If you want to be your own boss, set your own work hours, and never manage a single employee, solopreneurship is the vehicle that can help you achieve that goal.
While it might sound too good to be true, we’ll give you a realistic overview of what it’s like to be a solopreneur (hint: it still requires hard work) and provide a proven step-by-step process to help you become a successful solopreneur.
We’ll also break down the key differences between a solopreneur, an entrepreneur, and a freelancer, and provide a list of successful solopreneurs you can follow for inspiration.
What is a Solopreneur?
A solopreneur is a business owner that does not trade their time for money and has zero employees.
Some common examples of solopreneurs include course creators, content creators, product owners, and affiliate marketers.
Solopreneur vs Entrepreneur vs Freelancer
The main difference between a solopreneur and an entrepreneur is that an entrepreneur may have employees working for them, whereas a solopreneur has no employees.
However, neither solopreneurs nor entrepreneurs trade their time for money.
This is the main difference between a solopreneur and a freelancer.
While both solopreneurs and freelancers operate with zero employees, a freelancer trades their time for money, whereas a solopreneur can sell a deliverable (course, ads, product, etc.) that’s not tied to their time.
As a result, a solopreneur can scale their business infinitely by selling more of the product, whereas a freelancer must raise their hourly rate to scale. So even though both are self-employed, the solopreneur can eventually create a business that generates passive income, whereas a freelancer will always have to work to generate income.
That said, some solopreneurship business models (like content creators and affiliate website owners) require a lot of upfront investment before seeing a dollar. In contrast, freelancers can immediately make money after landing a new client.
Nevertheless, if you want to own a business that can eventually make passive income without managing employees, solopreneurship is the key to achieving that goal.
Solopreneur Business Ideas
Here are a few of the most popular solopreneur business models you can steal.
Starting an affiliate website is an excellent business model if you’re a digital marketer or web designer.
Essentially, you build an audience and then promote other brands’ products and services to your audience.
When someone from your audience buys that product or service, you receive a commission.
The beauty of this business model is that you never have to interact with the customers. You just send leads to the business, and they automatically pay you a commission of all the sales generated from your audience.
There are two main methods of affiliate marketing:
- You run ads to a landing page and then send those leads to your affiliates. The downside is that you have to spend your money to acquire those leads, so you really have to be excellent at profitably acquiring leads.
- You build a website using SEO and drive organic traffic to your affiliates. While you don’t have to pay anything to acquire these leads, the downside is that it can take months to build an audience through organic SEO.
Here are a few examples of affiliate websites:
While the websites above are businesses with employees, you can run a smaller operation as a solopreneur using the same business model. Or, you can also choose to scale the website into a more established business with full-time employees.
The course creator business model is pretty simple – you record some videos teaching a skill you have and then sell it to people who want to acquire that skill.
Course creation is an excellent business because it requires little upfront investment, and you can sell it infinitely. The tricky aspect of this business model is that customers typically only buy courses from people they consider experts.
So if you don’t have a personal brand and credibility in that niche, selling your course won’t be easy. For example, you may need to go on podcasts, build a social media following, and collaborate with other influencers to build credibility.
The good news is that once you have that credibility and an audience, you can make money almost instantly selling courses.
Here are a few examples of solopreneur course creators:
If you’re a coder or developer, you can build and sell your own product. The benefit is that once the product is built, you typically just have to keep it up to date. You can also build out more features and charge more as it improves.
The downside is that this business model may require substantial upfront investment if you don’t know how to code.
While some people have successfully hired developers to create products for them, you’ll have to know who to hire and constantly work with that person to improve the product.
If you don’t have coding skills, you’ll likely build a team or bring on a co-founder, and it may become more of a startup than a solopreneur business model.
Here are a few examples of multi-million dollar businesses created by solopreneur product owners:
There are also plenty of different ecommerce solopreneurs that own lifestyle businesses.
With an ecommerce business, you post physical products on a website, and people can purchase them.
You can create, store, and ship the products yourself, or you can adopt a dropshipping model where you work with a manufacturer who creates, ships, and stores the product for you. Then, you just submit your product orders to the manufacturer as they come in.
While the dropshipping model is excellent if you have a little cash to manufacture a physical product, you also have less control over the product quality and the shipping process in general.
However, it can be a great lifestyle business, and plenty of groups, like Dropship Lifestyle, allow you to collaborate with other dropshippers.
Here’s an example of a solopreneur ecommerce store owner:
How To Be a Successful Solopreneur
Becoming a successful solopreneur is relatively straightforward, but it isn’t necessarily easy. The good news is that if you stick to the advice below and put in the work, you will eventually have a profitable business.
Step 1: Choose a Niche And Build An Audience
Choosing a niche is arguably the most important aspect of the process.
Ideally, the best niche to select is:
- Something you’re passionate about
- Something you have a unique skill set/expertise in
- A market with low difficulty (there aren’t many creators in the space)
- A market with strong demand and high value (a lot of people have this problem/interest and will pay a lot of money to solve it/learn more)
To help you select the best niche, consider rating each niche on a scale of 1-10. I would also weight niche difficulty and unique advantage more heavily than any of the other categories:
Once you select a niche, I recommend building an audience before creating an offer.
Most people create an offer (product, course, etc.) and then try to build an audience to purchase their offer.
As a result, they typically spend a lot of money on marketing and become discouraged after only a handful of people purchase the offer.
So build your audience first and then create an offer you know they want.
We have an entire guide on the topic of building an audience, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but consider these questions:
- How will I create content unique from what currently exists? People probably won’t follow you if you don’t have a unique angle or value to add.
- Which medium (video, text, audio, etc.) should I select? The short answer is to select the one you enjoy the most, as publishing frequency and consistency are the most critical aspects of building a brand.
