If you type the word “solopreneur” in the search box at Dictionary.com, it comes back with this (rather amusing) response: Did you mean slippery? At Merriam-Webster.com the answer is: The word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary. The message here is obvious. The term solopreneur is a slippery one, and it’s hard to define. (Or the typical dictionary is woefully behind the times, but that’s another subject altogether.)
But here’s the thing. Even though the dictionary may be a relic, solopreneurs are not. According to MBO Partners’ fifth annual study on America’s independent workforce, there are now 30.2 million independent workers over the age of 21, and the number is growing at a faster rate than overall U.S. employment.
Let’s agree then, on this definition: a solopreneur is a person who works alone and runs their business single-handedly. And let’s agree that it’s a slippery business, because the things we love about working alone and doing everything (everything!) are often the same exact things we hate about it. When you’re a solopreneur, the lines between love and hate blur, and not always because you’re still working at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Alas, the very attractions that led you to leave your soul-sucking corporate job may now be the detractions that sometimes make you forget how much you hated your boss and loved your regular paycheck. Here are five common pains and perks that solopreneurs face every day.
- Every Day is Casual Friday
It’s number one because, hey, casual at home means sweats and jammies. Remember when you wished you could just roll of bed and go to work? Congratulations! You got what you wished for, and for many independent workers, there is no greater luxury than working in PJs or sweats. They’re comfortable, and budget friendly. So what if you have to do your hair or put on an occasional tie for a Skype meeting? It’s still a huge perk.
But wait, say some, there’s a downside to being too casual in the workplace, even if the workplace is your kitchen. In fact, there’s a study that suggests the way you dress can affect the way you perceive yourself and your skills. The inference is that clothing—depending on how you perceive the way it makes you feel—may impact your productivity.
- The Everywhere Office
The solopreneur can work from anywhere. Well, anywhere with Wi-Fi. And when you tire of your dining room table you can change your scenery at will. After rush hour ends, of course. Opting out of the morning and evening traffic rat race is a defining perk for many solopreneurs.
Opting in to a workspace is a matter of choice, and independent workers select two most common locations: at home (cheap, private and commute-free); and the coffee shop (free but public Wi-Fi, other humans, and noise, which apparently can boost productivity).
Rising numbers of independent workers have created a demand for an infrastructure that supports them, such as members-based co-working spaces. Co-working spaces offer perks that many solopreneurs want—such as people and community, technology and idea-sharing—if only on an intermittent basis.
- Nobody Tells You What to Do
Full-time solopreneurs cite controlling their own schedules and being their own boss as two of the top reasons for going it alone. Those days of endless, pointless meetings are over, and you can be at your kid’s soccer game on time. The freedom of calling your own shots is a heady one.
But on the other hand…nobody tells you what to do, which means you must learn what you don’t know. Finding clients, securing benefits, the ins and outs of business legalities, and dozens of other concerns are now on your plate.
- Squirrels and Your Mother-in-Law
Most solopreneurs have heard this: “You work from home? I could never do that. I’d be too distracted.” It’s a truth, but being available for family and life is one of the greatest attractions of working solo. And many who do say they focus better at home or in the coffee shop than they did in the office.
Regardless of your location, distractions abound, particularly when you spend most of your day online. Games and social media can be huge time wasters. Add to that chores like grocery shopping (it’s so much quieter at Trader Joe’s during the week) and family responsibilities, and the workday can get away from you quickly.
Okay, and not that your mother-in-law is a pain, but all independent workers have someone who thinks you’re not really working because you’re not physically going to work.
Distraction can become a habit, but you can re-train your brain to focus by committing to a single task for increasing periods of time. If that doesn’t work, put your phone on airplane mode and hunker down.
If you’re ready to try out the exciting world of solopreneurship, then grab your idea and run with it. It takes dedication and focus, but it can be incredibly rewarding to know that you’re your own machine, instead of just a cog in the workings.
What advice would you give to someone just setting out as a solopreneur?
If there's one thing I'd want all of you to know, whether you're about to embark on starting your first side busine… pic.twitter.com/7xLYSELKC9
— Secret Entourage (@SecretEntourage) May 30, 2016