The types of solopreneurs we now have in the market are almost as many as the people we have on the planet. It appears unfashionable, it seems, to call yourself a “businessperson” anymore. You have to be some kind of “preneur”! But jokes aside, with a huge upsurge in entrepreneurship and business start-ups in the past few years, it’s evident that having just a single one-size-fits-all description of solopreneurs is no longer adequate.
It would be wrong to make any kind of sweeping generalizations about all solopreneurs, and it also seems wrong to assess their goals and challenges with the same yardstick. There are at least 5 clear types of solopreneurs – differentiated by their reasons for being attracted to solopreneurship, the bottlenecks they face, and their expectations of success from having a solopreneur business.
#1: The Homepreneur
Who is the “homepreneur”? What are his/her success goals in a solopreneur business?
Homepreneurs are typically defined as those who want to quit 9-to-5 jobs, or those who have no job at all, who want to work from home as opposed to going out to an office elsewhere for work. This could be due to many reasons. The sheer flexibility of lifestyle that a “homepreneur” has or wants could include: working at one’s own pace, working in one’s own space, being as clumsy or disorganized as one wants, looking as dishevelled as one wants at work times; working odd hours and even into the dead of the night; wanting to be around family while at work; wanting to be around no co-workers while at work …
Chances are great that homepreneurs value “home working benefits” more than they just value the money and profits from the business. Homepreneurs could include Mompreneurs (see the next section) who, willy-nilly, have to work from home because they may have children to care for. Homepreneurs could also include a number of solopreneurs who want to be productive while also being caregivers for the elderly in the family, or sometimes, because they are themselves “differently-abled” and need to have a workspace suited to their mobility needs.
What are the major challenges of the “homepreneur”? How can these limitations be busted?
There are pluses and minuses to this whole situation, however. You can be disorganized and dishevelled and work at odd hours, for sure, but you can’t start going too crazy that you produce no work output at all. Like all great artists sometimes say that “chaos begets creativity” maybe you belong to the brigade that needs a bit of of chaos to unleash your creative juices. But lethargy is no good, and so is lack of elementary self-discipline. There has to be some method in the madness to produce consistent results.
A solopreneur business is, alas, not like a painter’s life. You can’t produce a masterpiece one day and then spend 30 more days waiting for the next big inspiration. You can be as disorganized as you please outwardly, but you do need to be mentally organized so your thought-leadership in visible in your work … and your crazy hours of work cannot disrupt the concept of regularity of output and sustained business momentum.
#2: The Mompreneur
Who is the “mompreneur”? What are his/her success goals in a solopreneur business?
“Mompreneurs” by name are clear … these types of solopreneurs are usually mothers of young children who’d like to run businesses from home, for the convenience of managing their kids and their businesses. If you really like to give yourself, as a mompreneur, an ego boost you can go for the Investopedia definition that sounds lofty: “Mompreneurs are a relatively new trend in entrepreneurship, and have come to increase prominence in the internet age, with the internet allowing entrepreneurs to sell products out of the home rather than relying on foot traffic to brick-and-mortar business.” Wow, that sounds good!
But here’s a caveat: a “mompreneur” can well be a “dadpreneur” and what’s more, dadpreneurs are fasting outstripping mompreneurs in their speed of joining the race, according to some research. It appears that a whole lot of more dads are opting to be the partners working from home. In a couple of interviews I read recently, some dads have said that some sort of home-based business is a must-do for stay-at-home dads – for both income and for sanity!
What are the major challenges of the “mom-or-dad-preneur”? How can these limitations be busted?
Both mompreneurs and dadpreneurs have an identical issue to grapple with: it’s not about just the convenience or chaos of running business from home, there is the added issue of frequent distractions at work. Working from home has its advantages of being near family, but it can also mean that family always has to get priority since most kids’ problems invariably demand “immediate attention”. This leaves most mompreneurs and dadpreneurs with a fractured attention span most of the time, and frayed nerves as well.
To keep focus on work, scheduling is the number one key. Moms and dads who are solopreneurs absolutely have to find islands of uninterrupted time (when kids are asleep, or at school etc.) to give themselves opportunity for concentrated work. The question is: will this time schedule suit the mom’s or dad’s body clock? Most parents working from home think hiring childcare help is a heavy cost-burden, but if you’re serious about business and really can’t find time enough for isolated, focused work, then childcare has to be factored in as one of the non-negotiable costs of the business. It’s either the cost of the extra help, or it’s the cost of your sleep, health and energy and the inability to get some financially-productive work done.
#3: The Propreneur
Who is the “propreneur”? What are his/her success goals in a solopreneur business?
“Propreneurs” are the class of solopreneurs who are “professionals”, who want to market themselves not merely by their professions but by their individual authority in their professions. They seek to break out of their generic work classifications and be seen as “people-brands”. Among this class of solopreneurs you can count consultants of all types: chartered accountants, lawyers, management consultants, web strategists, business coaches. Earlier we used to call them “self-employed professionals” – which sounded generic. But with the new “preneur” culture, they have decided to sound more modern and with it by calling themselves “propreneurs”.
What sets propreneurs apart from other solopreneurs is that they use their websites and blogs to acquire clients, manage their referral networks, sell their publications or video courses, do project management, or do customer relationship management. They are “solution-providers” to individuals and organisations that require loads of valuable information, plus also some form of mentoring or project assistance.
