How to Successfully Run a One-Person Business in 2020

How to Successfully Run a One-Person Business in 2020

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.

Many people dream of starting their own business. It’s a chance to be your own boss, set your own hours, and work on projects that you’re passionate about. However, you also need to be motivated, be willing to suffer setbacks, and have the skills to succeed in the cutthroat business world. Even understanding your industry inside out won’t be enough.

The most challenging aspect of running a business is often managing others. Plus, your idea needs to be successful enough to support additional team members. To avoid these problems, a solution is to start a one-person business.

One-Person Business Ideas to Pursue in 2020

Starting a one-person business is never easy, but it’s particularly challenging in uncertain times. In 2020, this means coming up with one-person business ideas that have a shot at thriving while people are staying at home and avoiding social contact.

Setting up an online business is one of the best routes to take right now, as there’ll be no need to have any contact with people. Plus, you’ll increase your chances of succeeding in the long term, no matter how long social distancing measures stay in place.

Here are some one-person online business ideas to give you inspiration.

Services Over Video Conferencing

To help people feel connected at a time when they’re unable to be physically around others, offer a service over Zoom or another video conferencing tool. You could impart your knowledge, offer entertainment, or just provide a space where people can socialize while doing something fun. Ideas range from fitness training and meditation sessions to language or cooking classes to even living room concerts.

Your options are practically endless. For some truly original one-person business examples, check out the online experiences on Airbnb. They may give you inspiration as to how you could use your unique skill set.

Board Games

Another way people are connecting online is by playing board games. Let your creative juices flow and you may be able to come up with the latest viral game. You’ll just need to create a platform where friends can play together despite being geographically apart.

Product Packaging

Many companies have never needed to ship their products before (think certain types of restaurants and bars), but they’re now struggling to figure out how to survive. If you’re able to design innovative packaging, contact companies in your area who are at the risk of going out of business and pitch them your ideas.

Tech Support

Individuals across the globe who were previously working in offices now need to work remotely. This often means using new tools and software. For the tech savvy, this is unlikely to pose an issue, but plenty of people are less than tech literate. You could offer training in a tool that you’re an expert using or even set up software for an entire company.

How to Successful Run a One-Person Business

Whatever type of business you decide to run, there are a few things you can do to increase your likelihood of success when starting a one-person business.

1. Begin Your Business as a Side Project

It can be tempting to quit your job and dedicate all your time to your business. However, this is risky, as there is no guarantee that your business will be profitable for a long time, meaning you’ll have no source of income.

A better option is to dedicate a few hours every weekday and as much as you can at weekends to starting your one-person business. This will give you the chance to network with potential clients and begin developing your products or services.

If you start small like this, you’ll have enough to do to work full-time at your business when it does come time to quit your job. You’ll also have a strong customer base and enough capital to fund all your activities. Plus, going slow will prevent you from charging full steam ahead before you know what you’re doing. As a result, you’ll be better prepared for any problems that crop up. Finally, it’s less stressful to know you still have your current job if your idea doesn’t pan out.

2. Run Market Research

Most likely, your one-person business idea is a combination of your interests and a gap you’ve identified in the market. This is a great start, but you still need to confirm that your idea does have a chance of being successful. You may be unaware that there are numerous competitors already offering a similar product or service. This would make it difficult for your brand to stand out.

In addition, you need to find out if people are searching for a solution like the one you plan to offer. Online research will reveal if the opportunity is ripe for your business idea — or if you need to go in another direction.

As a one-person business, you’re in the unique position to become as niche as you want. Just make sure that whatever you choose will bring value to the community and not simply fuel your own passion.

3. Choose Between a Sole Proprietorship and an LLC

By default, a one-person business is a sole proprietorship, but that’s not your only choice. You could also choose to be a limited liability corporation — more commonly known as an LLC. As either option has distinct tax and legal benefits, it’s important to research in depth what each entails to decide which is right for you.

For instance, you will have greater flexibility as a sole proprietorship, but you are also fully responsible for profit and debt. In the early stages of your business, this could be fine, but it may cause problems if you expand your company in the future. If you choose an LLC, however, you’ll have liability protection in the case of lawsuits. Plus, as a one-member LLC, you can claim profits and losses on your personal tax returns.

Bear in mind that it’s always possible to change legal entity later. Choose whatever is best for you at this moment.

