What Is a Solopreneur? Basics, Ideas, and How To Become One

What Is a Solopreneur? Basics, Ideas, and How To Become One

Passion. Determination. Motivation

These are some of the essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs, especially those who run their businesses entirely independently, i.e., solopreneurs.

It takes a special kind of person to become a solopreneur. But what exactly does “solopreneur” mean? Are you one? Could you become one? We’re here to help you find those answers.

This is your ultimate guide to solopreneurship. Learn who solopreneurs are, the advantages of running a business solo, and the essential character traits of a solo business owner. We’re also going to do a deep dive into how to become a solopreneur and thrive. Finally, if you’re ready to start your own business—we’ll take you through three of the top business options for solopreneurship.

What is a solopreneur?

Before we jump in, let’s get clear on what solopreneurship means. It’s important to note that solopreneur is not just a fancy word for a hobby business owner or a side gig. Solopreneurs—like any other business owners—run real businesses.

A solopreneur is simply a business owner who works solo. The solopreneur moniker is a mashup of the words “solo” and “entrepreneur.”

A solopreneur may be an independent professional, a blogger, an e-commerce store owner, or even a hairdresser, a makeup artist, or a plumber. Any business that is run primarily by one person can be a solopreneur business.

Solopreneur vs entrepreneur: what’s the difference?

Solopreneurs are a solo, one-person operation. On the other hand, entrepreneurs may run businesses with multiple workers handling different aspects of the company.

A simple but handy way to remember it is that all solopreneurs are entrepreneurs, but not all entrepreneurs are solopreneurs.

Solopreneurs will also usually have a singular focus. Their business caters to a specific niche. Or they typically offer a single service to clients. Conversely, entrepreneurs typically run businesses that may focus on multiple niches or services. They employ teams to help with these different areas.

A solo business owner is the founder and the worker. They are hands-on with their own business. Entrepreneurs also work on their business, but they have no trouble delegating to other workers as well.

To sum it up—solopreneurs run their business alone. Entrepreneurs usually run their business(es) with help and active involvement from other team members.

Why become a solopreneur?

People around the world are choosing solopreneurship over working for someone else. Many want to run a business, but have no desire to build an empire. They are opting to run solo businesses instead.

What makes solopreneurship so appealing? Why do so many people choose to go solo in business? There is a myriad of reasons:

1. Flexibility

As a solopreneur, you are your own boss. You have the freedom and flexibility to work how and when you want. You are not compelled to stick to a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. For many, this flexibility to truly set their own hours is a huge reason to become a solo business owner.

2. Job satisfaction

Tired of working a job you don’t enjoy? Go solo. Solopreneurs have greater freedom to do the work they enjoy—and say no to work they don’t. This results in greater job satisfaction for most solopreneurs.

According to the findings of this research paper, entrepreneurs are often more satisfied with their work than non-entrepreneurs “due to their greater autonomy, flexibility, and independence.

3. Control over your business strategy and decisions

As a solopreneur, you are the business. You are the brand. Any decisions or strategic changes you choose to make don’t affect anyone else except you.

Solo business owners have the ultimate flexibility to pivot and make changes quickly. To quote the same research mentioned above, “the self-employed are more satisfied than employees because they have greater autonomy in decision-making and more freedom to be creative in their businesses.

4. Location independence

When your business relies on you and you alone, it’s much easier to take your work with you and work from anywhere. Solopreneurs—especially those who work online—have the freedom to become digital nomads as their businesses often aren’t tied to a particular location.

Personally, the dream of going location independent is what propelled my desire to become a solopreneur. I now have the freedom to run my content writing business from home in Australia or from a beach in Mexico—if I so choose.

5. Earning potential

Full-time employees are often dissatisfied with what they are paid. Becoming a solopreneur is an opportunity to break free from the limited income shackles.

