Self Directed Leadership (for the solopreneur) 

When we hear the term leadership, we tend to think of employees, teams, and management. Most of what is written on leadership leans towards that scenario.

Do the same leadership principles apply if you are a solopreneur? The answer is yes. It is self-directed leadership, and it requires many of the same skills as the person who is leading a team of people on a project.

What is a solopreneur?

A solopreneur is someone who starts and runs a business on their own without employees or partners. It is an entrepreneur who goes solo. They may periodically enlist the help of a VA (virtual assistant), but for the most part they do everything themselves.

The main reason people go this route is to have the ability to work anywhere they want, take on clients they want, and create the business they want to create. There is a certain amount of freedom attached to being a solopreneur that is attractive to some people.

But freedom can be a double-edged sword if you lack the basic leadership skills required to build a business and to become a solopreneur who is a self-directed leader.

Here are eight leadership skills required of a solopreneur.

1. A clear why

Getting clear on why you are in business will keep you going when life and business get tough. When you run into rough patches in your business, it’s important to keep your purpose or your why front and center. When people are criticizing what you are doing, you need to be able to go back to your why to not let them get you down.

The first thing to think about when you are clarifying your unique why is to ask, “What gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me excited to face the day?” Think about what brings you the most joy and fulfillment. This will reveal your why for doing what you are doing.

2. Time management

This is where solopreneurs sometimes get in trouble. Remember that freedom thing I mentioned earlier being a double-edged sword? Knowing how to plan and manage your time will serve you well as a solopreneur.

Since you don’t have anyone to answer to, it’s tempting to go have coffee with a friend, or wash the car, or do anything other than work on increasing profits in your business.  You tell yourself it’s just an hour of your time, and it’s not a big deal. But it is a big deal.  Because that is an hour you could have used to work on or finish a moneymaking project. It is an hour you could have used to make phone calls or write an email to your list that could potentially produce income. These hours and minutes add up to a lot of wasted time over a one-week period.

The best way to avoid these time wasters is to tell your time where to go. Dave Ramsey tells people they have to tell their money where to go if they want to get a handle on their finances. The same principle applies to your time. You have to plan your days or week in advance so you know how you will be investing your time every day. This will help keep you on track.

3. Discipline

Having the ability to get what needs to be done when it needs to be done is a valuable skill to have as a solopreneur. Developing certain behaviors that lead to productivity improvements in your business will help you build your business faster. If you find anyone who has accomplished anything in their life, I can assure you they are very disciplined individuals.

4. Communication

Even though you don’t have employees or a team of people you have to communicate with, you still must develop great communication skills. You may have to lead a VA to complete a short project for you. You may need to communicate and negotiate with vendors. You will need ongoing communication with your clients. Not having quality communication skills could cost your business a client (and money). Communication is always a key leadership quality for solopreneurs who want to build six and seven-figure businesses.

5. Coaching

Tying in with communication skills is coaching. This is where you have the ability to lead your client down a path that helps them discover their own answers and solutions. Coaching tends to get lumped in with consulting, but they are two totally different concepts. Coaching lets the client lead with the coach providing direction. Consulting gives the client advice, tells them what to do, and may even teach the client how to do the task at hand.

6. Relationship building

In addition to having great ongoing communication skills with virtual assistants and vendors, you need relationship building skills to help you build relationships from scratch. Business is all about building the right relationships. So developing this skill will be a tremendous advantage for you, especially as a solopreneur.

7. Desire for ongoing learning and personal development

If you are in business, you must commit to lifelong learning. This is essential. But this is another area where you have to be careful as a solopreneur. Your goal is to become more of a content creator rather than a content consumer. Too many times business owners get caught in the loop of attending seminars, webinars, reading, etc. when they actually have already learned what they need to know to build and grow a business. At some point you have to know when to cut off the content consumption and get to work creating content and implementing what you already know.

When I started my business I was reading at least one book every week., so I was reading around 60 plus books a year. But what I learned in reading all those books is they basically say the same thing in different ways. Now instead of having a book shelf with over 300 books, I only have around a dozen books that I read over and over every year, sometimes multiple times per year. I will provide a list of a few of the books I recommend in a future blog post.

8. Self-awareness

This coincides with the previous leadership skill recognizing the value of ongoing learning and continued growth. If you are a self-aware leader, then lifelong learning will be an ingrained part of your personality. Both business and personal growth will be important. Every self-directed leader (solopreneur) must develop a sense of self-awareness. The ability to recognize your strengths, weaknesses, true personality and hidden biases is a valuable trait to have. Self-awareness reinforces your authenticity and ability to relate to others.

It can be challenging going it alone in a business. It is a path I have chosen for all the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. It is rewarding and has its advantages, but it’s not for everyone. Some people enjoy the social aspect of having a team. For others it’s an ego thing telling people about their team and having “their people” take care of everything.

I’ve heard you have to develop a team if you want to build a big business. I have found that not to be true in a lot of cases. I have seen businesses doing over $4,000,000 annually by themselves with only a virtual assistant hired periodically to help with specific tasks. They outsource what they need when they need it and sometimes produce the same results as an entrepreneur with a team of people behind them.

The other thing I find with solopreneurs who do generate six and seven figures annually is they keep more of the money they make. They have virtually no overhead, no responsibility for  managing employees, and they experience high profit margins.

So that gives you something to think about if you are just starting in your own business. You’ll just have to weigh the pros and cons for you. Whether you want to go it alone or have a team of people to work with every day is ultimately up to you.

All the best,

Mike Coleman