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noun [countable]

a business owner who works and runs their business alone




noun [uncountable]

'When I began my career as a freelance writer about eight years ago, one of the biggest obstacles I faced was figuring out how to become a solopreneur and still have good healthcare … or healthcare at all.'

Parade 10th October 2013

'How to Turn Your Solopreneurial Dream into Reality … Fed up of corporate world? Getting fired? Want to turn your passion into a real business? For whatever reasons you may have, solopreneurship often comes up as an answer.'

Biz Penguin 18th January 2013

Working life has undergone a radical change during the last hundred years. Previous generations had, by and large, a degree of job security and a career path which usually set them up for life. By the early 21st century, however, ever rising unemployment and a turbulent economic climate had eroded that kind of stability, forcing much of the population to be flexible and creative about how they earn a living.

the solopreneur is … a 'company of one' and single-handedly working for the business, running the business, meeting all its costs and enjoying all the profit

It's in these conditions that a growing number of people have been kick-started into self-employment, starting their own businesses and/or seeking work independently rather than being a regular company employee. And of course this has all been made infinitely more effective by the Internet, which came along at just the right time to completely revolutionize the concept of 'going it alone'. In the 21st century, all anyone needs to set up their own 'office' is a computer and decent web access. This scenario has given birth to a new term for describing a particular kind of enterprising individual – the solopreneur.

The solopreneur is basically a business owner who does everything on their own. They, as an individual, are the business, functioning as a 'company of one' and single-handedly working for the business, running the business, meeting all its costs and enjoying all the profit. Though they may occasionally outsource work when in need of assistance, they are essentially a one-man band, employing no one but themselves.

In some senses, the term solopreneur is just a 21st century take on the word freelancer/freelance, describing a person who doesn't work permanently for one company but sells their services to a range of companies. But use of the word solopreneur suggests additional business acumen, a person who makes optimum use of 21st century technology (i.e. online media, networking opportunities, etc) to market themselves in the right places and garner the best possible financial return for their services.

Background – solopreneur

The term solopreneur is of course a blend of the adjective solo meaning 'done by one person alone' and the noun entrepreneur, which refers to someone who starts their own business and is good at spotting and securing the best business opportunities. The word solopreneur first began to appear in 2010, gaining ground partly by websites dedicated to the concept and by its use in social media (e.g. as a Twitter hashtag). Following the derivational pattern of entrepreneur, there's also a related adjective solopreneurial, a noun solopreneurship, and a small amount of evidence for the noun solopreneurism.

The word entrepreneur first appeared in English in the 1820s and originally referred to a manager or promoter of a theatrical production. Its more general use in relation to business was first attested some years later in 1852. The word itself is a borrowing based on old French entreprendre, meaning 'undertake'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 26th November 2013.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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