16 min read

One Person Business: Proven Strategies from a 7-Figure Entrepreneur

Jump to...

There's ample information today on one person business ideas but they are just that...ideas. I've been a solo founder or solopreneur since 2005 scaling dozens of successful small businesses. Since then I've helped 500+ solopreneurs and consultants in their personal and professional lives become successful business owners. If you want to build an online business to six or seven figures, what I can share with you is not guessing.

The big challenge and viewpoint I bring to grow a profitable one person business are the "how". A one person business doesn't need an elaborate business plan or millions of social media followers. While I'm a technologist by trade, it doesn't even need ChatGPT or AI. You simply need focus, discipline, to follow proven models, use systems to scale you, and an expert community of peers.

One of the problems today is that the biggest names talking about one person business got popular and made their money talking about making money. Instead, I've helped online and local business owners take a business idea and go from $0 to $50k+ MRR without hundreds of thousands in their audiences. While I have big-name social media marketing clients, you don't need that to become a 7-figure entrepreneur.

So if you want to have your own business and are either a one person business or solo founder, I'll give you the real talk...the real playbook to scale to six or seven figures.

Let's get into it now.

Starting a One-Person Business: From Idea to Reality

You don't have to wish or wonder about having your own business. An online business provides a much lower cost for your business venture than what it took in the 1900s. You can start a small business using social media platforms without even needing to attend industry events. Your business bank account can be created online without even leaving your house. I've been creating businesses online for decades and I'll break down going from a full time job and business ideas to your own one person business.

Start as a Side Venture

If you want to lower your risk, take your business idea and start it as a side hustle. I have plenty of clients who join my solopreneur coaching group who are experts at what they do but still have a full time job. Some are ready to make the leap faster but if you have a high personal cost structure, a side hustle is the low-risk way to become your own boss.

For example, imagine you work as a content marketing manager in-house. I've had clients who take that expertise and decide they want to assist clients with online marketing. They offer their expertise and take over the marketing efforts to similar kinds of what I call "Lighthouse Clients" to their current employer. Now they understand the exact issues and pain points because that is already their job. It makes it easier for them to attract clients because they've already solved those specific problems firsthand.

As a small business, they can beat marketing agencies on prices and not go in on the one person business until they've built up their revenue to a point that makes sense to leave their full time job.

Choose the Right Business Structure

When starting your one person business, don't overly stress on the business structure. Most times you can keep it very simple and start with a Schedule C, which is filed with your 1040 in the U.S.. I would much rather you focus on your social media marketing and content marketing than set up a limited liability company. While this is not tax advice and you should consult an accountant or comparable, typically you need hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for your online business to make any other business structure make sense.

For other businesses that are not a small business where you are your own boss, there may be additional considerations. But for a business venture where you have a simple business plan without much small business administration, it's not something to overly focus on when getting moving. When I built my latest 7-figure one person business, I largely focused on a Schedule C until I hit a certain revenue level. That's from years of entrepreneurship and running a small business without stressing on different business structures.

Running a Successful One-Person Business: Essential Skills and Strategies

One of my superpowers is that when I have a business idea, I can execute better than 99% of others. Successful businesses are built by doing, not trying to be perfect. That doesn't mean have no strategy. It means stop trying to have a perfect one.

Prioritize and Manage Your Time Effectively

Instead of sitting around developing or refining a business plan, which tool is the best, or buying that next business book, get focused on how you run your week. Many entrepreneurs are stressed by having to do all things in the business every single day.

Here's what I mean and this comes from working with hundreds of entrepreneurs through the years. On any given day, you might be managing your social media accounts, taking a sales call, acting like a graphic designer in Canva, trying to provide valuable insights to your clients, and doing the admin work for your online business. While you're working with your client, you're thinking about the contract that is ending next month and feel guilty for not finding new clients. It's the perfect way to stop having a one person company because you will burn yourself out...fast.

Instead, I use Day Themes, which is especially important as a one person business where you do the marketing, sales, and client delivery. With Day Themes, specific days are allocated to sales activities like prospecting or sales calls and other days allow me to do admin work. I have a specific day where I have no meetings at all, which is also not the weekend.

