This article isn’t for my readers who’re tycoons with empires. Or even those of you rocking small businesses with growing teams.
You people should tune out right now, because the solopreneurs and I have some highly classified information to discuss.
Listen up solopreneurs. I’m talking to you. You’re running a very small business – probably from home – and you’re all by yourself. It’s not easy. In fact, you’re exposed to all kinds of pitfalls other entrepreneurs never even experience.
None of these rusty bear traps are too scary if you know where they lie. But i you aren’t clue up, you’re at serious risk – your small business could be utterly derailed by any of the following three obstacles…
1. You don’t know the definition of “Enough”
The great thing about having a job – something you can probably remember vividly – is that you clock out at the end of each day. Even if you work late, you still get to shut down your computer and go home. Pour yourself a drink and put your feet up because work and it’s concerns are done for the day.
Remember those glorious days? As an solopreneur, your work station is probably less than 50 feet from your bed and it shows. You have the freedom to work from anywhere, anytime you want. Problem is, now you feel like you have to be working.
From everywhere. All the time. Work is always on your mind.
It may even keep you up at night.
There’s no boss to hand your report to on Friday as you dust off your hands. Your to-do list doesn’t end at Q3, and there’s likely no end in sight of the project you’re currently working on. And worse, there’s a guilty feeling at the back of your mind: whenever you do anything, you should probably be doing something else.
Knocking off at the end of the day is hard, because every task you check off your list just spawns another few in its place. There’s no end. You can never do enough, and everything could be better.
If you’re a solopreneur, you’ll drive yourself crazy striving towards perfectionist ideals of “enough”. You’ll massively overestimate what you’re capable of in a day. Then you’ll almost kill yourself trying to get there.
Every solopreneur stumbles into this trap, without fail. If you think you’re somehow different, you’re being hopelessly naïve.
The solution is simple, but you can’t just leave to chance. You have to put in daily effort and make it a habit:
Predefine what it means to “do enough” so you know when to finish your day.
Your sanity will thank you.
This is harder than it sounds. Doing it tomorrow is easy but it takes discipline, self awareness and relentless commitment to make this happen everyday. And it’s everyday that you need it.
You need to decant your massive to do list into a daily list that answers the following question:
“What do I need to do today to consider the day a big success?”
Answering this question gives your unconscious mind criteria for “enough” to work towards. It’s the key to clocking out every day feeling like you’ve moved the ball forward rather than just drowning in more work. You’ll accomplish better work-life balance, and in turn discover the key to sustainable success as a small business owner.
2. You’re isolated and lonely
This one requires very little explanation.
As grown adults, our number one source of social interaction is the office “water cooler”. People tend to hang out with their work colleagues, especially if they’ve moved from the place they grew up and went to school/college.
When you make the decision to be a solopreneur, you’re basically cutting yourself off from a regular social life. This is dangerous for a number of reasons.
We need social interaction just to keep ourselves happy. We’re social animals at our core. Beyond that, friends are really useful for a few things when they’re conveniently nearby:
- Get a quick perspective from outside-your-fishbowl on a tricky problem
- Get accountability to follow through on decisions, promises and goals
- Get stress relief with fun, humor and social decompression
Solopreneur isolation tends to creep up on you. You make an effort to network and for a while that satisfies your social needs. Then, you tell yourself it’s time to seriously “buckle down” and get work done – so you dive into a week (or more) of nonstop heads-down work.
This is when isolation strikes.
An entrepreneur with a team – or even a regular employee – will still interact with a ton of people, even if they’re scrabbling on an urgent project.
As a solopreneur, socialization won’t find you by accident. You need to have a plan to make it happen each and every week. Investing serious time and energy into building your network – with socialization and fun for fun’s sake as goal – is the answer.
3. You’re riding a financial roller-coaster
The biggest problem with solopreneurs is that they perform the psychological miracle – or perhaps schizophrenic nightmare – of being both product delivery AND sales departments. In the same person.
… But not at the same time.
In even the smallest startup, there is a virtual line-in-the-sand that divides the office between people responsible for sales and business development, and the folks that do the actual THING that people buy. They’re different roles with vastly different skill sets.
And you’re trying to do both.
First of all, know this: You are doing it right.
It’s impossible to grow an empire and build a team without having real world experience in both sides of the business trenches. You need to build your thing AND you need to sell your thing. And you need to do customer service for your thing. It’s all good.
Just know that the internal dichotomy you’re wrestling with isn’t supposed to be easy or even remotely sustainable over the long term.
The financial roller-coaster happens because of the up-and-down bottom line performance of solopreneur businesses. This is caused by you, the founder, working as a sales person and then having to stop selling the moment you sell something.
Problem: You can’t keep selling, because you have to rush to deliver to your new customer.
This is the devastating trap for solopreneurs: Success itself actually prevents you from growing, by tying up your time as you service your newly found customers.
It’s sometimes difficult to spot the symptoms of this problem when you’re deep in it, but if you’re a solopreneur who seems to magically always be busy half the time… then furiously hunting for work the other half… then this is you.
The solution lies in innovation and leadership. No big deal!
To push through this ultimate barrier to growth, you have to figure out how to leverage technology or people to get to the place where you can keep selling even after you’ve sold.
Read that again: You need to keep selling even after you’ve sold.
This is the golden rule that will elevate you beyond the pitfalls of solopreneurship. And interestingly enough, it’ll also result in so much growth that you won’t stay a solopreneur for long.
There’s a few nasty chicken/egg type situations you need to figure out before it can happen, but never forget this one thing:
Your objective is to build a business where sales and marketing happens daily. This is the only way to get off the solopreneur revenue roller-coaster.
Exciting news for solopreneurs wrestling with this stuff: A solution is on the way. I’m about to announce something new and cool for solopreneurs who are ready to solve these issues once and for all. Stay tuned.
It’s the first time I’ve ever created something specifically for solopreneurs ONLY, so if you are one you’re going to want to know about this.
This list of three is far from complete. This is just the problems I see solopreneurs struggling with the most. What have you observed? Share your additions to the list in the comments below – there are no wrong answers, because we all learn from your experience.