Today is the fourth anniversary of Micropreneur Life! 🥳 I actually had to check because I could not believe it’s been four years already since I started writing on this blog. Four years ago, I clicked on the “Publish” button of that first post. Back then, I didn’t know what to expect from this journey.
Much has happened during these four years. In this post, I want to reflect on a question that a lot of you have asked me during 2020. Now that I have a company with 25 employees serving hundreds of customers, organized in different departments… Are you still a micropreneur? If not, how’s the transition? Did the fact that you started as a solo act influence the success of your company?
What’s in a name?
Those are all good questions. There are many definitions of micropreneur out there. Some of them demand that the business is small, or of a limited scale. Others require that the micropreneur manages the business himself or herself, while others set a maximum number of employees (up to three, or up to five) for a business to consider the owner a micropreneur.
In my mind, it’s not a question of the number of employees, the invoicing volume, revenue, or scale of the business. It is a philosophy. It’s a way of doing business, primarily related to the fact that the business depends on the personal image, expertise, knowledge, and/or effort of the business owner.
This philosophy also separates a micropreneur from a startup. The micropreneur, as the motto of this website states, does not pursue an exit. Micropreneurs start small and grow organically. We don’t want to hoard users around an algorithm (probably involving a free product or service that would get monetized on a Surveillance Capitalism business model later). We want to build something that has a value, a meaning, something that offers a real value to our customers (who happen to be our users, not advertising companies), most probably based on our own struggles and problems.
From micropreneur to entrepreneur?
Part of that philosophy also implies taking care of the business yourself, especially at the beginning. You become a “Jack of all trades, master of none“. A micropreneur is someone who can:
- code a website, and also probably a web or mobile app
- design from user interfaces to promotional stuff
- prepare and launch marketing campaigns
- look for new customers, promote the business, open communication channels
- manage the administrative, fiscal and economic aspects of the business
- manage the servers and infrastructures of the business
- … and a lot more
That’s a lot of work. No wonder then that when the business starts growing, the micropreneur alone is no longer able to take care of everything. We need help. Learning to delegate becomes the most difficult part of the journey because we’ve grown into perfectionists and fallen in love with our “babies”. We’ve built a whole business around our image, skills and hard work, and letting others in feels like giving up a part of ourselves and letting the business in the hands of strangers.
Eventually, we learn to let go and get surrounded by people who can do the stuff we used to do, only, better. Ideally, we should morph into what’s usually called a CEO, handing all the other hats to someone better qualified than ourselves. I have still not been able to get rid of all these other hats yet, but I am working on it.
While I see that full transition as the ideal situation now (wearing all those hats continuously is exhausting in the long run) I still think starting a business as a micropreneur is a pretty good strategy these days. Let me elaborate on why.
Micropreneurship as a strategy for starting a business.
It’s no secret that I owe the success of Companio to this blog. It all started when I opened my first company in Estonia and started writing about the process here. The experience of having my company in Estonia was so awesome, so completely different and liberating from my old company in Spain, that I just needed to share it.
I had this itch that made me want to know everything, so I got really involved in all the aspects of managing the company, from the digital signatures to taxes, and more. As a digital nomad, I didn’t want to just disappear, I also wanted to do things right. I needed to understand the implications of not having tax residence and what it meant for me in terms of taxes and fiscal obligations with my home country or other countries I was visiting.
So I learned a lot about these things and, in the process, I wrote about them to share my findings with others. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. However, it turns out that sharing all that information and actively writing about my journey established me as an “authority” in these topics.
I soon found myself helping a lot of entrepreneurs to reach the freedom I was enjoying. When doing so, I realized there were many shortcomings to current accounting firms and providers offering company registration and bookkeeping services. Many of the entrepreneurs I was trying to help were tripping over the same stone over and over.
So in a way, the business presented itself to me. I took the leap and started Companio (formerly Your Company In Estonia), which has grown incredibly in two years. I am grateful. Even though it’s been a difficult, hard journey (still is), it’s also a very rewarding experience.
The fact that I started as a micropreneur then, in my opinion, has been crucial for the success of the business. People asked me for help because I had experienced the same problems they were experiencing. I was going through the same struggles and knew their pain points.
Some of these companies I mentioned, even startups, strived to offer a cold, professional image. I think that’s a big mistake, especially when your audience is solopreneurs, small startups, and young entrepreneurs. Being a close person, someone your customers can relate to, someone they can see in themselves, is today an asset when starting a business. The new generations (millennials and centennials) have grown exposed to constant marketing bullshit. They crave authenticity.
However, it gets to a point where you are no longer a micropreneur. You have a full customer support team, taking care of answering customers and leads. You have a full accounting department, busy with the bookkeeping and accounting duties. There is a Marketing department, IT, and whatnot.
It’s not honest that people see your company as a one-man business anymore. It is also bad for the reputation of your company. Especially when you are offering services to B2B customers, they need to know you are far from a one-man project. You are a serious company with a team full of capable people who do their job professionally. You are not a freelancer, a hacker, or a solo act.
This transition started, in my case, one year ago, and I am doing my best to complete it. I am consciously detaching myself from most processes of my company, to be able to act as the CEO of the company which, in itself, is a huge burden. I have succeeded for the most part. I am yet to find a CTO that can liberate me completely from the technical aspects of the company, but I will eventually find this person.
So am I still a micropreneur? In a way, I will always be. I have all this experience in all these different areas, and I can at least share my opinion in different aspects of marketing, development, customer support, consulting… On the other hand, I have to admit I can no longer call myself a micropreneur, at least not with this company.
Luckily, I have found people I can rely on. A team that’s growing every month. I will pass the bus test. If I was hit by a bus (let’s hope not), the company will be able to continue operating without me… Sure, some things will get to a standstill, and (at least until I get a decent CTO) the improvements in our tech platforms will eventually stop, but the company will still be able to function, thrive, and even grow. Without me.
And that, I think, is what makes you stop being a micropreneur.