As businesses of one, solopreneurs have the power to create work that is custom-tailored to their definition of freedom, the lives they want to live, and their specific talents.
Where 9-5 jobs ask us to conform to other’s definitions of work and entrepreneurs with larger businesses and employees are constrained by their responsibility to their team, we’re free to build a completely unique business and rebuild it whenever we need something different.
This level of freedom can be a blessing and a curse.
When we’re trained our whole lives to be employees, fit into a larger system, and fill a role that almost anyone else could fill, creating something unique can be daunting. It is much easier to fit into a box that someone else has defined than to do the work of defining ourselves for ourselves.
When faced with the unlimited potential to be whatever we want, we bump against this conditioning and often fail to realize the total freedom we can access as solopreneurs.
When creating a completely unique business, there are no models to follow, silver bullets, or roadmaps. To make solopreneurship live up to this dream, we must first understand ourselves deeply and use that understanding as the foundation upon which we build our businesses.
Most of us start our businesses by thinking about what we do and how we do it. These are obviously essential parts of creating a business, but they still trap us into the boxes that others have made instead of charting our own path.
It is often only in hindsight that we can take the time to really think about who we are and what we need from our work. But if we can think about these things from the beginning (and throughout the life of our business), we can build a unique business (and reinvent it whenever we need to).
To do that, we need to get clarity in three main areas:
Why is it important to understand these areas for ourselves, and what does it look like when we do?
Knowing deeply who you are is not just integral to planning your life and the first step in understanding what you want; it is fundamental for understanding and enacting your Work in the world.
Your Work in the world might be connected to your work, but it is much broader than solely what you do to put food on the table. Your Work is an expression of who you are. When you understand who you are, your unique contributions to the world naturally present themselves.
Solopreneurs who understand who they are have a deep sense of their innate strengths and challenges; they know what fills them up and depletes them, brings them joy, causes them stress, and triggers them. They operate as their most authentic selves, knowing an honest relationship with themselves will attract the right types of clients, projects, and opportunities to them.
They also fully understand all angles of their business, from finances to marketing metrics to customer satisfaction. This knowledge allows them to know when things are working and not working and ask for what they need to continue the process of self-knowing and self-development.
Solopreneurs get to build work that gives them exactly what they need in life. We embody the natural human instinct to innovate, generate, and thrive in a world that wants us to fit in, comply, and settle. We decide what we need and then build our work around that.
Solopreneurs who have a deep sense of purpose build businesses that give them what they need, be that time, money, fulfillment, or flexibility. This intentionality allows them to do work that gives them what they need AND manifest their unique contribution to the world so they can operate in a flow state as much as possible.
Knowing what you truly want is a crucial trait of successful solopreneurs. You can’t build something new or do something independently if you can’t identify what it is and take concrete steps toward achieving it. You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what it is.
Solopreneurs who know what they want consistently set and meet the larger goals for their work and life. This knowledge of what they want also allows them to see when their needs have been met - allowing them to rest in the peace of 'enough' instead of constant striving.
We all think we know what we want, but in many instances, we confuse our wants with what society, family, or friends want us to want. We may also fall victim to messages that tell us we’re not allowed to want, or we confuse our deepest desires with surface-level needs. Knowing and owning what we want is a skill that most of us don’t have. It has to be cultivated and practiced.
The key to each piece is building a practice of revisiting it regularly. Who we are, what we need from our work, and what we want change over time. If we’re not vigilant, consistently examining ourselves and our motivations, we stagnate and eventually end up settling for someone else’s definition of success.
Solopreneurs who start (or re-start) with these pieces think fundamentally differently about their businesses. They see their businesses as extensions of themselves, leading to more fulfilling work and better clients and projects because people can tell when you’re just going through the motions vs. genuinely invested in what you do.
From this foundation, you can continue to explore what you do until you find the perfect fit and refine how you do it as you hone in on your expertise.
This work is the journey of a lifetime. When you’re leveraging your work as a tool for greater self-development, you never “arrive”—when you’ve mastered one business model, you iterate into the next one; when you start to plateau, you find a new challenge; when the dream is achieved, you move toward the next dream.
As soon as we stop iterating, growing, and understanding ourselves at a deeper level, we let go of the promise of true freedom that solopreneurship offers.