My Solopreneur Life: 10 Struggles & How To Solve Them

Oct 31, 2017

I am going to talk honestly about the struggles that I face as a solopreneur and how I am overcoming them.

This is potentially a new series I am going to be creating, either monthly or weekly, depending on both how feasible it is and how much interest you have in it. For now, I am going to keep it to monthly updates and see how we go.

Firstly, I will go over a little bit about me, if you don’t know where I am coming from on this.

Hi there, my name is Cat Garrett and I am a 24-year-old solopreneur. I have worked several stable 9 to 5 jobs since graduating university in 2014, where I studied animation. However, none of them were really meant to be. None of them clicked.

Now, I find myself as a solopreneur, wearing all of the hats and doing all of the work. I take full ownership of every success and every failure.

This month, even this past week, I have had many struggles which I have had to overcome.

Read on for a candid and personal look into building a business – and doing it all by yourself.

Stress

I stressed this month. Big time.

While I thought that this hadn’t really impacted me mentally or emotionally, it did affect my skin and I had a really bad break out this past two weeks.

To combat this, I’m starting with the inside and working out. I don’t know what it is about green tea, but I always seem to have much clearer skin when I drink it daily.

So that’s the symptom treated. But what about the root cause?

Trying to create some distance between myself and my work would really help. I work from home; my bedroom is my office. I wake up and I’m at work.

I’m going to try to create a larger feeling of separation between myself and my work. Get out for walks or a drive.

Maybe I will also get a new perspective on whatever is the challenge of the day.

Social Stigma

There is a strong shift in attitudes toward me. Especially if those around believe that I’m actually just unemployed.

Friends and family treat me differently. They don’t quite understand what I’m doing – or more accurately why I am doing it. I mean, who in their right mind chooses to work 60-100 hours average a week?

While they do their best to be supportive, at the same time there’s a struggle to face down the belief that I’m free all the time and just plain lazy. Some, again, just think I’m crazy.

That I should get a “real” job is both the spoken and unspoken phrase in many conversations.

It can feel alienating, a little bit like you’re on the outside looking in.

Financially, I’m not exactly broke right now. I do have my own funds saved up which are being fed into my business. For housing, I have moved back to my parents’ house. They’ll be glad the day I move out – again. (They are being unreal with support, in the meantime, though.)

I am coming to the end of the “just” building my business period. Hoping that once I’ve launched and people see me breaking even, and then eventually turning a profit, this murky stigma will come to an end.

For now, I’ve been developing a way on how to talk to your family and friends about your business, so they feel involved and break the strange, invisible barrier that springs up when you decide to go against the ‘norm’.

How to ease their worry and raise their understanding, as largely, such fears stem from the fear of the unknown. And that’s okay. I’ll be sharing that here soon.

Professional Insecurities

I’ve only recently had the courage to put being self-employed on my CV. Starting a business isn’t something that I should feel that I have to hide – but it is.

For the past year, while applying for jobs (as a plan B and something to support me while I build my business) I haven’t added it to my CV. Consequently, it looks like I have been out of work for that length of time.

While that is both true and not true – I have been starting a business, my own place of work – I find that excruciatingly hard to articulate. Perhaps this is a side effect of social stigma, perhaps it’s the manifestation of my fear to fail.

While I haven’t come to launch yet, I do work – although it’s largely unpaid just yet. But putting that on your CV – I find that really hard to express in an acceptable way.

I have realised that in a way, I had been looking down on myself and my business because I have yet to launch and turn a profit. Completely forgetting about all the effort and groundwork I have been putting into it over the past year.

 

In the face of insecurities, no matter how much hard work has been done, suddenly everything looks a lot smaller and more insignificant than it actually is.

So, I remind myself: the work I have done is important. It is useful and I am learning and growing every day. My business is growing, too – even if it’s not launched and returning on my investments yet.

Thinking of biting the bullet, I look up articles about how this might be perceived on a CV. Apparently, there have been mixed reactions from employers on this matter.

As I feared, some will downright through your CV straight in the bin.

Who knows why?

But not every employer does. And they are probably a lot more like the people I’d want to be working with.

So now, I’m going to add it in.

Low Self-Esteem

My self-esteem has never been lower than during this past year. Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted.

I would never have thought myself weak or vulnerable, but the process really can put you through the wringer and test your mental endurance in ways you never even thought possible.

As it can wear you down, you need to have ways to pull yourself back up again.

Dressing up occasionally, even if it’s one day a week, can really restore my sense of self-worth.

Getting out of my hard-worn lazy loungers for a day. While great when working with dusty conté crayons or curled up in front of the computer having a serious coding session, they aren’t great for a suffering self-esteem.

Taking time back and focusing on myself and feeling great in my skin, even for a day, makes me feel like I’m worth something again.

Putting on my favourite new clothes, putting on makeup, doing my hair and finishing with a light spritz of perfume. I don’t do this for anyone but myself.

When I’m done, I look myself in the eye in the mirror, smile and tell my reflection how beautiful she is. Of course, then I throw in some affirmations about the business, but that’s just occupational hazard, I guess.