- Do you want to create a personal brand or a company brand? Personal brands tend to grow faster, but it will also make removing yourself from the company harder.
Once you answer those three questions, create a publishing cadence. Publishing consistency is arguably the most important factor in building an audience, so set a realistic goal that you can stick to for several months.
If you’re looking for audience-building inspiration, I recommend analyzing solopreneurs like Justin Welsh or Brett from Design Joy, as they’ve both built highly successful audiences that fuel their businesses.
Step 2: Create an Offer
Now that you have an audience, it’s time to create an offer.
First, identify a problem your audience currently faces to ensure you create an offer that people want.
So survey your audience and ask them about their challenges and what products/services they buy.
Then, decide how you want to solve it. It might be offering a physical product, a course, a partnership/affiliate deal, or an app/digital product.
Over time, you can have multiple revenue streams, but for now, start with just one.
If you’re not sure which revenue stream to start with, consider the following chart:
Step 3: Create SOPs And Leverage Automation
Many people get into solopreneurship with the dream of achieving passive income, but many solopreneurs find themselves working more hours than when they worked full-time.
The key to removing yourself from the business is to create systems and processes that allow the business to run without your assistance.
How do you do this?
Start by auditing your time. This exercise essentially has you record what you do every 15 minutes of your day so that you can figure out what tasks you’re spending time on.
Here’s a time audit template that you can use to audit your day. Then, go through each task and mark both the value of the task and whether it gave you energy or took energy away from you.
This is a concept that Dan Martell uses, and you can find his templates in the workbook. Ideally, you want to remove as many tasks as possible that drain your energy and tasks that are low value.
Once you figure out which tasks you need to offload, ask yourself these two questions:
- Is there software I can purchase to automate this process?
- Can I hire a VA or part-time employee to execute this for me?
For example, if you spend 20% of your time managing finances, can you purchase a tool like QuickBooks to automate the process?
Or, if you spend 50% of your time answering client support questions, hire a VA to do this for you.
The key to making the business scalable is to create SOPs (standard operating procedures) for each task. SOPs make it easy to give the task to any VA, and they will consistently achieve the same result.
To create an SOP, write down exactly how you execute the job yourself.
For example, if you’re outsourcing customer support, write down the answers to client FAQs, how to handle certain situations, necessary logins, and any other information required to do the job.
Then, if the VA asks you any follow-up questions, tell them to write the questions and your answers in the SOP doc.
Need help? Here’s a template if you want guidance creating your first SOPs.
This way, anyone can do the job. So even if one VA quits, you can easily assign the same task to another VA without spending time retraining them.
Once your business runs on autopilot, you’ll finally have passive income.
Step 4: Scale Your Business
Now that your time is free, thanks to your new passive income, you can enjoy hanging out at the beach or use your new free time to take your business to the next level.
As a solopreneur, your goal probably isn’t to hire full-time employees, but there are two other methods to scale your business’s profitability:
- Build a bigger audience
- Add more revenue streams
I recommend starting by growing your audience because doing so will make any revenue stream you add more profitable.
Increasing your content publishing volume is arguably the best way to build your audience.
However, you don’t necessarily need to create more content to increase publishing volume.
Instead, start by repurposing your content.
For example, if you’re currently creating video content, you can repurpose it as a podcast. You can also download the script from the video, put it into an AI writing tool like Jasper or even ChatGPT, and then have the AI tool create a blog post.
You can also repurpose the blog post into multiple social media posts.
As you can see, repurposing allows you to scale content output without actually creating any new content.
However, optimize each piece of content for the platform you plan to publish it on. For example, if you’re republishing a video to TikTok, be sure to add captions, relevant hashtags, and edit it in the style of TikTok content.
To automate this process, you can use a tool like Repurpose. There are also plenty of marketing agencies that now offer content repurposing.
Another way to grow your audience quickly is to do content collaborations with other influencers.
For example, you could do a podcast interview with another content creator in your field.
Alex Hormozi is a great example of a content creator who has mastered the process of collaborating with other influencers and repurposing the content on multiple platforms.
For example, after appearing on another influencer’s podcast, his team republished the content to his podcast, TikTok, LinkedIn, and several other platforms.
You’ll also notice that the content is always optimized for the specific platform. So even if you don’t have time to optimize it, consider hiring a VA to do this for you.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to expand your content strategy to all major platforms. Start by adding just one platform to your publishing schedule and then add another. Each platform attracts a unique audience, so you might have to adjust your content slightly as you learn more about the nuance of your audience on each platform.
Now that you’re maximizing your content output, you can also add other revenue streams. Your new revenue stream can be either the same business model (e.g., if you’re already selling a course, you can sell another course) or a new one (e.g., if you’re selling a course, you could also offer a physical product).
Again, start by adding just one new revenue stream at a time and use the exact same process you used in step two to create your first offer.
You can also build out your offer with upsells. For example, if you currently offer a course, you could offer a mastermind as an upsell to go along with the course.
Amy Porterfield has an excellent example of this in her course:
Begin Your Journey To Solopreneurship Today
Most people turn to entrepreneurship for financial freedom, but managing people is often more challenging than working for people. On the flip side, becoming a freelancer may mean you never have to manage a single person, but you might also feel that multiple bosses manage you.
Freelancers also have more financial risk as clients can leave in an instant.
So if you want to run your own business on your terms or even just have a side hustle that makes some passive income, consider solopreneurship.
If you want to connect with other solopreneurs starting their own businesses, consider joining the Copyblogger Academy. It’s a community of solopreneurs and freelancers creating their own financial freedom by building successful businesses that can operate without a team of employees.
You also get direct access to me and can attend workshops and Q&As with other creators. You can sign up today to make your new business idea a reality.