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Taking the Leap Into Solopreneurship

My most recent post was titled, “Is Becoming an Entrepreneur Really That Risky?” This topic evolved from a question I received about the risks and uncertainties involved in becoming an entrepreneur after a 30-year career, as well as thoughts about possible economic trends to consider ahead of time. I would like to expand on this discussion and go deeper into the specifics of taking this leap.

Taking the Leap Into SolopreneurshipLet's look at the word solopreneur. We all know what it means to be an entrepreneur. The word solopreneur has a little different take on this meaning. A solopreneur is someone who takes their years of valuable experience (I like to think of it as years in R&D) and stops searching for traditional employment. They take those years of R&D, step out and make something happen. Let’s add this new word to our vocabulary. I think that from a business perspective, related to solopreneurship or entrepreneurship, it's also time to think of what new meanings there are to words like “safe,” “secure” and “risky.” What is a safe job? What is a secure job? What is risky? Is corporate America really safe? Is it really that secure? Is making a minimal investment in your future that risky?

Five, ten or fifteen years ago, an investment in an entrepreneurial or solopreneurial start-up meant tens of thousands of dollars. Now the investment is really very minimal, if anything. To answer this question about solopreneurship, here are five trends that we see for folks who may be considering this as a business strategy:

1.    Expense dollars vs. fixed costs: Business leaders and business decision makers are becoming very open to using expense dollars to get things done vs. fixed costs. This means that there is a huge trend of bringing in “just-in-time” talent to get a project done vs. leveraging payroll expenses or adding to payroll.

2.    Leverage talent for big projects: Businesses are willing to bring in just-in-time talent for significant projects and not just the little throw-away projects. During the recession, people needed to do more with less, so many very important projects were put on the back burner. Business owners are now starting to say, "Hey, it's time to pull these out and get them done.” If they bring in someone with 30-years of experience to get the project done, the ramp-up time is less. There may be little to no training costs and no residual expense, because once the project is complete, that talent goes away. There is a side benefit to businesses, as well. While they bring in a 30-year experienced person to handle a project, they are also getting knowledge capital to help train their new work force.

3.    Start-up investment is minimal to none: The barrier to entry for becoming this kind of solopreneur is nearly zero. Solutions 21 has been in business for nearly 20 years. In the beginning, we needed an office, computers, a fax machine, software support, etc. It was literally thousands of dollars just to get started. That simply isn’t the case anymore. The investment is minimal if not non existent, and you may already have it in your pocket. These days, a smart phone, getting cloud applications or bringing on virtual support may be all you need to get you there.

4.    The virtual workforce is now a reality: What I want to drive home is that 10 or 15 years ago, “working virtually” or “working out of your home office” really meant that you were unemployed, and not a consultant on your own. However, that’s just not the case anymore.

5.    Develop a network: For entrepreneurs or solopreneurs who are thinking about doing this, it used to be there was nowhere for you to connect with others. In this world of social media, you have the ability to reach out to like-minded individuals, and now you can develop a network. Join networks that allow you to talk and chat and bounce ideas off of other like-minded people. 

I think it’s time for us to look at words, the meaning of those words, and the emotion those words bring out. Think about becoming an entrepreneur or a solopreneur. Is it really as risky as you might think? And, on the other hand, is corporate America really as safe and secure as it once was?

Are you interested in learning more from Buddy Hobart? You can find more excellent advice right here on the Ex3 Matters website by reading our free eBook or taking advantage of the many free consulting resources we provide.