Being a solopreneur is tough. If you are in it because you think it might be cool or give you lots of time to take long vacations in the Bahamas, then think again.
Passion. Determination. Motivation
These are some essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs, especially those who run their businesses independently, i.e., solopreneurs.
It takes a special kind of person to become a solopreneur. But what exactly does “solopreneur” mean? Are you one? Could you become one? We’re here to help you find those answers.
Sue Allen is a mentor and coach to many solopreneurs in New York and the founder of the Solopreneur Academy. Enjoy the show!
Podcast with Sue Allen
Hi, guys, welcome to the business and remote work podcast brought to you by Wishup. Wishup is the fastest-growing remote workforce service provider, and I'm your host, Crispino, joined by co-founder of Wishup Neelesh Rangwani.
For today's episode, we have business coach, author, and founder of the solopreneur academy, Sue Allen, with us. So welcome to the show Sue, it's great to have you here with us.
Thank you so much for having me.
Awesome. All right. So let's just dive right into it. So, first of all, Sue, could you please define the term solopreneurs? So we know what we're talking about. Is there a difference between an entrepreneur and a solopreneur?
Such a great question. So first of all, solopreneur, a lot of people don't even know the term, but it was invented in the 80s, and it's kind of a mash-up of 'solo,' so someone who runs a business on their own, and entrepreneur, somebody who runs a business.
So it's somebody who really wants to operate their business without employees. So solo business, solopreneur, one-person business, all kinds of the same thing but there are actually some major differences between solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. First of all, doing the work.
So solopreneurs are people who want to do the work and want to continue doing the work. So that might be someone who's a writer or a graphic designer, or an attorney, and they just really like what they're doing, and solopreneurs also tend to not tend to consider, if I was to introduce myself, it would be based on the work I perform, not my business structure.
So nobody ever says Hi, I'm Sue. I'm a solo business owner, they say, Hi, I'm Sue. I'm a writer, I'm an attorney, whereas entrepreneurs may start as a solo business, but their goal is to hire employees and scale and delegate the tasks of their business.
So rather than somebody who enjoys cleaning houses, they want to be the next Molly maid kind of thing. So they may start out cleaning houses but not continue, and then, in terms of growing the business, solo business owners generally don't want more work than they can handle.
So if you're a plumber, you serve an area, you don't want to manage a team of plumbers, right, you just kind of want it to be you and not grow. Whereas entrepreneurs want to grow and scale, and so they are all about hiring other plumbers to do the work so they don't have to do it themselves, and then the third big difference is where you work.
So far, most businesses start in your house, or your garage, or your parent's garage, like Microsoft or Disney, or Amazon but solo business owners are generally happy to work from home and continue doing that. Whereas entrepreneurs because they want to grow, of course, not everybody's going to fit in their house.
So their goal is to really get out of their house and get a bigger facility so that they can scale.
Absolutely. Thanks for clearing that up.
I have a question about that. Can solopreneurs also be called as freelancers?
Yes. Freelancers, independent contractors now, you know, sometimes, like solo business owners, so if you were a, like a mechanic or a plumber, you probably wouldn't call yourself a freelancer, but anybody who's like a writer.
So Sue being an entrepreneur is tough, like we've already spoken about it in the episode, it might look really glamorous on Instagram, but you know, when you get to doing the work and the work that is involved, it's very difficult to manage all the different aspects of running a business, especially in the fields that you might not be an expert in. So how does one tackle the situation?
How does the solopreneur deal with these situations?
So you're really right, and the so first of all, just I have had so much experience trying to do things myself and failing, and one embarrassing story is that I was trying to add a form to my website, and this was several years ago, but to get people to sign up for my newsletter, it took me three weeks, and I still couldn't do it, and finally I hired I outsourced it, I hired a guy, it took him 15 minutes, he did it, it cost less than 50 bucks, right.
