The Solopreneur’s Survival Guide

Aja McClanahan

Contributor at Fundera
Aja McClanahan is a financial writer who blogs regularly at www.principlesofincrease.com and also writes for other online publications covering personal finance, entrepreneurship, travel and general lifestyle topics.

Latest posts by Aja McClanahan (see all)

If you’re thinking of starting a business or already have one going, it’s very possible that you’ll be a solopreneur for some time. Many small business owners start out by paying their entrepreneurial dues as a solopreneur wearing all the hats required to keep their business running.

As a one-man or one-woman act, this can cause your business venture to be exciting, scary, and stressful all at once. But it can still be top-notch and competitive. In fact, if you have the right tools in place, you can lay a foundation for a business that is just as successful as any enterprise.

If you feel like you could use some help managing and running your solo operation, this survival guide could help. Check out the ways other solopreneurs build and run their successful businesses.

Journal Your Thoughts

The benefits of journaling have been noted in many areas: Emotional, mental, and physical health can be improved by journaling. A habit adopted by many high-achievers, journaling can even boost immunity, studies show.

Lauren Bowling, blogger and editor of Financial Best Life, says that journaling is a great way for solopreneurs to organize thoughts and sort through problems to find solutions.

Bowling comments, “Running a business is stressful, and being a solopreneur can be really lonely. To combat both of these, I adopted a daily journaling practice that cuts down the amount of time I veg in front of the TV because something is bothering me.”

Action step: Add 5 to 10 minutes of journaling time to your daily routine. You could take on free-form writing or look for prompts to help you get started.

Manage Your Time

Though you might have an extremely flexible schedule, you should always make the most of your time in ways that count. This means prioritizing tasks and saying no to things that might not help you reach your business goals. To create a schedule that works for you, consider the four tenets of time management:

  1. Tracking: How are you spending your time? Does it align with your business goals?
  2. Peak productivity: What time of day are you the most productive?
  3. Priority: What activities support your business goals?
  4. Scheduling: How much or little can you work at one time to be productive?

Action step: Experiment with different ways to organize your time for your personal and business activities. When you find a time-management arrangement that works, get it into your calendar tool of choice, and tweak as needed.

Find Your Tribe

Even though you might be alone in running your business, you don’t have to remain in total solitude.  From hashtags to Facebook groups and forums, it’s easier than ever to find people who are on the same entrepreneurial journey and industry as you.

Networking (even with your competitors) can be invaluable and expose you to more opportunities. You’d be surprised at the support, accountability, and motivation you can find in places like online forums, mastermind groups, and mentorship programs.

A.J. Saleem, founder and CEO of tutoring startup Suprex Learning suggests ways you can have other people involved in your business even as you run a solo operation: “Get friends to show up on an advisory board, go to meetings with other entrepreneurs, and learn from others.”

Action step: Make a conscious effort to network in your industry. Attend an event or commit to a group that promotes accountability and goal check-ins.

Practice Self-Care

We all know that solopreneurs often work long hours and fall victim to unhealthy habits for the sake of reaching business goals. While it’s OK to burn the midnight oil every once and awhile, a solopreneur’s main goal should be self-preservation. After all, if something happens to you, your business will ultimately suffer.

It’s also important to know that the quality of your output, whether it’s widgets or services, could decline if you’re running on an empty tank. Although it’s tempting to stay on the grind, you also have to be super intentional about self-care.

Bryan Koontz, CEO and founder of Guide Fitter, an online community of outdoor enthusiasts and brands, shares his strategy on combating burnout: “Whenever I felt the warning signs of burnout coming, I would take a moment to stop and reflect on my family or time away from the business.”

He adds, “Vacation is one of the most impactful ways to motivate an employee, and the same holds true for CEOs and solopreneurs.”

As you plan your time, be sure to make time for rest, vacation, exercising, and properly fueling your body with good, healthy food.

Don’t be afraid to invest in help, either. Meal preparation services, personal training, or even massage therapy might sound like luxuries you can’t afford, but think of them as “key man insurance” that will ultimately keep your business going.

Action step: Identify areas where you can practice more self-care. Start with one item and incorporate it into your schedule or budget more regularly.

Charge Your Worth

When you’re first starting out, you might think you have to charge rock-bottom prices to get clients or sell widgets. Don’t make the mistake of undervaluing yourself or what you provide to your clients. If you undercharge, you can quickly become demotivated and sabotage your results.

When thinking about a price structure, consider what you really need to make a profit and reinvest back into your business. Don’t forget that you need time off and might have to cover expenses like healthcare and retirement contributions. When you factor in these variables, you might find a price hike in order.

Artist and proprietor of the Celebriduck brand, Craig Wolfe, decided to bring all of his company’s production and manufacturing operations stateside. On top of creating environmentally friendly, child-safe toys, he would have to charge a premium for a product that could be easily imitated.

Nevertheless, he’s been successful in differentiating his product in the marketplace and turning a profit. Wolfe warns business owners, “Live by the penny, die by the penny. [Business owners should not] compete on price alone. Quality is the hardest thing to knock off.”

Action step: Find out what you really need to charge to stay afloat. If the numbers will price-out your current clients or market, create a plan to gradually increase prices.

Never Stop Learning

Studies show that successful people continue learning and challenging themselves. What made a successful business yesterday doesn’t always carry over into today. Therefore, taking time to learn new skills and concepts is a must for business success.

As a solopreneur, you are tasked with having to know everything from accounting to social media management and HR. While you may not have studied any of these subjects in school, you can learn what you need to know to get by until you know more or hire someone who does.

Action step: Make a list of topics, concepts, and ideas that could improve your business (or your life). Find related books or classes to learn more and enhance your skills in these areas.

Delegate and Build Your Team

Solopreneurs often feel pressured to do everything to keep their costs low and maintain control over deliverables. But this approach can lead to burnout.

Nancy Halpern of KNH Associates runs an executive coaching practice out of New York City. Her suggestion is to hire freelancers to the fill in the gaps. “Hiring freelancers can be a great way to free up your time so you can focus where you need to,” she says.

Action step: Create a list of things you could begin to outsource. Start with small tasks and test the waters until you feel comfortable delegating more.

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Being an entrepreneur is hard—going it alone can be even tougher. Choose a few areas from this survival guide to help improve your business little by little.  You’ll see the results of your efforts pay off as your business grows.

Kudos for launching your dream and making it this far.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Aja McClanahan

Contributor at Fundera
Aja McClanahan is a financial writer who blogs regularly at www.principlesofincrease.com and also writes for other online publications covering personal finance, entrepreneurship, travel and general lifestyle topics.

Latest posts by Aja McClanahan (see all)

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