Solopreneur Guide: Build a Successful Business to Quit Your Corporate Job [W&S 81 ft Adrian Tan]

No More Bosses: Navigating the Realities of Sustainable Self-Employment

“Wah, I think it’s family,” admits Adrian Tan, the bestselling author of “No More Bosses”, when asked about the biggest hurdle he faced transitioning from employee to solopreneur. The candid remark sets the stage for an insightful discussion unpacking the realities of self-employment.


Adrian, a fractional Chief Marketing Officer and HR thought leader, recently launched his part-memoir, part-guide exploring the journey to sustainable self-employment after a tumultuous career of retrenchments. 

The Income Struggle is Real

While the freedom of being one’s own boss is alluring, Tan warns that periods of income instability are inevitable – a harsh truth many aspiring self-starters fail to grasp. He cites the example of executive coaches, whose average annual income in Asia stands at a modest $39K according to the International Coaching Federation. A significant pay cut for most mid-career professionals.

“A lot of people still think that executive coach can be a full-time thing,” Tan laments, emphasizing the need for rigorous market validation before taking the leap. His own stint as a career coach in 2014 collapsed due to an insufficient addressable market, an error he aims to help others avoid through his book.

5 Steps to Mitigate the Risk of Self-Employment:

  1. Monetise your skills/services as a side-gig first to validate market demand.
  2. Only pivot to full-time self-employment once recurring side income is high enough.
  3. Adopt a low cost, service-based model initially to minimize capital requirements.
  4. Upskill in areas like marketing, accounting, and operations to reduce outsourcing.
  5. Manage family expectations through open communication about income fluctuations.

The Marketing X-Factor

Beyond income, a key challenge Adrian identifies is the substantial marketing efforts required as a solopreneur – a skillset he believes many corporate professionals underestimate.

“They will think …aiya, no need website one la, people know me one la…word of mouth can already,” Adrian says, mimicking a common mindset. He stresses that in a saturated market, relying solely on word-of-mouth is insufficient; you must actively compete through tactics like SEO, websites, and strategic positioning.

Discovering His Niche

Adrian openly shares his own journey of inadvertently carving a niche for himself in the HR technology marketing space. What began as an “all over the place” content strategy eventually focused solely on his area of specialty after an epiphany: “If I have your asset man, then I’ll have a lot of deal flow!”

The decision to narrow his focus, coupled with the creation of an “HR tech market map”, elevated Tan as a top-of-mind expert for HR vendors seeking marketing leadership. His staunch advice? Go micro before going macro. “It’s easier to go narrow…then this pond cannot contain, then you go to the other pond.”

Self-Employment: Not A One-Size-Fits-All

As the engaging discussion concludes, Adrian leaves listeners with a vital clarion call: self-employment is not for everyone. He cautions those insistent on rigid working styles may struggle adjusting to the “roll up your sleeves” and “wear all hats” nature of being a business-of-one.

For those considering the leap, Adrian’s “No More Bosses” seems poised to offer a pragmatic roadmap for navigating the risks and rewards of sustainable self-employment. As for his own journey? It’s clear this self-proclaimed “Fractional CMO” is just getting started.

You can check their full interview on Wise & Shine, Episode 81 on Spotify, YouTube, Apple podcast for engaging anecdotes and advice as Adrian recounts his winding entrepreneurial path.

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