Are you a solopreneur? One of the self-employed professionals that accounts for 10% of the U.S. workforce? At Entefy, we think of solopreneurs as nothing less than superheroes. And there are more than a few parallels. Solopreneurs—be they freelancers, consultants, or one-person entrepreneurs—are specialists that get called on when their superpowers are needed to solve the most challenging problems. And like most superheroes, you might spot them out on the streets looking just like an average Joe or Jane—until they get that call for help.
One of the biggest draws that attracts adventurous, results-oriented, career-driven individuals to the solopreneur ranks is the lifestyle that comes with being your own boss. More and more people are valuing professional flexibility, working for a purpose, and living in the now. And being self-employed offers exactly those things: control over your schedule, selectivity about who you work with and the projects you work on, and saying yes to events, workshops, and classes at the drop of a hat.
But as every solopreneur knows, for all of the lifestyle perks, there are still days where it can be hard to stay sane. Because the core challenge facing solopreneurs is time: how to manage it and where to find more of it. After all, it’s easy to over-schedule and over-promise when there’s no ceiling to the amount of work and obligation you could take on. Staying glued to digital devices, facing a stream of calendar invites, drowning in deliverables, and struggling with goal-setting are a few challenges worth mentioning. It can be hard to set boundaries, resist burnout, and maintain a clear path forward, but it doesn’t have to be.
Our team at Entefy includes former freelancers, consultants, and solopreneurs who have experienced the perks and pains of working for themselves. Here are some of the lessons they’ve shared about overcoming obstacles surrounding time, expertise, and building the right network.
1. Eliminate distractions and establish boundaries
Time. There’s two ways to spend it: doing things that propel you forward, or doing things that hold you back. Your productive streaks are jeopardized by notification popups on your phone, getting pulled into impromptu lunches or networking events, and chitchatting on the phone in the middle of the day. Device dependency and the challenges of saying “no” are two of the biggest sources of distraction.
Sound familiar? Then try a simple change of habit: Exit out of email and messaging apps, turn your phone on silent, and work distraction-free for an hour (or more) every single day. Expect your focus and productivity to skyrocket.
2. Know your body clock
Ever fall into the trap of planning to exercise or run an important errand during lunch, but then a last-minute call comes up? Solopreneurs often don’t know what the day is going to bring, and it’s important to be nimble and adaptable when unexpected things come your way. Since you can’t always plan what will happen in a day, one of the keys to solopreneur success is to know your circadian rhythm and schedule your day accordingly. Your body clock may be in your genes. Early birds should stack their most challenging work in the morning, while night owls should back-load their work day to increase effectiveness and productivity.
3. Identify the day’s most import task, then get it done first
One facet of the not-enough-time-in-the-day problem is prioritizing tasks. There’s one school of thought that involves identifying your Most Important Task (MIT). Given how many tasks solopreneurs have to juggle simultaneously, MITs are often the projects that get postponed because they are the hardest or most time-consuming items:
“Your MIT isn’t your easiest task, or the one you’ll enjoy the most. It’s not even the task that’s most pressing. Your MIT is your most important task—it’s the thing that will provide you (or those you work for) the most value…Think of your most important tasks as large stones that you need to fit into a jar. Those smaller tasks, which we can often knock out relatively quickly, are like small grains of sand. If you fill the jar up with sand first, the rocks will no longer fit. But if you place the rocks in the jar first, the sand easily falls into place—filling all the empty space between the rocks. Now you’ve accomplished everything, but you’ve given priority to the things that count most.”
4. Embrace your jack-of-all-trades nature to innovate
One question every solopreneur has been asked by a client goes something like, “We love your work. So can you also help with X?” Where X is another skillset or specialty distinct from the work you’re already doing. As a solopreneur, there is no shortage of new skills you could develop or topics you could learn about. After all, refining talents and honing expertise is critical to your success. But there’s a balancing act—you can’t spend all of your time learning new skills when you have your regular work to do.
Working independently requires many skillsets, which suits a jack-of-all-trades personality type. But instead of trying to learn and master new skill after new skill, innovate with what you already know. Emily Wapnick gave a TED Talk about “Multipotentialites,” people with many interests and creative pursuits. Her insight is that multipotentialites are naturally skilled at seeing patterns and overlaps between their distinct areas of interest, and are well-positioned to discover innovation in that overlap. Something she calls “idea synthesis,” combining two fields and creating something new at the intersection.
So rather than endlessly pursuing new skills and knowledge, consider devoting more time to leveraging the skills you already possess.
5. Don’t just network—build a tribe
Working for yourself requires doing administrative tasks, financial planning, writing contracts, managing day-to-day operations, and growing your business. That’s a lot of pieces to juggle on any given day, and you shouldn’t try to do it all. So let people help you. Pick a fantastic financial planner, a mentor who will help you find clarity on short- and long-term goals, people in your industry that you can bounce ideas off of to keep learning and stay inspired. And, equally important, spend time with those in your personal life who are your biggest cheerleaders. Because when your tribe is in place, you can create and do so much more.
There is endless advice on the type of people to surround yourself with for success, but consider this balanced approach: look for relentless workers, positive attitudes, people who ask questions, and dreamers.
Being an entrepreneur, freelancer, self-employed professional, or any other type of solopreneur is a career dream for many. And it should feel that way too. By implementing a few of these new habits, you might just find that being your own boss feels better than ever before.