4. Create a Business Plan

Once you have examined your one-person business opportunities and have settled on an idea for your company, it’s time to write a business plan. This is extra important for ensuring you know what activities you will undertake over the next few months, where to direct your efforts, and what results you can expect to see. It will also allow you to strategize how to overcome challenges to meet your goals.

5. Organize Your Time

We’ve covered the big picture; now it’s time to focus on the details. It’s important to decide how you will dedicate your time each day to keep your business moving forward. If you just take each day as it comes, you’ll find it hard to progress — you’ll likely be wrapped up in minor problems and responding to messages, even when they’re not urgent.

From the start, you need to draw up to-do lists: daily, weekly, monthly, and longer term. By constantly updating your lists and moving items around, you’ll always know what you should be doing in any given moment. This will ensure that you get urgent tasks done on time, whereas you leave less-pressing matters until later.

You may like to take the approach where you work on a different type of task each day. This can be especially effective when you’re still only dedicating a few hours a day to your business.

6. Build a Digital Presence

No matter what type of business you run, you’ll need a digital presence. This means launching a website and setting up social media accounts.

There’s no need for your website to be complex or extensive. An attractive, user-friendly design and information about who you are, what you do, and your mission along with your contact information is enough for now. It’s also worth adding a blog to your site, as later you’ll want to increase the amount of content to improve your visibility online.

As for social media, avoid going overboard. Sign up for accounts on just a few of the top platforms where you’re most likely to find your target audience. If you have too many accounts, it will be difficult to keep them up to date and engage your followers.

7. Leverage Business Tech

Explore the various tools available to startups and entrepreneurs. Even if some of them have a slight learning curve, you’ll find that they save you a huge amount of time in the long run. Some top choices include:

  • QuickBooks for accounting
  • Mailchimp for email marketing
  • Hootsuite for social media marketing
  • Dropbox to backup files
  • WordPress for blogging
  • LastPass for password management

8. Receive Support

Just because you’re starting a one-person business doesn’t mean you should do all the work alone. In fact, you’ll see much better results if you do hire professionals for tasks like web development, graphic design, bookkeeping, digital marketing, and any other areas where you lack the appropriate skills and experience.

Another way to receive support is by connecting with other one-person business owners. In normal times, there are meetups for entrepreneurs on a regular basis in just about every city. During this time, while you’re unable to go out and socialize, it is still possible to network — you’ll just have to do it online. Use forums, join video chats, and attend webinars. All these are great places to receive advice, start collaborations, and just let off steam when things are hard.

9. Don’t Let Your Business Become Everything

Starting a one-person business should be an exciting adventure and a chance to do meaningful work. It will become the complete opposite if you allow your business to consume all of your time. Whenever possible, set work hours (it will, of course, be necessary to work longer when you need to meet urgent deadlines), take time off, and pay attention to self-care to avoid burnout.

Successful One-Person Business Examples

There’s no need to feel like it’s only possible to become big if your business has several employees from the start. Many of the most successful businesses today started out being run by a single person, such as all these famous one-person company examples.


It’s hard to imagine that the retail giant was ever a one-person company, but there was a time when Amazon was just its founder. Jeff Bezos was a computer engineer with a vision of creating an online bookstore. Over the years, the company has expanded to sell almost every category of product conceivable.


A business with a similar startup story is eBay. Founder Pierre Omidyar was also a computer engineer, but he was looking to create an online auction site. What started out as a one-person company called Auction Web grew to become one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world.

Under Armour

Under Armour is a great example of creating a brand to fill a gap in the market. College football player Kevin Plank started designing undershirts that were more comfortable for playing sports. He realized that he could possibly monetize the result and began a one-person business out of the trunk of his car. More than 20 years later, Under Armour is a multi-billion dollar company.


One of the most interesting startup stories belongs to Groupon. Founder Andrew Mason just wanted to cancel his cellphone contract — and realized that collective bargaining could be key. The idea evolved into organizing people to gain group discounts. This led to Groupon developing from a one-person business into a global marketplace.

The best one-person business to start will be based on an idea that you’re passionate about, fit a unique niche, and have a chance of surviving in an uncertain economy. Whereas you may decide to expand your business later, it’s equally possible that you’ll enjoy having a one-person business. As long as you stay driven, seek support when you need it, and follow best practices, you can definitely survive alone. However, if your idea becomes very successful (like the above examples), you’ll probably want to hire at least a few employees at some point.

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