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The year of the solopreneur: 2024 trends in self-employment

February 20, 2024


Solopreneurs (you might know them as self-employed, sole-proprietors, or businesses of one) are on the rise. Data insights from the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index Annual Report reveal that a growing share of US businesses have no employees — increasing from 76% in 1997 to 84% in 2020. And data from a recent survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks suggests this number could be even higher in 2024. More than half (56%) of solopreneurs surveyed say they launched their businesses within the last four years, post-2020. These business owners cite the pandemic and rising costs as their main motivations for starting a business — but say technology made it possible. 

While solopreneurs typically enjoy the flexibility that comes with being their own boss (and only employee), self-employment comes with its own set of challenges. These business owners struggle with getting funding, maintaining cash flow, and the stress of wearing every hat needed to run a business. For some, the solution just might be taking the solo out of solopreneur. Nearly 6 in 10 solopreneurs say they plan to hire help this year in the form of employees, freelancers, or contractors. 

To learn more about this ever-increasing cohort of small business owners, we analyzed data from the 2,087 solopreneurs (including self-employed business owners, freelancers, and contractors) in the US who responded to the Entrepreneurship in 2024 survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks in December 2023. Let’s take a deeper look at emerging trends for solopreneurs in 2024 to find out why they chose to go solo and if they plan to stay that way.

Key findings

Use these links to jump ahead.

52% of solopreneurs chose self-employment because they want to be their own boss — but some still rely on a day job

Solopreneurship comes with pros and cons — for more than half of survey respondents (52%), the ability to be their own boss and work for themselves is a big check in the “pro” column. Others turned to solopreneurship so they could create their own opportunities (36%), build an additional stream of income (33%), and find personal fulfillment (32%).

But the cons of self-employment — like not having a reliable income or a team to lean on — inspire some solopreneurs to keep their day job. Of the 500 survey respondents who work for an employer while running a business on the side, 82% do so for the stability of a regular paycheck. Another 44% say they don’t want to lose their healthcare benefits.

Nearly half of these side-hustlers (49%) say they would need to earn at least $100,000 from self-employment per year before they would even consider quitting their day job.


Solopreneurs work fewer hours and take more time off than business owners with employees, but report higher levels of stress

Half of solopreneurs say digital technology (like e-commerce and remote work) made it possible to launch their business. Most (76%) say they work remotely at least some of the time — only 66% of employers can say the same.

Solopreneurs enjoy an average of 15 days off per year (excluding weekends and holidays), compared to an average of 14 days off for business owners with employees. Additionally, solopreneurs work an average of 40 hours per week compared to a typical employer’s average of 45. While the freedom of not managing a team has its benefits, data reveals it may come at a cost: 35% of solopreneurs rate their stress level as “high” compared to 26% of employers. And employers are more likely to rate their satisfaction at work as “high” than solopreneurs.


Solo no more: 6 in 10 solopreneurs plan to hire help in 2024

Over half (66%) of solopreneurs say they do occasionally enlist help when they need it, most often in the form of contractors or freelancers. Another 6 in 10 say they plan to hire at least one employee or contractor in 2024. These business owners say hiring will help them boost business growth, take some stress off their shoulders, and expand their expertise.

But another 4 in 10 solopreneurs say they plan to stay solo — 54% of these respondents say they prefer to work alone, others cite financial constraints as a reason to remain a business of one.


Solopreneurs need to earn an average of $219,000 in 2024 to feel successful

“Increasing revenue” is the #1 goal for the majority (42%) of solopreneurs in 2024 — more than triple the amount who say they want to get growth funding (13%) or launch new products or services (10%). Data reveals that they’ll need to earn an average of $219,000 in 2024 to feel like they’ve achieved success — but many still have a ways to go.

More than half of solopreneurs (53%) say they would need to earn at least $100,000 in 2024 to feel successful — but 65% estimate their current net worth at less than that. On this front, business owners with employees are seeing a bit more financial success than these businesses of one: 36% of solopreneurs say they bring in less than $25,000 in revenue per year compared to only 3% of employers.

These gaps in worth and revenue between solopreneurs and employers show up in how these business owners build personal wealth. Nearly 7 in 10 employers are homeowners, compared to only 55% of solopreneurs — though both agree that starting a business is a better way to build personal wealth than buying a home. 

For solopreneurs, inflation is the biggest threat to building personal wealth in 2024, followed by high interest rates and paying off debts.


Solopreneurs turn to credit cards for fast funding — 55% say credit card payments could hinder building wealth

Like it is for so many small business owners, credit card usage is up for solopreneurs — 85% of solopreneurs say they have used a credit card to make purchases for their business or as a source of fast funding. Nearly 6 in 10 say they’ve used a credit card for emergency funding; 47% say they relied on credit cards for emergency funding for at least six months and 13% did so in every month of 2023.

More than 7 in 10 solopreneurs who use credit cards admit they’ve used a personal credit card for business purposes. This could jeopardize their personal credit score, considering many solopreneurs (74%) say they have used 30% or more of their available credit limit. It’s generally recommended to keep credit card spending below 30% to maintain a good credit score. And, looking ahead, 55% of solopreneurs say debt repayments, like credit card payments, will make it harder for them to build personal wealth this year.


Digital tools like social media and e-commerce are the keys to growth in 2024

Digital tools made it possible for 50% of surveyed solopreneurs to launch their business — now digital tools will help them grow. Solopreneurs say harnessing the power of social media has the highest potential to increase business growth this year, followed by hiring skilled workers and expanding e-commerce.

In fact, the majority (62%) of solopreneurs plan to invest in e-commerce this year, only 36% plan to invest in expanding physical locations. Nearly 8 in 10 say they interact with or find customers online in some capacity, only 22% say they work with customers or clients in-person only.


Short-term growth leads to long-term stability — 47% of solopreneurs say flexibility and a steady income is the long-term goal

We know that more than 6 in 10 solopreneurs plan to ditch their solo status in 2024 by hiring an employee or contractor, primarily so they can boost business growth — so it may be surprising to see that the #1 long-term goal for solopreneurs is stability, not growth. Only 34% of solopreneurs say their long-term goal is to continue hiring and expanding their business — nearly half (47%) say they just want the flexibility that comes with self-employment… plus a steady income.


Sample and methodology

From November 30 to December 5, Intuit QuickBooks commissioned an online survey of 4,583 US consumers age 18+ who have income from employment or self-employment. The survey focused on recent entrepreneurship trends and predictions for 2024 among five cohorts of respondents who identified themselves as small business owners with 1-100 employees (n=996); small business owners with no employees (n=717); full-time freelancers, contract, or gig workers (n=870); side hustlers who combine W2 and 1099 income by running a small business on the side of their day job (n=1000); and W2 employees who work for an employer, with no 1099 income (n=1000). This report focuses on the 2,087 freelancers, contractors, gig workers, and business owners with no employees. Overall, 50% of the respondents were male while 50% were female; 10% were Gen Z, 50% were Millennial, 29% were Gen X, and 11% were Baby Boomers. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest decimal place so values shown in charts and graphics may not add up to 100%. Responses were collected using Pollfish audience pools and partner networks with double opt-ins, random device engagement sampling, and post-stratification based on census data to ensure accurate targeting and results. Respondents received remuneration.


Disclaimer

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