7 Key Questions to Lay the Foundation for Success as a Solo Business Owner
Could you turn your passion, hobby or side hustle into a six-figure solopreneur career? Based on my experience working with thousands of solo businesses, you totally can! But if you’re going to move from earning side income to being your own boss full-time, you need to be honest with yourself about the answers to these seven questions.
1. What do you naturally love to do?
When I talk about loving what you do, I’m not talking about results. For example, if you're a hairstylist, it’s not about whether you love to see people with pretty hair. We all do. It’s about whether you love the washing, conditioning, cutting and teasing — the process of styling thick and rough or thin and flat hair into something full and beautiful.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether you love the process, and there’s no way to know that other than doing it over and over again. You have to own that, because fundamentally running your own business is doing the same thing over and over again and loving it like it's the first time.
So, if somebody calls you for help and you feel a sense of dread, then maybe that’s not the right solo career for you. But if you’re bursting with ideas about how you could help and advise them based on what you know about them and the possibilities you dream of for them, then you may have a winner.
2. What are you really good at?
This is all about talent. The way you gauge what you’re good at is by how happy your clients are when you do something for them. Do they say that after working with you or being coached by you, they have resolved the problem that brought them to you? Are they changing their behavior based on your recommendations and seeing the results they want?
It’s not enough to have training or be licensed. It’s also about how talented you are in delivering the service. If you’re getting four- and five-star feedback, and your clients are recommending you to other people, then you know you have the superpower to turn that skill into a great solo business.
3. Can you make money from it?
I never cease to be amazed at what people can make money doing. If you know even one person who is willing to pay you, you can make money. But the real thinking behind this question is can you deliver this service in a way that fairly values your time?
One of the things you need to decide is the going rate for the services you’re offering. You can find this out just by competitive shopping. Go out and hire someone to do your lashes, go out and hire someone to give you a massage and see how much they charge. Check out the prices on different websites and marketplaces (e.g. Angie’s List, Thumbtack and even Facebook) and get a feel for what you can charge. Then, when you’re ready, test your pricing. Hopefully, people will love what you do and be willing to book you at least once and some will become regulars. That’s how you’ll know you’ve got it right.
4. Are you looking to work full-time, part-time or side-hustle?
A lot of people talk about whether you can actually moonlight your way into your own business. I'm a firm believer that when you're a service professional, you can be more creative than someone who's doing manufacturing or retail, because you don’t have a lot of big ticket startup and operating costs. And you've got a lot of flexibility as to how you spend your time working towards that goal, and how much risk you want to take on.
Ultimately, you have to decide where you are on the risk spectrum. If you love risk, you can absolutely quit your job. It's a spectrum of 1-10, with 10 being the ultimate daredevil. If you are a 10, go ahead and take a leap of faith. But before you do, have 12-18 months of income set aside to give yourself enough time to ramp up and replace the income from your day job.
If you’re risk averse, you’re going to have to come up with a strategy where you ramp down the time you spend on your day job, based on income milestones. You may want to make $100,000 ($8,333/month) from your life coaching business, but if you’re starting with coaching friends and colleagues after hours and on weekends, you might start by only making $2,500 each month ($30,000 a year).
As you make more, maybe you can do one less shift at work, and spend another day working on your business. When you get to $5,000-plus a month, you can go part-time at work. You’re essentially weaning yourself off your day-job salary and shifting towards your solo business. Don’t be afraid or too proud to build bridges to where you want to be. If you cannot adjust hours easily in your day job, that might mean quitting and substitute teaching for a while till you can make enough to cover all of your existing commitments.
5. What are you going to specialize in?
As a service professional, there are only so many people that you can serve, so you have to find the people that are the best fit for the business you plan to run. One way I’ve seen many six-figure solopreneurs approach this is to look at themselves, what they care about and the issues they’ve overcome, and then look for people dealing with those same issues. It’s about where you’re uniquely positioned to make a difference and who your story will resonate with the most.
It’s not enough to say you are a fitness trainer. People want to know that you are fitness trainer who helps new mothers “get their body back” or a nutritionist who is all about helping nurses practice #selfcare. If you try to serve everybody, you’ll end up serving nobody.
6. Can you build a community around it?
The second part of a niche is creating a community around it. And in this context, your community is a group of folks who've been through similar things as you in their life. When they hear your story, it’s like a dog whisperer; they want to connect and learn more from you. Tell your story on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or evenTikTok, and see who not only tunes in, but returns and views until the end. Chances are they have similar stories and your specialty area lies somewhere in helping them get to where they want to be in life. Find enough of them, and you have your community. Building a tribe does two things: It can feed the market by spreading the word about you and your story, and it will feed your business by bringing in new clients.
7. How much do you enjoy working with people?
I said earlier that building a successful solopreneur business is about loving the process of getting your clients from point A to point B. For example, as a dog trainer or yoga instructor, you have to be comfortable talking to and working with people to tune into what they need, to identify what’s blocking them from fulfilling that need and to help them understand how to achieve their goals, all while delivering results. Don’t get me wrong; you don’t need to be an extrovert. You just need to be good at engaging with people around the thing you love.
So what’s the bottom line? Think about it like one of those Venn diagrams you had to draw in grade school. The first three questions above are the three overlapping circles, and whatever fits in the middle is a good target for your solo business. The last four questions are the start of a game plan for growing your business. Answer them all, and you’re ready for six-figure solopreneur success.