What it’s really like to be a solo founder

man staring at laptop

Let’s start by breaking some popular myths about being a solo entrepreneur. No, you're not going to fail just because you’re a solo founder; yes, you can get investors and raise capital; yes, millions of very successful businesses are run by solopreneurs.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the reality of being a solopreneur. Here are the steps you can take to prepare for the challenges and set yourself up for success.

Decide whether or not it’s the right fit

First, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Entrepreneurship is a long and lonely road filled with many ups and downs. You’ll have more work than you can possibly accomplish, and countless stressful decisions. Sometimes it’s easier to face these challenges with a co-founder. That said, there are advantages to being a solo entrepreneur.

  1. It can be hard to find the right co-founder: someone with a shared vision and a complementary skill set. If you haven’t found the right business partner, going at it alone might be better than settling for someone who isn’t the right fit.
  2. You get creative control over your business and your brand, and decision-making is often easier.

Being a sole founder doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. As a solo entrepreneur, you can bring on a team (full-time, freelance, or in a consulting role) and hand-pick the specific skills you need for each phase in your business’s growth. You can also connect with other entrepreneurs who are facing the same challenges that you are.

Get ready to be the boss

Being a solopreneur means you call the shots, but it also means that you don’t have a boss to blame when things don’t go the right way. You’re the chief executive officer, chief marketing officer, chief product officer, and chief technology officer. While those titles are impressive, so is the responsibility that comes with them.

Making decisions alone is often more efficient than making them with several competing stakeholders, but it’s tough. In this article, founder Jayson De Mers says it’s easy to be “caught in an echo chamber,” and suggests getting different perspectives on big decisions, even when you trust your own logic.

Find your tribe

Running your business alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. Sarah Peck, a solo founder and blogger, recommends finding a “business bestie.” These are friends, colleagues, or partners who help to keep you accountable.

Starting a business also allows you to take advantage of the thousands of resources, communities, and programs designed to help entrepreneurs succeed. With the rise of co-working spaces and meetup groups, it’s easier than ever to find the right community for you and your business. There are also great online resources where you can learn new skills, find new tools, and connect with freelancers and consultants.

Be flexible but stay focused

One of the great benefits of being a solopreneur is the flexibility of working from almost anywhere, anytime — but the work still has to get done. You can be one of the entrepreneurs who make a living online while sitting on a beach or traveling the world, but getting there requires a lot of work and self-discipline.

To be more productive, LifeHacker suggests avoiding multitasking across different projects because that sabotages your ability to concentrate. Instead, try blocking out time to focus on specific initiatives.

If you like to set your own hours, freelancing is a great gig but time management is critically important, especially if you are juggling several projects at once. Solo founder Zach Holman suggests framing your days in terms of “what can I accomplish today?” instead of “what can I work on today?” He also suggests leaving small tasks unfinished — that way you have an easy task to accomplish the next morning.

Don’t forget to rest, though. As a solo founder, you get very few consecutive “days off,” so remember to regularly take time to disconnect and re-energize for the week ahead.

Stick to your vision

As a solo founder, you’re going to be working harder than you ever have — so your work had better be something that you’re passionate about. When the going gets tough and the work doesn’t seem to end, having a north star will help you stay on course. Radhika Dutt, product leader and entrepreneur, believes that having a North Star is important for your product and for your company. “If you’re building a Radical Product, your North Star is the root that anchors your company and products. Your business strategy and your product strategy should all be aligned to your North Star.”

Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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