5 Things I've Learned From Venturing Into Solopreneurship
Ready to leave your job and take the leap? Here's what I learned at only the tender age of 22.
There comes a time in the life of entrepreneurs when they realize they’re being called to take the quantum leap from their current job into their own venture. Whether this call results from unexpected circumstances or a persistent vision, it’s almost a rite of passage to consciously choose solopreneurship, then leave your job to pursue it.
And this week, National Small Business Week, is a great time to think about this.
Perhaps this call is thrust on you unexpectedly. Jaclyn Johnson, CEO and founder of the women's online platform Create & Cultivate, was fired from her day job before she started her multimillion dollar brand. As she shared in an interview with web TV host Marie Forleo, “Rock bottom is the best place to start.”
Although my own shift wasn't motivated by something quite as dire, it did happen early: I was 22, and less than a year out of college. That's how I ended up answering the call and learning what I needed to learn as I went.
Today, several months into this new adventure of throwing myself into the often uncomfortable but always exciting life of solopreneurship, I’ve picked up a lot. For others contemplating a similar solopreneurial leap, here are five lessons to consider.
1. Realize that everything is a "slow build."
When I decided to take the leap into my soloentrepreneur career of writing and speaking, I had unrealistic expectations for how quickly my business could take off. I thought that since I’d be giving 100 percent of my waking time and effort to building and scaling, my company would take off almost immediately. Au contraire.
I’ve actually posted the words “slow build” on on my desk because they perfectly summarize solopreneurship and remind me to be patient. After all, I've read that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. Starting something new on your own requires that you learn how to do it properly, prepare diligently, seek feedback for experts, then execute with minimal expectations.
In an article on his website, Wil Schroter, the founder of Startups.com, estimated that it takes at least four years to develop your idea into a real business. So, building with the long game in mind will provide you more patience for your journey. The build may be slow, but the journey is enjoyable if you’re creating something you’re truly excited about.
2. Get comfortable with making your own to-do lists.
Finding direction on a daily basis was particularly hard for me, after years of basing my daily tasks on what professors, partners and bosses told me to do. Solopreneurship can feel like you’re staring into the abyss any day that you wake up, make your coffee and realize you don’t have a clear-cut to-do list to work from. No one is telling you what to do anymore; but then again, that kind of direction brings a level of comfort and security that can make you happy.
James Wedmore built a seven-figure Internet business, and his Mind Your Business podcast teaches solopreneurs to work smarter. I liked an Instagram post he shared that said, “Trying to do things that are in your comfort zone as an entrepreneur is nonsense. If you want to do things that are realistic and reasonable, go get a job.”
This perspective has reminded me that being in charge of my ultimate destiny starts with being in charge of my daily productivity. And that responsibility, in turn, encourages me to start my daily agenda with emails, opportunities and creative activities that move me outside my comfort zone.
3. Keep your progress in perspective.
It’s important to follow other solopreneurs on social media, but that comparison game can be brutal. If you’re following solopreneurs who are so far ahead of you in their careers that you feel like you’re constantly behind, consider pressing the "unfollow" button. There’s a fine line between inspiration and discouragement, and comparison is the thief of joy.
New York Times best-selling author and renowned speaker Rachel Hollis shared in her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, that you can’t compare your Chapter One to someone else’s Chapter Ten. This quote has long been helpful to me.
Instead, invest time in listening to podcasts about the build process, such as Masters of Scale, with Reid Hoffman.
4. Be strategic about which ideas to tackle first.
Being entrepreneurial, I fully expect that like me, you have dozens of ideas you’d like to see happen. It was hard for me to decide which of my own ideas to tackle first. So, do what I did: Take stock of what those ideas are, and how they can give way to one another; and form a chronological funnel of impact. For example: I decided to focus on my weekly newsletter and build my list before I started my idea for an online course. Both ideas mattered to me, but my action plan took me back to slow build.
Gary Keller, a successful entrepreneur and best-selling author of The One Thing, asserted in his book that success comes from focusing on only one thing at a time. “The path to more is through less," he wrote, and I truly believe that.
Everything will come in due time. But takes things slowly. Start laying the foundations, and explore what idea can be built on top of the last one, rather than developed concurrently.
5. Be open to the unexpected.
Ultimately, I see solopreneurship as a new frontier, with more opportunities than ever to pursue whatever feels exciting to you. Jenna Kutcher is a photographer and Instagram influencer with just under a million followers, and her humble beginnings started with a camera she bought on Craigslist in order to photograph her brother’s wedding. In a blog post on her website, she shared that it was during that day of shooting that she realized how much she loved that craft, which in turn prompted her to pursue it full time.
My own solopreneurship journey has pulled me into new and exciting directions that I never would have given myself the space and encouragement to explore, had I stuck to a job. These directions have included such unexpected opportunities as signing with a talent agency for acting and offering personal branding consultations.
I know that these are just the tip of the iceberg; there are more to come.
Solopreneurship is an unprecedented opportunity to learn about yourself and what you want to create and bring into the world. So, if you’ve been looking for the inspiration to take the leap for yourself, I'd say go for it! The greatest things in life are just over that next hill, and you’ll learn as you go along. Here's to your adventure.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer