We live in an era when an enterprising professional doesn't need an entire team to launch a startup. Working from your own home, you can set the wheels in motion, using a computer and all of the resources available online.
But a solopreneur needs more than technology to successfully turn his idea into a full-fledged business. Having the right personality to start with will improve your chances of success over the many long months ahead. I was a solopreneur for years before hiring my first employee and then eventually selling my company. Recognizing some of the traits will help you to know yourself a little better and work better with other solopreneurs.
You don't have to have all of these traits in spades, but realizing that they're important will help as you navigate the path to success. You may not be as outgoing as others in the field, for instance, but you may have a passion that shows through whenever you talk about your great product.
Here are 20 characteristics found in the most successful solopreneurs.
If you have nothing else, you should have passion for the work you're doing. That passion will show through every time you talk to someone about your business, prompting others to want to learn more about it. It will also carry you through numerous rejections and long hours of seemingly thankless work. Most important, though, if you enjoy what you're doing, your work will be mostly fun. Instead of chasing after the next big technological innovation, think about your own hobbies and interests and build a business that speaks to those.
Before you start, it's important to understand that you will experience failure. It's an inevitable part of running a business. You'll miss out on that great new contract or you'll be rejected by one investor after another. The key to success is to allow those rejections to strengthen your resolve to succeed. When you're determined to reach your goal no matter what anyone else says, no one can stop you.
If you've come up with an idea and put it in motion, chances are you're at least a little bit creative. You will call upon your creative nature repeatedly over the course of building and growing your business. You'll be creative in the way you approach pitching your product to a roomful of potential investors. You'll be creative in the way you position your social media campaign to stand out in consumers' newsfeeds. And, perhaps most important, you'll be creative in the design choices you make for your product packaging, logos, websites, and all of the other visual media you use to promote your business.
As a solopreneur, you won't yet have a team of specialists to help with everything from developing your app to creating an explainer video for your website. To be truly successful, you'll need to be versatile enough to handle a variety of tasks over the course of a day. You'll have to switch from networking at an event in the morning to buckling down to work on your website in the afternoon. You can outsource some of these duties but, since you're likely operating on a shoestring budget, the more tasks you can handle yourself, the more efficient you'll be.
5. Tech savvy
Today's solopreneurs are expected to seamlessly transition from one device to another. While you're at your desk, you'll probably work on a laptop or desktop, but in the field, you'll have to switch to a tablet or smart phone. (Everyone on my team at Due does this.) Not only does this mean being able to troubleshoot any problems that arise; it also means being able to perform actions like accessing documents while on the go and getting those documents to clients using the device you have on hand.
When you're a solopreneur, there's no one around to take responsibility for things. This makes you accountable for everything you do. You'll likely need to have a system in place to remind you to follow-up with clients to make sure critical tasks don't fall through the cracks. You'll also be expected to apologize when the time comes that you make a mistake or two.
Probably the most common word used to describe entrepreneurs is "confident." You have to believe in your mission even when everyone around you tells you it's crazy. While there is a time to perhaps listen to feedback and tweak your product accordingly, there's also a time to know that you just haven't hit your target market yet. A successful solopreneur has the confidence to keep going, knowing he's created a business that will take off in time.
It takes a great deal of courage to give up the security of a salaried job in favor of working long hours with uncertain outcomes. In fact, the most successful solopreneurs have risk-taking personalities that often make them a poor fit for the 9-to-5 environment. They might be found skydiving on weekends or challenging themselves to hike the highest nearby mountain. That courage translates well into the entrepreneurial environment, since successful business owners often must forego safety nets in favor of trying new things.
A solopreneur usually has limited resources, especially of a financial nature. Because of that, you have to learn to call upon a variety of affordable options to make your business happen. This may mean getting friends and family members to help out in the early days. You might also use tools like virtual assistants or outsource workers to get affordable, high-quality help. For example: I personally use Remote Interview to find the best tech talent. They are experts and know what they are doing. Be more resourceful in everything you're doing. There are also many technology solutions available to help you with everything from accounting to networking at a low monthly cost.
A solopreneur is the only worker in a business, which means you have to be counted on to be there, day in and day out. There are no sick days and you can't simply take an afternoon off whenever you're feeling down. Unfortunately, many solopreneurs find that they must often work even while they're sick, especially if the illness is the type that lingers on for days or weeks. Overall, though, you'll simply need to be mentally stable so that you can tackle the daily challenges of running a business.
