How to run a growth-focused one-person business

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 30,000 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 advised 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

Working with contractors or agencies on, for example, accountancy, can save you time and mental energy that would be better used on other aspects of your business. Some accountancy firms, such as the London-based 3 Wise Bears, even offer small business accountants specifically trained to work on enterprises with very few, or in this case, zero, employees.

On the legal side of things, EPW Small Business Law have drawn up this legal checklist for one-person businesses that will help you comply with all the legal requirements of a “nonemployer”. If, however, you would rather spend your time on other business matters, you could hire a law firm such as EPW to tackle these areas for you.

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 Workaholicsforhire or Elance, 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.

Market yourself well

If you are solely responsible for bringing in new business, you have to make sure 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. Career Coach Marty Nemko recommends “one-on-one schmoozing”, as he calls it, as important to the development of a one-person business. 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.  From creating and running a website to using social media to engage with customers, the internet is the non-employers marketing dream.

Space to grow

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 actually end up being distracting and demotivating.

A Guardian article from Judy Heminsley, founder of the business How To Work From Home, advises home workers to treat their jobs like they would if they worked in an office, ignoring any housework that may need doing until working hours are over, and telling all friends, family and neighbours that they are unavailable until after work.

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.

Running your own one-women business can be incredibly rewarding, but like anything that’s worth having, it needs self-discipline and focus. If you get that in order, with the right idea at the right time, the sky really is the limit.


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