Because of a lack of ability to manage time effectively, I often find that small businesses can't break specific revenue levels because they barely can focus on one part of the business. Day Themes is just one strategy to ensure you can stay a one person business.

Don't Go It Entirely Alone

Having a small business does not mean you do it all yourself. A remote solopreneur isn't working alone in your PJs in your basement. You'll want to develop what is called your expert community of peers. They'll fill in gaps in your business in areas you're not as strong, keep you accountable, and encourage you through highs and lows.

What is not an expert community of peers? Running out and hiring a virtual assistant. You need to be at a certain revenue level and have processes clearly mapped out before you get there. That's an early and often mistake I see with my clients and why I built my solopreneur coaching group. It's not just for those that want to be their own boss and it doesn't mean these people have no employees. Instead, it's about how they want to grow, which is not "the hungry dragon" of more people, more clients, more people, more clients.

Hiring is not a sign of success. You can grow to seven figures without having a team or employees and also without hiring a virtual assistant, relying on paid ads, and with a simple business model. It's all about targeting the right kind of "Lighthouse Client" with a scalable offer that lets you deliver value without always being in front of that client. Obviously, this approach means you likely won't be running a landscaping business, tutoring business, or something in person. But whether you're in online advertising or bookkeeping services, you can have a streamlined business structure while also not having to do parts of the business you're not an expert in yourself. That's why the community of expert peers, mentors, and a solopreneur business coach will all be critical to your success.

One-Person Business Ideas: Finding Your Niche

The biggest mistakes people make with their business idea are either pursuing a venture where they are not an expert or not being specific enough. If your 9-5 experience is in operations, don't jump to marketing. If your small business is content agency, don't offer 27 different services across 5-7 industries. There's ample data that the more focused you are, the more successful you will be. Experts get paid for their expertise, not the things that they do. So be the expert in one area...not a jack of all trades.

Exploring Different Business Ideas

It won't take long to find success stories online for one person businesses where people are making millions. These are the 1%, and most of them also have millions of followers. When you do the math, they are making on average $0.96 per follower per year. They need huge audiences, paid ads, and volume to reach these levels. Their sole focus is to keep getting new customers who spend very little with them.

But that's not you.

So let me be one of the few people on the entire Internet to give it to you real. You're not going to build a course and retire. You're not going to have a million dollar weekend or have a four-hour work week. You're very unlikely to make passive income with an online business where it nets you something substantial enough to live off of consistently.

I know because some of my clients have hundreds of thousands of followers and can't rely solely on passive or creator income. According to Linktree, only 12% of those focused on these strategies make $50k per year. Meanwhile, the solopreneurs and niche agencies that are my clients make that per month.

Ok, ok, you might be convinced now or at least be willing to consider other options. Where should you start?

The fastest way to a 7-figure one person business is to focus on services and consulting. They max your active income and get you paid as an expert. Then over time, you can layer in additional income streams like the three Cs of a course, community, and coaching. But you need to earn the right to get there.

All of these people are consultants and many have small audiences—considerably less than 10k—and they focus first on maximizing active income.

Evaluating Business Ideas

When it comes to evaluating business ideas, you're looking for the intersection of your passion and profits. Put another way, where can you deliver 10x results, love doing that, and make money?

Often my clients only find one of those areas. If you love what you do but the market won't pay you for it, you'll have to go back to an FT job. If you hate what you do but make a ton of money, you'll burn out or dread coming to work every day.

It's also worth noting that ideally, you'll make more than what someone else would pay you in a FT job. After all, a business plan that results in you being your boss—yes, it comes with freedom—but where you're making less and carrying all the burdens? It's marginally better, if not worse than a 9-5 job you don't love but at least have a regular paycheck.

That's why you need a system to map your expertise to market opportunities. In my offers framework, I outline how to assess your skills and expertise relative to your "Blue Ocean Services".

