Throughout the past few years, we have seen a shift in workplace trends and a significant rise in the sharing economy. Freelancers, solopreneurs, and contractors have leveraged the opportunity to work remote to craft lifestyles around their preferences.
Contrary to pure freelancers who usually take a handful of clients on a project basis, there is a new wave of entrepreneurs helping to build interesting products while remaining “independent”. This wave is common in the tech and blockchain sectors where remote collaboration is looked at more favorable.
One such entrepreneur, Jared Polites, has built a portfolio of nearly 70 clients since 2017, all while working remote and without any full-time employees. We sat down with Jared to learn more about this movement and some of the pros and cons of this lifestyle.
Can you explain the concept of a modern solopreneur?
In a traditional sense, the term solopreneur was used to describe entrepreneurial people who start a business or a career around themselves, without the consistent use of many external resources. After being a buzzword for a few years, the term cooled down.
Right now, I am seeing a rising trend in my network of people that are primarily working for themselves, but are a part of multiple small teams often focusing on different things. While they are on multiple teams, they craft their workload to stay independent and can be agile when selecting new projects or clients to work with.
This is different than a freelancer in the sense that these teams they are on have long-term goals and are not solely project focused. It’s a mix of being a freelancer and a team member, but retaining full ownership over your time.
What are the major benefits of crafting this kind of professional life?
Personally, the freedom is key. You can decide when, where, and who to work with. If something doesn’t work out you can leave without the guilt and pressure many full-time office employees feel when resigning. Your income in these cases is purely dependent on what you choose to work on and how you negotiate your value.
This creates a situation where you essentially learn how to run many aspects of a business without the burden of hiring full-time employees, scaling, and leading. The latter I will get some criticism for, but I think it is important for people to be self-aware. Not everyone is cut out to be an executive, manager, or leader in the traditional career sense.
In my personal case, I never had the desire to manage people in a corporate setting. I instead decided to build a business that connected with my network, personal brand, and word of mouth. In the blockchain industry, this has had a compounding effect where most of my business comes organically without the need of advertising.
What are the challenges when creating this kind of work structure?
If you don’t work you don’t make money so it is definitely an eat what you kill scenario. This can get stressful but I find differentiating time differences to be the biggest hassle. Usually my work day extends or starts later to accommodate time differences in other parts of the world.
Also, not saying yes to too many projects or clients is also important.
I like to simply use the 80-20 rule and pick the best kind of clients to work with. Best in this sense refers to clients with a similar outlook on life and work that also are reliable and communicative. Sometimes you strike out and find out later that a client or team is not a good fit, but this is completely normal and should be expected.
What about the criticism that these kinds of workers are never fully committed?
These criticisms are completely valid. The key is expectations. You should absolutely have a conversation early-on about your bandwidth, what value you can provide, mutual expectations, and then plan around that. Limiting surprises is the goal and in my experience, this is very doable when communication is open and consistent.
Some projects are cleaner with clear deliverables and others are more fluid with teams that figure out where they want to go as they progress. It really depends what a team or project is looking for. Some of my more hands-off projects include an offline business with a mentor who simply wanted another partner to bounce ideas off of and add a fresh perspective.
Do you recommend any tools or resources for entrepreneurs trying to transition?
Take control of your time. I like Calendly to book and manage my call agenda. Also, I follow the inbox zero email strategy where you try and keep your inbox populated by only emails with pending things to do or respond to. All of the rest get categorized into folders.
For communication, I limit the apps that I use only to the most important ones and politely decline if someone wants me to download a different application. Also, I disable all push notifications on my phone to remove any kind of anxiety inducing flood of notifications.
For building daily habits, I use an app called Habit – Daily Tracker where I can remind myself to do certain things. Some of the tasks include limiting coffee, red meat, meditation, workouts, and other habits to build a healthy work-life balance.