The Founder’s Guide to Starting a Solopreneur Business
How many of you are looking at the clock each day just praying it would read 5pm, so you can clock out and go home? You dread going into work each day and quite frankly, you hate what you do, you hate the company you work for, you hate your boss, your co-workers are complacent, and you wished you could just start your own business and be your own boss. Well, why don’t you? No, seriously—why don’t you?
My Story of Solopreneur Freedom
I was right there with you until in early 2016. I worked for a supplement company the better part of 10 years that had no direction, and in my opinion, no future in the industry. The company was a sinking ship, and I hated waking up and going into my office the last few years I was working for them. I always dreamed of being my own boss and building something of my own, but I always thought the timing was never right. After all, my job was fairly easy (for me at least), and I made more money than I knew what to do with. I had job security, benefits, 401K, plenty of paid time off, a company car, a company credit card... You name it, I probably had it.
Why would I give all of that up? I must be nuts. Maybe I was. But in early 2016 I said to myself that the excuse of, "the time is never right" can no longer come out of my mouth. There is no “best time” to start a business! You simply need to go do it. After departing my career from the supplement company, I decided to follow my passion for health and fitness. I had a degree in kinesiology from Penn State and had worked as a trainer both in gyms as well as on my own for more than 12 years. During that timeframe, I was also a writer in the industry and was blessed to be featured in over 85 fitness magazines and more than 1,500 websites. My “hobby” had me places professionals only dreamed of being. Ultimately, my “hobby” turned into my business.
The Solopreneur Startup Process
In my opinion, one of the hardest parts of starting a business is figuring out what you want to do and the direction you want to take your business. Less than 10 percent of all startups survive, so finding a niche of a market that interests you is extremely important. It just so happened that I lucked out and already had a decent following in the industry from my work in fitness, supplements and content writing. I also just so happened to have connections with the right people in the industry to help kick-start my business and start making money right away (which isn’t the norm), but if you already have a passion, and have built a following and relationships with it, then you're ahead of the game.
There are many different ways you can set up your solopreneur business. Many people who are looking to start up a business on their own end up starting as a sole proprietorship or LLC. You can figure out which works best for you, but for me I wanted to limit my liabilities and have some protection should anything ever happen to my business. My LLC allows me to have separation where if anyone were to sue me, they couldn’t come after my personal assets, only the business. To me, this was absolutely necessary and for that reason, forming an LLC was the choice I made.
My business, Weik Fitness, LLC, was created with a set of services that showcased my strengths and areas I can truly help people. My service list consisted of: personal training/nutrition consulting, content/copywriting, and business development/sales consulting — all of which are passions of mine and things I’m extremely well-versed in.
The next steps after figuring out the direction I wanted to take my business were some of the most challenging and time-consuming.
The Solopreneur Business Paperwork: Filing Your LLC
Filing to form your LLC is one of the first steps you will take to make your business legit in the state where you set up your business. This is also a step that if you screw up the paperwork, you could potentially have the world’s largest headache down the road. For that reason, I highly recommend you work with either an incorporation specialist or find a reputable website that can help walk you through the steps necessary and take much of the guesswork out of filling out each section. These sites allow you to type in your information, click through different options on how you want your business structured, and they take care of the rest. Super simple, yet comes with a cost (one I would still highly recommend).
Depending on what state you live in, after submitting your paperwork you could be waiting anywhere from a couple weeks to over a month. In my case here in Pennsylvania when I was setting up Weik Fitness, LLC, they were short-staffed and it took almost two months until I was finally approved to conduct business. The waiting was nerve-racking and made me question if somehow I didn’t choose the right options, but eventually all the paperwork arrived in the mail. I felt like celebrating even though the delay for approval gave me some gray hair and probably took a year off my life.
Your Business Website Design and Layout
If you have zero experience building a website, I would highly recommend having a web designer do that for you. You want something to look professionally done and crisp. I had a designer put together the shell of my site, and then I filled it in myself with content, images, pages, a blog, etc. Just make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for in the contract so you aren’t surprised when they show you what they created.
Along with getting a website design put together, you’ll need your own URL and host provider. There are several host providers available, best thing to do is do some Google research and find the one that you believe will fit your needs the best and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Once your site is live, be sure to keep it updated with fresh content and information to keep your customers coming back to the site. Whether you are selling a product or a service, retention is key. Give your customers a reason to come back to your business and website. For me, personally, I update my website with all the content that is published. This means I have anywhere from 1-6 content pieces published on a client’s website that I post in my archived articles and blog sections of my website weekly. While there, potential clients can check out my services, get to know me through the About section, and enjoy their experience on my site. I even put some affiliates on my site that I feel my clients and prospects or followers would enjoy and could save them money.
Get Your Business Insurance
You need protection for your business. Just like you have home insurance, car insurance or life insurance, you will need business insurance. Without it, you could potentially set yourself up to lose everything in a lawsuit. Insurance costs vary depending on your business, so call multiple places to get quotes to compare.
Weik Fitness, LLC is a service-based business. I do one-on-one personal training which inherently has risks. Risks that not many insurance companies want to insure. For that reason, I ended up calling about 20 different companies to see if I could get insured. The quotes I got back were through the roof, but based on the risk involved with the business, it’s still 100% necessary so I had to sign on the dotted line to protect myself and my business.
Manage Your Business Finances
Be sure you open up a separate business checking account as well as credit card. Do not mix business finances with personal finances or you’re going to have one heck of a mess on your hands. Keep everything separate and also get a business EIN so that you aren’t using your personal SSN on documents — this adds more layers of separation between you and the business (and separating your business and personal finances is also a requirement for the protection of an LLC). You can file for your EIN online with the IRS. It's extremely easy and you get your number right away. Also, if you work with an online LLC formation service, they will often offer to obtain your EIN for you.
To manage your business finances, you can do one of several things. You can get software to do it yourself such as with Xero, Freshbooks or QuickBooks, which I'm personally using. You can also hire a bookkeeper or accountant to handle your finances. If you do things barebones, you might be able set up your own system in Excel to track everything. I use a CPA to guide me with how to properly record financials in QuickBooks. At the end of the year, I hand everything over to him to do my taxes. Because I’m an LLC, he will actually be doing my personal taxes as well as my wife's. This is because your LLC is attached to you personally and is filed on your personal taxes as a Schedule C. Your CPA can also help you figure out what you should be paying in quarterly taxes so you aren’t hit with penalties at the end of the year.
Ensure Your Solopreneurship Has Legal Protection
Unfortunately, the world we live in is full of people who are out to get businesses and individuals in hopes of making quick money. People will sue for almost anything these days. For that reason, I highly recommend you get an attorney in your area to represent you and your business. Also, allow them to build your contracts for your business for added protection. Those are contracts that you can send out to clients if your business is service based. If your business is product based, you can have them create the disclaimers needed on your website for added protection through the use of the products you offer.
Between your CPA and your attorney, you will have a group behind you to make sure your business licenses stay up to date and your business is in good standing with the state. Both the attorney and CPA will not come cheap, but it’s a price well invested in.
Grow Your Solopreneur Business
No one said it would be easy, and it’s not. Go out and build your brand. Spend some money on marketing and get it out in front of the world through social media. The world is now your potential customer base. All you need to do is close the deal or sale. Enjoy the process of solopreneurship. You will surely learn more about yourself during this journey then you would working for someone else. I wish you the best!
Matt Weik is the Founder/Owner of Weik Fitness, LLC and is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. He’s a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. His work has been featured in over 85 fitness magazines and over 1,500 websites. You can contact Matt via www.weikfitness.com or on his social channels found on his website.