What are the major challenges of the “propreneur”? How can these limitations be busted?
In fact, when we say “solopreneurs”, don’t most of us picture these “propreneurs” in our minds as the most typical class of solo businesspeople online? The Internet seems to just the right model for the working style of these professionals. The Internet is where they can build authority, thought-leadership and brand eminence through content marketing. They can publish a lot of papers and credentials. They can also showcase testimonials and case studies. Since they get customers and clients primarily from projection of their personal brands, the other ways to project themselves would be through “email marketing”, “influencer marketing” and “social media marketing”.
The biggest challenge that propreneurs face is to be always seen as ahead of the crowd. They need to stay at the cutting edge of business – through a lot of sharp online reading – and they need to be seen sharing a lot of analytical insights with their potential and current clients. It also helps to be part of large forums, apex bodies and groups online – and to engage actively in discussions in these places. To be above the market actually, and to be visibly seen as above the market, are both critical to business success.
#4: The Sidepreneur
Who is the “sidepreneur”? What are his/her success goals in a solopreneur business?
The “sidepreneur” classically is a person who wants to be a solopreneur on the side, while holding a full time job. Why would someone want to do this much of extra work and take risks with solopreneurship when he is already well-occupied and well-paid? There are lots of reasons: some people want to earn extra income; others who feel their day jobs don’t really allow self-expression of their passions may be tempted to sidepreneurship; and then there are also others who may feel the need to navigate the risky landscape of solopreneurship in slow stages, by becoming a sidepreneur first, and then graduating into full-time solopreneurship.
People who opt for sidepreneurship are always fairly sure they have enough energy to be doing a full day’s work on their main jobs, and then also attending to their sidepreneuring after work or late into the nights. In this category of solopreneurs there are a number of students and millennials also, especially those with an ambition to be the next tech-millionanaires straight after university.
What are the major challenges of the “sidepreneur”? How can these limitations be busted?
The main challenge for a sidepreneur, I should think, is the question: “What if you never want to become a full-time solopreneur and always want to be a “sidepreneur” i.e. one with two jobs on all the time?” Yes, there are people who opt to be like this, and Ryan Cote is one of them. In his article “Welcome to Sidepreneurial” he explains how he has managed to make his main job and his sidepreneurship so synergistic that one job enhances the other and thus gives him twice the satisfaction.
“I have a full-time career that I love and that has enormous growth potential. I work in my family’s print and digital direct marketing agency that was started in 1966 by my grandfather’s brother. Company name is Ballantine and currently my two brothers work with me and my father and uncle own the business. I’m very fortunate to have this career that I enjoy, and one that is full of opportunity. But I’m also a passionate sidepreneur. I started a service based side business and that’s been my side hustle ever since. It started out offering just link building to small businesses. But it’s evolved into WPamplify, where I help small businesses using WordPress with full-service SEO including on-page optimization, link building and blogging. In fact, the business and client skill sets I learned from running my side business gave me the confidence to propose to my dad and uncle that we do the same thing at Ballantine, but for larger clients!”
#5: The Gigpreneur
Who is the “gigpreneur”? What are his/her success goals in a solopreneur business?
Kirsten Trusko in her article “The “Gig” Economy” succintly describes the “gigpreneur” and the burgeoning “gig economy”:
“The definitions of the “gig economy” vary, but generally state that it’s the growing trend of what used to be called “freelancers”. But now dramatic growth is fueled by technology and connectivity that empower individuals to become their own small business, working part to full time, using their own assets and skills (e.g. car, vacant apartment, clothing, expertise, etc.). With companies like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Etsy, AirBnB, UpWork, Freelancer, Tradesy, plus many more and growing – consumers can leverage what they have or know, to be an entrepreneur, in some cases at a scale and profitability that enable them to turn a part time interest into full time work.
Freelancers – or “gigpreneurs” – are also often referred to as “micropreneurs”, because their businesses are really small to start with, and generally use their talents, skills or experience in specific task-jobs. They are also people who don’t necessarily aim high in income or profits. Theirs is a very “life-sufficiency” based economic model where they see themselves as earning enough to pay the bills and have a little over, but also have the independence to think of themselves as their own bosses and masters of their own time.
What are the major challenges of the “gigpreneur”? How can these limitations be busted?
Most gigpreneurs enrol themselves on forums or job-sites and take up tasks or work based on a bidding or mutual negotiation basis – where the competitive price-benchmarking is fierce, and testimonials of past clients matters a lot. It is a hard-fought business territory with a lot riding on “reputation”. Since the whole gigpreneur model is a very price-sensitive one, the more successful gigpreneurs would be those who try to beat the competition by refusing to play the price-game and by raising their “positioning”. For example, here is a statement by Eric Fadden, a gigpreneur who is a freelance writer – and one who clearly uses his talent to sell his own case beautifully.
“I spend my time figuring out how to become more valuable to my clients. Rather than talking about the weather while I wait for the Lean Cuisine that I pulled out of a disgusting shared freezer to finish microwaving, I’m figuring out new ways to make my clients successful. I compete on value, not on price and, as a result, have been repeatedly tasked with “fixing” work that other, low-priced bargain basement freelancers screwed up. At times, I’ve been able to do things that a company’s full-timers simply couldn’t make happen.”
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
This is Article 1 in our “Contented Solopreneur Guide 1: Are you ready to be a solopreneur?”