The Solopreneur Business Model

Can you make a substantial, full-time income as a solopreneur business owner? Is it possible to make more money while working fewer hours than you would if you’re a traditional online agency owner? The answer to both questions is, “YES.”

I enjoy studying different online business models. Especially how they change and adapt to the times. A business model is a framework a business is built over that enables it to run smoothly and efficiently. Today, new online business models are being designed to allow solopreneur business owners to enjoy six-figure incomes.

Solopreneurs are individuals who set up and run a business on their own. Much like entrepreneurs.

Not to get caught up with definitions, but – some people make a distinction between entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. They describe entrepreneurs as being more of the managerial types while considering solopreneurs as being more work-oriented or hands-on-oriented people.

It’s a fascinating subject because many online business owners are now finding themselves at a crossroads of sorts in their business lives. Let me explain. With many business models, getting to the next stage financially involves a significant investment. Especially if you don’t have a technical background. It’s an investment in time, money, and personal energy

Competing for high-ticket clients $20k+ is a much different proposition than competing for your average local business client. You might call it a different financial culture altogether. Besides that, full-service agencies have been struggling here in North America for years now. It’s the elephant in the room that’s not often addressed.

The Lifestyle Factor

The solopreneur business model has changed a bit over the last few years. Today, this approach to the entrepreneurial journey is as much about lifestyle as it is about income. Depending on your situation, you may be happy with x-number of dollars per year?

As funny as it sounds, you may not be driven to obtain unspeakable wealth!

Most of you didn’t start your business with the goal of creating a mega-corporation from home, did you? Most of you probably aren’t comping at the bit at the prospects of managing a large staff of people, either? Remember, you have to manage whatever you build or whatever you own.

So, it’s worth taking the time to be brutally honest with yourself when it comes to business. What do you REALLY want to build? Are you starting to find yourself disliking what it is you’re building? You’re not alone.

If You Could Make Six-Figures on Your Own, Would You?

If given the choice to earn a six-figure income with no employees or just by yourself, would you take it?

No, that’s not a trick question. The solopreneur of today has more advantages than at any other time in history. With the systems, platforms, and services we currently have in place, you can literally build an agency of one. I’m using the word “agency” loosely in this context.

That doesn’t mean you won’t want to hire a virtual assistant or other sub-contractors on an as-needed basis. That’s fine. What I’m saying is, the core of your business will just be you.

And yes, you’ll be able to take time off, take vacations, and live a life that doesn’t revolve 24/7 around the clockwork.

Let’s take a minute to look at some of the obvious pros and cons.

A Healthier Lifestyle

In a recent study, roughly 70% of the individuals polled said they felt healthier and happier since making the decision to work on their own. Just under 45% said they were making more money. The absence of office politics plays a huge role in the happiness equation, especially when you consider how much an individual may spend trapped working with a group of people.

Yes, “trapped” is an emotionally charged trigger word. I used it purposely because that’s exactly the way an office environment makes many people feel.

The Downside of Being a One-Person Show

In the online services business, the disadvantages of being a one-person show are obvious. You only have so many hours per week available to perform your service. You have only so many hours to trade for cash. If you have lower-paying clients, this can make the growth process truly an uphill battle.

Like most people, I started out as a solopreneur with low-paying clients. At the time, I really didn’t see a way out of that cycle except to get new clients who paid more than the previous clients did. So, that was my approach. I persevered and didn’t mind doing the work. I saw it as paying the price to succeed.

I did, however, realize that I needed to be smarter about how I moved my business into the future.

Isolation isn’t the Issue it Once Was

Some people find it difficult working alone. You would think there would be fewer distractions working alone than there would be working in an office? The reality is, distractions are always just a click away. On the flip-side, so are communities of people running the same or similar businesses. They’re just a click away, too.

Even in the earliest day of the internet, bulletin board services brought communities of people together from around the world who shared similar occupations, interests, and hobbies. Sure, it’s not exactly the same as sitting across the table from someone and enjoying a drink together. But, it’s still better than living in alone in a cave!

Time-Consuming Activities

I hate thinking in terms of productivity at times, but there’s really no getting around it. There are only so many hours in a day. Besides the service you perform, there are other time-consuming aspects associated with running a business. For example, there’s bookkeeping, marketing, ongoing education (software, books, videos, etc.), and so on. Things, however, are rapidly changing.

For example, bookkeeping used to be tedious and time-consuming in the past. Today, most bookkeeping software will automate just about everything for you that used to be done manually. I’m talking about things like reoccurring billing, late payment reminders, etc. That’s just one, quick example. There are many others.