So one of the ways that you just deal with the massive amount of work is to outsource things that you aren't good at, don't know how to do, don't want to know, or shouldn't be doing.
So a lot of times, that's outsourcing your website stuff, what coding setup, you know, Webmaster things like setting up a form on your website, that kind of thing. A lot of people really struggle with creating content, they don't like to write, or they don't like to take photos, or they make crappy images.
So that's something again, if you don't do it, don't like doing it, outsource it. Bookkeeping and accounting are another area that takes up a lot of time, and a lot of people choose to outsource and then legal things, you know, writing your own contracts by watching YouTube videos is never really a good idea, and also things in your home that you can outsource that will make life easier.
So if you know, if you don't like cleaning your house, then hiring somebody to come in every week or two to vacuum or hiring a gardener, that sort of thing. So there is one thing that is really helpful is to outsource things that you don't want to do.
I do recommend that people learn enough that they can manage people. So for example, I am, I took a three-hour course in website security and cybersecurity in small businesses.
I am nowhere close to an expert, but that gave me enough information that I knew what I needed to do, and I knew what kind of person I would hire, and I knew what they could help me with. So that's really something that's helpful.
The same with accounting, like, nobody needs to go back to school to become a CPA or get a degree in accounting. But if you could take maybe a four-week course at your local college, just so you know the difference between assets and liabilities, and you kind of understand the basics.
If you have an accountant that will teach that to you, that just makes you so much more confident, and also there's a safety factor because you can when this person you hire who's an alleged expert says, Oh, well, you need to invest a million dollars in cybersecurity, for your business, you know, like, yeah, I don't think that's really true.
So hiring and outsourcing helps, and then the other thing I am a big fan of is creating checklists and documentation to help you run your business. So that every week when you go to write your newsletter, you're not reinventing the wheel and figuring out, Oh, what do I do here?
How do I add this image? What size is that? And so that just saves a lot of time because you have essentially a manual to help you run your business. So yeah, creating sort of procedures, operations, manuals, and then hiring people to help will make a big difference.
I have a question, a follow-up question on that. What kind of tasks should the solopreneur do themselves? And what are the tasks that they should absolutely not do themselves? Or delegate?
I think it depends on the solopreneur it also depends on your budget. You know, most people who start don't have a lot of money. So you're doing things like adding forms to your website because you just don't have the budget to hire somebody. But I think you need to outsource areas that are problems for you.
So, for example, if you are not doing your bookkeeping and you're not invoicing clients promptly, and you're late paying the IRS, that should definitely be outsourced.
If there are areas that cause you great stress, I had a coaching client, and she was just this brilliant illustrator and graphic designer, her work was amazing, and she wanted to send a newsletter to her clients every week.
Well, she hated writing, and we worked together for about two years, and every week, she would promise that she was going to do it, she would never send out her newsletter, it made her feel bad and affected her business.
That's the kind of thing that you just need to outsource. Because, you know, it's just not, it's not good for you mentally. The accounting answer to how you choose to outsource is that you look at your hourly rate.
So say you're earning $100 an hour as a writer, and then you look at what it would cost other people to do tasks and say it costs you $25 an hour to hire a virtual assistant, it just doesn't make financial sense for you to be making images in Canva, for your Instagram account, when you could be earning $100 and paying somebody else $25 to do it.
Then there are areas that are just straight out of your area of expertise, like, you know, preparing your taxes or creating a contract for somebody where you just really need the advice of experts.
So, essentially, what you're telling me is that anything that is worth less than your own time should be outsourced. Anything that is important but worth less than your own time should be outsourced.
Right, and also anything that is just a that just you find so demoralizing to do, you know that if you hate doing your bookkeeping, and you're putting it off, and it makes you feel like a failure or like, just get rid of that hire somebody that can do it. It's going to be faster, it's going to be cheaper, you can focus on other things, and you'll feel a whole lot better about your business.
Yeah, that's true.
