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What the hell is solopreneur? 1st step to undoing the hype

We do love a catchphrase, don’t we? And this one seems to have come out of nowhere…

Solopreneur - its as old as the hills!

What the devil?

Solopreneur – I don’t know if it’s indicative of what content I consume, but I can’t avoid the word right now.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about not being able to avoid creators talking about ditching their iPhones for Samsung, well, now that focus has shifted to the term ‘solopreneur’. I’ve seen it written about, on Twitter & Mastodon, Medium, and, of course, videos about it on YouTube.

I have noticed, what I consider to be quite a pious tone to much of what I’ve seen lately, so I thought I’d throw in my two pennies worth…

When did it all change?

It seems this solopreneur phrase is most often being used by those that have come to working solo recently.

That seems to then give them the excuse to become almost evangelical about sitting alone, working. Don’t forget, in essence, that’s all it is – working for yourself. It doesn’t need a fancy catchphrase.

I have never written about it, as I have never thought of it as being anything unusual. For me, it is in my DNA, and the only thing I was ever going to do.

For context, my dad was a solopreneur, or, to be less pompous about it, self-employed. My first memories are of being with him at work. Although a trained, professional photographer, he turned his back on that career when my sister and I were born.

Why? Because he was working for someone as a photographer, and the pay was not great. With two young mouths to feed, and with my mums total blessing, he started a printing business. He knew there was good money to be made, and he knew it was something he could do well.

And he did. Through the 70s, 80s and 90s, it went from strength to strength. He followed his heart, and it worked out. If we were talking in modern vernacular, he ‘niched’ down. He never went searching for the massive projects, but stuck with turning out jobbing work, day, after day, after day. In, out, invoice, and get paid was his mantra.

He had low overheads, never borrowed a penny, and was never in debt. He was one of the best businessmen I’ve ever known. I worked with him for very nearly twenty years. Oddly enough, it was also the last place I ever saw him, alive, too – at our small factory. He passed away for too soon, but the memories I have our amazing ones. He left his essence alive and well in my bones.

All I know

I left school at sixteen – you could back in my day!

I went straight in to working with my dad, and have been self-employed ever since. Of course, these days, I’d call myself a solopreneur, but, whatever you call it, I’d have it no other way.

Is it all it’s cracked up to be, though?

If you listened to all the current hoopla doing the rounds, you’d think you would have to be some special beast – something out of the norm. The truth is, though, you don’t.

All you need is a quiet, latent self-belief, and the ability to get up each day and do your thing. There, that should have de-bunked the solopreneur wagon.

One word of advice – if you need to pay money, or go on a course to learn how to be a solopreneur, you’re in the wrong gig. Those true self-employed people, solopreneurs if you will, would never be caught paying for advice on how to work for themselves.

You see, that would fly in the face of me, or anyone who has what it takes to do their own thing. I am no one special, I just like doing things my way. And yes, I always do think I am right too!

Worth it

I am now forty years self-employed, and I would have had it no other way. Is it for you? Well, let’s take a look at what’s involved in running your own business.

The first thing you need, and need by the bucket load, is enthusiasm. I am not saying that in some kind of YouTube, bouncing off the walls, beaming happiness kind of way. Nope, what I mean is the enthusiasm to get up every day and organise yourself, and motivate yourself to do what requires doing that day.

In all the years I have been working alone (the OG solopreneur if you will!), I can think of so few days, where I have ever thought “you know what, today I’ll just sit on the sofa”. If you are the sort of person that works better by being told what to do, then the thought of running your own show is the wrong path to follow. There is nothing wrong with following the employed route, and for some, it is the right path to follow…

Motivation, in the most pure meaning of the word, is what will get you up each day, and push you from job to job, or task to task. You set your agenda, you arrange your day. If you don’t follow those simple rules, you won’t make money; you’ll be a successful solopreneur.

The biggest myth about working for yourself, is that of freedom.

Clocking on

Yes, it does offer freedom, but not in the way most employed people think of it.