The Negatives are Slowly Disappearing

We haven’t reached what some people call “the tipping point” yet with the “solo approach.” Suppose a bunch of people believe a certain thing? For example, let’s say the general masses believed there was nothing wrong with smoking cigarettes. Then, over time, personal experience and data start proving otherwise. Sure, there will always be the story about uncle so-and-so who smoked 4 packs a day all his life and lived to be 85, but it starts becoming painfully obvious that he was an exception to the rule.

Finally, we approach the tipping point where the crossover occurs, and more people believe smoking is harmful than not.

Bigger is better – that’s a commonly held belief that’s applied to just about everything, including business.

The solopreneur business model isn’t bigger. By extension, it must not be better, either. That’s what many people think. I believe the tipping point concept will be applicable to this over the next five years.

Why? Because the technology is here to replace most of what used to be manual labor. And the tech keeps getting better, too.

Technology Replaces People in Large and Small Businesses

Two large machines put a dozen individuals out of work at a company located about 18-miles south of where I live. That’s just one simple example of what’s become the norm in just about every industry. And let’s be really honest about it, who among us hasn’t worried at one time or another that we could possibly meet a similar fate?

I look at it this way, people still hire people to clean their homes and offices even when they can do it themselves. There will always be people who’d rather pay others than do it themselves. That’s just human nature.

That’s all besides the point, though. The point is, there’s a reason why companies are replacing people with different forms of technology (and machines). It’s cheaper! Cheaper production means higher profits.

With the right tools, you could enjoy similar results and benefits within your own business couldn’t you?

The Pros of the Solopreneur Approach

Remember, you can hire someone (even temporary help) whenever you want to. The idea here isn’t to stay within the confines of a definition. The idea is to create a highly profitable business without the burden of managing (or some might say babysitting) people and dealing with all the issues and inconsistencies they bring to the table.

Here’s something else you don’t hear about very often. Employee loyalty is a thing of the past. In most cases, we all move in the direction of the highest bidder. Then, as the employer, you start the training process all over again with a new person.

That’s the reality every business owner must face. A young person is interested in bigger and better. They’re going to move onward and upwards if they’re skilled and even a little bit ambitious. If someone offers them benefits and you don’t (or can’t), they’ll move on.

With the solopreneur approach, you’re building a business around yourself and your individual strengths. Unlike the past, you can now have automated systems in place that eliminate the need for your around-the-clock presence.

You Need the Right Vehicle

The best race car drivers in the world still need the right vehicles to win. Put the Formula One champion in a Honda Civic and he’s not going to win much of anything. Sure, that’s a crazy analogy, but it makes a point. Your business is a vehicle, and you need the right vehicle for what you’re trying to do if you want to succeed. Back in my publishing days, I had a machine that bound paperback books. I forget how many books it could bind per hour, but there were machines out there that were much faster (and really expensive!).

As technology changed, it became obvious that I no longer had the right “vehicle” for that business. It became the equivalent of delivering mail by Pony Express while trying to compete with FedEx.

Could I have sought out investors and gone that route? Sure. But that’s not the kind of business I wanted to build. I was looking for something that was easier to manage with less stress involved. Working two to three times as hard to get the same result as the bigger players in your niche gets wearying after a while. By the late 1990s, I concluded that I was competing in a market that wasn’t a good fit for me.

What’s Keeping You from Going “All-In?”

One foot on the gas, another on the brake. That’s where untold numbers of online business owners find themselves today. Why is it that so people many who’ve read the books, watched the videos, and taken the courses remain stuck? Sure, information overload plays a part, but I think it runs deeper than that.

On a deeper level, maybe even a subconscious one, I believe people sense that what they’re in the midst of building will never bring them freedom. Work-wise, and stress-wise, it’s quite the opposite. Even so, they haven’t found a viable alternative yet. They haven’t found the right vehicle.

One foot on the gas, another on the brake.

I’ve been in this place before, so don’t think it’s just you. It’s not. You’re not in the minority, either.

It’s not that you’re afraid to do the work. It’s not that you’re lazy. It’s more like you’re wearing clothes that you intuitively feel are a poor fit, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly why yet. Too loose, too tight, wrong style, etc., you’re not confident in moving full speed ahead for a reason.

The Solopreneur System

A friend of mine is a restaurant consultant. She’s a solopreneur. She once told me the top choice for entrepreneurs with deeper pockets is the restaurant business. It’s a business fraught with perils if you don’t know what you’re doing. Still, that doesn’t keep people from doing it. At one point, she owned a successful cupcake business herself and sold the product to restaurants.

Today, she consults.

