Editors note: This is a guest blog post by Deborah Henry-Pollard, Creative Coach and Project Manager to creative individuals & organisations through her company Catching Fireworks. She is also one of our mini-hub members.
I love this word, “solopreneur”.
It is the perfect description for those of us who have a more structured existence than a freelancer, but no desire to be entrepreneurs, with its’ implication of building up a business to sell on when the time it right.
On the positive side, being a solopreneur means responsibility for everything in your business. Yey! You get to decide your hours, the clients you work with, the projects you want to be part of. You can focus on one thing or have a portfolio of (perhaps unrelated) services or products. I know someone who is both an event manager and a landscape gardener. If some aspect isn’t quite working, you have the flexibility to change it quickly and try something else. If your inspiration has left the building, you can call a time out, go for a walk or watch ‘Columbo’ with no one telling you off, until that great idea creeps up behind you when you are least looking for it.
On the negative side, being a solopreneur means responsibility for everything in your business. The marketing, the sales, the networking, the accounts, the time management, no sick or holiday pay…
I’ve been a solopreneur for almost 5 years. Before that for the whole of my career, I was a fully signed up wage slave. Well, who wouldn’t be? You have security, someone else gets to make the tough decisions and you can sit in your office grumbling and waiting for the weekends when you go and do what you really want to do. Then I got so unhappy that the only word I associated with work was “trapped”. And my friends from big companies started to be made redundant – oops, where did that security go?!
In a moment of brilliant madness, I took the leap and started my solopreneur career as a creative coach and project manager – and I haven’t looked back. It hasn’t all been plain sailing. It took a couple of years before I felt I could stop getting the Guardian jobs list “just in case” I needed a proper job. Even now, with a long client list and a good reputation, if I don’t put the work in, I don’t get the work back. I have had to learn about paying tax online (much easier than I had anticipated), how to sell myself and close that deal (still a bit scary) and public speaking – yikes! And there have been days when I have got fed up with staring at the wall and talking to myself.
But for all that, the benefits of being a solopreneur far outweigh the nail biting bits. I have the freedom to choose the direction in which my business is going and how I run it. I can let my creativity run free and try out ideas without them being knocked back or the credit for them being taken by someone else. I control my time and decide how (and where) I work (thanks to free wi-fi,I can work in some very elegant spaces without spending a penny in rent). Admittedly, I work long hours, but that is a personal choice because I love what I do and have so much variety day to day that it rarely feels like working. (Just for balance, I have a contact who has built up a very successful business in two years working only in the hours between dropping her small daughters at school in the morning and picking them up again in the afternoon – as a solopreneur, you get to decide!)
Some people get hung up on the “solo” part of solopreneur. Yes, when it comes down to the bottom line, it is your business and your responsibility, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you actually have to do everything on your own. One of the many great joys of solopreneurship is collaboration. This can be formal, through sub contracting, joint projects or hiring someone to do your accounts or marketing – yes, you are responsible, but you can delegate! Or it can be informal, using support systems like Creatives Hub, KindredHQ, or other regular groups. These can be where you share your idea and get support on moving forward with it; or where you co-work, with all the great bits of working in an office (company, banter, people to ask how to close apps in iOS 7) without the office politics and posturing or the slightly tedious chap from accounts; or just to kick back and talk to another human being when you are sick of looking at the tiles in your kitchen.
Solopreneurship is a growing sector and as such, there are a great deal of resources being set up to support all the inspiring and inventive people who are striking out on their own. I will be realistic and say that it isn’t necessarily for everyone. However, it is a better option for some of us than we might realise.
Over to you
Are you a solopreneur or thinking about going it alone? What do you think about the solopreneur lifestyle? Let us know in the comments.