Systems For Solopreneurs

2009 | Oct 1 in Entrepreneurship , Business Development , Home Page News , Systems , Leadership

By E-Myth Business Coach,

We get quite a few questions from our community about how to apply E-Myth principles to a one-person business.

Our answer starts with your intention. For the "solopreneur" there are really two paths you can take: one is to be clear with yourself that you're not creating a business, just a stream of work as a self-employed professional, and the other is to see this as just a step on the road to getting more clients or customers and eventually hiring others to take on some of the technical tasks. Either way, system development is critical for success and the work involved is much the same for whichever path you decide to take.

The Seven Centers for Solopreneurs

E-Myth's business success model, the Seven Centers of Management Attention™ is a great tool for business owners to organize the work of the business. But you needn't have employees to put this model to work in your business. It's a valuable model for solopreneurs too.

If you look carefully at any business, you will notice that there are key functions that focus directly on interacting and serving customers. They are Lead Generation, Lead Conversion, and Client Fulfillment. There are also key functions that focus primarily on the care and development of the business itself. They are Leadership, Marketing, Money, and Management. Together these functions make up the Seven Centers of Management Attention model. Thinking of your business in the context of these key functions enables you to view it systemically. In other words, your business is one working system with seven major supporting systems. It is a powerful and holistic business model that effectively demonstrates the integrative nature of all the primary systems in a business.

If you examine the strategy and activities of the different centers, you’ll quickly understand that a lone real estate agent, psychologist or graphic designer still has both strategic and tactical work to accomplish in each center. The lone practitioner needs systems in their Money, Marketing, Client Fulfillment, Lead Generation, and Lead Conversion centers just like any other business. Since they’re on their own, much of the work in Leadership and Management focuses primarily on developing themselves as efficient, organized, self-directed leaders and managers of their individual enterprise.

So where do you start?

This question is never simple to answer, since every solopreneur is in a different place as far as what they’ve already systematized.

Recently I coached Jodi, a graphic designer beginning her career as a soloprenuer. My experience with her may help other solopreneurs get an idea for the process.

My work with Jodi began with the idea that if things worked out, perhaps, eventually, she might employ others. Not exactly intentional, yet I knew following the E-Myth process of system development would help her immensely and set her on the right path regardless of her ultimate goal. And following along with our strategy should help you see what you need to do.

Prioritize Your Systems

Jodi and I started out in the Money center. She got herself set up on Quickbooks and created clear systems for invoicing, tracking costs and allocating them to projects. I coached her through the process of generating her first income statement and helped her understand it. Then we developed a very simple cash flow system for her to manage the lifeblood of her business. Most importantly, I cautioned her not to mix personal and business finances and to have a separate system for each.

Next I suggested she develop a clear prioritization and time management system, both to keep her on track and maintain efficiency, but also to help her schedule her time so that she could divide it between paid technical work and business development. I emphasized the essential skills of organization, discrimination (prioritization) and focus (concentration) to make certain she was on top of her game.

Fortunately for Jodi, she had enough clients at the time, so we decided to address her Client Fulfillment systems so she could satisfy her customers every time. She looked at the work flow and the communication points and created an assessment form, a proposal template and a communication system so that she felt assured she’d both get the right information starting out and also have systems support for the entire project. Each solopreneur’s client fulfillment system has different components, but the basic idea is to analyze the work flow and discover the essential points that affect your clients and create processes to manage them. 

We then moved on to the Marketing center of her business, which from the E-Myth perspective is marketing research and strategy. This is essential for any solopreneur since too often they fail to market when they’re busy, then go long periods of time without any work. So we dug in, looked at her customer base and target markets, and came up with her unique positioning. This enabled us to then focus on Lead Generation and Lead Conversion by creating a simple system for generating qualified leads, and another system for working them through the sales (or lead conversion) process.

The End Product

So there you have it: a simple approach for the solopreneur in any technical discipline, based on the E-Myth premise of working on your business and not in it. This development work created a sustainable platform for Jodi regardless of her ultimate objectives. Most importantly, it provided a sense of comfort and ease when she focused on her design work, since she now had systems to support the other areas of her business. This structure and sense of order also helped her experience an overall better quality of life, both on the job and outside of it. 

If Jodi builds her client base and work load to the point of adding an employee or contractor, she’s already elevated herself through this entrepreneurial perspective, so she can quickly develop her leadership and management skills to make certain others can fulfill her clients in a similar fashion.

So whether you’re a soloprenuer for your entire career or find yourself enticed by building a business, this process of system development will provide the foundation for giving your customers what they really want and need: your promise delivered every time, on time, then surpassing even that!

Share Your Story

Have you experienced success creating systems as a soloprenuer? Or have you seen how difficult it can be without them?  Join in the conversation and tell us how it’s going for you.


  1. .bob m. says:

    A nice outline of the steps. It leaves me wanting more details and specifics:

    • I wonder how much calendar time this took?
    • How much coaching time did this take?
    • How much time did this take Jodi working by herself in addition to coaching time?
    • At the end of your story, had Jodi decided to go 'business' or 'self-employedr'?
    • Was this decided along the way?

    Submitted Oct 1, 2009 12:17 PM

  2. .Ken N. says:

    AND...how much did this consulting work cost Jodi?