There’s a pattern I’ve repeated over and over again since the 80s. I’m talking about people leaving the corporate world to work for themselves. Unlike the “old days,” however, the solopreneur of today can reach a worldwide audience through videos, eBooks, online membership courses, and webinars.

Instead of working with one person at a time, they have hosted group sessions without ever leaving their homes and with clients from around the world.

How about this for a visual – you own your own theater and sell tickets to your “show.” Your show is recorded. Others can buy access to it several months from now when they discover you for the first time.

Compare that with the old way –

For example, I could rent a hotel room for a few hours and sell tickets to a training session of some kind. I can teach people how to build their first website. Or how to design a logo for their business. If only two people buy tickets, I’ll lose money.

Compare that with the new way –

The other option is to do the whole thing online. If two people show up, it doesn’t matter. I’ll still make money and still have a product or training to sell down the line with the recording.

If I try the same in a local hotel, I’ll have to hire a video person to record everything. And again, if only two people show up (because I’m a newbie in the area), I’ll really lose money once you total up the costs for the room and the video team.

It’s Not About Courses, Webinars, or Books

Now, here’s where people go wrong. They’ll read what I just wrote and think, “He’s saying what everyone else is saying – write an eBook, make a course, etc.”

No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, you can teach people from the cradle to the grave – business-wise, and use the “tech part” to do it with less stress and a minimal amount of moving parts.

1. You’re a teacher
2. You’re an audience builder
3. You’re a guide
4. You’re a coach and mentor
5. You’re an accountability partner in some cases

Remember, just like the restaurant business, there will always be people who will want to start the kind of business you may be trying to get away from! I hate to put it that way, but there it is. There will always be people who want to jump into the hustle and bustle of a project-driven agency.

With the solo approach, eBooks, courses, webinars, and everything else are just a means to an end. The end might be to create financial independence for people, not 1,000 book sales. One is a byproduct of the other.

Here’s the thing, when you want to help change the lives of 2,000 people, you’ll approach it with a completely different mindset than if you just try to make something people want to buy.

Starting this as a Side-Hustle Business

The best way to see if something is a good fit for you is to test it out for yourself. I’m talking about a part-time, side-hustle type of business.

When I look at my own business, I still enjoy working with my agency clients and local business owners. I like being connected to the people in my community. Still, having the opportunity to help thousands of people around the world while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very appealing.

In the old days, it could take someone a lifetime to build an audience. All that has changed. Yes, it’s noisy out there, but most people are focused on selling “stuff” first and helping people second. So, they just blend in.

I’ve heard psychologists argue that whatever drives you, that’s what influences you in ways you’re not even conscious of. Some are driven by greed. Others by more charitable intents. Yes, you’re in business to make money. That’s not the point. The dollar amount isn’t the issue either. The point is, what if you could help people, change lives – AND make good money? Some would see that as a dream come true.

Solo Online Business Models with Their Multiple Streams of Income Percentages

Finally, here are a few examples of different business models that are popular with online solo entrepreneurs. I’ve also included a breakdown of the multiple streams of income generated percentage-wise for each model:

  1. Membership-based model:
    • Membership fees: 50%
    • Product sales: 30%
    • Affiliate marketing: 15%
    • Advertising: 5%
  2. Service-based model:
    • Hourly/project-based services: 70%
    • Product sales: 20%
    • Affiliate marketing: 5%
    • Advertising: 5%
  3. E-commerce model:
    • Product sales: 80%
    • Affiliate marketing: 10%
    • Advertising: 10%
  4. Information products model:
    • Product sales: 70%
    • Affiliate marketing: 20%
    • Advertising: 5%
    • Membership fees: 5%
  5. Advertising-based model:
    • Advertising: 90%
    • Affiliate marketing: 5%
    • Product sales: 5%

These are just examples of how the income percentages break down with each business model. The breakdown of income streams can vary greatly depending on the specific business and the entrepreneur’s strategies, abilities, and priorities.


Thanks for reading! I’ve found this topic to be one of my very favorites over the last several years. Technology continues to change the game – making it possible for ordinary people to accomplish extra-ordinary things in the online business world. The advent of AI will also continue to the change in game in the years ahead. I will continue to keep this article updated, so be sure to join my mailing list for the latest updates.

Picture of Jim Galiano

Jim Galiano

Jim Galiano is an Internet consultant, web developer, author and podcaster who started doing business online in 1998. His consulting, marketing and publicity services have been used worldwide since 2002. Jim has been interviewed by a variety of media sources including the Wall Street Journal and CBS News in New York.

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About Jim

Jim Galiano is an Internet consultant, web developer, author and podcaster who started doing business online in 1998. His consulting, marketing and publicity services have been used worldwide since 2002.

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