As a solo entrepreneur, I’m constantly balancing my confidence level with humbling myself, so that I’m able to learn and grow. I recently had a conversation with another entrepreneur who told me that when I spoke about my business I didn't sound like a business owner. He said I sounded like someone that was “self-employed”.
While we could have gotten into a heated conversation of linguistics, I tried to keep an open mind. I hoped that this guy wasn’t mansplaining my own business to me, 30 minutes after meeting. He had some good points, mostly related to how I spoke about what I do and how that could be perceived.
It got me thinking and I felt inspired to write about some of the realizations I’ve had while on this journey. Especially since as my company grows, these days I’m feeling less like a solo entrepreneur, and I’d like to look back at this list in the future. These realizations are listed in no particular order of importance.
You are not a CEO
To receive much you must give much
You’re never really solo
Your devices may be holding you back
You are not like everyone else
I hope that they are helpful to others.
Realize, you are not a CEO. Building solo means you do everything. Running a business day to day requires many different tasks to be done. Marketing, a killer product or service, sales, balancing your books, managing and maintaining current client relationships and building new ones. Don’t forget about self-care, social media, reading the news, being a good person, your family and friends aka the elusive “work life balance.”
A CEO has people that work with them to get all of this done. As a “solopreneur”, you are a CFO, CTO, CPO, CMO, HR, Legal, COO and likely more. In your calendar make time for each one of these roles. The amounts of time you spend on each will change depending on what quarter you are in, and what your current goals are for your brand. You may naturally gravitate to one over another, but you have to quote-unquote “focus” on all of them. This requires making time for reflection and looking at your choices from different angles.
The CEO in you may come up with a great idea today. But how will you market it tomorrow? Does it fit with the overall goals of your company, and do you have the dollars to make it work. You have to examine your business from all perspectives.
When it comes down to making the decision, imagine if you did have another leader in the room with you, what would they say? If you find it challenging to play devils advocate, you can try making multiple lists of pros and cons, or talking to a mentor.
2. Realize, to receive much you must give much. No one said leveling up was easy. Don’t make it harder by being selfish. The great thing about giving is that it’s one of the easiest ways to establish value. Of course you can’t give away everything, and you certainly can’t give all the time (see point 1).
There are so many ways that you can give. As a “Connection Doctor” making introductions is one way that I give frequently. It allows me to double down in a lot of situations. Take the example of introducing a person to someone else for a project that I might not have the time to do, or you know another company would fit with the client better. The person you recommend will get new business, and the client gets the help they need.
In addition you’re showing both parties that you’re thinking of them, have their best interests in mind, and actually care about their problems or passions. Doing this also gives you the opportunity to reach out to people that you have in your network. In this day and age, we are so “connected” yet we find it hard to keep in touch. Making introductions is one of the easiest ways to always have an excuse to reach out to people and ask them how they are doing.
A lot of people hold back from “recommending” someone else because they worry about the impact on themselves should that connection not go well. I find this logic problematic. I mean when have I ever stopped being friends with someone because they set me up on a horrible date? I simplify the approach by giving honest recommendations and introductions. An honest recommendation may look like this:
Someone you know mentions that they are in need of a video being made. You don’t make videos, in fact you’ve never even had a video made for yourself. But you do know someone that makes videos. First check with both parties and confirm they are ok with being introduced. Let the person who needs the video know that you’ve never done any work with the person you’re introducing, but you know they make videos, and they may be able to help.
Let people make their own decisions on who to work with. Everyone has instincts, don’t let your ego about your reputation get in the way of helping others. As long as your intentions are good, trust that things will turn out ok.
3. Realize, you’re never really solo. At times it may feel that way, but living your life with this point of view sounds very lonely. I’ll keep this point short and simple as many articles have been written already about becoming a “virtual resident” in the world. Loneliness in entrepreneurs leads to depression, stress, anxiety, and can cause a range of mental illnesses, as stated in this article from Forbes. Running a business with a mental illness is not good for anyone.
Use time in your life to combat becoming lonely. Change your environment. Get out of the house or office. Move closer to family and friends if you can. Engage and connect with other people and spend time connecting with yourself. Join a co-working space, eat well, make time for sleep, and share your troubles with others. Communication is key to moving through these moments of loneliness.
If you’re located in the United States of America, or another top nation, travel to another country that is not doing as well economically. This will teach you to have gratitude for what you have. Counting my blessings has proven to be extremely helpful during times I am feeling down. If all else fails, get a pet!
4. Realize, your devices may be holding you back. I woke up this morning around 4 am. Its 9 am right now. I have spent 3h and 24 minutes between when I woke up and now on my phone. Thank you iOS 12 for this enlightening breakdown. Are you tracking your screen time? I have written a few times about our devices, technology, and how it effects us as people. I certainly will continue. Most recently I made the switch to having my phone on DND (do not disturb) mode 24/7.
Our devices, particularly our phones can be huge productivity suckers. In addition, constantly checking your phone, does the following things that are detrimental to a solo entrepreneur.
It makes you look busy. If you look busy people won’t bother you. If you don’t want to be bothered great, but if you are out and about making business happen, the more people you engage with, the more opportunities for your business to grow. The secret is to be busy, but always appear to have time for people when they need you. If you can do this with grace you will be successful.
It makes you look uninterested. Being on your phone all the time, especially when you’re out with others, checks you out of that present moment and into the digital world. The key here is knowing the value of your time, respecting it, and setting boundaries with others so they respect it as well. Lead by example. Before jumping into a conversation with someone, ask them if they have a few moments. To get out of a conversation where someone is not respecting your time, gather yourself and in the same movement with a smile, tell them, “thank you so much for this chat, I won’t take up more of your time, I know you’re busy.”
It disrupts your vision. Unless you’ve uninstalled every social app, or control your content intake very carefully, once you dive into that digital world you can be hit with anything and everything. All it takes is one read of an article for you to question your current game plan. One photo that inspires you, and puts one more thing on your plate of to-do’s.
5. Realize, you are not like everyone else. If you got to the bottom of this list you may be thinking, well wait, why am I doing this again!? Riding solo is not for everyone. It takes a certain type. Consider not doing it for long. It’s kind of like dating. If you stay single to long, you will become so comfortable that you won’t know how to compromise.
If you’re looking for more reading about the topic check out this article outlining The 9 Key Distinctions of Successful Solo-Entrepreneurs or this one listing 20 Signs You are Meant to Be an Entrepreneur.