Why Businesses of One Are More Powerful Than Ever
- Hosted July 20, 2020
- By Jackie Lam
Why Businesses of One Are More Powerful Than Ever
Last year, I felt a bit unsure as to where to take my freelance writing business. My income was gradually climbing as I landed a number of retainer clients. Plus, I was working with companies that not only gave me steady work, were offering higher rates, plus granted me the freedom to write on topics I was most passionate about.
I was in a good place, no doubt. It felt amazing to hit a mini-milestone. But I quibbled over what I should do next. And I put pressure on myself to do more. I wanted to pursue something bigger, but what that “next-level” step was, remained a mystery. A champagne problem? You bet. But it was a dilemma nonetheless.
A few colleagues suggested I turn my army of one into an agency. I could potentially serve as the editorial liaison of sorts, and hire and manage a small crew of writers. My business could expand to drum up basic content strategy, editorial calendars, and the execution of content, from ideation to creation.
Yes, that’s what I do, I assured myself. And I pursued it. I reached out to my colleagues in the personal finance space. I courted potential clients.
A few weeks in, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. While it was what I thought I should do, it wasn’t what I actually wanted for my business. I ended up dropping the idea altogether and sticking to being a content creator.
When our business as a solopreneur is growing, there can be pressure to add more members to our team. I get it. Numbers are sexy, after all. As entrepreneurs, we’re taught that scaling up is a sign of growth. The larger, the more successful. More employees, more clients, more revenue. Having the need and capabilities to expand to hiring a larger team means that business is booming.
I’ve found that there’s power in sticking to being a business of one. Here’s why:
You’re More Resilient
Companies of one tend to be more resilient and nimble. That’s because we normally have lower overhead costs and business-related expenses than larger outfits. In turn, we can still maintain our businesses even during slow periods. And during these the coronavirus pandemic, we solopreneurs might experience a sudden drop in client work.
Because our costs to run our businesses are lower, when we struggle with gaps in cashflow, we won’t need to take out as much capital to stay afloat. What’s more, we won’t need as high as a contingency fund. As a solopreneur, I have a one-month buffer fund to get me through any lulls in work. I also have an emergency fund that I can tap into. And should I ever need to lean in on financing, I know that I won’t need to take out a massive loan.
During periods of uncertainty, adapting to changes in the economy is inevitable. To thrive, many of us will need to respond and adapt to the changing needs of our clients. Shifting focus, repackaging our services or pivoting into a new direction altogether doesn’t require conferring with our business partners. We don’t have to fret whether our existing team can adapt to these changes.
Evolving in the market as solopreneurs can be a lot quicker and easier than if we had a larger company. We don’t need to retrain or rehire, or get the approval from partners, co-owners, or stakeholders.
You Don’t Have to Be in Constant Growth Mode
Being in a perpetual growth mode can be exhausting. When you’re trying to scale your business, you’re constantly seeing every project and client as a stepping-stone to the next big thing. And it can be tough to meet your goals so that you can level up and get to a place where you can comfortably scale.
You might slam your head against the proverbial wall, experiencing moments of frustration. You might feel pressured and do whatever it takes to avoid stagnation. When I’m happy with — and actually devoted to — staying as a company of one, I don’t have the weight of wondering how I’ll expand my business and how to continue doing so. And instead of always asking myself what’s next, I can enjoy what I’m doing in the here and now.
You Still Have Income Potential
And just because you are committed to deliberately remaining a company of one doesn’t mean that you are limiting your income potential. I remember I felt this way because I wanted to work less and have some time to work on my personal projects. And I thought this meant earning less, too. My partner, who has been a full-time artist for 30 years, sat down with me and said, “Instead of limiting your income goals, why don’t you just limit how much time you spend a day working?”
He was absolutely right. Working less doesn’t equate to earning more. When you work a job, that might be the case. But when you run your own business, as cliche as it sounds, to boost your income you need to work smarter. That means finding ways to do things more efficiently, landing work that pays higher rates, and developing skills that command that higher pay. And of course, I could hire other freelancers on an as-needed basis if I needed help running my business.
You Have the Option to Take Breaks
I’ve taken a month off here and there to focus on my personal pursuits or to simply recharge after a period of burnout. To take that time off, I just needed to make sure I could afford to and to give my clients plenty of notice.
If I scaled to having a larger company, I would have a team of folks who relied on me for a paycheck. What’s more, as an agency I would be offering results-based services, and not simply deliverables, it would be that much more difficult to take a step back. When you take a breather from your business as a solopreneur it’s seen as a sabbatical. When you do it as a company, it can be seen as a failure. And getting things up and running again would take a ton more work and resources.
You Can Easily Pivot Based on Your True Wants
In the past year, I’ve changed course to focus on being a financial and career coach for freelancers and creatives. And most recently, I decided to carve out some time to help my partner with launching an immersive art gallery in Los Angeles.
As a solopreneur, if you want to shift gears you only really need to confer with what you really want. I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. It was entirely up to me how much time I wanted to devote to my new endeavors. And it could shift gears quickly if I wanted to. It was entirely up to me.
If I had focused on growing an agency, I would have to consider my hires and also my clients. It would be a lot more challenging to change the direction of my business. and I loved the autonomy of being a freelancer. I didn’t have to manage anyone, I had the freedom to carve out my own schedule based on my lifestyle and how I worked best.
You Can Create a Lifestyle-Based Business
I left the 9 to 5 because I wanted to build a life around what was most important to me. I wanted to have the time to volunteer, pursue my creative passions like fiction writing, and to go by a schedule that was in sync to my productivity style. I love having the freedom to work on a Sunday afternoon, and start my day at 5 in the morning because I am one of those crazy early birds.
If I were to scale to starting my own content agency, I was concerned that I would need to invest more time to hire and manage a team, and sit in on long, unnecessary meetings and client calls. That’s now how I wanted to spend my time. I wanted to write and create content.
Because a big part of freelancing is the ability to build a blueprint for the lifestyle that jives with you, I didn’t want to give that up by expanding my business. Sure, making more money by scaling would be nice, but the trade-offs didn’t seem worth it.
If you’re currently a solopreneur and have larger ambitions to grow to a company with employees, kudos to you. But it’s not for everyone, and in building our own businesses, we shouldn’t force ourselves to travel alongside a single, cookie-cutter trajectory. What’s most important is to be true to you. To do meaningful work, and build something that’s in step our goals and values. To me, that’s what running your own freelance business is all about.
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