It is a myth that a one-person business is just giving yourself a job. Growing numbers of people operate businesses with no employees, but that are also not just dependent on the hours of work the owner puts in. The rise of the internet has propelled this trend, enabling new models of business that incorporate simple automation and access to highly-focused outsourcing.
It’s a business model that can be very successful. Recent research finds over 35,000 one person businesses earning over $1 million each year in the USA. These one-person businesses succeed on their own terms, without having to deal with the stresses of hiring, firing, and managing employees. So how do they do it? And how can you start and run a one-woman business?
Running a one-woman business does not mean doing everything alone. As an entrepreneur, it is likely that you’ll want to concern yourself with the most important areas of business, without getting bogged down in the nitty gritty of accounting, organisation or legal research.
This, at least, was the mindset of now-millionaire Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich. In his best-selling book, Ferriss advises entrepreneurs to hire contractors to handle nearly all of their personal admin tasks, because it will free them up to focus on the creative and strategic side of their businesses.
Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest
Break down your daily and weekly workload into key tasks. Identify the tasks that you can do better than anyone else. What’s left? Could any of it be automated, for example event management through apps like eventbrite? Tasks that you find time consuming and draining could be much more effectively done by a specialist. For example, bookkeeping or accountancy. Some accountancy firms, such as the London-based Fusion Accountants, offer small business accountants specifically trained to work on enterprises with very few, or in this case, zero, employees.
Ferriss’ advice goes even further than this. He recommends outsourcing personal errands, small but time-consuming tasks like creating spreadsheets, and even things as simple as checking emails. Using websites like PeoplePerHour or Fiverr, this is in fact a possibility, and it would allow you to reduce your working time as a one-woman business, or to focus your attention on the most important things.
Create the image you want
You may be a minnow, but as a growth-focused business you will want to project yourself as something more substantial. These days it is easy to do this without having to spend silly money.
Even if you are working from home, dress and act like the person you aspire to be. Don’t make the mistake of using your home address for business or a mobile phone number.
While mobile phones generally make our lives easier, when it comes to business it probably helps to have a non-geographical landline number to centralise your business and provide a vantage point for your customers. Get an 020 number for your business or invest in a cloud-based phone system to ensure that your landline and mobile devices are connected, ensuring you never miss a call again and provide continuity for your brand.
Business centres generally offer the option of virtual tenancy which includes use of the business address, mail management and forwarding. You can usually hire meeting rooms there by the hour too if you need to see customers in real life from time to time.
Market yourself well
If you are solely responsible for bringing in new business, you have to make sure that you do an incomparable job of marketing and self-promotion. Once again, you could outsource some aspects of this to an agency or another individual, but for the most part, it is likely to be one of the aspects of your business that you will want control over.
In your unique position as a one-person business you are your brand, therefore one-on-one networking could be an equally important way to promote your work. Handing out business cards, going for lunch with clients, calling people up; these are all great ways to put yourself out there.
If schmoozing is not your comfort zone, either find a way of getting comfortable with it, or get sharp at online networking. Professional networking sites liked Linkedin are great ways of keeping in touch with current and potential clients and also making new connections. And even though you may never gain a direct customer from your website and social media profiles, in this day and age people will want to check out your credentials online; it will be so much better if you have control over what they see.
This is broad advice, but crucial for anyone setting up a business on their own. Without employees to accommodate, it is likely that you will be working from a home office or study. While this may seem comfortable and desirable at first, working from home can be distracting and demotivating.
Structure and discipline are essential. Many working parents find that the school run helps to put a shape on the day. It gives you a kind of commute and inbuilt deadlines. It helps to have set working hours whatever your setup. Build in some regular routines, whether that’s going to the gym, meeting a friend for coffee or business networking events.
Another option is to work from a coworking space. Those can have all the benefits of working in an office – colleagues, IT support and a change from home – without the down-sides. Growing numbers of solo workers are finding coworking to be the ideal solution.
It is easy to tick along as a one person business. But if you are ambitious to really grow, you will have to be sharply strategic, disciplined and focused. If you get that in order, with the right idea at the right time, the sky really is the limit.