(Art credit: Sisi Recht, "Stacked")
There are as many types of solopreneur business models as there are solopreneurs. When you work for yourself, by yourself, you can reinvent what you do whenever you want.
That’s true…in theory.
In reality, many of us get trapped doing what we’ve always done, how we’ve always done it, even if it is no longer giving us what we need financially or emotionally. One reason for this is that solopreneurs are so used to the feast/famine mentality when it comes to revenue that, when we find something that works, we keep doing it, even if we don’t actually like it anymore. On the flip side, something might not be working anymore, yet we keep doing it because we’re not sure how to make a change.
In many instances, this leads to getting burned out and, in some cases, going back to working for someone else because you don’t know how to update your business model to give your life what it needs.
Whether you need more money, more time, or more interesting work, here are four ways to reboot your business model and bring back the passion that made you go out on your own in the first place.
Find a Partner
By definition, solopreneurs do what they do primarily alone. Running a one-person show has its pros and cons — you can be more nimble and flexible than a larger company, but you’re also limited to offering things that only you know how to do. Incorporating a partner, either as a primary part of your existing business or as a new venture, can add service offerings that diversify your work and attract different types of customers. Working with a partner will also expand the professional network of potential clients you have access to.
Working by yourself can also be lonely. Finding a business partner means you have a person to bounce ideas off of, or just commiserate with when the struggles of entrepreneurship get you down.
Entering into a partnership is a huge commitment. Consider working together on a few projects as a trial period before deciding to embark on a full partnership. And always make sure to create a partnership agreement, even if you’re not creating a legal entity together, because life changes constantly and you always want to be prepared for the partnership to change or end. The best advice I got on this front was from an attorney who told me, “A good partnership agreement plans the divorce before it happens.”
Expanding the services you offer can be a great way to update your business model. Start by listening for things your clients always need that might be adjacent to the type of work you already do. For example, if you’re a social media manager, your clients might need help with social media ads, graphic design, or copywriting.
Once you’ve identified some possibilities think about the ones that sound the most interesting and have the highest earning potential. First and foremost, make sure you’re going to like doing this new skill by testing it out. Then think about earning potential by doing some research on what other people are making with that skill set. Earning potential will also depend on how fast it will take you to get good at the new skill because you’ll make the most money on things you’re an expert on and can do faster than anyone else.
Many seasoned freelancers get to a place in their career where they’re making more than enough money to facilitate the life they want to live, but they’re still taking on more work because they’re addicted to working. If money isn’t a primary driver for you right now, consider doing less. I know it seems counter-intuitive because, as freelancers, we’re conditioned by the feast/famine mentality — many of us remember times when there wasn’t enough work, so we hoard work and say yes to everything, even when we don’t actually need the money. Consider reevaluating what you do based on what brings you joy and go from there. Doing less might mean outsourcing things, letting go of clients, or removing certain services from your list of offerings.
Create Passive Income
Passive income is a myth. There is nothing that makes money for you without you doing anything. With that said, there are ways to introduce income streams that are more passive than one-on-one client work. Most freelancers work with clients individually with “done-for-you” types of services, where you’re directly delivering what your clients need. This means that there is always a one-to-one relationship between your time and money. Establishing passive income streams changes the time/money relationship.
Consider teaching other people how to do what you do best with a course, blog, or newsletter. You can also create off-the-shelf products like templates, which allow people to get similar results without engaging directly with you.
Another passive income model is working with groups instead of individuals. Think about ways to work with more people simultaneously, which means that one hour of your time now helps many people instead of just one. You could start a membership group where you’re telling people “how” to do what you do but not doing it for them. Groups also allow you to answer the same questions for multiple people simultaneously in a group forum and enable other members to help each other. Different versions of this business model include group coaching programs, masterminds, and boot camps.
Being your own boss means that you get to make changes to your business whenever you want to. Many of us went out on our own, so we could do what we love. If your business is no longer giving you what you need, don’t wait another day to make a change. Life is too short to do things that don’t bring you joy (or pay the bills).