As a solopreneur, you can make what you’re worth. Yes, it may be challenging when you first start out. But once your business is established, your earning potential has a very high ceiling. You can set your preferred rates and bring new clients on board to boost your income when you choose.

6. New skills

To succeed as a solo business owner, you must become a master of all trades/skills. As you come up against new problems in business, you’ll need to solve many of them yourself. As a result, you’ll find that constantly reskilling and upskilling will become second nature to you.

For example, I built my own website when starting out. I am not a developer or web designer, but I taught myself the basics well enough to create a functioning WordPress site.

By the way, freelancing is one of the most popular ways to go solo. More on this below. If you’re interested in why so many choose to become freelancers, check out our article on 7 Advantages of Being a Freelancer.

7 essential qualities of successful solopreneurs

If you study successful solopreneurs, you might find that they all have certain personality traits and qualities in common. Some of these include:

Passion

Business owners are passionate people. In the absence of business partners or co-founders, solopreneurs need to be their own cheerleaders. Passion is often that cheerleader. A passion for your cause or for the work you do will make your work more enjoyable. Even when your business is new and not making an income yet, you need passion to fall back on.

Determination

Of course, passion alone won’t get you through. As a solopreneur, you must be determined to make a success of yourself. There will be hard days and times where you get rejected—especially if you are a newbie. For example, you may send out several proposals to clients and hear nothing back. Don’t give up. Instead, learn about how you can craft better proposals. Think about how you can stand out further. Use these learnings to send out better-crafted proposals next time. A determination to succeed despite the initial rejections and failures will get you through those hard days.

Creativity

Now don’t be fooled. Just because your business isn’t in a creative field doesn’t mean you’re not creative! Solopreneurs are creative people. You may be flexing your creative muscles without even realizing it. From pitching your business to new clients or designing product packaging, creating customer engagement campaigns, or coming up with a new service offering—it all requires creativity.

Self-motivation

As a solopreneur, it’s on you to motivate yourself to work, learn, and grow every day. No boss is compelling you to show up. You need to crack that whip daily and show up for yourself. The most successful solopreneurs are self-motivated and have an incomparable work ethic. Without this, your business may never take off.  

Organization

One of the most critical life skills solopreneurship has taught me is organization. As a solopreneur, you will have lots of big and small things on your plate. You will have clients, tasks, emails, phone calls, and more vying for your attention. Without being organized, you will likely miss deadlines and opportunities. I use my diary, task management tools, and my calendar to keep my day-to-day organized.

Tech-savviness

Modern businesses rely on technology. To be successful as a solopreneur, you must be tech-savvy. This isn’t really an option. It’s a must. You must be able to keep up with your work on multiple devices when needed. Additionally, you must learn and use all the business tools that will help grow and run your business. You don’t have to learn to code, but you must be tech-savvy enough to troubleshoot fundamental tech issues you will inevitably come up against.

Adaptability

Your business plans will likely change. Your business may have to go down a different path. Adapting to changes quickly and continuing to grow your business is an underrated but essential quality for solopreneurs. Being open-minded and adaptable to any changes that come along will ultimately make you a more resilient business owner.

9 keys to becoming a successful solopreneur

Let’s get down to business. How exactly do you become a solopreneur—and a successful one at that? In this section, we break down the nine key areas new and aspiring solopreneurs should focus on.

1. Choose a business idea

Every business was once someone’s idea. What’s yours?

Start by reviewing your existing skillset. What skills do you already have that could be useful in business? You could use your in-demand skills to start a business as an independent professional. Or, you could put your skills to work to create a different kind of business if you prefer.

Consider if the business idea is realistic. We all have ideas that are too out there to actually work in the real world. Also, consider if the idea is practical for a solopreneur. Some ideas may work if you have a team but will be much harder to execute solo.

Research the market demand for your business as well. Is there a need for the product or service you’d like to offer? Who is your target audience/customer?

Also, make sure to check if you have any competitors. If you do, get an idea of what they’re doing so you can refine your own idea and do it better.

