It’s the dream. You and your business against the world. From the moment you strike out alone, it’s an exhilarating experience, but it can also be a lonely, and at times, exhausting one. Be careful that you don’t develop solopreneur burnout.
Solopreneurs in the early stages of launching a business have to wear many hats. They don’t just work with customers. They manage finances. They juggle contractors. They set meetings and make sales. It’s enough to wear anyone down.
It’s not surprising then that 20% of small businesses fail within a year, 30% within two years and 50% within five years. There are several reasons cited for these failures – lack of a market fit, not enough capital, the wrong team, and unexpected competition. But a factor in all of these and one of the great intangibles that can drag an entrepreneur down is burnout – the complete exhaustion of energy reserves needed to actually run a business.
To avoid burnout and maintain a healthy balance when running your business, let’s look at some common tips and tricks for keeping your business running smoothly.
Build a Cushion and Use it When Necessary
As a solo entrepreneur, you’re on your own. You might have contractors who support key elements of your business, but if you don’t show up, very little happens. So, any little hiccup can feel like a wave crashing down on you. Sick children, weddings and funerals, and even planned vacations. Every time you’re not at your desk, the work piles up and the risk of declining revenue becomes all too real.
To avoid this, take every opportunity you can to work ahead. This comes in many forms:
- Filling your calendar – If you are a consultant or service provider, try to fill your schedule further out than you normally would to alleviate some of the stress of finding new work. Don’t be afraid to take bookings for 1-2 months away if it means less time will be needed next week running down sales leads.
- Use downtime judiciously – When you have a bit of downtime, use it to work ahead on existing projects. It’s tempting to use that time for yourself, but if you have the energy to get a jump start future tasks, you can bank that potential free time for when you really need it.
Downtime Is Required
A 9-5 job can be exhausting for an entirely different set of reasons, but you forget the downtime that’s built into it. The commute gives you quiet headspace to prepare for the day and unwind. Vacation and sick days ensure you have at least a minimum amount of time every year for yourself and your family.
As a solopreneur, you have to scratch and claw for every second of that same time, and many people don’t bother. They work throughout the day, most days of the week. Boundaries blur and downtime disappears. But self-care is not optional when you work for yourself.
Self-care looks different for everyone, but some common suggestions include:
- Exercising daily
- Going for a walk between tasks
- Setting a screen curfew
- Eating meals away from your desk
- Taking days off every week
- Planning for significant time off once or twice a year
These seem like basic things that most people do, but really ask yourself – are you doing any of them right now? Or are you head down, working your butt off day after day. If it’s the latter, you’re headed for burnout, whether you feel it yet or not.
Leverage Outside Expertise
One of the biggest challenges solopreneurs face is letting go. This is your creation, your pride and joy. You’ve invested thousands of hours and countless sleepless nights into getting it up and running and it’s hard to let even a small part of it go.
But there are ample resources available to help offload tasks to those around you. By outsourcing basic tasks that someone else could easily perform, leveraging expertise from those around you and contractors to streamline your day, and automating key elements that you don’t need to do yourself, you can severely cut down on the amount of busy work you do every day. Some of the things you could offload include:
- Accounting and daily paperwork
- Outreach and promotion
- Daily client interactions and routine calls
- Sales conversations and initial outreach
- Design and development tasks
Identify your strengths and focus your efforts there first. Then look for ways to efficiently offload the rest to people who can do it faster and for less than the value of your time. Budget is certainly an issue here, so make sure you think intelligently about what works best to give time back in your day.
Build a Passive Income Stream
Finally, look for ways to build a financial buffer in your business that can reduce the stress of having to maintain cashflow month in and month out. Passive income streams represent money you don’t have to directly invest time into to generate. It’s an eBook you wrote or a webinar you produced, or a product you uploaded and drop ship through a digital marketplace.
The more revenue you can generate through passive sources that don’t require direct input of your time, the more financial buffer you create for yourself. This means less stress if you lose a big customer. Less stress when you go on vacation and aren’t actively earning. Less stress when you just have a rough day and need to take some personal time.
You CAN Avoid Solopreneur Burnout!
If you run a small or medium sized business on your own, burnout can feel inevitable. But with the right preparation, reliance on experts that you hire, and a smart financial plan, you can build some breathing room into your schedule and address stress head on.