Darn… did it happen to you too?
Or is this just some overrated description of what you do?
Or is it because some wordings are more appealing than others?
Let’s explore together.
A little about my history…
I didn’t know the word “solopreneur” existed when I became self-employed.
I became self-employed more than 10 years ago, a little bit by accident. I was then a managing partner in a consulting firm where I was providing consulting services to public utilities. Our business went south and I ended up without a job.
Since my consulting services were very much tied to my expertise, I figured that I could probably do this on my own. I took a leap forward and started my own consulting firm with a whopping staff level of… one, i.e., me!
Create a corporation, build a website and off I went…
I have been doing contracts for more than a decade now. Some were fixed-priced. Some were more like hourly contractual work. I hired subs once to do part of the work. I had many ideas of additional services that I could sell but never not get to implement them.
Does that make me a solopreneur?
Let’s find out.
Entrepreneur vs solopreneur vs freelancer. So what’s the difference?
Let’s start with the easy one: freelancer
According to Merriam-Webster, a freelancer is :
- a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer
- a person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization
I have done that. Many of my contracts were multi-year engagements on projects as a specialist in my field of expertise. Many times, larger consulting firms were subcontracting me to work on customer projects. Sometimes, I engaged directly with the customer without this intermediary.
So, I have done a lot of freelance work. That was the point of doing consulting on my own: no boss.
The reality was that I had a client instead of a boss. Just as demanding. And sometimes, the line between being a freelancer and an employee is pretty thin. I had a client once asked me how he could fulfill my interests. I had to kindly remind him that I was there to fulfill the company’s needs and not for the company to fulfill mine…
What about entrepreneur?
Merriam-Webster define an entrepreneur as :
: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise
The word entrepreneur comes from the French verb entreprendre which means to start a project requiring time, effort and coordination of resources.
I have done that too. I set up a corporation and dealt with all the obligations of a company like financial statements, taxes, etc. There were times where I had no contracts and I had to manage my financials such that I could continue to provide for my family. In other words, put money aside in the company’s accounts as a contingency for leaner times.
I have always considered myself as an employee of my company, keeping me as an individual separate from the corporation. That was the whole point of setting up the corporation in the first place.
I worked on contracts where I delivered studies for a fixed price, thus assuming the risks inherent to the work.
I subcontracted some of the work to another consultant where I needed help.
I created revenue streams separate from my consulting services. Writing on Medium is one of them.
Does that make me an entrepreneur? I guess so.
What is a solopreneur?
Merriam-Webster defines a solopreneur as:
: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise without the help of a partner : a solo entrepreneur
There you go. If you start a business, you are an entrepreneur. If you do it all by yourself, you are a solopreneur. That pretty much fits my profile.
But, is being a solopreneur viewed as a good thing or a bad thing?
Is a solopreneur considered less favorably than an entrepreneur but more favorably than just a freelancer?
For the last century, the word entrepreneur has also taken the additional connotation of someone who is a go-getter, who is ready to risk it all to build something great.
The success stories of the garage startup that becomes a multi-billion company have elevated entrepreneurs to a level of respect that is close to that of worship. Just think of the cult following Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs before him.
Therefore, being an entrepreneur, even if you are solo, should command some respect. But, if you are solo, are you just a solopreneur, something less than an entrepreneur?
By the same token, is being just employed, something less than being self-employed?
Does it really matter?
My short answer is: not really.
Leaving a job to start a business is a huge leap forward, whatever the shape that business takes. You may find it risky and scary at first, but you can also find it rewarding.
How other people see you, well, I guess, like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder…
Don’t let that stop you from taking that leap forward!