Entrepreneurship is a dangerous idea.
Once startup magazines and Silicon Valley started selling the idea we should all become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Travis Kalanick, entrepreneurship was doomed.
I loved entrepreneurship in my 20s. It led me to build a startup that employed more than 100 people. I thought I was King D*ck. The nasty ego of entrepreneurship crept into my life.
I eventually walked away from it all. And I was left with dark mental illness that took bloody years to heal from. I deserved it.
Like with all ideas, when they die they become reborn again.
Entrepreneurship has changed. Here’s what has replaced it that’s far more reachable to us normies.
The naughty secret of solopreneurship
Solopreneurship carries the nasty remains of entrepreneurship in its name.
It’s really just a fancy way for saying “making money online.” It’s the idea that any of us can be a one-person business if we want.
We became obsessed with this new idea during the great resignation of 2020. Millions of people learned you could have a job one day, and it could be gone the next. Zero f*cks given by your employer.
The point of solopreneurship isn’t to quit your job for some grandiose fantasy, like entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley promote. Screw that. Solopreneurship became about careful risk management.
Work on your solopreneur idea as an after hours side hustle. See what works. Have the humility to notice what doesn’t. Leave your ego at work. Build in public.
The transition happens from 9–5 job over to solopreneurship once making money online earns you more money than your salary.
For some that happens fast. For others (like me) it takes years to happen. For some they never fully transition. They make their job a side hustle and spend time working on their solopreneur endeavor too.
Motto: Whatever keeps you happy.
The quiet enablers of solopreneurship
A one-person business used to be near-impossible.
Everything was manual as hell. Then Zapier and Virtual Assistants went mainstream. Zapier allows you to automate entire processes without much effort and zero code.
Zapier becomes a digital employee working around the clock for you.
One day it will be given the gift of artificial intelligence and will really come to life — until then we can dream.
Virtual assistants allow you to employ remote workers on a casual basis to look after time-consuming tasks — emails, customer support, data entry, research, etc.
Contrary to popular belief it’s not labor arbitrage where you exploit third-world labor. Most of my solopreneur friends use virtual assistants that live in the same country as them. Don’t get sucked into this lie.
Another new trend is digital operations.
Entire systems and processes are being built with software like Notion. This removes the need to have layers of complexity and humans to juggle tasks.
With automation, digital operations, and virtual assistants you create leverage. Same amount of effort and time, but exponential results as the years progress. This is something you simply can’t do in a regular job. So the salary stays the same or trends down over time due to wage stagnation.
The worst part about solopreneurship that no one wants to admit
It’s lonely as hell.
There, I said it. Judge me. Call me weak. I don’t care.
I’m a solopreneur and there are days when it’s lonely. I miss my cubicle colleagues. I miss how they could throw dirt and pretty much anything our dumb CEO said.
I miss the jokes, the multicultural lunches, the Friday drinks (where I drank lemon water), the useless training that was an excuse for an office party, and the customers who would ruthlessly tell us, often, how out of date our products were. God bless ’em.
Some days I sit at home in my home office and crave a coffee, or a random work call about nothing. But most days I’m fine.
The only way to overcome the loneliness of solopreneurship is to join online communities. You have to be proactive or loneliness will rob you of joy.
They’re easy to find. Any good online course comes with a community. The other trick I’m about to do is get a desk in a co-working space like WeWork.
Just because the people around me don’t work for the same business, doesn’t mean we can’t have a blast working together. In fact, my prediction is that working with people from unrelated industries will skyrocket my creativity.
Maybe I’m having Timmy Time fantasies again. We’ll see.
The essential pillars of solopreneurship
To make solopreneurship work for you, it requires the following:
- Build an online skill
- Build distribution through social media content to share your ideas
- Build a product or service around a skill(s)
- Create systems to support what you’ve built
- Automate as much as possible to increase leverage and gain traction
- Make data-based decisions to iterate on your creations
- Become a good storyteller so people will listen to your ideas
- Work on yourself so you can deal with any success that might happen
The hard to describe feeling of solopreneurship
The challenge with traditional work is you feel like you’re building someone else’s dream. As you get older, and you realize you’re going to die one day, this idea starts to feel ancient.
There’s nothing better than building your own thing on the side, the way you want. And the best part is you keep all the upside if it works.
If it fails, then you can always go back to a full-time job until another bright idea infects your gorgeous brain. That’s the key difference with solopreneurship.
Smart risk management is built in. You don’t need to go broke or risk it all for it to work.
You can quietly go about your business and make stuff happen. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. But it’s a freaking blast in the process.