    Submitted Oct 1, 2009 2:06 PM

  3. .Priscilla A. says:

    Bob and Ken asked my questions, exactly.  I think I have the story of how things don't work without systems, and the idea of having step by step guidance sounds like a god-send, but what do you do if you're caught without enough of a client or income stream to feel you can afford working with a consultant?   Nonetheless I appreciate the article -- it begins to meet me where my business is at.  One of the things I think I'm wanting to know is when is "enough" -- that is, when is a function addressed adequately to move on to another one.  And also, how to keep the focus on one system at a time -- if one is pulled off to another one too quickly, nothing gets accomplished.  

    Submitted Oct 1, 2009 5:33 PM

  4. .chris h. says:

    I've been a solo for 12 years. I had several employees over the years and only in the past 2 years employed the emyth principles. It is great to have systems in place, but I keep falling back on being the go to guy when my staff can't figure out a problem.  I can't seem to get away from the day to day due to the type of work I do. It is not high tech, but unique and finding people with this particular training and experience is hard. Training from the ground up as in the emyth books has proven to be next to impossible, with the exception of a few of the jobs that we do. Comebacks are over 30% when I'm not in the field doing the technical work, and my customers constantly request "me". I will continue to train and hire new people, but  the short comings of employees force me to remain in the technical end of my business,  even though I realize that is the biggest anchor in getting my business to move ahead.

    Submitted Oct 1, 2009 7:37 PM

  5. .mark R. says:

    I totally concur with the premise of the article. As stated above, the cost and time elements can be a concern. But once completed, the efforts will be worth it. I continue to realize the importance of systems. Especially now as I keep my day job and start a marketing consultation for small business. Until recently I have been running on memory and post-it notes. Not effective, efficient or practical. 

    As I implement systems I can do it myself or delegate with much less explanation. As I pass this on to my clients, you can see the light go on. Systems are the answer, and sytems will fre you instead of binding you.



    Submitted Oct 1, 2009 7:49 PM

  6. .Wendy F. says:

    I am a solopreneur and have been for many years. Many local businesses where I live are also in the same boat. After reading E-Myth some years ago I had questions as to how I could develop "systems" for what I do. This article  really helps. I am also chairperson of our Local Merchants Association.

    Recently, our merchants association wanted to do some group advertising. One business said he didn't want to do that because he felt "Local businesses should be working on their business.rather than trying to do group advertising or any event planning to draw business downtown." I didn't have the heart to tell Dan that he spents at least 95% or his time or more "working IN his business." Dan washes his own windows, waits on his customers, orders inventory, enters it into the computer, and stocks his own shelves. He used to have a store manager, but when times got tough, he had to let her go. He is performing the job of "technician" isn't he? At least that's the way I saw it.

    In being a solopreneur I find that I have to plan my day carefully. In orther words I have to establash priorities. What is important, and what can wait?

    Please, please, please address this issue more often!! I think we would be surprised at how many business people are solopreneurs!!




    Submitted Oct 2, 2009 6:56 AM

  7. .E-Myth Business Coach says:

    Good questions raised here, and I’m glad many are engaged and realize that the soloprenuer can benefit from working on their business and not just in it like E-Myth teaches all business owners to do. Of course, the sole practitioner remains the technician, but they also benefit from using the same skills of the manager and the entrepreneur. Systems create order out of chaos, and repeatable ways to satisfy your customers whether you’re working alone or have employees.

    Bob. B asks many specific questions, but I must admit that the time frames, costs, coaching relationship will be different for everyone. In our Mastery Impact! coaching program we recommend that each business owner work an hour a day on their business and I’d say that’s a great practice for the soloprenuer to get into also. A coach provides guidance, experience and accountability, but the actual work is always done by our clients. Right now, Jodi is still a soloprenuer but you can be certain if the time is right she has the foundational systems in place to build a business.

    Priscilla A, your concern is easily answered. You prioritize your system development by what will have the most impact on your customers or your profits. Take care of these first. You know you’ve created a good system when it gets the result you want, it’s simple to follow and can be done by anyone with the necessary skills. Don’t seek perfection, for you can always come back and innovate later.

    Ken N, The consulting costs are going to shift, based on work that has already been done and the work that needs to be done.  It all depends on the industry, system needs, etc. 

    I appreciate your comments Mark and want to repeat what you said here: “systems are the answer, and systems will free you instead of binding you.”  Remember folks, you’re probably already doing much of your work through systems, since a system is really a repeated pattern of activities that get the same result. What most soloprenuers don’t realize is the benefit of observing those activities, making certain they are right, then documenting what you do. Here at E-Myth we feel it’s not a real system unless it’s written down. Check-lists, action plans help even the lone technician do what she needs to do accurately, on time, every time. This empowers you to bring others on board when you're ready.

    Submitted Oct 2, 2009 10:27 AM

  8. .olumide o. says:

    hi coach.its a wonderful article,and a very educative one.but i work and live in nigeria so how can i engage the services of an E-Myth coach for my young business?also,as a real estate agent i'm blessed with so much brilliant business ideas that i need people/staff/partners to actualise them with.but because of the high turn-over of staff and partners in the industry i'm afraid of sharing my ideas with people who may eventually leave my company and take my ideas with them.what di i then do? 

    Submitted Oct 5, 2009 9:08 AM

  9. .Michael Roger S. says:

    Thanks for the article!  a very good encouragement for me as a solopreneur.

    Submitted Oct 5, 2009 8:39 PM

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