Building a startup or running an aged business is hard. Running that business as a Solopreneur is even harder, but the lessons that Solopreneurs learn in the process are invaluable.
These lessons often lead to profitable businesses and high-impact work. In studying the success of Solopreneurs, several patterns repeat. This playbook is a collection of those patterns. Let’s dive in!
All Solopreneurs have constraints and superpowers. Here are the most common:
Limited capital: Many Solopreneurs are bootstrapped, whether by choice or by necessity (more than likely is by necessity right!!!). This often translates to having fewer resources to build the business.
Skillset: Solopreneurs typically have a few primary skills, and for those they don’t have, they must take the time to learn or outsource them.
Ability to make fast decisions: Because Solopreneurs are accountable to themselves only, they can make fast decisions and pivot when needed.
Playing the long game: There’s no external pressure to grow fast. Solopreneurs can choose to grow with substance and integrity, as opposed to chasing growth at all costs.
Find niches within niches: Focusing on small niches from the start, and choosing to solve problems for a small market, means decreased competition from larger players since small markets don’t move the needle for them.
1. Start, then learn: Although this is the exact opposite of traditional business advice, it’s far more effective. Your best ideas and learning will come after you start building something. It doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking product! It just has to be something that addresses a pain point or gap in the marketplace.
How do you come up with your first idea?
Scratch your itch: Note your daily workflow, see what problems you face, and try to build solutions to those problems.
Rebuild your favorite app: Take a complicated app that you love and build a simpler version of it.
Help people around you: Ask five people about the problems that they’re facing. Try to solve the one that’s most interesting to you.
Help people online: Go to Reddit, Quora, Twitter, Facebook Groups, etc. People are always sharing their troubles and challenges. Which problems look interesting to you? Solve them.
If you are a non-technical Solopreneurs, you don’t have to learn to code to solve a problem. Try no-code tools, or see if the problem can be solved with content: A how-to article, video, or a curated newsletter could all be options. High-quality information is hard to find on the internet. With increasing noise, the value of curation is going up.
The goal of this step is not to build the final product. It’s just to get into the habit of building, and working consistently to solve an interesting problem.
2. Identify and solve problems: The goal of this step is to get used to identifying real problems worth solving, reaching out to people with solutions, and asking them for money.
3. Iterate and pivot: Your first idea will not be your last idea. A sustainable business has many moving parts, and you will have to keep iterating.
Customer conversations are one of the key ways to do this. They will help you to position your product in a crowded market, show you the right features to build, and even give you words to use in your marketing copy.
At this stage, the idea is to keep building features, talking to customers about them, and improving the product based on those conversations.
A good tactic would be to start a small private chat group of your most loyal customers and gather feedback from them regularly. If customers don’t care about your product, pivot. If they love your product, iterate!
4. Keep going: If you haven’t found a product or service that works, go back to step two. If you have found a sustainable business model, and it’s growing well, you will still have to make strong efforts as growth plateaus and competitors arise.
Here is one smart hack that you can take at this stage to make life easier for yourself
Hire help: Outsource, automate, or delegate anything that isn’t your core strength. Hire people that are smarter than you. Properly acquired talent allows you to run a business and not have the business run you.
Your journey might differ a bit from this playbook, but it can be a good framework to think about as you build a solo business.