The One-Person Business Model: Monetizing Your Skills and Passion

Small businesses compared to a one person business structure aren't all that different. In many small business companies, often there's a sole owner and that owner also is the "rainmaker". They bring in the leads, close the deals, and are the face of the small business. Even the most successful brands in the last 100 years had highly visible personalities like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Sara Blakely, and Elon Musk. You'll similarly use your personal brand even though your business plan doesn't call for a massive team of people, a big office, or expensive equipment.

Understanding the One-Person Business Model

Your small business is a choice. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. You'll get questions like, "When will you hire employees?", "How big is your office?", or "How are you going to exit your business?" The reality is many small business firms under $10M ARR never reach escape velocity. They don't have the nimbleness of a one person business or the robustness of a much larger company.

When you focus on maximizing your active income first through consulting or selling expertise, you will need little initial investment. When I built my remote agency, well before 2020, I didn't need a brick and mortar location because I focused on selling my expertise. Social media strategies can make you visible online with "Lighthouse Clients", clients who will pay you a premium, even as a solo business. The benefit of being a consultant or solopreneur is that you can classify as a 1099, which means even larger companies can contract to you, whereas if you are a limited liability company with less than 50 employees, you'll be scrutinized for not being "big enough."

Key Components of a Successful One-Person Business Model

From working with hundreds, if not thousands of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and other small business owners, 99% of them overcomplicate how to build a one person company. I want you to focus on just three key components, which can help you grow to seven figures. No, that doesn't need to be your goal but it shows you how far you can go by focusing on the essentials.

You need these three systems in your business, whether you want to stay a solo business or eventually hire: a way to attract clients (marketing system), a way to close those clients (sales system), and a way to do that work (delivery system). Anything else is noise.

Let's look at this one by way of example. Imagine you're a social media manager for businesses focused on online fitness training. Yes, it's purposefully specific because the more specific you are, the better you will do. The first system...marketing. Where do these online fitness training experts hang out? Instagram? YouTube? Their personal websites? If you can find a repeatable way to get in front of them, you have your first system.

Now, your sales system is next. Why would they care about your social media advertising and management services? Your competitors are those doing the same job. The alternatives to you might be social media tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and more. You want to build offers that solve their pain points—the things keeping them up at night—and give them a "Big Win" in their business. Competitors may just focus on posting to social channels. Your differentiation may be around generating leads or other demonstratable metrics they care about. You capture these in your offers to get an easier "yes" in your sales process or what I call a Repeatable Closing System.

Ok, with a way to get in front of them (marketing system) and close these deals (sales system), now you need a way to do the work without always being in front of them. Clients are notorious for wanting a ton of face time or pinging you in 27 different places like WhatsApp, Slack, project tools, DM, email, and more. You need to show them you can deliver the results they want without having to do meetings and get ahead of them being reactive all the time. The more they see you're on top of it, the less they need meetings and pings across these different outlets.

Owning Your Business: Taking Full Control of Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Having a business idea is one thing. Starting an online business is another. One step further? Having a successful small business for more than a year or two. You've probably heard about 9 out of 10 businesses fail. What you likely don't know is only 25% of businesses make it to 15 years or more according to Investopedia. It takes more than having a few one person business ideas if you want to keep putting money into your business bank account consistently.

Embracing the Freedom and Responsibility

What many small businesses don't realize is that more freedom can also mean more stress, more disorganization, and more uncertainty. So, yes, no boss. Also, yes, you're the one putting all the food on your table, assessing how to run your week, month, and year, and making all the big decisions.

Because you're a one person business, it means you will be full stack across marketing, sales, and client delivery. This means having systems in these areas and a remote solopreneur mentality on how to grow without hiring. No that doesn't mean passive income or an online course. Only people with extremely large audiences can make significant money that way. In a sole proprietorship, a successful entrepreneur only needs a loyal customer base of Lighthouse Clients paying premium rates to scale to six or seven figures.

Systems don't mean AI or automation. Systems are just repeatable ways to get results. The more processes and systems you have across marketing, sales, and client delivery, the more freedom you can have on the most creative parts of your business. Because then you're not trying to reinvent the wheel over and over again on how to get leads, close deals, or do the work. I regularly encourage my clients to do things that are fun for them and to reward themselves after they have their systems in place. After all, small businesses should be fun. When it's not, it means you don't have some of these fundamental systems in place.