This step might take a while to get clear on. That’s fine. You may need to reiterate your original idea a few times before you get started. However, a word of warning on someone who is perpetually second-guessing herself—don’t get stuck in this phase forever.

It’s tempting to want to “perfect” your idea before you get started. But overthinking your biz idea could mean holding yourself back from getting started at all! Been there, done that. Guilty as charged.

After you do your basic homework and research, consider your business idea good to go. Just start. As you work on your business, you will gain more clarity on it. It’s better to get started and refine your business plan as you learn.

Besides, remember what we mentioned above? One of the key benefits of being a solopreneur is that you are free to change and pivot as often as you please.

2. Test your business

Don’t jump into business without first testing out your idea. Even if it seems like the best idea ever—testing is good business sense.

Start testing your business in the real world. Some questions to ask yourself in this experimentation phase could be:

  • Are customers and/or clients responding to your product or service?
  • How are you performing against your competition?
  • Is there likely to be enough demand long-term?
  • Is there anything you could do differently?
  • How will you grow your business after the initial phase?

Testing also involves testing yourself. Are you cut out to be a solopreneur? Test yourself before going all in.

If you currently have a day job—don’t quit just yet. Start running your business on the side. Get your feet wet. Learn what it takes to be a solopreneur. This testing period will give you an insight into whether solopreneur life is for you.

3. Build your brand

With a tried and tested business idea in hand, it’s time to now build your solopreneur brand. This is an essential part of the business-building process.

Like most businesses, your brand is made up of your name, logo, design, choice of colors, and other visual elements. However, as a solopreneur, you are also your brand. The experience you provide your clients or customers will also create your brand identity.

When building your solopreneur brand, ask yourself key questions such as:

  • What do I represent?
  • What do I want to achieve as a brand?
  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • Why should a client/customer choose me over a competitor?

Answering these questions will help you get clear on your brand before marketing it to the world. For more advice on brand-building, check out our guide to building a brand strategy.

Part of building your brand also involves creating your online presence. This includes:

  • Your website
  • Your social media pages
  • Your Upwork profile (if you are an independent professional)
  • Your professional email address

Your brand creates the first impression about your solo biz. It tells potential customers and clients who you are and what you do. Take the time to review and optimize your brand to showcase your business value and how you help clients.

4. Analyze and learn from your experiences

As your business starts to grow, it’s important to take the time to stop and take a breath sometimes.

Stop and objectively analyze how your business is performing. Be honest with yourself! Ask yourself key questions such as:

  • What is working well?
  • What is not working well?
  • What areas require improvement?
  • Is the price point working for your clients/customers?
  • What are clients/customers saying about their experience with you?
  • Are you making enough income?
  • Are you staying on budget with business expenses?
  • Is the business sustainable in the long term?
  • Are you getting enough downtime?
  • Do you need to invest in any further resources such as new skills or tools?
  • How do you measure success?

It’s very easy to get lost in your business’s day-to-day, especially in the early days. However, if you don’t stop to analyze your business periodically, you will never learn what’s working and what’s not. You will miss opportunities for growth and improvement. You will also miss opportunities to congratulate yourself on the wins you’ve had!

If you feel things are going well, for the most part, you can start thinking about how you can grow your business further. However, if there is plenty of room for improvement, hit the brakes for now. Focus your energy on improving these areas before you move forward. Carefully monitoring and analyzing your business will help ensure your business grows in a focused and sustainable manner.

5. Be open to new opportunities

As your business grows, the original vision you had may evolve into something else. This is natural and more common than you may realize.

Market demands might change. Your own interests and skills may grow and evolve too. Your original idea may fail, but a new, different business idea may work better. That’s ok.

Be open to change. Don’t block yourself off from new opportunities just because they don’t match your original vision or business plan. Be willing to adjust your vision, your priorities, and your business goals. This is especially common in the early days of business. However, don’t be surprised if things continue to evolve over the years.

