Entrepreneur multitasks in a cluttered home office, boxes on desk next to his workspace
While it’s true that you can run a business by yourself, that doesn’t always mean you need to. Finding balance may lead outsourcing the right tasks when necessary. — Getty Images/ psisa

Not all successful businesses start off with a team of employees. Many entrepreneurs start and exit their ventures without ever making a single new hire. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are nearly 25 million “one-person” businesses (E.g., businesses with no paid employees).

If you’re interested in keeping overhead low while you get your idea off the ground, it is possible to run a business without employees. Here are some ideas to help you work smarter, not harder, without hiring a full team.

[Read more: Sole Proprietorship vs. Incorporation: What’s the Difference?]

Keep it simple

As with any venture, it’s important to found your company on a unique idea that solves a customer’s problem. Solopreneurs should aspire to keep their ideas simple and straightforward.

“There is a lot to be said for Henry Ford’s concept of initially offering one size and one color of a certain product to be able to understand and gauge the customer response, then iterate and improve your product and processes for selling and servicing it,” wrote Adam Callinan, founder of BottleKeeper, in Entrepreneur.

One way to keep it simple is to focus on a niche part of the market. Research published in Forbes found that million-dollar solo businesses typically fall into six categories: e-commerce, manufacturing, informational content creation, professional services or creative businesses, real estate or personal services firms (like tax experts, for instance). Pick an area in which you are already an expert, and focus on delivering a limited, but high-quality, offering.

Outsource and automate

It’s difficult to do everything yourself; rather than trying to multitask, you can find ways to automate or outsource some of the time-consuming, repetitive aspects of running a business. Scheduling appointments, maintaining your social media accounts and bookkeeping are all business tasks that are relatively easy to outsource or streamline with the right technology.

[Read more: Running Your Business Alone? 10 Things You Can Outsource to Free Up Time]

Tools like Shopify, Zendesk and Hubspot can help you automate e-commerce, customer service and marketing. Platforms like Guru or Fiverr can help you outsource tasks like logo design or IT support to experts. Even tools and sites like Calendly or Uassist.ME can help you with tasks like scheduling that can easily suck up time in your workday.

When we feel pressed for time and [are] overwhelmed, we tend to engage in behaviors that work against us, such as doing small, trivial tasks or multitasking rather than tackling the more important tasks. These strategies might work in the short-run, but as research has shown, it tends to harm long-term productivity.

Laura Giurge, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow of organizational behavior at the London Business School

Develop passive income

Passive income is defined by NerdWallet as “a cash stream that requires little or no daily effort to maintain, unlike active income, such as cash earned from a full-time job.” Rental properties, online courses (self-paced and offered for a fee) and affiliate marketing are all examples of passive income.

Passive income isn’t a get-rich-quick solution to overnight business success; however, passive income can be a low-maintenance way to slowly earn money and grow sales over time. You can consider ideas within your wheelhouse that let you tap into your creative side, such as licensing a business idea, exploring the real estate market to earn rental income, or building an affiliate business to generate passive income.

Find the right balance

Many solopreneurs start running their businesses on the side while still working at a full-time job. Others go all in, dedicating 80 hours a week to getting their venture off the ground. Beware, however, of burnout. Even the most enthusiastic founders need breaks.

“When we feel pressed for time and [are] overwhelmed, we tend to engage in behaviors that work against us, such as doing small, trivial tasks or multitasking rather than tackling the more important tasks. These strategies might work in the short-run, but as research has shown, it tends to harm long-term productivity.” Laura Giurge, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow of organizational behavior at the London Business School, told CO–. “If you are not well-rested and focused, your speed and accuracy will decrease and your work will be prone to more errors that over time can seriously harm not only your well-being, but also your business.”

While it’s true that you can run a business by yourself, that doesn’t always mean you should. Find the right balance between working hard and working smart — and if the demands of your growing venture get to be too much, bring on someone to help.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 26, 2022