Today’s world no longer requires companies to be collective units. Solopreneurs, or solo entrepreneurs, have been a growing trend in recent years, but a few factors — cloud computing, rising unemployment, employee dissatisfaction, and the COVID pandemic — have accelerated this. The Brazilian data on the subject is outdated, but the general impression is that more and more people are trying not only to be their own boss, but also to be the complete team.
A 2019 survey by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, done with data from 49 countries, said that more than half of Brazilian entrepreneurs (53%) are solo flights. Another study by DataSebrae from the same year brought a much higher rate: 85%, in a universe of more than 24.9 million entrepreneurs. With unemployment increasingly present in the country, with only 48.8% of its working-age population employed in 2020, going it alone has become more of a necessity than an option.
What is a solopreneur?
He is a professional who tries to start a business on his own and does not intend to hire employees in the medium or long term. “We call this ‘euquipe'”, jokes Eder Max, business consultant at Sebrae-SP (Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Businesses). If you found this concept very similar to that of an MEI (individual microentrepreneur), an ME (microenterprise) or a self-employed person, it is understandable; after all, the differences are minimal.
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A solopreneur can choose to tax fit in either the MEI or the ME category. But while the first has an annual revenue limit of R$81 thousand, the second can earn more: up to R$360 thousand. These categories allow by law to hire employees; the MEI can only have one that receives the minimum wage or the minimum wage for the category, and the ME can have a team. But of course: if the entrepreneur chooses to be hired, he will no longer be a solopreneur.
The self-employed professionals who own legal entities are also, in essence, solo entrepreneurs, but generally act as service providers. But there are lone entrepreneurs who sell products too.
Okay, what about startups? According to Bruno Rondani, CEO and founder of the 100 Open Startups open innovation platform, this type of enterprise by definition presupposes the existence of teams. “A micro-entrepreneur that grows a lot can start operating as a company. To gain scale in the business, it will need partners. But there are many self-employed people who can participate in startups,” he says. However, Max warns: “Many companies have used MEIs to be employees, which is prohibited by law, with the exception of construction contractors.”
What characterizes a solopreneur?
In short, he needs to be good on the three fronts of a successful business: operational (knowing how to control all flows), managerial (having a manager’s head) and behavioral (attitude to persist in the business). According to Sebrae, the 10 commandments of a solo entrepreneur are:
Take initiative and seek opportunities Be persistent Know how to calculate risks Demand a quality of your service or product Be committed Study hard Set goals Create monitoring systems Have a wide network of contacts Have self-confidence
In Brazil, many start in this area out of necessity and without prior planning or capital. Thus, they end up getting frustrated with the life of a solitary entrepreneur. Cases of excess work due to accumulation of functions or business management problems are common. Others have a good command of the technical part of the business, but not the administrative part, and vice versa.
With the proper preparation, however, entering this life can bring good results, such as the freedom to be your own boss and the autonomy of decisions. “They (the solopreneur) have a very independent nature, but not every business owner is an entrepreneur. About 12 million of the 19 million CNPJ are MEIs. Statistically speaking, most of them are solo due to lack of infrastructure in the business,” he says the national manager of Customer Service at Sebrae, Enio Pinto.
This activity is usually short-lived in many cases for a simple reason: when the business starts to gear up, the entrepreneur sees the need to hire more people to move forward. The exceptions to this are liberal professionals, such as language teachers, photographers, painters, electricians, etc. who, in good condition, earn the money they need to both live and maintain the activity, without needing more professionals to help.
The role of technology in the solopreneur
An important factor in this scenario is that more people today work without the need for large offices, equipment or physical structures. They can do everything remotely and in due time, as is the case with digital nomads.
Thus, current technology allows for the existence of different types of solopreneurs, such as:
Small online store via marketplaces Consultant via video conferencing Online course creator Airbnb home owner Web page design agency Youtuber Personal trainer Copywriter Podcaster Application developer Video editor
Almost all of the above professions require some individual equipment, a good notebook and internet access. But without all the professional requirements, the entrepreneur can go wrong. “It is necessary to set up a business model and calculate all the scenarios”, suggests Eder Max, from Sebrae-SP.
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