Five Strategies for Winning at Working Solo

Eighty percent of all U.S. small businesses have no employees. The number of non-employee businesses is expected to grow in coming years, due in part to the expansion of the gig economy (e.g., Uber, TaskRabbit, Thumbtack) and favorable economic conditions. Being in business with no employees means you don’t have to deal with payroll, minimum wage rules, and other employer-related responsibilities. But it doesn’t mean you are relieved of all business-owner obligations. You must wear all the hats in your business and see that what needs to be done gets done.

Here are five strategies you can use to make your business work — even though you don’t have any employees working with you.

1. Outsource daily chores

There are only 24 hours in a day, and you can’t work every one of them. You have to let others handle certain matters for you. This may be doing your bookkeeping, handling your calendar, or dealing with customers. Outsource to individuals or companies that can address your needs. For example, consider engaging a virtual assistant who can spend the hours you require each month on your business activities.

Also, be sure to arrange good help (including backup) with personal responsibilities—caring for a child, an elderly parent, or a disabled spouse. This will free you to concentrate on your business.

2. Put together a team of experts

As a one-person business, you don’t have a legal department, an accounting department, a marketing department, or an IT department. But you likely need the help of experts in each of these and other areas. I recommend a team that includes:

  • Attorneys. Likely you’ll need different ones for different purposes (e.g., ones specializing in contracts, in intellectual property, in employment-related matters).
  • CPA. You need an accountant to provide financial guidance to your business. This expertise extends beyond filing tax returns. It covers business practices you can use to improve your bottom line.
  • Insurance agent. You can to discuss the coverage you have and what you need, especially if your business changes over time.
  • Banker. It’s helpful to establish a relationship with your local banker. It may help you if you ever need a loan, and your banker likely is a good source of referrals to experts in your location.
  • IT. It’s essential today for a business to have an information technology expert on call. This person or company can advise on cybersecurity and handle problems with hardware and software.


3. Automate whatever you can

Your time is limited. The more you can automate your activities, the more time you’ll have for other matters. Today’s apps enable you to do all sorts of tasks from a mobile device wherever you are that used to be done manually in an office. Some examples:

  • Banking (e.g., making deposits remotely)
  • Customer relations
  • Email marketing
  • Invoicing
  • Scheduling appointments, meetings, etc.
  • Social media marketing

4. Stay connected

Working alone can be isolating. Yes, you may spend time with customers and clients. But you don’t necessarily have the same connection you do with colleagues and associates. Working alone may keep you from hearing about what’s going on in your industry or with your competitors. Staying connected can be easily remedied by being proactive. Consider:

  • Joining a local chamber of commerce (meet other business owners in your area and learn about local developments that may affect your business, such as a new road or the arrival of a megastore)
  • Network via trade associations and business groups
  • Schedule lunches, or even just coffee, with colleagues

5. Separate yourself from your business

When working alone, it’s all too easy for your personal and business lives to get tangled up. Keep things separate. First and foremost, separate your finances by using a business bank account and credit card solely for your business activities.

Also, be sure you’re not working every waking hour. Shut the door, don’t check email continually, don’t answer a business call after hours, and take a Saturday, Sunday, or other day off each week. It may take effort to make personal time, but you can’t survive for the long term without it.

Final thought

It’s great to run solo, if you take steps to make it work. Most important: take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

About the author