How do I know if I'm ready for solopreneurship?

It seems easy enough, start up a Substack, kick off a podcast, or host a few events — you're well on your way to profitability. Wrong. While often touted as a way to democratize creation or put the tools into creators hands, there's a ton of time, energy, effort and resources that go into making a creator a success online.

While it may seem pretty straightforward, often times, we over-glamorize this future, causing people to be disheartened when they start their journey towards being a solopreneur and don't have results right away. Individuals who are making a living full-time by being a creator have some shared traits or steps that they've taken in order to be a success.

Over the past year, in partnership with the NYU Studio 20 program ran by Jay Rosen, research has been conducted to not only determine the viability of the solopreneur, but also determine strategies and tactics that have made for an even more successful solopreneur. Furthermore, there are takeaways that those within the newsroom or news organization can learn from these lessons.

This first chapter serves to not only define the role of a solopreneur, but also be your reality check if solopreneurship is right for you. As you continue to read through this chapter, be honest with yourself — jumping into solopreneurship means that at the end of the day, you'll be the person you'll be relying on overall. Once you've had time to assess, and truly assess, you'll be ready to lean towards this endeavor full force.

This chapter pulls insights from not only journalism scholars, but those leading in both tech and media solopreneurship endeavors.

Do you have a niche you are extremely passionate about or the best in the world at?

The foundations of building a media product that will eventually lead to a successful solopreneurship comes from identifying your own strengths and weaknesses first. One thing that rang true across a variety of individuals, is that there is no substitute for choosing an area of focus that fits best with you. You have to be creating content around an area that you are not only qualified (through experience, passion, or education), but also interested in covering. If you can clearly define an area of interest, and expertise — then sleep on it. Make for certain that this is an area that you're qualified to be a part of.

We're starting to see this unfold in a variety of different ways — including individuals documenting the process from which they learn — but across the board, having a niche and a few narrow topics of interest means that you're able to focus on doing something right, rather than spreading yourself too thin across the board.

While this may feel trivial in comparison to the other many things that come to mind when starting on your own adventure; the fact of the matter is that the rate of burnout is highly likely. By identifying an area you're passionate and well versed in, you can at least make sure that you're building in an area that is of interest for the long run. In order to have success, you'll have to build, and build consistently in that area of interest regularly.

Next up, you'll need to work to identify your product, and then set forth work to start scaling your audience. If you're creating content in a manner that doesn't reflect on your target audience's ideal form of consumption, you've essentially limited how your solopreneurship operation can scale. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. How your message is packaged up can impact how your product is perceived and interpreted. These key early decisions are one's that can set you up for success so you can achieve a sense of self sustaining revenue and monetization.

Note that none of these early decisions I'm advocating for, are monetization. Monetization arguably, is one of the most difficult parts of solopreneurship, and rarely, it happens right off the bat. We should recognize this struggle, and work on building the key areas so that when you're ready for monetization, the opportunity is open and available for you. When thinking about how to scale, we must recognize that by in large, solopreneurship, even solopreneurship for branded content is much more difficult to keep monetizeable.

Building a product that has demand

The key part of building a product that can sustain yourself as a solopreneur is creating a product that has demand, and enough demand that it can provide a livable, sustainable source of income.

While this may initially draw one to popular trends and columns; tech, politics and fashion being among the most popular, the true success stories come from just consistency and putting in the work.

The advantages of solopreneurship

Well first and foremost, you're your own boss! You don't have to report to a higher editorial board or being, and you can choose your own topics! Yay! This seems fantastic on a first thought.

By surveying independent creators, articles profiling independent creators, and announcements made online, we can notice a few trends of why solopreneurship feels so appealing.

  1. Editorial Control: the individual running the publication has full control of what's published and what is not published as part of the organization.
  2. Ownership of their own brand: Increasingly, authors and creators have experienced increased ownership of their own brand. This model allows for individuals to increase their brand value outside of the platform they're on
  3. Flexibility: going it solo means that you have your own freedom and flexibility in your schedule, your content plan, and how you arrange your day — for some people sick of the 9-5 this is seen as a huge perk!

The disadvantages of solopreneurship

Well, first and foremost, you're your own boss! That's written with the most love and simplicity of it all. Being your own boss has benefits, but also comes with all the disadvantages of promotion as well. At the end of the day, you're responsible for how your outlet performs.

  1. Juggling all of the roles: You are your own creator, writer, editor, author, accountant, designer, hype man, promoter, membership advocate, all rolled into one.
  2. Ownership of their own brand: Increasingly, authors and creators have experienced increased ownership of their own brand. This model allows for individuals to increase their brand value outside of the platform they're on
  3. No overhead support or resources: While our workplaces are often the butt of many jokes, they exist for a reason. They provide resources, other minds to bounce ideas off of, are incentivized to promote your work,

Okay, so what's next?

Through the remainder of this guide, I researched the questions that individuals would have as they started to embark on those solopreneurship journey. From picking a product, deciding your worth, publishing schedules and even topics to cover in this guide.

But thinking through these commonly asked questions — is only one way to approach this section. By diving into the overall industry of solopreneurship, we can make some larger assumptions as to what it means to be a media solopreneur. From long-term viability to takeaways for a newsroom or media organization to learn from solopreneurship, this is also included in this toolkit.

Solopreneurship isn't for everyone. By working to apply insights from solopreneurship to more in-house, or newsroom-driven roles, we can make sure to build a media ecosystem that works for us all, and that starts by evaluating just why we've seen this mass exodus of individuals to solopreneurship.

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