[PERSONAL] 6 Things I Learned in 6 Years of Being A Solopreneur

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I’m a solopreneur. That’s just a fancy way of saying I’m self-employed, but I like the -preneur suffix: yes, I am ‘a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit’, absolutely. How else would you describe someone obsessed with having multiple streams of income?

Here are 6 things I learned in 6 years of being a solopreneur.

#1 – Not everyone can or should be an employer and that’s okay

Usually, the career development arch for someone who chose to work for her/himself is: Freelancer > Self-employed > Agency.

That means, first they start out as a freelancer to see if they could sell their own skills, test the waters. They rely on freelancing platforms and job boards to get jobs.

When they get past the initial hurdles and decide to stick with the business, they become self-employed.

Then, as their reputation grew and they get more work than they can handle, they’ll hire employees and start an agency (a company).

But I never got to the last stage. The thing is…

I’m happy as a Pikachu

Ok so this is a hyper-specific reference but do you remember that Pokemon episode where Pikachu had the opportunity to evolve as a Raichu but he didn’t want to? And the reason for that is he wanted to get stronger as a Pikachu, and not as a Raichu.

That’s how I feel about being a solopreneur. I don’t want to ‘evolve’ into an agency. I just want to be an even better solopreneur.

#2 – It’s absolutely possible to have a business without employees

There’s this, I guess expectation (?) that if you want to have a business, you must have employees.

If you believe in this, I just want to clear it out: that’s not true at all, at least not for internet-based work. For the most part, I have been doing almost everything myself as a one-person team.

Once, I experimented with having a virtual assistant, just to have a taste of having employees to delegate to, but it didn’t work out – I felt weird being a ‘boss’.

However, it’s also impossible to do it all myself, therefore…

#3 – I am reliant on tools

I rely on so many productivity and outsourcing tools – in both my personal and professional life – to do my work. In fact, I’m lost without it.

You can see the various tools and services I purchased over the years to improve and maintain in the My Personal Blog Costs RM1,646.36 per Month article, and the tools and hacks I use to improve my productivity in my 3 Productivity Tips Women (and Men) MUST Know article.

Aside from all those, I spend a lot of (admittedly fun) time searching for and testing new tools. I hunt for tools and resources from various places, especially:

  • ProductHunt – I found ExplodingTopics and SideHustleStack, among others from here
  • AppSumo – [note: Get $10 if you sign up through the link] I found Sendfox (email marketing), Linguix (proofreading software), Socialbee (social media automation), among others from here
  • Android Authority Tech Deals – [Note: Get $10 if you sign up through the link] I found Microsoft Office deal, among others from here

When it comes to outsourcing, generally speaking I like to do all the work myself since I’m a control freak, but once in a while I get one-off help on project basis. Here are the places I depend on:

  • Twitter – Tweeting out a work opportunity usually gets me some replies. Building a following was tough but ultimately worth it!
  • Fiverr – [Note: Get up to $100 if you sign up through the link] Hired people to design RoR logo and video intro for RoR Youtube channel
  • Whatsapp groups – Joined a couple of groups
  • Facebook groups – Ditto

#4 – Imposter Syndrome is something I constantly work on

Listen, I am self-aware enough to know that my decision to remain as a solopreneur also came from my own feelings of inadequacy as well. I have the Imposter Syndrome, big time.

No matter how much I want to be in the ‘your only competition is yourself’ camp, I am constantly exposed to better content creators on the internet and can’t help but feel like my skills are nowhere near as good as theirs. I mean, there are people out there who scaled so well, their audience reach millions!

I feel like, sure I’m good but I don’t think I’m great, so how can I expect to mentor my employees, if I have them? My employees deserve someone who can lead them and that’s not me, or not yet anyway.

I’ll work on this at my own pace, but the thing is remaining as a solopreneur isn’t a particularly bad thing for me. In fact..

#5 – I’m enjoying my leisure time

When you’re good at being a solopreneur (and I use ‘good’ loosely to mean: you have both high-paying clients and already optimised work processes so even the toughest jobs don’t take too much time), you gain arguably the most important resource of all: time.

You see, I work hard, but I don’t work all the time. I used to, when I first started out and had to figure everything out from scratch, but not anymore. If I ‘evolved’ into an agency, I wouldn’t have time – if be busy working on projects or mentoring employees.

Nowadays, as long as I make enough for necessities plus a bit for savings, I don’t really care about earning as much as possible. I have rejected tens of thousands worth of income because I value time – and specifically leisure, idle time – more.

(To be fair, most of those rejections fall under my do-not-promote rule)

And what do I do with all this time? I learn new tools. I attend courses I want. Read books I want to read. Waste it on social media. Whatever – the point is I get to decide.

#6 – The importance of finding a job that fits your personality

I no longer believe in being passionate in your work. It’s not sustainable. Nowadays I believe more in sustainability. What work can you complete even when you don’t have the mood for it? Find that.

For me, I love being a solopreneur. It fits my introvert-leaning and homebody nature.

The solopreneur life is also perfect for me because according to the Financial Behaviour Report, I am both reserved and creative. Therefore, going solo allows me to quickly act on bursts of creativity, without waiting for approval from superiors. I have complete control of and am responsible for everything (for better or for worse).

financial behaviour report

(I highly recommend Financial Behaviour Report so you can design your life based on YOUR inclination, rather than live as others expected of you)

However, I’m cautious of recommending solopreneur-ship for you, because it might not be the life for everyone. There are downsides as well – the obvious one being – what if you work better in a team?

I’m going to end this article with that food for thought. Thanks for reading, and hopefully some parts of it made you think.

If you are a fellow solopreneur, I’d love if you can share the tools you personally use and can’t live without in the comments section 🙂

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  1. Salam and hi Mrs Suraya, thank you for sharing this super awesome article! Basically I have joining a training under Mereka Digital Entrepreneurs program.Form there I attend your class and daaa😊😊😊 I found out your article here. I decided to become a full-time freelance because I love it and my ambition to be an entrepreneur since school.

    How do you manage your money as a soloprenuer like apply bank loan, earn credit score to “nampak Cantik di mata bank”? I personally ambitious to stick on my decision but in term of money management I Dont have enough confidence to manage it yet.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Shamiza,

      Oh hello Mereka alumni, nice to see you here!

      Ok, to answer your question. apply loan all will be more difficult for freelancers/self employed, unless 1) your cashflow is good, and 2) your income tax statement and accounting is organised. To combat that, 1) make sure you focus on generating consistent income (this will be easier in due time, once you build reputation) and 2) hire an accountant (a few hundred)

      The most immediate first step is have one bank account for ONLY biz-related transactions, and seperate from your personal one.

      You can do this. Reach out anytime on my social media when youre stuck, I’ll see what I can do to help, or at least give you the right direction

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