An entrepreneur is someone who, by definition, “organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.” Interestingly, The American Heritage Dictionary 4th edition doesn’t have an entry for “solopreneur.” That surprised me since the term is widely used for individuals, like me, who are their businesses.
Ready to go solo?
I did—four times—and sometimes with two at the same time: (Egad!)
- Lennon Management Associates—specializing in veterinary practice management consulting (5 years)
- Holly Run Farm, Inc.—race and show horse breeding, racing/showing, and sales (20 years)
- Special Collections for Horsemen—equine art, antiques, and collectibles sales (10 years)
- Big Picture Consulting—career and business coaching for individuals and small businesses (the remaining one, 2002-present)
I knew nothing about owning a business before I started. Each venture was an education on how small business works. Those were the easy lessons.
The real challenge was learning how to be in business by myself.
Most of us who start solo businesses are focused on the “fun stuff.” We figure we’ll just announce our offerings and customers/clients will start calling. When they do, we’ll eagerly deliver our advice, services, or products. How complicated can it be? It’s just us doing what we do best.
Well, as the line goes, if owning your own business were so easy, everyone would be doing it.
Whether you plan to walk away from a steady job or keep it for a while (I was glad I waited) to start your solo business, take time for this self-assessment. It’s not all the questions you should ask but a good start.
A Self-Assessment for Solopreneurs
After each question, write your answers in clear detail. (Wishful thinking doesn’t cut it!)
- What services and/or products will I offer at launch?
- Who is my target market? What will they pay?
- How will I contend with my competitors?
- Am I business fit? Do I have the business skills and knowledge I need for:
- Goal-setting, tracking, and performance analysis
- Sales and marketing
- Customer service, problem solving, troubleshooting
- Recording keeping—financials, files, client/customer accounts, vendor agreements
- Communications, planning, organizing, priority setting
- Social media tools, outlets, and channels
- How much revenue must the business generate to cover my business expenses and support me? By when?
- Is it more prudent to start this business as a sidelight or just go for it?
- Do I have enough money to invest to get off to a good start?
- What’s my fallback position if the business isn’t successful?
- Why am I doing this?
- Do I have the personal discipline to manage every workday effectively, including the ability to:
- Stay focused on priority work, not procrastinating?
- Develop/improve/deliver services and products?
- Make calls and meet with prospects?
- Handle administrative details?
- How will I handle disappointments? Success?
- How much alone time can I tolerate and still be productive/happy?
- What do I want from the business—money, personal growth, satisfaction, independence?
- Who is my professional team (i.e, accountant, IT support, VA, attorney)?
- Who is my support system—other entrepreneurs, mastermind group, confidants?
Don’t let your missteps get you down.
Each of my businesses brought in plenty of revenue but only the current one is truly profitable. When you ask a solopreneur how s/he’s doing, most will say “great,” although that may not mean profitable or even happy. So please don’t measure yourself against success illusions others put out there.
It’s important to start your business with boundless optimism: That’s what helps you slog through the bad times. Reality can quickly take the shine off a dream, but hard work and perseverance can restore it. Being a solopreneur can be a great ride. So hold on and feel the energy.
How about taking some time this week to complete that self-assessment? Or share it with an entrepreneurial friend. It may be just what you need.