The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business walks you through starting, scaling, and ultimately enjoying the fruits of a small but high-revenue company, providing countless tips, tactics, and case studies for solo entrepreneurs who want to build a business with minimal overhead and zero staff.

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The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business Summary

In 2013, I was on student exchange in the US, sitting in my tiny, 90 square feet room, scrolling through the blogs of people like James Altucher, Tim Ferriss, and James Clear. “Man, how cool would that be?” I thought. “To just sit there, write cool stuff, and get paid for it.”

I didn’t have the faintest idea how they were making money, but I knew, for the first time, that it was possible. Back then, it all seemed like a distant dream. But 10 years later, here I am, “just sitting there, writing cool stuff, and getting paid for it.”

If you, too, dream about a solo business that pays your bills, today’s book is for you. In The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, veteran journalist Elaine Pofeldt breaks down how micro-companies can rake in macro-profits — with zero employees. Whether you’ve never started a business or want to scale your small operation to the million-dollar mark, this book can help.

Here are 3 lessons to help you build a strong business while staying small and enjoying lots of freedom:

  1. One-person businesses typically fall into 1 of 6 categories.
  2. There are 4 different approaches you can use to find the time and money to start your solo business.
  3. After you’re off to the races, always double down on winners and stay focused on them.

Want to build a million-dollar, one-person business? Let’s get cracking!

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Lesson 1: There are 6 types of businesses that work well for solo entrepreneurs.

When you go to, a website dedicated to the latest research in supplements and nutrition, you’ll see a sleek, professional design, thousands of free articles on health, food, and supplements, and a feed of the latest studies, updated daily. You’d never guess it’s run by a single person, but, by and large, it is. Founded by Sol Orwell in 2011, Examine relies on freelance journalists. It is funded by its over 13,000 paying members. 

Examine is an example of an informational content creation business — just like Four Minute Books — and that’s only 1 of 6 kinds of businesses you could start:

  1. E-commerce businesses can now manufacture and ship products all over the world without a single employee, thanks to marketplaces like Alibaba and shipping services like Amazon.
  2. Manufacturing can happen right in your home, from making nutrition bars for new moms to sending honey around the world!
  3. Informational content creation requires lots of thinking and research but can be done with nothing more than a laptop and some grit.
  4. Professional services can get by with only a few clients if they charge premium prices. You could be a one-person marketing agency, solo consultant, or public speaker for hire, for example.
  5. Personal service firms, like diet coaches and personal trainers, guide a few individuals through a big transformation. They also only need a few clients to thrive.
  6. Real estate is just about the only industry where a single sale can net you an annual salary as a payday. It is also very competitive but highly localized. With lots of expertise and contacts, you can make a killing.

What do you think? Which kind of solo business feels right for you? Take your time, then pick, and let’s get going!

Lesson 2: To find the time and money to get your business off the ground, you can use 1 of 4 approaches.

Especially in the early stages, launching a business is tough. Plus, unless you’re still a teenager or already rich, you’ll likely have other commitments. A full-time job, family, or health issues that need looking after, for example.

Pofeldt lists 4 options for getting your one-person empire off the ground:

  1. Become a master side hustler. Solo businesses are all about efficiency. If you only have one or two hours each week to work on your company, you’ll ruthlessly prioritize what you do — but you’ll still rack up 50-100 hours over the course of a year!
  2. Work, save, and quit. Focus on making as much as you can from your day job, then save until you’re ready to jump off the deep end. This path is not for everyone, but it can work wonders if done right.
  3. Raise money. The good thing about getting money from investors is that you’ll take less financial risk. The bad news is it’s hard to get people to part with their money. Of course, you can also…
  4. Get creative, with crowdfunding, for example. Some ideas really take off on Kickstarter, and people pile in to give you the money to bring your dream product to life. You could also enter business competitions in hopes of using the prize money as early funding, for example.

No matter what, becoming an entrepreneur is hard work. All of the above solutions require tradeoffs, but if you pick your poison well, you’ll be up and running in no time!

Lesson 3: Once you’re up and running, double down on what works and stay focused on those activities.

Like many first-time entrepreneurs, Laszlo Nadler chose the side hustle approach to get started. He loved the productivity-optimization aspects of his job in project management, so he decided to start selling calendars and planners. It took him 2 years to quit his full-time job, and 10 years later, Tools4Wisdom is still thriving.

To get to six figures and beyond, Nadler had to relentlessly focus on what worked and make sure he kept doing those things. This might also be the biggest lesson I’ve learned running Four Minute Books: Do more of what works, change or abandon what doesn’t, and don’t let boredom get you to abandon the path to success.

Nadler sends a survey to each customer. Their feedback goes into the design of the next generation of planners. He also keeps Excel sheets where he meticulously tracks what’s selling well. That way, he can constantly adjust production.

The most devious way to fail in business is to get distracted. You launch a product, it sells well, and then, instead of figuring out how to sell more of the same, you get excited about some new project. Losing focus is how businesses die — or fail to scale in the first place.

As soon as you have your first business success, double down. Get to a full-time income faster, then diversify your portfolio. It’s a long road to a million-dollar, one-person business — and your journey has only just begun.

The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business Review

The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business is an easy-to-read, well-researched book. I know it’s focused on a niche audience, but for that audience, I think it’s a fantastic, underrated read. There are so many case studies and practical tips! If you like books like Company of One and want to stay small while having fulfilling work, you should read this book.

Who would I recommend our The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business summary to?

The 14-year-old gamer who still has time to start his first business while in high school, the 45-year-old project manager looking for a career change, and anyone who wants the freedom of being a CEO without a huge staff or investors.

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!