I’ve been a solopreneur for the last eight years. Solopreneurship isn’t easy but totally worth it. The benefits far outweigh the costs (for me). I started by building a company called ShaadiShop – a venue marketplace for Indian weddings in the United States and Canada. After the pandemic hit, I started a new and my current company, Virtual PreSkool teaching conversational Hindi to children, online. More about my entrepreneurial journey below.
But I have never been more happy nor more fulfilled than I am now, running my own business.
Benefits of Solopreneurship
Flexibility: Solopreneurship comes with one primary and, in my opinion, huge benefit: flexibility. With flexibility comes the ability to prioritize work vs. life’s other important buckets such as family, health (physical and mental), and social life.
I’ve been able to not only prioritize exercise, cooking, and healthy eating every day but I have a routine. Even before I became a solopreneur I prioritized exercise but the timings varied – sometimes I’d work out early in the morning or late at night. Having a routine is so much nicer.
Autonomy: Working on something you’re passionate about in the way you want to do it. This is where the fun and joy come from. As a solopreneur this is where I bring 100% of my authentic self to the business.
I Define Success. Along with autonomy, I define what success looks like for myself and for my company. I’m not bound by what anyone else thinks.
Control Your Schedule: The other big benefit of solopreneurship is control. I’ve had requests for a class during my allotted exercise time or at odd times of day and I have complete control over whether or not to do it.
And, because my business is online, I’ve been able to spend more time with family.
I really felt the benefit of solopreneurship last year, when my mom got sick. I stayed with her for 3 weeks and was able to take care of her while running my business – I didn’t miss a single class. (She’s fine now).
Downsides of Solopreneurship
Everything Is On You. Unless you’re outsourcing, you’re the salesperson, accountant, customer service manager, marketer, product/service developer, purchaser, etc. And in my case teacher, too! This. can. be. daunting.
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed I take a break – go for a hike/walk, watch a movie, meet up with a friend, anything fun. And when I’m ready I sit down and start working – focusing on one problem at a time.
I love this clip from “The Martian”.
Accepting Mistakes. I learned to accept that I will make mistakes. It took me some time, but I also learned not to dwell on them – rather focus on what I learned and to take steps to ensure that next time will be better. Making mistakes awakens awareness. Awareness that for some aspects of the business I don’t even know what I don’t know. And that circles back to “The Martian” – working the problem to fill those knowledge gaps.
The Work is Never Ending. There’s always more to be done – more that you could do. I’ve accepted that and feel fortunate that I have the flexibility and control to find the right balance for me.
Last year just as we parked at one of our favorite restaurants for our anniversary dinner I received a message from a parent who forgot that there was no class that day and was upset that they “had not been informed”. (We actually sent 10 notifications). So I hopped on a call with them and worked it out (they’re still a client). I appreciated that my husband (an entrepreneur too) was not annoyed and even encouraged me to handle it immediately vs. waiting until after dinner.
The calls, emails, requests come in at all times and odd times. But that’s part of the fun!
Solopreneurship is lonely. It’s just you. For me, the lonely aspect is more about not having likeminded people to bounce ideas off of. It’s difficult to talk about your business, its challenges, ups and downs, and throw around ideas with anyone other than fellow solopreneurs – but you nor they have time for that! Everyone’s too busy working on their business. My experience in a couple of Facebook groups of solopreneurs has been pretty good. And I’ve learned to leverage online learning a lot more.
It’s a rollar coaster. There are ups and downs. I’ve learned to enjoy the good times, but never take them for granted and to never rest on my laurels. Always be innovating and putting the customer first. Similarly, during the down times I don’t let it consume me. I’ve learned to say and believe that, “things will get better.” And I focus my energy on steps to head in that direction.
My Solopreneur Journey
At the beginning of 2020, I was in my 5th and best year at ShaadiShop. I had worked hard thru 2018-2019 learning SEO and organically got ShaadiShop to be within the top 3 search results on Google whenever someone searched for pretty much any term that was Indian wedding related – not an easy task.
In Q4 of 2019 the company closed an unprecedented number of contracts with wedding venues whose contracts started in January 2020.
By the end of February 2020 everything came to a grinding halt.
After a few weeks of processing a milieu of emotions ranging from anxious to angry, I realized that I had to move on.
It wasn’t until I started building a new business that I could take a step back and reflect on how much I had learned through the course of building ShaadiShop:
- how to blog
- digital marketing
- how to write a good blog post
- how to create a website and a webpage
- how to interview developers
- how to give instructions to creatives
- how to organize content in meaningful ways for my audience
- and much more
Everything that I learned led me to build and launch a simple v1 website for my current business in 1 day. And twenty-four hours later I had feedback and prospects!
I started with 1 class and now I teach over twenty classes a week to children all over the globe.
Lessons Learned Through Solopreneurship
Stick to First Principles. Think through assumptions and barriers to problems and break them down to come up with new ideas and new ways of thinking. So many people thought ShaadiShop was a dumb idea when I first started the company. They kept citing established websites that were Indian wedding related but totally unrelated to what I was trying to do. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to them.
Similarly, there are lots of Hindi teachers. But by sticking to first principles I have differentiated my companies by introducing unique products and services.
Get Better Every Day. Whether personally or professionally I make a conscious effort towards self improvement every day. It can be as simple as committing to fold the laundry as soon as it’s done or as complicated as learning how to use a plugin on WordPress. These little victories each day are motivating and compound over time.
Don’t Compare. When I start scrolling through social media sometimes I start comparing myself with others: they post 3x/day, their engagement is so high, they have so many followers etc. And I think to myself, “I should be doing more”. Then I remember to reel myself in. To be happy and encouraging for others’ success but to focus myself on the actions that will positively impact my business without regard for what others are doing.
I love what Elle Woods said in the graduation speech in “Legally Blonde” about having courage of conviction and believing in oneself. It’s easy to get sidetracked by social media engagement without measuring whether that matters to your KPIs.
Focus and Do The Work. Before I started ShaadiShop I attended a lot of tech meet ups. At that time ShaadiShop was an idea but nothing had come to fruition. Instead of wasting time at those events, I should have been at home working – actually doing the work. The hyped up tech meet ups in downtown Palo Alto in the midst of the tech capital felt cool, but were unproductive.
Looking back to those days, I realize that I didn’t know where to start so I procrastinated and replaced doing the actual hard work with something easy that only seemed productive. Once I realized this I did a 180. I started working. My first website, blog post, client pitch were garbage. But I did it. And I had something to build on and improve. And I got better, kept learning, asked questions, kept my focus and kept working.
Coming Full Circle. There was this memorable moment actually. When I started ShaadiShop I reached out to a friendly acquaintance who had an established name in the field. Her business was completely different than mine and I reached out about collaborating. She made it clear that she was not interested in collaborating, sharing info, and even discouraged me from pursuing ShaadiShop.
Four years later, she reached out to me about collaborating. She wanted to feature her company on my platform to help her grow her business. (I led with kindness and responded in the exact opposite way that she did to me years prior).
The Golden Rule. In my opinion, customer service has declined since the pandemic started. I hold Amazon as the gold standard and while they have billions of dollars in resources, there is something I can replicate from them: that’s treating my clients the way I want to be treated.
I’m lucky in this regard as I am a high E on my MBTI so empathy comes naturally to me. That has been integral for the success and growth of my business.
Solopreneurship is not easy but it’s totally worth it. Even through the toughest days and the ups and downs I find it fulfilling and rewarding. And if you think about it, in life, most things that are worth it are not easy to attain.
It’s a lot about having conviction, believing in yourself, staying focused and doing the work.
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