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Solopreneurs Become the Millionaires Next Door

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner didn’t start her personal finance blog, “Making Sense of Cents”, with the intent to turn it into a million-dollar operation. But that didn’t matter — last year, she surpassed $1 million in revenue after five years in business.

Schroeder-Gardner began blogging to document her personal financial journey and to share tips to help others earn and save money. The blog eventually became her main source of income, and she now expects her business to generate $1.5 million in revenue this year. She brings in money from advertisements and sponsorships on the website.

Schroeder-Gardner’s company is among the growing number of single-person businesses in the U.S. that are breaking the $1 million revenue mark. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 38,551 nonemployer businesses had sales of $1 million or more in 2016, edging up from 38,029 in 2015.

Overall, the number of single-person businesses increased nationally by almost half a million in 2016, to total 24,813,048, with the transportation and warehousing sector chalking up the biggest increase among nonemployer businesses.

It’s worth noting that although these “solopreneurs” operate and grow their businesses alone, they might also turn to trusted outsiders when they need assistance. Digital tools and online platforms have made it easier for owners of nonemployer businesses to hire contractors as needed, so they can accomplish more without sacrificing their independence.

7 traits of successful owners of single-person businesses

It’s not common for a solopreneur to surpass $1 million in revenue on their own, said Tom Corley, a New Jersey-based CPA and author of several financial books, including “Rich Habits, Poor Habits.” Corley has spent years researching and analyzing the behaviors of wealthy individuals, including business owners.

Many wealthy business owners achieve success by forging partnerships or hiring employees who have a similar level of dedication to the business, Corley said. However, successful solopreneurs share many of the same goals and motivations as their entrepreneurial counterparts, even though they’re going it alone.

Here are a few common traits of successful owners of nonemployer businesses, based on Corley’s research:

  1. Fanatical self-educators: They are dedicated to becoming an expert in their field regardless of their formal education level.
  2. Visionaries: They create a blueprint for their ideal future and set a clear path to reach any goal.
  3. Persistent: They never quit or give up on a goal. The idea of quitting is often unfathomable.
  4. Action-oriented: They are unafraid to take calculated risks because they have prepared for all outcomes.
  5. Habit-obsessed: They tweak processes to find out what works and what doesn’t, and they are unwilling to let go of the best practices.
  6. Regular exercisers: They participate in regular aerobic exercise.
  7. In control of emotions: They keep their emotions in check, especially negative thoughts or feelings, to be able to react rationally in various situations.

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Misconceptions of millionaire business owners

At the same time, several myths surround millionaire entrepreneurs, and many of those myths portray them in a negative light, Corley said. While stereotypes may paint rich business owners as unkind gluttons, that’s typically not the truth, he said.

Corley also cited several other misconceptions about millionaire business owners:

  1. They’re big spenders. Wealthy business owners are typically frugal in their personal lives and save money wherever they can. When it comes to their business, though, they are often more willing to shell out money to grow the company.
  2. They’re uncaring. Many millionaire business owners are generous with their time and are involved in community organizations and nonprofits.
  3. Greed is their motivator. Most millionaires enjoyed their work before they were rich and successful. They often chase their passion rather than money.
  4. They keep all of their money. Rather than saving every penny earned, most millionaires make strategic investments, either in their own business, stock in other companies or real estate.
  5. They inherit their wealth. Many wealthy Americans have earned their fortune rather than inherited it from rich family members.

Corley said that in conducting his study, he found wealthy business owners to be among the kindest and most genuine people he had ever met. Many were big dreamers and had built their businesses while working part-time at another company. They were dedicated to their ventures and were thoughtful in how they spent money. Most of all, they were unwilling to give up their dreams.

“It takes time and money to become a successful entrepreneur,” he said.

Who is the typical millionaire business owner in 2018?

Millionaire entrepreneurs are increasingly likely to be “skill-based virtuosos,” Corley said. This would be someone who has made a large amount of money by mastering a skill or area of knowledge. Professional golfer Tiger Woods is an example of a skill-based virtuoso, he said.

“It doesn’t have to be an innate talent, but it has to be something that they can practice and a skill that they can build over time and become an expert,” Corley said.

In the past, entrepreneurs may have found a niche market that they could exploit to make money. But now that the internet has increased competition between all businesses, entrepreneurs have to be among the best in their field to be successful, Corley said.

To master their chosen skill or area of knowledge, entrepreneurs often engage in “time blocking,” focusing on one individual task at a time, Corley said. This usually helps small business owners accomplish more in a single day.

“They aren’t multitasking like everybody is doing nowadays,” he said.

Becoming a solopreneur

Building a successful company without the assistance of employees or business partners can be challenging, but an increasing number of solopreneurs are responsible for building million-dollar businesses on their own.

And while every business owner is different, there are a few commonalities among those who make it to the top. Dedication to their craft and a determination to be the best are some of the common personality traits of millionaire business owners.

Turning a blog into a million-dollar operation took hard work and a lot of learning, Schroeder-Gardner said. For other entrepreneurs hoping to reach the $1 million mark, Schroeder-Gardner recommends they build their business around something that truly holds their interest.

Start a business that either involves your passion or allows you to pursue your passion outside of your business hours,” she said. “I feel that this gives a person a lot of motivation to succeed.”


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