I started my solopreneur business as a copywriter. Over time, I noticed a client need for social media marketing expertise. I upskilled and changed my business to offer social media marketing and management services.

I did this for several years until the start of 2020. I decided it was time for me to come back to writing—my first love and original passion. I noticed a change in the industry as well. There is now a greater demand for good writers and better pay for quality writing. So I changed my business and started from scratch—again.

Change is inevitable in life and business. Don’t be afraid to pivot when necessary. As a solopreneur, you have the flexibility and freedom to make changes quickly. Embrace this and stay open to new possibilities.

6. Automate where possible


As you settle in for the long haul in business, it’s time to put systems and processes in place for your business.

Automation can be a massive help to a solopreneur trying to juggle myriad responsibilities in their limited time. Offload your repetitive, time-consuming tasks and make room for more productive work.

Consider some of these ideas to automate tasks and processes and make your solo business more efficient.

  • Invest in tools that make business easier.
  • Use software to schedule your social media posts.
  • Make use of bookkeeping/accounting software.
  • Set up cloud-based backup for your data.
  • Implement appointment scheduling software.
  • Put templates to work where possible.
  • Automate the lead generation process.
  • Set up email autoresponders.

In addition to task-specific software (e.g., Buffer for social media scheduling), you can also make other automation tools. Zapier and IFTTT are two popular tools that can connect different apps and tools to help automate some tasks.

7. Maintain work/life balance

As a solo business owner, you’re running the show yourself. No doubt your plate is going to be full. There will undoubtedly be some long nights and many a weekend lost in work.

It’s a rite of passage—especially when you are just starting. However, you have to be careful not to overdo it, or you will burn out. That’s not a position any solo business owner wants to find themselves in.

It’s a bit of a catch-22 sometimes. Solopreneurs thrive because of their passion for their work. But this passion can lead to an obsessive desire and drive to work continuously. A Harvard Business Review study found that “entrepreneurs who reported high scores of obsessive passion were more likely to say they experienced burnout.

The effects of burnout can be devastating. Solopreneurs become exhausted by their business and sometimes give up on it altogether. Worse, it can affect your physical and mental health. To avoid this, solopreneurs should make work/life balance a priority.

Having burned out several times throughout my solopreneurship journey, I now have set some strict rules for myself to make sure my work and life are more balanced. This includes habits such as working strict hours during the week, spending time outdoors, reading and exercising daily. I also like to cook to disconnect from work and channel my passion and creativity differently.”

Wanting to succeed in business is excellent! But keep an eye on your wellbeing in place. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance will pay off in the long run. Taking breaks from your business—no matter how much you may love it—will enable you to come back to it with a refreshed mind.

8. Network with other solopreneurs

Life as a solopreneur can feel lonely sometimes. If no one in your personal network is also running a solo business, it can be hard for them to understand your experience.

Make an effort to network with other solopreneurs. Often, they will be the only ones who can relate to the ups and downs of solopreneurship. Plus, adding other solopreneurs to your network could also help grow your own business. You could collaborate with them on projects. They may even recommend you to their clients for future projects.

Network in person when possible but remember virtual networking and building relationships online work just as well. Here are some ways you can start to build your network—in person and online:

  • Interact with other solopreneurs on Twitter.
  • Get active on LinkedIn
  • If you’re an independent professional, meet other professionals in the Upwork Community.
  • Ask people you know to connect you with other business owners.
  • Attend online events and interact with other attendees.
  • Join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  • Organize a local meetup.
  • Join a coworking space.

Meeting and interacting with other like-minded business owners who “get you” is a key reason so many solopreneurs choose to build their networks. It makes you feel less isolated. It’s comforting to know that while you may be a solo business owner, you’re not on this journey alone.

9. Don’t try to do it all

Sales, business strategy, marketing, accounting, web designing, customer service, and then there’s your actual work too. Doing all of this (and more!) as a solopreneur can start to feel overwhelming. For me, it’s often felt like being on an endless hamster wheel of tasks to do.