The fact I set my own calendar, makes me no more free than those in a regular 9-5. What sets it apart, and makes it my choice, is the fact I can do things in my order when I want to do them.

I could never make sense of working for someone to make them profit, and make their company better and more profitable. If I’m able to do it for them then, surely, doing it for myself, makes far more sense, right?

Recently, I have been working seven-day weeks. Would I choose that? No, but equally, the work was there to be done. When I work on a Saturday, and Sunday, I do it because I know it will make my Monday, and week ahead better. I am not chasing a pot of gold, or time-and-a-half pay, I do it for me.

That is at the core of what being a ‘solopreneur is really about. Arranging time, and doing what works best for you, your family, other-half, and the business.

You’ll need to know how to arrange your days and time, but again, don’t buy in to any myth, or hype about time management tools, and spreadsheets. If you can’t wake up each day, knowing what needs to be done, then sadly, working for yourself will never work out. Most of what I do, I carry in my head – honestly, I rarely make notes, or keep a diary, I just know what I have to do, or where I have to be.

Different times

My days now, are very different from what they once were.

When I carried on the print business after my dad passed away, it grew to the point where I was employing people, and moved to a bigger factory. Looking back, that was a mistake. Rather than working for myself, I was now working to make sure the staff got paid, and had work. I felt a responsibility towards them first.

Through COVID, I could see things would change, so I began to seed this idea of working in the content creation field. It appealed to me, and I ticked all the boxes of someone that could make a go of it.

Working long hours alone, motivated, full of ideas, energy, creative, and a vision of what comes next. If that doesn’t describe a content creator, you tell me what does?

The challenge ahead

My design business was doing very nicely thank you before the lurgy swept through us all. But, I knew I had to steal myself for change. I could sense it coming downstream.

Through lockdown, I began to pivot towards driving my ambition, and energy to content creation. I am, of course, very much, still working for myself, probably more so than ever, just with a different net result.

Have I found it easy? No. The design business I started after winding down my late dads print company was a natural lead on from it. I retained many of the same clients he had dealt with, and the workflow, was pretty similar too. It was a case of evolution, not revolution.

What I do now, though, is alien to me – all new. I have had to learn like never before. The curve has been steep, but you know what? I wouldn’t have traded a moment of it.

And that is what makes me self-employed. The days I felt confused, or dazed, I never lost sight of the fact that it was for me. I am not earning well right now, granted, but I can see seeds of growth coming.

Ground zero

I started out on this Talking Tech venture knowing no one in the tech space, knowing nothing about writing every day, or how even how to edit a video. But, I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I hunkered down, and learned like never before.

And now, after all the days that felt I was writing for no one, and feeling as if it may all be pointless, now, the dots are starting to join up. People read me every day, and interact. Some people watch my videos, a few companies send me gear to use, and I have met, and created close friendships with others in this space.

Wrapping up

What I wanted to do most today, was jot down what it honestly takes to be a solopreneur. Actually, strike that, I hate that word. Truthfully, the only reason I have used it a few times is, so I can use it as a tag to help the SEO on this blog – self-taught savvy in action! Something else I would not have known a year ago – remember that learning curve?

No, what I wanted to do today was to let you know that working alone, and being self-employed, is the best feeling ever – for some. Don’t be a lemming, though. Don’t fall foul of the idea of following someone shouting loud it’s a must-do thing, or the latest evangelical movement.

It’s not. It’s as old as the hills, and a hard graft, but, I ‘d have it no other way. It comes with it flip side too, though. No regular salary, long hours, an unpredictable workflow. It tends to be all or nothing. When there is nothing to do, there is always something to do – don’t be fooled. When there’s lots to do, revel in it.

Don’t spend money on learning how to be a solopreneur (there I go again), or looking for someone to inspire you.

It’s my birthday today, and how am I spending it? Sitting here, vinyl playing, writing for you, then editing a video later on.

Does that make me a solopreneur? No. It makes me self-employed and very proud of the fact, too.

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