Many hats, one head
What is an entrepreneur, anyway?
Many people believe that being an entrepreneur is all about a desire to get rich quick. This belief, however, is simplistic. Wealth can result from being an entrepreneur, but since success isn’t guaranteed for anyone, there must be more to an entrepreneurial mindset than the money, or else why would anyone want to take on the extra risk of running your own business?
Entrepreneurship is not only about generating revenue, but about the process of creating something from nothing, of feeling in control of your decisions and about being happy in life with the efforts of your own hands. That’s what makes an entrepreneur appealing and what balances out the risk.
Entrepreneurship ultimately is about identifying problems and finding ways to become successful solving those problems. With entrepreneurship being viewed as a problem-solving process, as an entrepreneur you use your personal agency to push your solutions from concept into reality. Getting pumped by that whole process (even if there are parts you enjoy more than others) is kind of what defines you as an entrepreneur. You get dedicated to seeing your projects through from beginning to end. You love solving stuff – including figuring out how to make money from solving stuff! Entrepreneurship requires creativity, persistence and resilience (and as a solopreneur reading this article, you likely know this all too well.)
What is an entrepreneurial mindset?
Let’s dig into that. An entrepreneurial mindset starts to look more like a philosophy, an approach you take to tackling the challenges you encounter in life. At the end of the day, entrepreneurs are those people who see things that need doing and are willing to get their hands busy and take a chance on doing something tangible in order to solve these problems and make a difference in the world doing so. Does an entrepreneurial mindset involve being accommodating to more risk? Sure. Yet the possibility of all the rewards gained from solving stuff, however, is very sweet. It’s almost addicting. (More on that later too.)
An entrepreneurial mindset can be viewed as one of natural optimism then, of believing that one can make a difference, and being willing to take the chances that most other folks won’t take.
What makes this optimistic mindset important?
Even though it sounds a lot like a catchy marketing slogan, an optimistic mindset is an incredibly important part of success. It's been shown that people who are confident in their abilities and have a positive outlook while pursuing their goals are much more likely to succeed than those who are pessimistic and anxious about what will happen next. In addition to this, scientists have determined that people with positive mindsets even tend to be healthier than those with negative mindsets.
So, if mindset is important, and an entrepreneurial mindset is by nature, geared to the positive and approaches the world from a perspective of optimism, how does being a solopreneur affect that entrepreneurial mindset?
Let’s look at the definitions of entrepreneur vs solopreneur to help make a distinction between the two.
Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
Solopreneur: a person who sets up and runs a business on their own.
(Source: Oxford Languages)
Notice the end of that definition: ON THEIR OWN. Perhaps that makes the solopreneur the ultimate optimist, since a solopreneur must be willing to tackle the issues of building a successful business solo, by choice or by necessity. It’s a very optimistic mindset indeed!
Or, to look at things from a more challenging perspective, perhaps the solopreneur is the entrepreneur most vulnerable to thinking one has (or can learn) every skill necessary for success. From this vantage point, maybe a solopreneur is vulnerable to carrying around a little too much optimism than is beneficial at times? Is that possible?
The old saying, “no man is an island” comes to mind.
Since none of us are truly self-sufficient and don’t live in a vacuum, the solopreneur becomes more of an oxymoron than anything else, a walking contradiction to what it takes to run a business. In order to solve a problem and take that solution all the way to the finish line, you need other people. At the very least, you even need other people in the sense that you need someone to solve a problem for.
What can a solopreneur then do, to address the inevitable deficiencies of having only “me, myself and I” as the human resources department to hold yourself accountable to?
You might be reading this and have already been working for years to create success on your own. You already have a strong, long-term vision for a service you want to provide, or you are open to looking for opportunities to solve problems every day. You try not to focus on one-time “get-rich-quick” schemes, try not chase every new idea that comes along or make decisions out of desperation or while under pressure. You already feel good about the skills you bring to the table but not sure about why that hasn’t yet translated to the success you seek, or you know you lack certain skills and aren’t sure what to do about that either.
What’s next then?
