What does it take to become a successful solopreneur? Sure, it takes a certain mindset to work for yourself, which usually comes with plenty of hard work, dedication, and some strange working hours. But even the most well-practiced solopreneur needs a little help, and that usually comes in the form of technology.
We’re not talking fancy laptops and robot assistants (although an AI coffee machine would do wonders for productivity). There are some fantastic apps and online tools to help sole professionals do their job faster and more efficiently, and we will explore some of our favorites here.
What is a Solopreneur Anyway?
Before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at what it means to be a solopreneur.
In short, ‘solopreneur’ is a pretty self-descriptive term: it’s an entrepreneur who works solo. Compared to more established terms such as freelancer, sole trader, and self-employed, ‘solopreneur’ is a relatively new term but it still falls within the same category as the aforementioned.
Solopreneurs are similar to freelancers in that they can be self-employed marketers, developers, business consultants, or one of many other independent roles.
Or they can spread their wings further and run a startup or small business single-handedly, outsourcing to other independent professionals when they need specialist skills or additional help.
While many solopreneurs start out working from home, they often tend to migrate into coworking spaces to escape the isolation of working alone. It’s also common for solopreneurs to work from the offices of long-term clients, especially on large projects, in order to work closely with coworkers and project managers.
Why Do Solopreneurs Need Tools to be Productive?
For any business person, time is valuable. But this is especially true for the solopreneur who is paid by the hour or upon completion of a project.
Freelance work often comes in waves; at certain times of the year work can dry up, while at other times there’s a deluge. When work is available, it’s in the solopreneur’s interest to complete as much work in as little time as possible — just in case there’s another ‘drought’ on the horizon.
And remember, when working solo, you don’t have an accounting department or an admin assistant behind you, so all those little time-consuming jobs that come with running a business, like invoicing and client liaison, fall on the solopreneur’s shoulders.
With that in mind, here is a rundown of some fantastic tools to help solopreneurs in all aspects of business management, from project time-keeping to organizing meetings.
Top Tools for Savvy Solopreneurs
1] Organization and Time Management
Toggl is a time tracking app that helps solopreneurs keep track of the amount of time they have spent on projects or tasks.
Not only does this help you stay within the estimated completion time frame (allowing you to get finished and move onto other jobs as quickly as possible), it also helps you understand how much time it takes for you to complete admin tasks.
Once you know which areas you need help with, you can outsource the relevant jobs to other freelancers, such as a virtual PA, or use an automated tool for help with, say, invoicing and tax.
In a similar vein, RescueTime is a great little tool that helps cut out distractions by tracking the time you spend on certain applications and websites, giving you an accurate picture of your day.
You can set alerts to let you know when you have spent too much time on a specific activity, block distracting websites, and analyze your own activity through time-tracking reports.
Remember The Milk is a to-do app that’s not just for business. It’s a handy tool that lets you set and prioritize tasks with deadlines and reminders, which works across multiple devices, and helps keep you on top of the things that matter.
Digitization is a boon for business, but it has its downsides. One of them is online security, and the near impossibility that comes with remembering dozens of passwords for multiple sites and accounts. Thankfully, there are some secure password-saving tools to help make that job easier (and safer).
One of them is LastPass. It’s a password manager that keeps all your passwords locked up in a digital ‘vault’. You have one single master password that gives you access to the vault, and once you login the browser extension automatically fills required fields with username and password information.
3] Communication and Meetings
If you regularly receive emails from people outside of your regular contact network, it helps to know who is behind the message.
Rapportive gives you at-a-glance information of people who send you emails. It’s a plugin for Gmail that shows you a brief snippet from the sender’s Linkedin profile, so you have a quick idea who’s on the other end of your email.
When it comes to arranging meetings or scheduling phone calls, it can take a frustrating amount of time going backwards and forwards with your recipient — particularly if you are dealing with multiple people.
Calendly is one of the best-known calendar apps but there are other excellent versions on the market too, such as Appointedd. These tools provide an online calendar that syncs with your own availability, and sits in your email footer or on your website.
Simply send the link to clients and invite them to pick a time and date for your meeting. It’s quick, simple, and it saves a lot of time and fuss for all concerned.
Solopreneurs don’t always work within close proximity to their clients or coworkers — in fact that’s one of the huge draws of going solo. Thanks to mobile technology, you can now work thousands of miles away and collaborate effortlessly through online meeting experiences, using tools such as Zoom.
This popular platform provides an intuitive platform for group audio or video meetings complete with online chat and other features.
4] Invoicing and Expenses
Every solopreneur needs to keep a close eye on their business finances and cash flow, not to mention invoicing, expenses and tax returns. Wave is one accounting app that has become popular with independent professionals thanks to its easy-to-use interface, which takes care of multiple tasks including invoices, receipts, estimates, payments, and more.
If you generally have a lot of expenses and you struggle to keep track of receipts (who doesn’t?) give Shoeboxed a try. It lets you scan receipts and keep them organize online, so it’s easy to keep track of expenses over time, which is especially useful for tax preparation.
Another handy financial organizer is Mint. It’s an app that puts all your finances into one easy dashboard and helps you stay on top of your bills, so you can see what payments are coming up, how much is due, and where your money goes. It also provides at-a-glance budgeting and investment tracking.
Credibility and Business Growth
Those are just some of the fantastic under-the-radar plugins and apps to help solopreneurs work more efficiently and ramp up their productivity.
However, we all know there’s much more to running and growing a solo business than tech tools, and sometimes you need a human support system to guide you towards your next step on the solopreneurship ladder.
Support comes in various forms, and for some this includes a reliable remote receptionist service to take care of calls and appointments throughout the working week.
A live receptionist service needn’t cost the earth, but it can prove a productivity boon thanks to saving time dealing with constant calls, filtering out spam or sales calls, and arranging meetings or appointments.
This service is often available as part of a virtual office plan, which in itself offers numerous services to support business growth. Even the most basic of virtual office plans provides a business address and mail handling service, which you’ll need for certain activities such as opening a business bank account, building financial credibility, and applying for funding.
In fact, did you know that most lenders will reject business credit applications if you don’t have a business address and landline? In most cases, lenders want to see your business registered to an office address to show that your company is established and that your business and personal assets are separate.
There are many virtual office providers in the US to choose from, including Alliance Virtual Offices, which provide a range of business address locations, business phone numbers and live receptionist services covering hundreds of locations across the country.
The tools and support services you choose for your business will vary depending on your personal preferences, budget, and professional aspirations. There are always alternatives on the market and our advice is to do a little shopping around first and, where possible, try before you buy.
Solopreneurs are often hard pushed to get certain tasks done as quickly as possible — such as accounting and invoicing — in order to spend more time doing the jobs that actually bring in money.
Therefore, it certainly pays to find the right solutions that save time and boost your productivity. We hope these tips are helpful in your quest for successful solopreneurship, and if you have any more suggestions to add, we’d love to hear them!