Recently, I met an absolutely wonderful solopreneur. We were talking about various challenges, about messaging in marketing, about pitching potential clients, and, as part of this back-and-forth conversation, I shared something about a difficult moment I experienced as a leader. This person’s demeanor changed instantly. “I don’t have a team. It’s just me. I’m still learning. Trying to get better at business.”
If it had been said with confidence it would be one thing. But it was said as an apology. As though, because this person was a solopreneur, that they wouldn’t have anything of value to contribute to our conversation.
So, to the solopreneurs who are finding themselves feeling like they're somehow less than others because they don't have a team, here’s some perspective on putting those thoughts aside and embracing the power of being a solopreneur.
Or at least it should be.
Denis Waitley said: “Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.”
I agree! We are all constantly learning.
Do you really think I know everything about business? No, of course not! I'm experienced. I have a lot of knowledge gained from doing and a lot from reading. I've put in more years into this.
So, yes, I know a lot and I've been a leader for a long time in various organizations, various types of leadership positions, various types of supervisory manager, managerial positions, executive positions. Which means I have done more and know more. But that doesn't mean I know everything and you have nothing to teach me because you don't have a team. Not at all. Maybe the questions you're going to be asking or the things you're wondering about, are going to force me to see things differently or force me to answer a question I hadn’t thought of.
That happens a lot during podcasts, which is one of the reasons I love guesting on podcasts and lives so much. They just put you on the spot. And that's great because it helps you think.
The reality of being in business is that you have to constantly be learning and growing and adapting. Clients change, environment changes, internal organizational composition changes.
Things that used to work 10 years ago may no longer be working. Maybe things that were working two years ago may no longer be working! There is that constant renewal, that constant learning. Let's briefly address what has happened fairly recently with the quiet quitting and great resignation and all those things. It's not necessarily new, but it is a lot more in our faces, in our ears than it used to be. Team members used to just accept that: “Oh, well, if I have a boss that's yelling at me, I guess that's the way it is.” They weren't happy about it back then, but they just figured that they had to put up with it if they wanted to keep their jobs. So this idea of: “Oh, well, because I don't have a team means I don't have anything to contribute to the conversation.” is inaccurate.
You've been a team member somewhere, surely at some point, you have a perspective. You remember how you felt. Just because you don't have a team right now doesn't mean you don't have anything to contribute to the conversation of leadership. It doesn't mean walking around, pretending you're an expert, but you can still contribute something and not apologize for it.
Even though I have decades of experience in various fields, I am still absolutely, totally learning every single day because I implement things. They don't always work, but I experiment. And it's that willingness to experiment that helps growth and that whole part about “I'm still learning, trying to get better at business.” Yeah, we all are! We're all trying to figure something else out. But you know what, keeping that in mind gives us humility and it opens us up to listening. Because if we walk around with the idea that we know everything and nobody can teach us anything, we're not open to feedback. We're not open to criticism. We're not open to listening to potentially better ideas because we think we know more than everybody else. So having that mindset of “I am still learning” is great. We are all still learning. Having more experience does mean that we have more or less to draw upon, but it doesn't mean we have nothing to contribute.
Being a solopreneur has unique advantages. One of the things is that you have control over your business. You're the one making the decision, setting the direction, executing the vision. And that gives you agility because while other organizations may have to go through: “Let me consult with this person, let me consult with that person, let me ask this other person.” You can act really quickly when necessary. You can adapt to meet a need super rapidly. And depending on the circumstances, this agility could give you a competitive edge.
Another thing is that since you have all that control, should you make some decisions that maybe don't work out, it doesn't impact an entire team. Your decisions typically will impact you.
That means there's less pressure when you're experimenting. Of course, as long as you have a financial safety net. I'm not saying that there are no consequences so whatever you want. No, of course not. Have that financial safety net – I do recommend keeping a safety net just in case! But overall, whatever your experiments will be, you can try things that may be more risky because if it doesn't work out, that's okay. You’ll pick yourself back up and try something else. That will often provide you with more flexibility because you don't have that extra accountability and responsibility to take into account.
Another way that you have more flexibility is that you have no team expecting you or waiting for answers from you. It's pretty much as long as the client work gets done on time, you can do almost whatever you want, whenever you want, whenever it's convenient for you.
As long as the quality is there and it meets the deadlines you promised, you can pretty much work whenever, whenever it suits you. You don't have team members that are expecting you to be there between certain times. They're expecting you to show up on days that you said you'd show up, be there to answer their questions, that potentially is blocking them until you provide them with that answer. You don't have any of that. So that gives you lots of flexibility.
