Solopreneurship is undoubtedly on the rise. In fact, nobody is surprised by that. It’s the speed with which solopreneurship is rising that’s the amazing story. What could be the causes? Experts believe that the economic downturn – of 2007-2009 – may have had a huge role in converting a lot of careerists into solopreneurs. People were laid off, fresh college graduates couldn’t land jobs in their preferred fields, and yes – there was lots of debt!
Sure, there’s been a recovery in the past few years, but it’s been a slow recovery. While the slightly older people are getting turned off the quality of traditional jobs available, the millennials are not even looking in that direction. The Internet economy beckons. Many careerists and graduates are tempted to start side-gigs – or even full-time solopreneur businesses – that they can do to their heart’s content and earn some money, rather than suffer a not-so-happy job. There are four clear reasons why the solopreneurship option is getting so hot …
More people getting into solopreneurship means lower risks for all, and more market support
In any market, the early adopters take all the risks of business. The people who come in later, convinced by the successes of the early adopters, may come in such large numbers, that the very size of their market expands and eliminates most of the risks for them.
This is exactly what has happened to solopreneurs. Those who entered the solo online business idea, early on, had to worry about whether they could manage their businesses single-handed – and learn all that they had to know before they could implement strategies. But when these early entrants started projecting some dazzling success stories, hundreds and thousands – and now millions – of confidence-laden solopreneurs have sprung up online.
The advent of these larger numbers of solopreneurship-aspirants has ensured that there is now a great deal of knowledge all over the Net, to be got free or to be paid for via easy-pricing. There are also hundreds of tools making life easier for these solopreneurs to manage all ends of their businesses, on their own without staff. Automation has further taken much of the workload off solopreneur shoulders – and in case human help is needed, there are again hundreds of outsource workers available as virtual assistants for every possible kind of entrepreneurial task.
Today, when someone thinks of becoming a solopreneur, they don’t have to worry about the learning curve being too steep, or the work becoming too overwhelming. But there is still one thing to worry about: the competition. Because, so long as a market is growing in leaps and bounds, all kinds of assistance services, tools and resources will become easily available. But so will the competition!
The challenge changes from one of risk-management and hard learning, to one of strategic innovation to get the competitive edge.
The professional culture of solopreneurship is gaining eager followers by droves
The lifestyle of the solopreneur was first introduced to most of us by Tim Ferriss in his book “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”.
This is how the book, when first launched, described its approach:
“Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint. This step-by-step guide to luxury lifestyle design teaches:
- How Tim went from $40,000 per year and 80 hours per week to $40,000 per month and 4 hours per week
- How to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want.
- How blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs.
- How to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist.
- How to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements”.
So many thousands of solopreneurs have emerged after reading this book, and they have quite admirably ferried themselves across to the “4-Hour Online Paradise of Passive Incomes”. Now Tim Ferriss has had to add “more than 100 pages of new, cutting-edge content” because his followers have started playing the new games of the evolving Internet and are facing slightly different kinds of challenges than before. So the new parts of the book now address issues like these:
- More than 50 practical tips and case studies from readers (including families) who have doubled income, overcome common sticking points, and reinvented themselves using the original book as a starting point.
- Real-world templates you can copy for eliminating e-mail, negotiating with bosses and clients, or getting a private chef for less than $8 a meal.
- How Lifestyle Design principles can be suited to unpredictable economic times.
- The latest tools and tricks, as well as high-tech shortcuts, for living like a diplomat or millionaire without being either.
If the solopreneur life culture needed any validation, Tim Ferriss (and many others after him) have evangelized the “laptop lifestyle” so much that it is now high among the choices, that older and younger people alike think of, when planning their work and careers. Solopreneurship is no longer a poor cousin to a career in a job … it is as shiny, if not shinier, than a job!
The trend of solopreneurs serving solopreneurs is driving a sense of community bonding
Online, you will notice, that the landscape abounds with solopreneurs who have bonded themselves into loose but loyal communities. These solopreneur communities are at one level competitive – and at another level very “co-petitive” (i.e. they can be competing for the same audiences, or they are also each others’ audiences). I believe the word is “frenemies”.
The solopreneur fraternity is like no other … everyone celebrates success in any corner, because success somewhere is a pointer to potential similar success elsewhere too. Solopreneurs are also incredibly helpful folks, because everyone is essentially in the same boat. They have all seen that there is too much to read, to know and to learn online – and it’s impossible for any one solopreneur to do it all himself. On the other hand, “sharing knowhow” is a very much appreciated virtue, and through mutual sharing and the formation of “tribes of supportive solopreneurs”, they all gain shortcuts through the maze of the Internet.
As a solopreneur, you can join existing communities – or create your own tribe. How do you build a supportive tribe? Here’s some advice from PaidToExist, a website that advises you on how to live and work on your own terms:
“In order to build and lead a strong tribe, you need to have a vision for yourself and others to rally around. Others come to you for your vision because they either don’t have one, or because they believe in the compelling vision you stand for. Remember: The people in your community can only be as passionate about your cause as you are. Without this vision, it would be unlikely that many people would rally behind what you’re creating. They would go somewhere else or do their own thing. Please note that while it’s up to you to supply the vision, it has little to nothing to do with you. It’s about something bigger than you, and that is precisely why it fosters community. By putting a stake in the ground for what you believe in, you fashion a space for others to bond and connect around your core mission.”
Technology is making solopreneurship businesses more and more manageable and affordable
The online world typically attracts the “shoestring solopreneur” because the costs of starting a business online is a mere fraction of what it costs in the offline world. Previously, it used to be that the cost of entry into the online world was low, but if you needed outsource help in any area, in the shape of humans, the costs would skyrocket. Early solopreneurs would find that starting out or acquiring knowledge was very inexpensive. But the moment it came to requiring help from others (freelancers, mentors, coaches), budgets would run out, and so would the business. This was so till about twelve years ago … and then we got the blessing of “automation”.
With automation – and especially marketing automation – a small solopreneur-owned ecommerce store can almost do what the giant Amazon does to keep track of customers, give them lots of tender loving care, and sell more and more to them. All this kind of intensive customer service and back end administrative efficiency is now available in a “set-it-and -forget-it” technology-driven mode, that is both affordable and easy to install and run. With every passing day, competition among software and SAAS vendors is growing, bringing in more and more technological innovation and lower pricing.
The other big area of technological assistance to the solopreneur is from Big Data. What is Big Data? The dictionary defines it as “Extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.” In other words, technology is being driven on a lot of complex behavioral and transactional data collected from all across the online Universe.
Don’t get confounded by the definition, however. Here’s a very simple example of how it can be used in just one area of a solopreneur’s online business – for example, for adding to your social media fans. SocialQuant is one vendor, for instance, who uses Big Data collected from the whole universe of Twitter users. All you do is to give the tool a set of twenty keywords tightly matched to your business, and (hey, presto!) the tool helps you automatically follow highly-targeted Twitter users in hundreds – and they’ll follow you back in hundreds too. There are ever so many tools like SocialQuant now, using Big Data as their backbone to offer some very solopreneur-friendly and budget-friendly services. The beauty of this kind of technology is that there is very little hit-or-miss or trial-and-error in business. Precision targeting (in fact, precision in everything!) is taking all the risk out of solopreneurship!
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?”