Sue, I wanted to ask you, like, we've got an idea about the solopreneur kind of jobs that they do. But is it possible for a solopreneur to scale their business?
So, yes, completely, it depends what you want your business to look like. So solopreneurs grow by outsourcing to independent contractors using people like Wishup, and that is perfectly fine, and like encouraged, as I said, it's a great way to grow.
It really depends on what you want as a person. So you know, my background is in writing, I, as I said, I ran an accounting department, I know what it feels like to manage people, I don't want to manage people ever again.
So for me, and most solopreneurs, we really want to stay as the person who is doing the work we love in our business. But you can totally scale by hiring independent contractors, and, you know, if you're a business coach and you want to hire independent contractors to help build your coaching business, there is nothing to keep you from doing that.
It's just a personal choice and, you know, again, just looking at things that you're finding demoralizing, like if you're, for example, say you have a free Facebook group that you invite people to join, and that sucking up all your time.
By offloading that to an independent contractor while you're going to be able to take on more clients and do more of the work you love. So it's not really scaling in the way that you know, Jeff Bezos scale, but you certainly can be more productive and get more out of yourself if you're outsourcing and doing the work you like.
Yeah, I can add something here, Crispino, from our experience, so anything that requires the entrepreneur's time does not scale, right? So if your business requires your own time to deliver final value, the last outcome, then your business will not scale, right?
And that's the essential part of being a solopreneur, right, but if the end outcome can be generated by a machine, or can be generated by another person, or can be recorded by technology, or can be generated by money, then that business becomes scalable, right? So any business that requires the entrepreneur to give the end output does not scale
Yeah, I think that's true, and I think you can, so you can do things, so you got more time. What's that? You can do things.
I think there's a lag.
Okay, you can do things to free up your time, but you're absolutely right. Like there's only so much time one person has.
So, Sue, I wanted to ask you being a solopreneur can be very stressful, you know, at times, I tried my hand at it as well, and I was juggling two, three jobs, and I know how tough it was. So how does one balance their personal and work life being a solopreneur?
So that's a really good question, and I think it starts with your goals and what you really want balance in your life to look like, and that's gonna depend on the person. So if you're single, you, maybe you can work 80 hours a week, and you're absolutely fine with that.
If you just had, if you just had triplets, and you have like one-year-old triplets at home, your life balance is going to be very different, and you may only have 20 hours a week to work.
So I think you just really need to think through, okay, what do I want balance in my life to look like? What is reasonable for me what is reasonable with my business? And then I think one thing that has really helped me and a lot of people is to have some kind of dedicated workspace.
So it's hard to feel like your life is balanced. When you're working at the kitchen table, the family is doing stuff around, you know, sometimes you have to do that. But if you can create a workspace in the corner of your bedroom or someplace that's dedicated, that really helps with balance because when you're in there, you're working when you're out of there.
You're not. I think another thing that helps is having standard hours. Now, you know, my kids are grown, I can do whatever I want timewise. But for me, I always start work at nine o'clock, and that means I'm not sitting there with my cup of coffee going, Oh, maybe I'll watch something on Netflix, or maybe I'll throw in a load of laundry like I created my own structure where I always start at nine.
I take lunch break, I work like bankers hours now, I didn't always, but I take lunch between 12 and 1, and so you know, if you can create structure like that, it will help you and also, like, you decide you're going to work nine to five, stop at five. So that helps with balance too.
Something else is deciding what you're willing to do during work hours. So are you willing to do laundry? Are you willing to make dinner? Are you willing to chat with your friends?
Are you willing to like go to the dentist during work hours, like what are you willing to do and then stick with that so, for me, I don't chat with friends during work hours, I don't scroll through social media, I do that before work or on my lunch hour. I don't do laundry.
I do go for a walk at lunch with my dog. I do watch TV at lunch a lot of times we'll eat lunch. So just figuring out the structure that will work for you, and a tip I have found that really helps with balance is to choose like Wednesday afternoons to be your errands appointment time.