Another aspect is that since you work directly with your clients, you have the opportunity to build deep and meaningful connections with them. I've said this before, if there are a hundred people between you and the client, it's really hard to create a deep, meaningful bond with them. But when you're a solopreneur and you're dealing directly with them, then every interaction you have has the chance to create a personal and genuine bond. You can provide an individualized experience that leaves a lasting impact. And your clients will appreciate the attention and care that you put into your work, and that will highly likely lead to stronger relationships and loyal customers.
So the question that you have to ask yourself is, are you being a solopreneur by choice?
Because if you choose to be a solopreneur, then there's no need to apologize. Actually, there's no need to apologize at any point, even if you are a small business growing. But don't have that demeanor. If you are a solopreneur by choice, you just have to ask yourself, is this what I want? Or do you want to grow your business to include a team.
If all you want to do is your work and not be bothered, maybe growing a team is not right for you. We have to dispel the myth that having a team is necessary for all businesses. You may want to bring in various individuals to help support you for sure, but it's not for everyone.
I was talking fairly recently with a very, very successful experienced solopreneur. And this person admitted that they used to have a huge team, but they chose to make the move from having a big team to becoming a solopreneur because just managing these large teams was extremely exhausting for them. This person didn't like it. That's okay. This person wasn't apologizing. It wasn't like: “Oh, it's a failure.” No, it's a choice. That person had decided, “You know what, having a team is not for me.” I'd much rather just do my thing and I'm happy with that. And that is perfectly fine. It does not mean, “Oh, my business is less successful because I choose to be a solopreneur.” It's whatever you define as success for your organization and for yourself as a human being. We always have to keep that in mind. I've talked about this in another episode. The idea that if you make a choice and you want to grow a team and then it's successful, but you didn't really want to do it in the first place, and you're a victim of your own success, and then you're unhappy, that's not good for anyone.
Just because you're a solopreneur, just because you choose to be a solopreneur doesn't mean you have to do everything alone. You can still collaborate with others. You can still outsource tasks that don't align with your strengths. You can partner with freelancers. You can partner with agencies to complement your skills and expand your capabilities. You can still do more by surrounding yourself with the right collaborators, but you're not responsible for the team the same way you are if there are your direct employees. And having those collaborators can help you focus on what you are best at while still delivering more comprehensive solutions to your clients.
I say it is time for a mindset shift. If you determine that you want to grow your business both in revenue and team members, then make a plan for that and start moving in that direction. Personally, I love having team members. I love that collaboration. I love that guidance, that elevation, that impact. For me, it's more about positive impact and how I can help others grow the way that I grew in the way that I was helped in the past through various positions and experiences.
You may decide that it is for you to have a team. That you're looking to have that impact, including by providing work to individuals who may be in other places. Maybe you provide them with an environment, a culture that is positive and uplifting, and you are actually changing lives.
Recently, I was speaking with the CEO of an organization that chose to go a hundred percent employee owned, and they are genuinely changing lives by doing it. By having individuals who would not be able to afford to expand their financials the way they can by being a part owner. It was absolutely inspiring and amazing. And so if you have this dream of expanding and elevating, then that may be the path for you and start moving in that direction.
But if you determine that you would rather remain a solopreneur and build your dream business by making decisions without compromise, be the sole beneficiary of your hard work then make a plan for that and continue moving in that direction.
And I want to be really clear here, I don't want it to come across as one option is selfless and the other is selfish.
It is not. Maybe you're deciding to be a solopreneur and get the benefits because you're the sole income earner for your family. Maybe your family needs you to be there more so you don't have the time that it would require to also lead individuals. There are many, many reasons why being a solopreneur is the right choice for you. It is not one better than the other. They are both extraordinary. They are both needed. If everybody wanted the same thing, then there wouldn't be enough variety. So it's wonderful that people have different ideas of what they need and what they want.
So either way, it is your choice and you should be proud of the work that you are doing as a solopreneur. It is also hard work. Being an entrepreneur period is hard work. It takes a lot of effort. It requires significant self discipline and self-motivation. And I would say that being a solopreneur, at times, can even be harder because no one is watching. You are accountable to yourself and responsible for your own success.
So remember that being a solopreneur also means that you get to reap all the rewards. Every milestone you reach, every client you make happy that's on you. And that experience gives you a unique perspective with unique insights that others are likely to benefit from.