Flying solo as a solopreneur seems like the scariest career choice you could ever make. But I’m here to tell you; it doesn’t have to be.
When I was growing up, I believed there was only one path in life: you attend college, start a career with a successful company, get married, join a church, and have 2.5 kids. And as a southern belle, it followed that strict order.
It never occurred to me that I could work for myself. Even though not long after I started my career, my dad opened a property management company. How did I miss it?
However, after seventeen years of working in corporate America, I left to start a marketing consulting business. Now seven months later, I couldn’t be happier.
So, how did I make that leap? Well, it took grit, grind, passion, dedication, a good plan, and support from my husband, family, and friends.
If I could do it, you can too. That’s why I’m sharing my journey and what I learned so you can confidently create a life you love.
But first, what’s a solopreneur? It’s a solo entrepreneur or a business that has only one employee. Many freelancers and contractors fall in this category, typically offering specialized services to clients.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s how I paved a road to success.
Know Your Number
Most of us need money to put food on the table and enjoy life. So, before you make a career change, you have to know what salary you need to make.
To find out, I categorized every penny spent over the last three months into a simple spreadsheet. Categories included things like groceries, gas, insurance, car maintenance, activities, babysitting, eating out, and more.
The result was shocking. We weren’t mindful of our spending habits and had a lot of opportunities to save. We ate out a lot due to lack of time and made impulse purchases regularly. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
I began to wonder… if my lifestyle changes do I need to make as much money? Working from home meant I no longer needed to dry clean my clothes or buy high heels, pencil skirts, and a work wardrobe to keep up with my cubicle colleagues. Plus, the forty-five-minute commute would save on gas.
I enjoy trying to make crockpot meals and casseroles that create leftovers and would save us from dining out as often. Notice I used the word “try.” My husband’s the real chef of the family. So, I turned to Pinterest to find tasty recipes.
From there, I built a budget based on our future lifestyle. Thankfully, big items like medical, dental, and vision insurance shifted to my husband’s plan through his work, and that brought my number down a lot.
Surprisingly, the salary I needed to make was half of my current take-home pay. Now don’t get me wrong; more money is helpful. But this exercise is to pinpoint the minimum salary you need to make in the business you want to create.
With that number in hand, it felt like I could reach my dreams and keep my family fed and happy at the same time. Plus, budgeting became a monthly task that keeps our finances on track.
Build a Business Plan
At this point, my husband was nervous. The thought of being the only provider for the family weighed heavy for him. And I got it. Even though we talked every day, he didn’t understand my plan. Adult conversation is limited with a toddler in tow, especially a talkative one like ours.
That’s when a close friend gave me some great advice. She recommended I write a business plan and present it to him. After all, he’s my most important investor. So, I arranged a sitter, made a dinner reservation, and got to work.
I wrote my business plan in one week. Besides the core parts like a target audience and services outline, I included our budget, my future salary, the amount of money we would save before I quit my job, various ways to acquire clients, and a back-up plan if the business didn’t succeed.
I wanted him to be a part of building the dream, and he’s been my biggest believer and supporter ever since.
While I’m one lucky girl with an army of supporters, there are those out there without support. If this is you, keep moving forward and find support in other places such as Facebook groups, new friends, or networking with like-minded people.
Create a Safety Net
Don’t quit a stable job until you save at least six months of the targeted salary you need to make. That’s assuming you won’t bring in any income during that time.
Since I’m so conservative, I’d recommend more for those unplanned things like replacing a tire on your car or a refrigerator that’s on the fritz. Life is full of the unexpected, but being prepared with your finances will lower your stress.
If you have a spouse or partner, this will make them feel more comfortable about the move you’re about to make. However, sometimes you can’t plan for everything.
Two months before I left my job, we noticed water damage around our back door leading to the patio. A professional came to the house and quoted an outrageous amount to replace the door and frame.