So if you need to make a dentist appointment, then make it for Wednesday afternoons you just block it off, so you never have clients, or you need to take the car in to get the winter tires on, do it at that time and then if say you know your dentist doesn't work Wednesday afternoons, she only works on Monday mornings.
Well then just switch it off make Monday morning your block of time and I think that really helps with balance because you're accepting that other things are going to come up in your week and, you know, just making time for it.
I have a question about women solopreneurs since you coach a lot of women solopreneurs, what are the most common areas in which women choose entrepreneurship or solopreneurship?
So the women that I coach are basically, well, some of them are quilters which is my hobby, so in the in the fight, you know the, the fiber arts business, most of the people that I work with are service businesses, their coaches, trainers, teachers, that kind of thing. I do not work with people who do manufacturing.
That's kind of my area of expertise. I just wanted to go back and a couple of things to with balancing. One is I think you really need to respect your work hours, and you need to teach people to respect your work hours.
So you know, if you, if your kids see that you're playing Scrabble on your phone during work hours, they're not going to respect you, you're not really going to respect yourself. So really, and you know, when people phone like, tell your mom, you know, I'll talk to you after six.
So I really respect your work hours, and the other thing that really helps with balance is to actually schedule your hobby time or, you know, whatever you call it.
So if you're somebody who likes to work out, make sure that you've got time to go to the gym in your schedule, if you're somebody that likes to quilt, make sure that you have time for your hobbies, and that really helps with balance, too.
Because, as we've said, there's, there's way more to do than you have time to do it in. So if you know that you spend Saturday afternoons working on a hobby, or you always go out for brunch with friends on Sunday, then that always happens and that makes it much more it makes it gives you much more of a balanced life and, and it also helps you like I'm always amazed at the ideas that come to me when I'm sewing, because my hands are busy and my mind has a chance to just sort of decompress. So those things that helped me to be more balanced.
It's nice. So, Sue, I wanted to ask you and this question, again, comes from my personal experience. So when starting a business, or when you start a new business, there could be times when there are dry periods where you don't have any sales or leads, or it just feels like nobody's interested in the product or service that you have to offer.
So how do you deal with disappointment as a solopreneur? And how do you come out of the situation?
So yes, big problem been there many times? That's a great question. I think most solo business owners and most business owners have faced this, and sometimes it's just a matter of giving it time; you know that you're not going to be Jeff Bezos with a $140 billion net worth three weeks after you start your business.
So that is one thing and just say that I'm facing this myself because I started a YouTube channel. A few months ago, I've been putting out videos every five days, and some of them have no views. I have a whole 17 subscribers, right?
So sometimes you just have to put one foot forward to keep going forward, and you know, time will take care of things. But the other things that we're so lucky to have now are analytics and data. So get your analytics and figure out where the problem is.
So, for example, and how to fix things. So maybe people aren't going to your website, right you, and look at it, or Yeah, so somebody's not going to your website. Well, what can you do to drive traffic? You know, why aren't they going?
Are they not finding it? Is it not indexed on Google? Or did you not use Search Engine Optimization? Well, so they're looking for solo business owner, and your business name is solopreneur been there? So there are several things that, if you look at your analytics, what can you fix and you know, maybe you're not getting people to sign up for your freebie download.
Okay, well, what's the bottleneck is the tech not working or people trying to, but they actually can't download things. So they're not on your newsletter list, or what other things can happen? Oh, so maybe you're like, maybe your freebie download isn't really relevant to what people want.
So you need to do that. Or maybe you've written an ebook, and the people that are in your audience actually don't like to read. They like to watch videos. So a lot of times, it's just a matter of problem-solving, trying things, trying things again, maybe pivoting, maybe not try something different.
So maybe if people aren't going to your website, you can try Facebook ads. So I wish there was like one super easy answer, but it really is just trial and error and moving forward.
