The idea of being your own boss has incredible allure. Many people choose to work for themselves so they can find fulfillment, set their own schedule, or simply have more control over their careers. The fact is that solopreneur businesses have taken off in the last decade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of nonemployer firms—meaning those staffed only by the owners—that generate $1 million to $2.49 million in revenue rose to 36,161 in 2016, up 35.2% from 2011. Being your own boss has its rewards, but it can also feel very lonely—especially if you’re a solopreneur. Running a business by yourself requires a lot of focus, discipline and resilience because inevitably you will encounter stumbling blocks along the way. To stay motivated and be able to weather the ups and downs of being a solopreneur, here are some powerful tips:
You have to remember that starting and growing a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Especially in the early days, it’s all too easy to put in very long hours with no end in sight. Being a solopreneur can quickly turn into a 24/7 job if you’re not careful. Then it’s only a matter of time before you experience exhaustion and—you guessed it—burnout. Sometimes the hardest part of being a solopreneur is knowing when to turn your brain off from work. It’s all too tempting to squeeze in every minute you possibly can to focus on your business. Just remember that finding work-life balance will make you more productive, not less. So, instead of turning into a work robot, make sure to find time also to do enjoyable things that energize and inspire you.
Find a support system
Flying solo as a solopreneur requires a strong support system. Friends and family are important, but there are many other resources as well. One is to find a mentor or a coach. A mentor can help by offering their advice to guide a solopreneur in the right direction. SCORE is a great organization that provides free business mentoring and education. While mentoring tends to be more long-term and development driven, coaching tends to be more short-term and performance driven. The use of business coaches is becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, a recent study conducted by Infusionsoftrevealed that small business owners are increasingly using paid coaches for overcoming challenges. Coaching is designed to be results-oriented so that you can achieve your goals faster than you could on your own. A business coach can help you overcome mental blocks, stay focused, and take your business to the next level. Mastermind groups are also a great way to find that support needed by a solopreneur. They allow you to be a part of an exclusive community where you can collaborate with others who may be experiencing similar challenges. Finally, you might consider forming a small advisory board. This option allows you to benefit from the collective brainpower of a select group of people chosen by you. Similar to a mastermind group, your advisors can help hold you accountable and provide that necessary support when needed. Joining groups, in general, offers amazing benefits. As Charles Duhigg, author of the excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business says, “When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.”
Celebrate small wins
According to Oprah Winfrey, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” As a solopreneur, if you don’t celebrate small milestones along the way, you are going to lose the motivation and drive to continue. So, the key is not to tie how you feel to your long-term goal but to the progress that you are making. The better you feel about yourself and your progress, the more likely it is that you will continue to put in the work that will help you reach your dream. One way to track your progress is by creating done lists. Most people are familiar with to-do lists, but few are familiar with done lists. A done list is a diary of your accomplishments that gives you a sense of progress, heightens positive emotions and helps you to stay motivated. According to Teresa Amabile, co-author of The Progress Principle, it’s important to “track your small wins to motivate big accomplishments.” So, next time you achieve a smaller goal, reward yourself! Some ways you can do this are to do something you truly enjoy, treat yourself to your favorite latte, take a trip or just celebrate your victories with the people around you.
Remember your why
As a solopreneur, you’re bound to encounter challenges and setbacks along the way. To stay motivated, it's essential for you to remember your "why". Why did you start this business in the first place? Was it because you craved more freedom, flexibility or control over your career? Maybe you wanted to pursue an activity you're more passionate about, or you just needed to leave behind a legacy you could be proud of. Getting in touch with this big-picture view will not only keep you focused but will provide you with the perspective to make wise decisions. It is likely that passion inspired you to pursue your dream of starting a business. It’s that passion for the work itself that will get you through those rough spots and keep you on track to succeed.
Being a solopreneur isn’t always easy, but the rewards are great. By following these tips, you’ll be in a better position to remain energized so you can ultimately reach your long-term goals.
Remember: just because you start small, don’t forget to think big!