We needed the repair, or the water damage would get worse. It felt like a set-back after all the hard work leading to this moment. Luckily, the service provider offered a zero-interest financing plan that fit our budget. So, we moved forward with the repair.
Plan for as much as you can and tackle the rest as it comes.
Work on Your Business
While you’re saving and planning for that glorious day when you leave the office one last time, work on your business. The elements to kick-start success look different for every company.
For Sprout, I wanted professional marketing materials before I shared it with the world. I had a logo created, set-up my branding, worked with a freelancer to design a website, ordered business cards, and started my social media accounts. Then, I began blogging once a month.
I wanted to feel that separation as a solopreneur from my day job. So, I did the work and enjoyed it. When you love work, it often doesn’t feel like work.
I also set-up the company as an LLC, opened a checking account, and set-up my taxes through my accountant. You can’t forget these essential business tasks.
Start as a Side Hustle
Some call this building your portfolio, working a side hustle, or helping others – either way, start now. You’ll need to create a portfolio, collect reviews, and showcase examples that represent your business.
I chose to help others in exchange for a testimonial and inclusion in my portfolio. Later, I shared my experience with potential clients as a reference. The work made me feel more legit in the business I was creating and gave me confidence.
At the same time, I agreed to become an Adjunct Instructor at a local university and launch their first digital marketing class. That meant finding a textbook, creating all course materials, including class presentations, exams, assignments, and more. It’s highly rewarding, but lots of work nonetheless.
I found myself working on my side hustles (yes hustles at this point) during my lunch break, late at night, and in the wee hours of the morning, and everywhere in between. When the pressure’s on, you become creative with the use of your time.
I sometimes look back at those days and nights, and I’m amazed at how I survived, especially with a baby. Already working a 9 to 5, it felt like I had two, three, or more jobs. Plus, other obligations such as wife, daughter, aunt, friend, and so on.
What kept me going was the determination to launch the business. Failing wasn’t an option I was willing to accept. I wanted a new lifestyle for myself and my family.
Create a Passive Income Stream
Who doesn’t want to make money while they sleep? Ah, yes, please. So, this one’s optional, but worth adding to your list.
Many models exist on passive income, such as hosting educational webinars, launching affiliate and influencer marketing, or becoming a star on YouTube. You have to choose what’s best for you. While I may incorporate other options into my business later, I took a much more traditional route to set our family up for success in the meantime.
Before my husband and I married, we both owned a home. We sold his property and bought our current home. Since it was around the time of the housing market crash, we rented my townhome. As the market rebounded, we then sold my property.
Now, I grew up near the beach, and the ocean had been calling my name for years. We’d talked about an ocean-front rental property for a while but were too busy to start looking for the condo of our dreams.
So, shortly after I left my job, I contacted a real estate agent to guide our search. It wasn’t long before we invested in the perfect condo. Not only can we create memories with our baby girl, but it rents when we’re not there providing passive income for years to come.
Listen to Your Gut
Once you get your finances in order, accumulate the savings you need, set-up the business, and perform work for others, you’re ready. Now, it’s easy to stay in that comfortable cubicle space forever, getting paid a known salary.
However, if you’ve heard the call like me, you know you can’t stay. Your gut will tell you when it’s time to go. I knew it was time the moment I walked in the door the first day of the new year back in the office. Deep in my soul, it didn’t feel right anymore. Merely days later, I had that hard conversation with my boss, and we established a transition plan. There was no going back.
Listen to your gut; it won’t let you down. What I found is that the road less traveled holds many wonders. Are there days when it’s hard? Yes, but nothing worth having in life is easy.
Success is how you define it. Yesterday was a beautiful day – blue skies and 77-degree weather. I wrapped up work early, scooped up my baby girl, and went to the park for some fun. Life is about choices and determining what’s important to you because you only have one life to live.
I hope this inspired you to keep working a side hustle, save for your next step, or build a business you love. Share your journey and the dream you’re building. Leave a comment and connect with me.
Ready, Set, Grow!
All my best,