It is now increasingly easy to start a business by yourself. This article explores some common opportunities – with limited capital requirements – for solo entrepreneurs to start a business alone.
Craft stores: Etsy and more
A key opportunity for those wanting to start a small startup is a craft store. If you have a creative talent, it is now easier than ever to set up an account on Etsy and to begin selling your creative works globally.
Of course, to be successful with a craft store, you will need to have a genuine creative talent. You are in effect competing against all crafters globally – unless there is something unique in the products that you create, you risk competing with thousands of others producing similar products (resulting in undercutting each other and squeezed margins).
Another opportunity to create a small one-person business is to get into product reselling. This is a classic business model, buying a product in a relatively large quantity (potentially direct from the manufacturer), and then reselling to end consumers.
Historically this business model would typically involve renting a physical store. Now, though it is possible to set up an online store, or to sell as a third-party merchant on Amazon.
However, succeeding at product reselling – and particularly so online – needs careful control costs, and ideally some favorable access to the products that you intend to resell. If you are selling a product that multiple other resellers have access to, then you devolve into price competition. Margins for online sales can be very tight, but if you have specific access to products that are not widely available to resellers (potentially from a local supplier), you may be able to succeed through resale.
Another opportunity for a solo entrepreneur is as a content creator – producing blog articles or publishing videos on YouTube. If you are able to generate engaging content that generates a large number of views, it is possible to make money by publishing content.
There are two approaches to making money – either creating the content for others or publishing it yourself.
Content creation for your own site or channel
It has become increasingly to establish a presence online and make money off the content that you produce – be it blog articles hosted on your own website, podcasts that you publish, or videos posted on a platform such as YouTube. In each of these cases, the revenue that you will make is likely from advertising.
A key thing to bear in mind with this approach is that to generate any meaningful returns, you need a large viewer base. While sites or channels that are able to gain millions of viewers can achieve significant revenues for advertisements, sites with smaller viewerships can struggle to make even a dollar or two a day.
A very (very) rough rule of thumb is that it is possible to generate about 1 cent per page load for US or European traffic (with the rates largely influenced by the average income levels of the country). This roughly equates that you will need about 10,000 visitors a day to achieve returns of $100 a day (and will require greater views if the traffic is from low average income countries or if your content is being monetized on an external platform). By no means impossible – many blogs can gain significantly more than this – but also not a goal that is easy to achieve.
Content creation for others as a freelancer
It is also possible to be a freelancer. This is common with online articles – articles on company blogs or even news sites are commonly written by individuals outside of the organization on an article basis.
This approach has the advantage that it does not require you to establish and run a site, nor build a following before you gain returns. It may take many years before a content creator sees significant returns on their time when establishing their own site, and unless they are able to achieve high viewership, these returns may be minimal. Producing material for others has the advantage that you will receive the money for the content itself, without having to worry about running the site.
There are however a few disadvantages of creating content for others. The first is the challenge in actually finding work. Especially if you don’t have a track record in article writing, it can be difficult to find sites willing to pay for an article. The other difficulty is achieving high rates. Rates for articles can vary from a few cents per word to closer to a dollar a word (equating to between around $50 and $1,000 for a 1000 word article). This is a big variation, and with the time required to find work, is not necessarily that profitable at the lower end.
Consulting or freelance services
Consulting or freelance services are another option for solo entrepreneurs to consider. If you have deep skills or qualifications in a particular area, you may be able to find companies or individuals that are willing to contract for your services.
Popular examples of freelance or consulting positions include:
- Social media manager: Responsible for the social media presence of clients that you work for (both companies and influencers).
- Graphic designer: Creating images, banners, flyers, or other graphical materials as required for companies.
- Website manager: Responsible for establishing and/or maintaining the website for clients.
- Wedding planner: Responsible for coordinating all of the activities involved in hosting a wedding.
- Copy editor: Reviewing the language and style of content to be published. If you have domain-specific knowledge (and can in turn proof material that most people can’t), this can be an attractive opportunity.
- Personal training: Providing fitness training on a one-to-one basis (depending on your location, you may require certification for this).
Another opportunity is to consider opening a franchise of an established chain. Restaurants chains for example are quite often operated as independent franchises. While the capital required to establish a franchise location is often not insignificant (ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the company), it does help provide a template that can increase the likelihood of your success. Not only are you buying into a recognizable brand, but you are the routines enforced as part of franchise operations can help increase the likelihood of success. Rather than having to learn everything from scratch, you are buying into a model with a track record.
Final thoughts: Finding your niche
Succeeding as a solo entrepreneur requires finding your niche. It involves looking at what experiences you have, where you are particularly skilled, and considering ways of utilizing those skills.
Just as it is difficult for companies to compete if they do not have distinctive offerings, it is likewise difficult to find a niche as a solo entrepreneur or freelancer. If everyone can