As a solopreneur you need to add a focus on your personal strengths and weaknesses in order to find ways to tap into the resources necessary to balance those two forces out. You need to account for this variable in your mindset. Every. Single. Day. You don't have people around you to help course-correct, but you need something to perform this type of function. This could be the ingredient that your recipe for winning at entrepreneurship has been missing. You haven’t put any plans into place to make sure all the stuff you’re not doing gets done.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a solopreneur and developing a mindset to tackle that is going to help you in the long run. I can hear you already asking why you will need a strategy for strengths; isn’t it just weaknesses that need to be addressed? You will need a mindset strategy to compensate for both because ultimately you will lean toward doing the thing you enjoy more and avoid that thing you enjoy least. This is human nature. And overall, you will discover that the things you enjoy doing more turn out to be your strengths, and the opposite being true for weaknesses. None of us enjoy the things we’re not as good at. This too is simply human nature.
Personal story: A few years ago, someone asked me if I had a good boss (not realizing my solopreneur status) and I replied that my boss was such a b*tch lol! Humour aside, for a good portion of my self-employment I haven’t been a good boss to myself, haven’t done an effective job of marketing or of making sure I am reaching out to real people to solve problems for. (For example, creating a course before proofing that people really want or need the course.) I also tend to avoid the administrative and accounting work necessary to scrutinize my business practices and examine the bottom line. I've approached these tasks in some sort of magical thinking “it will take care of itself” kind of way. All I had to do was start and I would figure the rest out sometime, when I was profitable or had X amount of dollars in the bank or I had a week “off”. All that happened however was that these least favoured tasks piled up and up and took a lot longer untangling when I was knee deep.
Instead of doing things on a wing and a prayer, let’s take a minute and go through your skills.
- What tasks do I look forward to doing daily?
- What tasks provide me with a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day?
- What tasks tend to bring me the most praise when completed?
- What tasks do I get done quickly and without difficulty?
And let’s turn it over to the other side.
- What tasks am I currently behind on?
- What tasks take me the longest to get done?
- What tasks make my gut flip-flip over when I think about having to do them?
- What gets the most in the way of completing invoiceable work?
- How many emails are in my in-box?
Write them down and give it some thought.
Maybe now you’re already jumping ahead, and you’re going to say that you can’t hire anyone, you only have yourself, you can’t rely on anyone else, you have no resources to tap into. Hold on for a minute and take a breath. I totally hear you on not having anyone else who can help. There’s only so much money in the bank and only 24 hours in each day and you need to get the most out of both, so let’s back it up to the answers to your questions above.
The tasks you like are what you need to make more space to do daily. This will provide you with momentum to keep going when things are challenging.
The tasks you dislike are what you need to automate as much as possible. And if you can automate some of your favoured ones, you need to let go of them too and accept the speed increase you get from that automation. Time is your most precious resource here. And, ironically, when you get your systems working for you instead of against you, you are going to feel even better about everything else you do.
The power of systems
To really simplify it, as a solopreneur you will need to build systems to address your deficiencies and dedicate time to work the system you have created. The great thing about being a solopreneur online is that there are many effective software solutions already available and many good automations you can tap into. Sure, you will need to force yourself to do these things and tackle your deficiencies head on if you want to truly see success. When you do, you’ll find the problems you’re best at solving start to come to you without having to wonder what you should be doing all the time. You’ll already know what to do with the “dirty work”.
For my examples shared above, what does that look like? I like doing graphic design work and setting up new products. I want to make space for these strengths and support the weaknesses with as many assists as I can. To stay organized, I use project management software to track my tasks (right now I use Freedcamp). To have a handle on my expenses and whether I am making money, I purchased a piece of software that hooks into my Shopify stores and synchronizes my finances. Administratively, I dedicate a day a month to accounting (all the things that I can’t automatically synchronize). I dedicate another day a month to completely emptying my inbox. I don’t WANT to do this stuff, but by making space to do them, planning for it in advance, and forcing myself to gut through it, months have stopped going by without me paying attention.
That, in a nutshell, is the solopreneur mindset, a bolted-on amendment to the entrepreneurial mindset. Carrying around this awareness that even though you must wear many hats, you can’t always wear the ones you like best, so you get more creative discovering ways to rock your outfit regardless. If that means you can’t pass a hat to anyone else, figure out another way.
As an entrepreneur, you most likely have other people to help you get stuff accomplished and fill in on your weaker areas. As a solopreneur, you need to leverage technology as much as you can in order to accomplish the same goal. You need to ask more questions, figure out how to do more testing of your problem – solution process since you don’t have people around to bounce ideas off easily either. And there has never been a better time than now to be able to tap into so many resources to address your deficiencies.
Start by asking yourself those questions today. More on this in future posts!