Working 9-5, is that a way to make a living? It doesn’t seem so these days, with the ‘gig economy era’ in full swing. The gig economy refers to the workforce of people engaged in entrepreneurial, freelance, or side-hustle work, which has been significantly on the rise since the COVID19 pandemic.
The gig economy has brought with it the rise of ‘micro-businesses,’ tending to mean businesses led by a single individual – or ‘solopreneurs’. Solo-person enterprises are increasingly prevalent in the service industry, reflecting a growing trend towards more independent and nimble business models.
But how do solopreneurs differ from freelancers? What are the benefits to flying solo and if growing your business is all about building connections, then how do you go about networking as a solopreneur?
Before diving into the benefits of solopreneurship and supportive networking strategies, it's important to differentiate between freelancing and solopreneurs:
- Solopreneurs are individuals who run their own business, typically without any employees or partners. They are responsible for all aspects of their business, from marketing and sales to product or service delivery and customer support. Solopreneurs often offer specialised skills or expertise, and their businesses tend to be more focused on a specific niche or area of expertise.
- Freelancers, on the other hand, are individuals who work independently for clients on a project-by-project basis. Freelancers may work in a variety of industries, from writing and design to programming and consulting. They typically have a set of skills that are in demand, and they market themselves to potential clients to secure work.
While solopreneurs and freelancers share some similarities, there are some key differences between the two, including:
- Business structure: Solopreneurs typically have a more formal business structure, while freelancers may work as independent contractors.
- Scope of work: Solopreneurs tend to focus on a specific niche or area of expertise, while freelancers may work on a variety of projects across different industries.
- Income and revenue streams: Solopreneurs often generate income from a single source, such as a coaching program, while freelancers may have multiple clients and revenue streams.
- Long-term growth potential: Solopreneurs may have more potential for long-term growth and scaling their business, as they can build a team and expand their offerings. Freelancers may have less potential for growth since they typically work on a project basis.
- Risk and responsibility: Solopreneurs are typically responsible for all aspects of their business. Freelancers may have less responsibility and risk since they are hired on a project basis.
- Leverage vs Freedom: In general, a solopreneur will have more leverage as they make money by building products and selling it to customers. While freelancers have more freedom, because they work whenever they want to on whatever projects they want to.
Deciding whether solopreneurship or freelancing is the path for you will depend on several considerations: For example, your business goals and whether you want to scale-up your business over time or continue with a project-based workflow; your work style and personality and whether you prefer working autonomously or collaborating with others, and how many risks are you willing to take on yourself.
No matter which path you choose, there are some tips that can help you succeed as a solopreneur or freelancer.
Despite the positives to flying solo, when it comes to growing your business, coupled with multitasking, there’s power in numbers.
In fact, as Sir Richard Branson said: “Succeeding in business is all about making connections”.
Networking is the art of making those connections. According to LinkedIn: “The aim is not only to get new customers, but also to recognise, react to and act upon business opportunities, to share information, get referrals and find potential partners. Even if time seems scarce, building a strong professional network is essential.”
If you are ready to start networking, here are five effective strategies for service-led solopreneurs:
1. Define your Networking Goals:
Set clear objectives for your networking efforts. Whether it's expanding your client base, gaining industry insights, or finding collaborators, having specific goals helps you focus on beneficial connections. Genuine relationships provide valuable support, advice, and potential opportunities for collaboration.
2. Utilise Online Networking Platforms
Embrace the power of online networking platforms. Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and specialised forums provide avenues to expand your network. Ensure professionalism in all online interactions and consider attending virtual networking events to learn from industry experts and engage with potential clients.
3. Collaborate with Fellow Solopreneurs
Build alliances within the solopreneur community. Collaborating with others in your field can lead to mutual growth, as you share expertise, resources, and opportunities. A network of solopreneurs creates a support system that understands the unique challenges and triumphs of solo business ownership.
4. Seek Mentorship
Find mentors who can provide guidance and support. Learning from their experiences and expertise can offer valuable insights. Establish a strong professional relationship based on trust, and don't hesitate to seek advice when faced with critical decisions.
Remember the words: “Succeeding in business is all about making connections,” so, work out your networking strategies and turn connections into valuable opportunities, ensuring sustained growth and success.