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.)
Other terms used by government agencies that count and classify
solo entrepreneurs (like the U.S. Census Bureau) include: nonemployer
business, no-employee business, microbusiness (which usually
means less than 5 employees), and SOHO (small office - home office).
Being a Solo Entrepreneur does not mean being isolated or
being completely on your own. Solo business owners often collaborate
with others and/or build alliances with other soloists according
to their business needs. Although most solo entrepreneurs do
not have traditional employees, some may have a handful of key
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,
freelance writers, marketing consultants, virtual bookkeepers,
independent technical support consultants, etc.
|| A desire for the financial
and creative freedom of entrepreneurship without the sacrifice
of personal freedom.
||Seeing themselves as entrepreneurs
with a vision, a personal drive, and a passion to fulfill
||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.
Many solo entrepreneurs come from the corporate world, while
others enter the world of self employment 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 theyd now
rather be soloists than wage slaves. According to the U.S. Census
Bureau, there were over 20 million single-person businesses in
the US in 2005 -- an increase of 2.7 million in just three years!
In the paper, The
Swedish Solo-Entrepreneur - Extension and Characteristics,
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
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.
Places, Inc. magazine, November 1, 2002
Should I Do With My Life, Fast Company magazine, January
Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working For Yourself,
Business Ownership Rates in the United States: 1979-2003,
Robert W. Fairlie, University of California, Santa Cruz
A solo business owner's office may be considered unconventional
as compared to an office in a corporate setting. Being self employed implies low overhead, and the office usually reflects that. It may be located in the solo business owner's home or be a shared office, and it is used as needed. The conference or meeting room may be the corner coffee shop, a local bookstore, or a client's office. I personally work with a laptop, in my favorite reclining chair, with a view of the trees in the backyard and often my dogs at my feet!
Solo Entrepreneurs often use other tools and services such as
a laptop, mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, iPhone,
and text messaging to support their business mobility needs.
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
ones will. (Pink; Free Agent Nation,
2001; p. 66) For self employed professionals 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
By having freedom, solo entrepreneurs 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 business owners feel liberated and motivated
by their new freedom.
Authenticity: People want to
be themselvesnot 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
Solo Entrepreneurs 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.
ones livelihood and reputation directly on the line.
(Pink; Free Agent Nation, 2001; p. 73)
Solo Entrepreneurs are on the front line of their businesses.
There is no one to hide behind or any coattails to ride on. This
means solo business owners 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 Entrepreneurs.
For self employed business owners, 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 business owners 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 following their heart's desire (or calling), and operating a business based on their passions that makes enough money for the lifestyle they want.
Success may also mean having the freedom to choose the clients and the work they enjoy, 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 business owner. In the 2000 Swedish
study, one woman said, My lifestyle is my big profit.
Self employed business owners often have many challenges and
demands on their time, self-confidence, finances, and other resources.
These challenges include:
In spite of these challenges, Solo Entrepreneurs find that the rewards are worth it! Being a self employed business owners is not so much a job, as a lifestyle. Soloists 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.