5 Things I Learned as a Solopreneur
I’ve been a solopreneur for over a decade. Being a solopreneur comes with its benefits: freedom of schedule, flexibility in what you do, and no boss looking over your shoulder!
But it also comes with downsides, as any solopreneur will tell you.
Here are five things I wish someone would have told me before I went into business for myself.
1. Outsource to the Experts
As a solopreneur, you don’t have a team of employees, but you should have a team of people to help with various aspects of your business.
You’re probably an expert at some things, but not all things. Outsource the things you aren’t an expert at, such as accounting, legal work, or web design.
When I started my first business in college, I was baffled by all of the options for incorporating my business and forms required by the state. I set up a meeting with an accountant and explained to him how confusing all of this was, and he said, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine. That’s what we’re here for.”
He’s been my accountant for the past twenty years, and he was right. By hiring an expert to handle my taxes, it’s one less thing for me to worry about.
Likewise, consider consulting with a lawyer. It’s true that you can try to figure out the best legal structure for your business on your own, but you’ll get the right answer faster (not to mention peace of mind!) by consulting a lawyer.
Lawyers don’t have to be expensive, either. There are lots of lawyers that specialize in serving startups and small businesses that can efficiently answer your questions. Some might even answer your basic questions in a free consultation.
2. Pay your Contractors Quickly
I have a team of web designers and other freelancers that I rely on to keep my business running. They all have a large number of clients they serve, and it can be difficult to get my tasks at the top of their to-do list.
One simple way to make contractors jump when you call is to pay them quickly. I send payment as soon as I receive invoices. It doesn’t cost me anything, but contractors appreciate it. When I have a need, they are more likely to work on my project before the company they have to chase for payment.
3. Join a Community
No more co-workers! No boss!
It’s really cool, but it can be lonely working by yourself. Instead, consider joining a group of like-minded solopreneurs in your area. If there’s no such group, create your own.
Get together with this group at least once a month to talk about your businesses and struggles you’re having. Since all solopreneurs face similar challenges, a group like this can be great for bouncing ideas off someone or getting help solving a problem.
4. Charge What You’re Worth
This advice is especially important for the many solopreneurs who are consultants and freelancers.
It can be hard to charge what you’re worth. Keep in mind people are not paying you for the hour of your time that you spend on a project for them; they’re paying for that hour plus the thousands of hours you’ve spent learning how to do the task. It would take your client a long time to figure out how to do the project at your skill level.
This is the inverse of outsourcing to experts. The value you get from your lawyer isn’t just the time they work for you. They’ve invested years becoming an expert at the law. You are paying for that, too. Think more like a lawyer and set your rates accordingly.
5. Set Boundaries
Being your own boss gives you ultimate flexibility, but many solopreneurs are their own worst boss! It’s easy to get sucked into working all day and worrying about what you need to get done tomorrow. This is especially difficult if you work from home because there’s no physical barrier between your workspace and home space. Carrying a phone in your pocket doesn’t make this any easier.
Set boundaries for yourself to keep from burning out. For example, you can stop answering emails from 6 pm until the next morning. Or decide to put your phone away for at least three hours every evening.
You might need to set boundaries with your family, too. When you have a boss, it’s easy to say, “I have to work late because my boss told me to.” As your own boss, you need to explain to your family what type of work you need to do when they are around. Have a conversation with your family so that you are on the same page.
I recently found out that it annoys my wife when I work from my home office in the evening. But she’s OK if I work on my laptop in the family room. A simple tweak made my wife happy and I still get to finish my work.