Yes, that's absolutely correct. Sue, I wanted To know your take on remote work like, personally, I feel that, yes, virtual assistants and outsourcing is a great source through which you can, you know, ease a bit of stress and get an expert in that field. So I wanted to know your take on the outsourcing industry and companies like Wishup.
I think outsourcing is fantastic. I think that it's important to have a company like Wishup that's their contractors, or employees, for people so that you know that when you're hiring someone to do something, they actually have the skills to do it, and other companies like Fiverr, or Upwork, the same thing, if you can, actually, they don't really vet their people, but they've got lots of reviews.
So if you could go through and just, you know, make sure that the people are competent at doing what they're doing. But working remotely. Solo business owners tend to be really good with technology. I mean, most of us have been using Zoom since long before, you know, the world discovered pre-COVID. Yeah.
So the advantage is that if you're using a company like Wishup, people from all over the world that are at your disposal to help with your business, and so they might have skills you can't get locally, it might be a price point that you can't get locally.
So it is just such a fantastic way to grow your business and to relieve stress, and the only sort of caveat that I would say with hiring remote workers is to just be careful of security. So if you're hiring somebody to work on your website, you know, make sure you change your passwords before and after, make sure you only give people permission to the part of the business that you need.
If you're hiring someone to help with your accounting, well, you know, keep an eye on your bank account to make sure that they're not, you know, buying dog toys on a dime kind of thing. So, but yeah, I think that outsourcing is fantastic. It's gotten easier, and really, I have nothing.
I use it a lot, and it's made a tremendous difference in my business, no more three weeks adding a form to your website when you have a call to hire somebody.
And the best way to secure yourself is actually to go through some platforms like Bishop instead of, you know, trying to onboard people yourself because we go through a proper vetting process on our platform, and we go through the background checks, their stability, previous jobs, and everything. So you know, that's another way of ensuring security.
I think we also have an NDA in place, right, Neelesh?
So basically, legally, these platforms are very safe, legally speaking.
Alright, awesome. So, Sue, it was amazing having you on the show. It was an interesting conversation, I learned a lot, and so just before I let you go, I like to ask you final message for all the solopreneurs out there.
So I think I have three comments. One is the great thing about being a solo business owner is you can choose a business that works for you in your life. So you get to choose what you're selling, the hours you work, how you're going to conduct your business, how you're going to market, it, if you're an extrovert and you live alone, you can go to networking meetings all day long.
If that's what you want to do. If you're an introvert and you don't want to leave your house, you can run your business like that. So I think that and also choices. So if you're somebody who loves Instagram, but hates Twitter, don't use Twitter. You know, if you if you love meeting in person and not over zoom, you don't have to meet over zoom. So it gives you so much flexibility.
So create the kind of business that works for you, the hours you want to work, and then create boundaries and deadlines so that you have some sort of structure in your day, and that can be, you know, making sure that you have a separate workspace, making sure that you have deadlines that were one of the things we didn't talk about with outsourcing, but it's so fantastic is that if you hire you know, Mary to do your social to write your blogs for you and she needs your information by three o'clock on Monday.
That builds in accountability, right if you're doing it yourself, like blow it off this week. I'll blow it off next week and you know, nine months go by and you haven't done a blog. So yeah, accountability without sourcing is a really good thing, and just some self-discipline, like making rules for yourself.
So you're not scrolling through social media when you should be working, and then the final piece of advice we've talked about quite a bit, and that is just you do not have to do this alone. There are lots of ways to do things without hiring employees, companies like Wishup, having somebody come in and clean your house.
You know, hiring somebody for just a one-off job to fix your website. All those things are available and just free up your time so you can do the work. You want the work you want.
Awesome. Thanks again, Sue. I mean, that was an amazing piece of advice, and I really enjoyed this episode. I got to learn a lot. So thanks for that.
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Thanks a lot, Sue.
All right. Thanks, Sue take care, and hopefully, you can do this once again.
I would love that. Thank you.