Building a Supportive Community

Know where you're strong and where you're not. Often one person businesses are run by people who are decent in several areas or skills. The result is the temptation to do it all yourself or try to get good in areas you're not. I know because as I grew my agency to $5M ARR, I became an expert in way too many areas. Now as I coach solopreneurs and agency owners, I'm helping them get focused on their zone of genius.

To do this, I alluded to the community of expert peers earlier. For example, I used to have a payroll that cost me $296,463.65 per month. While I loved my team, many of them did not drive the results you can get from fractional talent or a community of expert peers. Today I work with global talent to help with design items and external video expertise that cost me a small fraction of that massive monthly payroll.

Even better? Install the brains of other experts as systems in your business. I'd rather you pay $20,000 in an area where you don't feel strong enough for an expert to build you a system than hire a VA or junior employee. The former will get you fast results even though it's a bigger investment upfront. Expecting that inexperienced or low-cost talent, however, is going to solve problems you haven't will be a big waste of your time and money.

But where do you find this community of expert peers, a business mentor, or fractional talent? It can take work, even years, especially if you're not wired this way. That's why there are solopreneur communities for those focused on one person businesses. That doesn't mean you can't have employees or a team. Instead, the right ones are built to help you grow with a similar philosophy of not always hiring more people. Don't think that social platforms like LinkedIn are proxies for a true group or community either. Some lightweight messages is not the same as getting accountability for your goals with people truly committed to growing and supporting one another. There will always be good and bad times...you want a group of people around you for both.

My solopreneur and agency group "The Club" provides systems, workshops, and accountability for a community of expert peers.

Prioritizing Tasks and Time Management

One person businesses should have a system that keeps them organized day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month. I do my yearly planning in October, for example, for the coming year. Day-to-day I use a tool like Akiflow, which integrates with Google Calendar, to manage key or repeating tasks. Then for clients, I have specific delivery systems tied to each of my offers.

Always think about your Offer Funnel Stack. An offer linked to a tight, simple marketing funnel with an ultimate tech stack. Each of these Offer Funnel Stacks is tuned to a specific Lighthouse Client segment and lets me scale my task and time management. These tools come from decades of finding the best options on the market. Plus, I historically am a technologist who built apps and software...so I am very picky about which options I use and recommend.

Building a Community of Supporters

Outside of your community of expert peers, have a strong support system. Get a hobby that isn't work. Don't sacrifice your personal or family life for your business. Successful businesses are built over years and decades, not months. One person businesses are not about working 50+ hours a week and doing it all yourself. Be prepared for the long haul, invest in your personal development, and know there will be ups, downs, and everything in between.

The longer you're in business, the more you'll have experience to pull from but there's a tendency to get comfortable. Find those 3-5 steps ahead of you who can shortcut you months and years of struggles. Keep yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually fit. It also helps if those at home believe in what you're doing while also not having them bear the more intense burdens.

Conclusion: The Power of a One-Person Business

Whether you're new to a one person business or you've had one for years, there's always more to do, learn, and improve. Small businesses are not a set-it-and-forget-it way to make money. You'll always have another business idea. You'll need the discipline to decide which ones to—and not to—pursue.

Don't try to do or change everything at once. Focus on the part of the business not working well. If you have no leads, focus on your marketing system. If you have leads but aren't closing deals, focus on your sales system. If you're closing deals but not then in "delivery hell", focus on your delivery systems. Build your community of expert peers, install your three systems, and be ready for the long game. These are some of the keys that allow me to scale dozens of six and seven-figure businesses each week without working 50+ hours.

Image Description

About the Author

Hey, I'm Ken. I've been running online businesses since 2005. My work has been featured by Apple, WSJ, Levi's, and reached millions of people.

After scaling my remote agency to $5M, I'm now helping entrepreneurs grow without big payrolls with offers, sales, and proven systems.

Follow me