months before becoming an entrepreneur immersing myself deeply in personal development events. These events helped me to delve deep into my own psychology and remove many of the limiting beliefs that would get in the way for most people.
Address Solopreneur’s Social Activity Gap
If you’re a solopreneur, you’re going to need to make up for the lack of social activity at work elsewhere. Working solo is not the most motivating environment for most of us, and it can get difficult because of that. You have to be the right type of person to be a successful solopreneur. If you need outside motivation and accountability, it’s probably not for you.
Target Your Ideal Customers, Not Everyone
In the world of business, it’s essential to recognize that you can’t please everyone. This was a lesson learned the hard way. In the initial phases, there was an attempt to please every potential customer, thinking it was the key to rapid growth. But in reality, this approach stunted the business’s progress. It’s an unsustainable route, diverting resources and focus.
Honing in on the ideal customer profile and tailoring the sales strategy for this specific group can lead to better conversion rates and higher satisfaction levels. It’s possible to take it one step further by identifying ‘non-ideal’ customers and subtly crafting offers and copy to deter them.
This precise targeting can pave the way for a more streamlined and efficient business model. As certain business elements are productized, it’s crucial not to stretch thin. There should be no hesitation to decline customers that don’t align with the vision. By focusing on quality over quantity, a business is set up for long-term success.