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The Rise of the 'Solopreneur'

30/06/2015 11:26 | Updated 29 June 2016

The entrepreneur has been lauded as the saviour of faltering economies, has its own social class and has even become a sex symbol.

While these business leaders have dominated our consciousness, a quieter relative has been beavering away in the background, shirking the limelight. They might not have as much clout as their better-known brethren, but according to a State of Independence in America workforce study there are 17.9 million of them in the US already.

All hail the 'solopreneur'. The Macmillan Dictionary defines this new breed as:

"someone who starts their own business and is good at spotting and securing the best business opportunities."

Which doesn't sound particularly different from an entrepreneur. Yet, you probably already know one. They regail friends and family at how that hobby they'd been doing in their spare time has meant they no longer had to commute to the office and work for someone else. They're the pro-gamers, the YouTubers, the life coaches, the designers who have carved out their own unique way of making enough money to not have to be part of a team. And they have no interest in scaling, either.

The businesses that they own are integrally tied to them as a person. Paul Jarvis, a freelance designer has built a mini-empire around teaching creatives and freelancers how to grow their own businesses. He's worked with the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and MTV, but never for them.

"I make enough to enjoy a comfortable life, and I don't take that for granted--ever. More than half of my income comes from the Web design work I do, which is why web design work comes before anything else (like writing or making new and fun creations)," Paul tells me.

Sean Kim is another example. He combines business tips with life coaching to create a brand that allows him to travel the world and then teach others how to do it. At last count he had 13,000 followers on Twitter and a free podcast series with a dedicated following.

There is no scaling with solopreneurs, if you don't have the time to take on more work, you turn it down. Solopreneurs don't attract investment, or a board of directors or young, willing grad students signing up for a free intern. There is no company structure, or career path in these businesses. Once the solopreneur doesn't want to do it anymore, the business ends.

Thanks to the Internet, millions of services are helping people set up Wordpress blogs - which account for 20 percent of all websites online. These can be used to build anything from an e-commerce platform to a photography portfolio or even online e-learning platform with little up-front capital in a matter of minutes.

With the barriers to entry so low, and job satisfaction at its lowest point in 30 years, it's no surprise so many are looking to harness their own interests to break free from salaried employment.

There's even a test that you can take to see if the 'solopreneur' lifestyle is right for you .

But before you proclaim yourself a self-perpetuating financial node because you occasionally sell your stuff on eBay, there's a subtle nuance to calling yourself a 'solopreneur': the 'side-gigger'. These part-time solopreneurs don't work more than 15 hours a week on their new ventures, and tend to be supported by full-time employment elsewhere.

A quick Google search turns up just over 400,000 results for 'solopreneur'. When compared to its bigger brother, 'entrepreneur' turns up more than 170,000,000,000 times in a search. So you can see this is still a nascent trend.

However, with graduates having a harder time than ever finding gainful employment and consumer debt reaching new highs, entrepreneurs might find themselves having to share the limelight very soon.