Business psychology

Understanding your needs as a soloist

- July 4, 2009 3 MIN READ

To succeed in your solo business, you have to understand your physiological and psychological needs. So how do you identify these needs and get your business to satisfy them?

Broadly speaking, needs can be divided into two categories: physiological and psychological.

Basic, physiological needs

These needs are the essential, innate and universal requirements for our well-being and health. We all have physiological needs that have to be satisfied for our bodies to function and stay in good health. These include air, water, food, warmth, shelter, sleep/rest, and safety from harm.

As soloists, we work to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and that extra warm coat for when we have to venture out of our snugly home offices in winter. But on closer examination, some of the things we might refer to as needs turn out to be something different. Often, we confuse our Wants and Needs.

While our Wants are certainly helpful in providing a window to our actual Needs, they can also thwart or compete against other Needs. For example we may feel we need the waterfront home in the best suburb, but a high mortgage may undermine our ability to satisfy our food, sleep or safety needs. Alternately, the waterfront home might be temporarily satisfying or thwarting another type of need – our psychological needs.

Satisfying your psychological needs

In addition to our physiological needs, we have psychological needs. You may have come across these through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow believed that it wasn’t just physical and safety needs that had to be satisfied. People also needed to feel that they belonged to a group and were loved, respected, and were able to self-actualise (live their potential).

Maslow’s theory provided the spark for us to begin understanding how human needs influence behaviour. Today, our understanding of psychological needs centres on how our behaviour is self-determined and presents an ABC of psychological needs:

Want more articles like this? Check out the business psychology section.


Autonomy must be close to the heart of all soloists. It doesn’t mean we all want to be islands in the sea of humanity, rather that we need to have choices and be free to act as we choose. And think about it, how many of us chose the solo business path because it gives us the opportunity to be our own boss? There are plenty of opportunities to revel in our autonomy as soloists – from designing and delivering our own product or service, to poring over options for that new computer purchase.


We need to feel that we belong to a group, whether it’s our family, friends, or work colleagues. We need to feel we are able to connect with others. And as soloists, this is a need we often meet head on in the early days of our ventures. Consequently, we participate in forums and join business or professional groups. Also, part of the belonging (or relatedness) need is love – to be loved and to love others. And while business and love aren’t usually two words that appear together very often, love can flow in our solo ventures. It might be the love you have for your work, showing you care for a client, or your client showing their appreciation of your work.


We need to feel that we are capable of getting the outcomes we desire. Many soloists start their businesses in fields that they’ve been working in for years, and so have developed a certain level of competence already. But going solo means facing new challenges and in doing so, developing further competence. It can also be the case that soloists are embarking on a new field and have to develop their skills and knowledge as their business grows. When the task is too challenging and the competence need is not being satisfied it can lead to stress, overwhelm and doubt, and thwart other needs.

Understanding your own physiological and psychological needs and creating the environments to satisfy them will not only give you more satisfaction, performance and well-being, but it can also give your business an edge when used to understand your customers’ needs. In my next article I further explore meeting your clients’ needs.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"