Without some way to organize the many tasks you'll face on a daily basis, you'll likely find you consistently miss deadlines and disappoint the investors or clients who count on you. Luckily, you'll see that there are many tech tools available to help with this. Even with these tools to support you, you'll still need the mindset to be able to use them effectively and remind yourself to rely on them on a daily basis. The best list-making app is completely ineffective if you never use it.
Even with all of these other personality traits, a hefty dose of humility can't hurt. Confidence is a positive trait. Blind arrogance is not. Humility allows you to see the flaws in your own ideas, especially when they are pointed out by multiple potential customers, investors, or colleagues. You have to care enough about your business to constantly strive to make it better, and there's no better way to do that than to listen to feedback from impartial outsiders. When this humility is tempered by the confidence to believe in yourself despite those negative comments, it's the perfect combination.
Are you the type who makes friends everywhere you go? Then solopreneurship will work well for you. A large part of getting your business idea to connect is to share it with others. Your extroversion will serve you well as you attend networking events and interact with potential clients or customers. You'll also likely find yourself sharing your story with the friends you make along the way, leading to connections. However, you may face challenges in the loneliness the life of a solopreneur brings in the early days. To combat this, you may have better luck working in a coffee shop or co-working space at least part of the week.
If you're an introvert by nature, don't worry. That personality type can still work in your favor. Extroverts often have difficulty with the hours of alone time required of a solopreneur, but you'll have no problem spending hours at a time alone in your office. You can tackle the challenges of networking by following expert tips, which usually advise leaving the house to meet people on a regular basis. You can also utilize social media to meet others without venturing too far outside of your comfort zone.
15. Ability to strategize
Successful solopreneurs always think a few steps ahead, carefully planning each step they'll take. You'll need the ability to stop yourself when you feel yourself blazing forward so you can carefully plan things out. This planning phase is essential to succeeding. Not only will you need to know where you plan for your business to be in one year, five years, or longer, but anyone who partners with your business for any purpose will want to see this plan first, as well.
16. Financial savvy
Whether you're taking out a loan or using your personal savings to fund your startup, you'll need the ability to make a dollar stretch as far as possible. Even if your idea is the most innovative one to hit the market in years, you won't get far if you go broke in the first year. In addition to setting and keeping to a budget, you'll have to deal with keeping up with and paying taxes on a regular basis. Hopefully you'll have a tax preparer to help but even if you do, you'll have to handle tracking your income and expenditures throughout the year.
To truly get your business started, you'll have to convince the world you have something great. If you're a service-oriented business, you'll have to win and retain clients. If you manufacture a product, you'll need to convince consumers that they should buy it. Along the way, you'll have to convince investors or financial institutions that your business is a solid investment and, once you start building a team, you'll have to convince talented professionals to come work for you. Good sales skills are essential for building and growing any business.
If you're a "glass half full" person, your positive attitude will serve you well throughout the early days of building your business. When pessimists suffer setbacks, they may see it as a sign that they should quit. When an optimist has a setback, he'll see it as a sign that he should just try harder. Instead of dwelling on a rejection or a defect in the first prototype of your product, if you're an optimist you'll take a moment to sulk, then start figuring out what you're going to do to move forward.
Solopreneurs don't clock in at 8 a.m. and clock out at 5 p.m. As the sole team member in your new business, you'll have to be available, within reason, whenever your clients or investors need you. This will likely mean never going to lunch without taking phone calls every five minutes. You'll probably have calls at 8 o'clock at night, on weekends, and even on vacation. Your clients may understand if you occasionally need to check out to spend time with family, but if you are consistently unresponsive, you'll likely find that people get frustrated and stop doing business with you.
20. Negotiation skills
Negotiating is a fine art and you'll likely find yourself doing a great deal of it as you grow your business. You'll have to negotiate for more money from investors or less of a cost-per-unit from your product manufacturers. Sometimes even a 1-cent per-item savings can make a significant long-term difference in your business's operating budget, so it's important you know how to negotiate on the front end to get those deals. Harvard University has a series of reports on the art of negotiation that could help you learn to negotiate like the pros.
Solopreneurship is a rewarding, exciting opportunity available only to the most ambitious professionals. If you have the right combination of personality traits, you can excel as you build your new business on your own and quickly get to the point at which you can bring in a skilled team to help.