Is being in business by yourself the right career path?

Introducing the Solopreneur by Virginia McGowan

Canadians, especially women and individuals over 50, are becoming entrepreneurs in record numbers these days.

Wendy Mayhew, author of WISER-The New Entrepreneur: The Definitive Guide to Starting a Business Over the Age of 50 and proprietor of Business Launch Solutions, notes that Canadians over 50 are the fastest growing segment of business start-ups. Nearly one million of the 2.6 million self-employed workers in Canada in 2010 are female. Did you know that most are choosing to go into business on their own as solopreneurs (i.e., sole proprietors of a business)?

True solopreneurs are a unique type of entrepreneur. They differ in their mindset—what they want to achieve, their objectives, and their attitude about being in business, and their business practices. Marcia Layton-Turner, who writes for the online magazine Business2Community, describes the solopreneur as “a specific type of entrepreneur who prefers to work alone.” Writing for Huffington Post, Nigel Patel describes the solopreneur as someone who “raises and runs a business single-handedly, making all the decisions, calling all the shots, and playing the entire game alone.”

At first glance, it’s not easy to see the differences between a solopreneur and a conventional entrepreneur. For example, some entrepreneurs work alone until they can expand by hiring staff. But the true solopreneur is more worker than manager. They don’t intend to delegate work to others unless it means contracting out specific tasks such as bookkeeping or digital marketing. In fact, solopreneurs don’t intend to add anyone to the business. Their long-term plan is to fit a certain lifestyle, pursue a personal passion, and have flexibility and control. I know, because I’m one of them.

Most solopreneurs run home-based businesses where their focus is more on personal professional development. They are simply more interested in increasing their skills rather than business growth.

But being a solopreneur carries with it some real challenges.  You are completely responsible for the entire operation, including legal liabilities. Burn out is a real risk. Further, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. There is no one to delegate to.  It’s also difficult to separate your personal life from your business life.

Many solopreneurs report that it’s a very isolating experience. And the internal voices that whisper that you are inadequate and not really cut out for the business world can undermine your self-confidence. “What makes you think you can do this?” I hear this from solopreneurs all the time. The doubt creeps in, hangs on, and stays like a bad smell. Often, they have no one at all saying, “yes you can.”

Working on your own can mean that your social skills deteriorate. You don’t benefit from having different perspectives on your plans, strategies, and ideas.  Networking is essential. That’s where a mentor comes in. The solopreneur needs a mentor to help them, as Nigel Patel puts it, “dodge the risks.” A solopreneur needs to find the right mentor, one who understands their mindset and business practices, and doesn’t try to fit them into the typical entrepreneurial mold.

Is being a solopreneur the right choice for you, now or ever? If you decide to pursue business on your own, think carefully about the potential pitfalls and, above all, find yourself the right mentor to help you navigate your journey.

Virginia McGowan PhD of Charlottetown PEI is the sole proprietor of The Business Mentoring Solution, a writing, publishing, training, and speaking venture on all things about mentoring. Her forthcoming books are Harness the Power of Mentoring: How to Find and Work with the Right Mentor—A Guide for the Solopreneur (print and e-book formats), Harness the Power of Mentoring: Top TIPS for Solopreneurs (e-book), and How to Harness the Power of Mentoring: A Planner and Journal for the Solopreneur’s Mentoring Journey (print workbook), among other publications.  Visit