The terms solopreneur and entrepreneur are often seen as just different descriptions of the same beast, but there are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences. This article will show you what the key differences are. By the way, both are vital parts of the global economy.
If this article shows any particular bias, there’s a good reason. I’m and out-and-out Solopreneur. And proud of it! Well, that’s sort of correct. Actually I’m conflicted. I am running a start-up like a good entrepreneur but in my heart of hearts I’m a solopreneur. And the one time I asked investors for money for the business you’d have thought I was a stand-up comedian by their responses. So now I’m in “I’ll show youse (expletive in the plural) mode.”
So what are the key differences? I have read 20 different op-eds (opinion-editorials) on your behalf and synthesised the results. Plus chucked in a couple of mine own views. Comfy? Right then, we’ll begin.
Let’s start with my own example. Entrepreneurs regard getting funding as the #1 mission. Frequently before they’ve even proved up the business idea” Lots of example abound of entrepreneurial start-ups burning all their investment without getting a single product out the door.
Solopreneurs don’t want anyone else as a partner, or to have any expectations hanging over their heads, so they fund everything themselves. Low risk, but also (inevitably) low return.
Entrepreneurs like to bring people into the mix who are experts and can get the concept to market quickly. On that basis, they listen to their experts and allow them to make the best decisions. Spreneurs make all their own decisions, (sometimes in consultation with their cat). That’s part of the attraction of running their own business. And if they’re lucky, their cat is an expert.
Entrepreneurs are sometimes described as “rip, shit and bust merchants”. This is where my conflict also comes in. We entrepreneurs want everything to happen NOW. Or Yesterday if possible. When I was in Kuwait in 2003 just before the Iraq invasion, one of my valuable suppliers of large amounts of accommodation at zero notice was a Lebanese guy. He used to call me “Mr Suddenly.”
Solopreneurs work really hard, but at a pace that they can sustain. They are acutely aware of work/life balance, as it’s one of the motivating factors for pursuing the lifestyle. They may not actually achieve it, but they know its out there somewhere.
Entrepreneurs want maximum sustainable growth as fast as possible. Value creation for the big sale is always on their minds. “Build it, run it and sell it inside 5 years: is what my mate John, a fellow kiwi and very successful entrepreneur told me.
Solopreneurs are in it for the long run. The work they do is part passion, part economic necessity. And because they ARE the business, they cannot get rapid growth – or choose not to. There are of course those who are so successful that they transition from SPreneur to Small Business Owner. Here’s a quote from one such person in the US.
“I was a solopreneur for several years. Then I got to a point that I had a lot of jobs that could be delegated to others and that delegation would liberate me to do more of the creative things that I wanted to do. These jobs required quite a bit of training and I am picky about how things are done, so I rented a small office down the street and things started moving at a faster rate.
Now, ten years later, I have a large info site, a couple of niche retail sites, three employees, and 3,000 square feet for retail and experiments. One employee does fulfillment and customer service. One does photography and graphics. One does editing and research. Life is good. Work is more fun.”
Note he hasn’t sold the business even though he’s been working in it for maybe 15 years. “Work is more fun.”
The Entrepreneur will delegate quickly, in order to get as many things done simultaneously as possible. Good ones are fanatical about detail, so if you’re doing work for one of these types you’ll them demanding, impatient and picky beyond belief.
The Solopreneur prefers to roll up their sleeves and do it all themselves. They think (erroneously) that they’re saving money. I spend a lot of time counselling Spreneurs to learn to outsource low-value work so they can make more money by plying their craft. It’s a struggle, even though it’s obvious that spending 5 hours on something you can get someone else to do for 100AED is just bonehead stupid, when you could work on a client’s brief at 200 AED per hour.
Branding and Marketing
The Entrepreneur tends to make sure that they are not an integral part of the brand or the marketing, as their intention is to sell the business.
The Solopreneur IS the business brand. This is what Dre Beltrami, owner of The Branded Solopreneur, says about branding for solopreneurs : ”Dethroning your competition takes BRAND PERSONALITY. Learn how to BRANDISH your personality like the secret weapon of mass attraction it really is.” I rest my case.
In and On
And lastly, the Entrepreneur works ON the business, guiding it but not (normally) getting buried in the bowels of the engine room. This is not a comment on application or the ability to work hard. I know Epreneurs whose ferocious dedication and hard work leave me breathless.
The Solopreneur works IN the business. It’s why they set it up. It satisfies their needs for expression. It is THEM. Now they can also surface once in a while and see where to take their business, but that, as they say, is another story…