The Rise Of The Micro-Entrepreneur: Who, Why, What & Where

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Self-determination in business has always been possible, but setting up your own operation has traditionally been a stressful and time-consuming endeavor. You hire employees, implement a working structure, and push on in the pursuit of a level of profit that will allow you to take a step back and enjoy a degree of freedom.

As the internet has matured, however, a new form of self-determination has come about— a form we can call micro-entrepreneurship. Micro-entrepreneurs work solo for the most part, with fluid routines and flexible arrangements. They don’t hire permanent staff, preferring to outsource when needed. They don’t have meticulous business plans. They learn as they go.

Through empowering people to operate autonomously without the complexity or expenditure of the classic model, micro-entrepreneurship provides a middle ground between the constraint of traditional employment and the hectic responsibility of being a conventional business leader.

And it’s surprisingly common— 62% of American businesses have fewer than 5 staff members. The rise of the sharing economy means that work can get done very efficiently through the collaboration and mutual support of numerous small businesses without needing any giant companies to get involved.

So what do you need to know about being a micro-entrepreneur? Let’s cover all the major questions, and discover what this nascent development in the employment world is really about.

“Who can become a micro-entrepreneur?”

Anyone with the skills and the inclination to make money without consistently relying on others can be a micro-entrepreneur. It’s really that simple. The accessibility provided by the internet makes it viable to do everything necessary to schedule a workload, stay in contact with clients, and ultimately get the work done, all without needing an office or employees.

It does require a reasonable degree of technical competence, naturally, as well as the ability to monitor time carefully. There are no managers to provide guidance or mandate discipline. You succeed or fail based on your attitude and performance. Think about the difference between high school and college— at high school, you might get yelled at for skipping a class, but at college, staff members don’t care if you don’t show up. You get out only what you put in.

Because of this, micro-entrepreneurs tend to be extremely driven people who are unwilling to compromise their goals through bending to convention. They find a way to turn their unique circumstances to their advantage. They make use of resources that others might not, stimulating community and economic growth in the process.

Think about people like Richard Branson, or, more recently, Palmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus Rift. Instead of going down a traditional business route, he made a prototype and funded production using Kickstarter, a crowdsourcing platform. In doing so, he raised 2.4 million dollars, 974% of the amount he’d sought.

Though he had to form a more conventional company after that to handle an operation of that scale, he was able to maintain control over the direction of the product because he didn’t have to answer to standard investors. Here are some more crowdfunding success stories.

“Why is this such a popular option?”

As time goes by, more and more people are coming to appreciate that the old-fashioned model of business doesn’t work for most of us. It’s restrictive, complicated, often dehumanizing, and the cause of a lot of unnecessary conflict in and out of workplaces. This applies regardless of where you are in the hierarchy— you are bound by your responsibilities to your employers, employees, and peers alike.

Life as a micro-entrepreneur is very different in those areas. It grants you the freedom to choose your working schedule, take the approach to output that you favor, and go about your life knowing that you’re not professionally beholden to anyone else. Should you want to take a two-year break from your career to travel the world, you won’t need to get permission.

How you actually define your business is up to you, of course, but being a micropreneur is a good mix of options. You’re not obsessed with money, but you can work more when you need to. You don’t have a full-time staff, but you’re willing to work with others when necessary. It’s a relaxed and healthy approach to the work/life balance.

And it’s just going to get more popular. Cultural expectations are changing at a rapid pace, and people are increasingly realizing that simply making more money isn’t the key to contentment. It’s widely accepted now that autonomy is an essential ingredient in professional satisfaction. Perhaps we could all benefit from stepping away from the set 9-to-5 arrangement and trying something new.

“What should I do if I’m interested in trying it?”

If you think you might want to pursue a career as a micro-entrepreneur, or just do it as a side project, the first thing you should do is take stock of your skills, connections, savings, and goals. Here are some questions you should take the time to answer in detail:


  • What do you have to offer?


      • Is there a product that you could sell, a service that you could render, or a skill you could provide? Is there sufficient demand? Could you compete with rivals? Do some competitor research to see how you might stack up.


  • Can you use your time effectively?


      • A background in freelance isn’t necessary, but it is useful. You need to be able to handle business without any prompting and organize your schedule smartly.


  • Do you have any valuable contacts?


      • Networking well is even more important for the self-employed than for anyone else. Knowing people who can give you opportunities and help promote you is incredibly important.


  • Do you have an online presence?


      • Do you have an active website? What about social media accounts? You need to be as easy to find and contact as possible. If you don’t have a website yet, set one up (DIY with a site builder, it won’t be expensive).


  • How much do you want to work?


      • Do you want a part-time or full-time schedule? Do you want to work a regular job alongside your micro-entrepreneurial operation or make it your only job? Plan this out very carefully so you can give it the appropriate level of focus.


  • What level of income do you need?


      • How much do you need to make to get by and make it worthwhile? What would be a squeeze, and what would be untenable? You have to be practical and arrive at a comfortable figure. Freedom isn’t so great when you’re horribly stressed.


  • How much do you have to invest?


      • You won’t be looking to hire, but you’ll probably need a budget for SaaS subscriptions, hosting costs, and any outsourcing you end up needing (such as virtual assistants).


  • Could you go back to regular work if needed?


    • Having a backup option is always a sensible idea. Unless you’re 100% sure that you’re going to be a success, giving up a solid full-time job to pursue professional freedom is quite risky. Hang on until you’re fully prepared.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be in a better position to judge whether it’s the kind of career approach you want to take. If you end up convinced that you should give it a try, then take the plunge. We regret the chances we don’t take, after all.

“Where can I find more resources?”

Since micro-entrepreneurs need to learn a lot of things as they get up and running, relevant resources are utterly invaluable. Thankfully, there are plenty of great guides, lists and tips available online.

Below, I’ll list a small selection I think will prove useful— and if you’re ever looking for something in particular, simply Googling it will likely be enough to point you in the right direction. Good luck!

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest entrepreneurial news and side hustle tips. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.