Loneliness

It can be tough building a business by yourself. You have no one to discuss your ideas with.

When times are rough, there is no one to share the burden. When times are good, no one understands why you are so happy, the struggles you have overcome to achieve that victory.

Again, this is when it’s important to know how to talk about your business to those around you. That’s going to be my next post, so look out for it.

Working in My Business Rather Than Working on My Business

There is a fine line between working in your business and working on your business. When going it alone as a solopreneur, it is ever the looming trap to fall into – and fall into it I do.

The difference is: when you’re working in your business you are doing all the day to day work: the accounting, the creating of the things, the marketing tasks etc.

Whereas working on your business is doing the things that grow your business. Developing it, setting larger scale direction and planning the next steps. Strategizing the next stage and beyond.

Feeling like I had no direction, I set aside time and created some master plans on the 20th and 26th of this month. One for a deeper strategy on marketing, and a second one for the big picture where marketing is but one piece of the pie.

Honestly, I heaved a sigh and smiled when those plans where done. And then it was straight back to the day-to-day business.

Feeling Lost in Stagnant Progress

This is as much related to the point above as it is its own point.

This past month I have been feeling lost in my own work. The business plans have really helped give me direction. But I don’t know if I could have made it this far without feeling like I was actually going somewhere, even if the direction was a bit skewed.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, I feel like I have nothing to show for it. Where did all my time go? What did I accomplish?

Not recognising your own hard work can result in feeling tired and fed up.

It can feel like you have both feet stuck in the muck, right up to your mid-calf. (I have literally been there before. It was messy and I had to be pulled out. I lost a shoe.)

I have been talking about how to combat this quite a lot, especially during September of this year. Here you can read more on the solutions:

One of the things I mention is having a notebook or someplace where you can keep a constant record of the things you have done.

Writing it down each day helps when you look back and see just how much you actually have done in a week.

The notebook works, BUT. Come closing time I don’t always remember everything that I have done. Which only contributes to this feeling of being stuck in the same place, not doing anything, not progressing.

Now, I write down as soon as I complete the task and check it off the master to-do list I create at the beginning of each week.

It’s therapeutic and encouraging to see the list of done items grow.

Suddenly, the next milestone feels a lot closer than it was before.

Denying Passion

I tried to do that this month.

I cut out drawing my comic from my schedule so that I would have more time to work on my business. However, that meant that I was focusing largely on coding and business: focusing on logic and 100% removing raw creativity.

My passion is drawing, my passion is art, my passion is animation; making things move, making art breathe.

Capturing the poetry of life – visually.

Because I had been cutting that out, my stress levels went through the roof. I started leaking artwork out the sides.

While these artworks were still in line with my business, they did take up time. Time which they were not scheduled to occupy. This was time for coding: learning, implement, website building from scratch.

The point is: if you have a passion and you need to do other things in order to make that passion your business – such as planning your business; creating a website; learning a new skill – those will be the frame that will sit around your passion.

Don’t stop doing your passion at the same time. You need to let it out or you will explode. That’s why you started this journey, isn’t it?

So, you gotta go do it, or you will (probably) go insane.

I now have scheduled quick sketching times which I plan to film. If the videos are okay, I will upload them to YouTube, so stay tuned!

Learning a New Skill

Learning a new skill can be quite taxing on your brain. It’s important to get enough sleep and not push yourself to learn too hard. You learn best when you are having fun.

I’m taking an online course on coding, which while interesting, there is just so much material that is new to me. I find that I can learn so many hours’ worth before my mind just melts and nothing more will go in.

Letting it saturate through my brain, I take a break and do something else for a little while. Maybe a couple of days, actually, before I go back and do the next bit.

I think I’ve found my pace for it now, so I can maximise on my time and schedule to be the most effective I can be.

Personal Care & Wellbeing

Keep an eye on your physical activity, on your sleep, on what you’re eating. These are fundamentally important. I read this in many articles, I heard this in podcasts.

I agree.

When you are your business, wearing all of the hats and doing all of the work, if you are ill your business is ill also.

Stay in top physical condition and don’t drive yourself to breakpoint – or anywhere within a 10-mile radius of it.

BUT.

This is perhaps the area that requires the most discipline. I find myself slipping up all the time.

For example, this past week I was trying to get to bed earlier. I am talking 11pm here.

HOWEVER. There was just one more thing that I wanted to complete before I went to bed. It’d be quick, I said.

Some hours later, I find myself staring at my progress log notebook, unsure of whether to put the completed task under Thursday or Friday.

I should have been in bed asleep. Instead, I was working. Finishing things off that weren’t even urgent.

My solution:

Make it a habit to have good sleep hygiene and go to bed like you mean to get up in the morning and work hard, and work well.

It’s a work in progress, but I’ll get there.

I’m using the same technique I outline in the freebie:

Your New Healthy Habit Planner

If you want to check it out.

If you are interested in a more in-depth solution to any of these issues, let me know in the comment section below.

The next post will be a deep look at talking about your business and work to family and friends: keeping them included and not losing your temper even when you’re tired and feeling frayed at every edge.

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