But here’s something I realized—you’re allowed to ask for help! Yes, you’re running a business solo. This doesn’t mean you have to try to do it all alone. There are plenty of other solopreneurs out there who can help you do the things you don’t enjoy and aren't skilled at. Your time is better spent focusing on the things you are good at!  

For me, this meant giving up control over my business accounting. I was awful at it yet persisted with it. Don’t ask me why! This year, with limited time on my hands, before I had to file my taxes, I hired a bookkeeper on Upwork.  She helps keep my business books up-to-date. She certainly understands numbers a lot better than me as well! This has been an enormous load off my shoulders and makes tax time a lot less stressful.

From one solopreneur to another—get the help you need. Don’t try to do it all. Free up your time and focus on more productive work instead.

3 online business options for newbie solopreneurs

Excited about becoming a solopreneur but unsure what business you could start? Here are three business ideas we think are ideally suited for newbies. Of course, these aren’t the only business options for new solopreneurs. However, these are great jumping-off points as these businesses have a low barrier to entry and are relatively simple to start for most people.

Freelancing

Many solopreneurs start out as freelancers. Upwork’s 2020 Freelance Forward Report found that 36% of the U.S. workforce is currently freelancing in some capacity. Of those who quit their full-time job to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer.

Freelancing is a lucrative choice for solopreneurs. As an independent professional, you can build a business offering your skills as a service to clients. Clients are looking for successful freelancers to solve their problems across almost every industry, job, and skill set.

Start by taking a good look at your existing skillset. Identify skills that are not only interesting to you but also in high demand. Some popular freelance business options include:

Once you’ve chosen your skills, you can create your profile on Upwork, set up your website, and start looking for new clients and projects. Here are some more resources you may find helpful as a new independent professional:


A freelance business is a great business option for solopreneurs as it allows you complete freedom to work on your own terms. You can do the work you want when you want, wherever you want.

E-commerce

Starting an e-commerce store is another excellent option for aspiring solopreneurs. Whether it’s selling digital products on Etsy, or physical products on Amazon, or your own e-commerce site—setting up an online store is much simpler than you may realize.

Many e-commerce solopreneurs also choose to go down the dropshipping route. It’s a newbie-friendly way for solopreneurs to get started with e-commerce. The dropshipping model doesn’t require much investment in stock or much experience to get started.

Many solopreneurs start out their e-commerce businesses on their own to keep things lean. If things start to go well, you can always add team members and transition from solo to entrepreneur.

Blogging

Blogging has been around since the early internet days. Professional bloggers create an income from their blogs through advertising, sponsorships, selling products, and affiliate marketing.

If you like to write or are an expert in a particular niche—professional blogging may be the perfect business choice for you. Note that most bloggers don’t generate income straightaway. It can take months or years to generate traffic and build up a community. So if you choose to start a blog to make money, know that you must be in it for the long haul to see results.

Get started today

More control over the work you do, a flexible lifestyle, better job satisfaction, higher income potential, and the potential for location independence. Solopreneurship ticks a lot of “dream job” boxes. The appeal is easy to understand.

Solopreneurship can be rewarding and exciting. It’s an opportunity for ambitious professionals to set up a new business—entirely on their own. So if you’ve always wanted to be a business owner—don’t hold yourself back anymore.

You don’t need a business partner. You don’t need a complex business plan. You just need to start. Your existing skill set can be a great starting point for your new solo biz. Sign up for a freelancer account on Upwork to begin building your solopreneur business as an independent professional.



Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Author Spotlight

What Is a Solopreneur? Basics, Ideas, and How To Become One
Radhika Basuthakur
Content Writer

Radhika is a self-confessed word nerd and content expert with over 15 years of experience writing content for businesses around the world. She is a cheerleader for flexible work, a passionate world traveler, and spends her free time alternating between a good book and a good hike.

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