Rob: "Guess what? I am starting my own business! I'm so fed up with my job, the routine, my unfulfilled life, I want to break free, I want to be my own boss, I want to do my own thing!"
Mimi: "That's great! I'm so happy for you!"
Four months later:
Mimi: "How is it going? How is your business?"
Rob: "You don't want to know... I'm all over the place... I am working day and night, I don't have weekends or holidays... I feel I cannot take a day off, I can't say No to a client, someone told me they did not like my website so I stayed up all night re-doing it... I know no freedom anymore, I feel I have to watch what my competitors are doing and make sure I don't fall behind. One of them is doing this thing and I feel I have to do the same, even though I hate it...
Mimi: "Goodness, it sounds like a horrible job...
Rob: "I know, I hate it..."
It's an all too familiar story in the world of solopreneurs. We get fixed on comparing ourselves to others, we are so determined to making 'it' work, so overwhelmed with the nitty-gritty that we forget why we broke free from the corporate clutches in the first place: to create a more meaningful life.
Solopreneur, blogger and bestselling author of Be a Free Range Human, Escape the 9 to 5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills, Marianne Cantwell, would spot Rob's problem at once. Rob 'escaped' only to create himself another 'job'. Instead of fruits of fulfilment and joy from being his own boss, Rob packed his own personality away and is instead driving himself to insanity by trying to copy his competitors and do everything he thinks he 'ought to' do.
In her book, Cantwell suggests that solopreneurship is about creating a new life, not just a business. It's vital to put yourself into your business idea and play to your strengths, rather than worrying about what anyone else is doing. She advises to follow your instincts and create a business that is essentially you. A photographer may choose to focus on children, great outdoors or food photography, depending on her interests. A graphic designer should be able to turn down clients to ensure he delivers great work. A private caterer cannot get upset if one diner out of ten complained about the amount of chilli in her curry.
Cantwell's advice came in handy earlier this year when I was contemplating introducing a membership scheme for my own business, Ladies Who Impress. Memberships work well for similar ventures, so I contemplated offering networking events for members, such as private dinners, wine tasting evenings, etc. as well as discounts to the existing Ladies Who Impress celebrations. It seemed a good idea because others were doing it, but something felt wrong. My head was telling me that my current pay-as-you-go model works well because of its flexibility, but it was my heart that ultimately steered me away from the idea. I realised that I personally did not fancy the task of organising those private dinners, wine tasting evenings etc. Visualising my life revolving around that membership scheme made me feel wary and queasy. It did not feel right, however lucrative the potential.
This checking in with yourself is really important. Compromises with yourself just don't pay off in the long run. There is no point in jumping off the corporate ship to put yourself back into the cage of your own making. If you are a solopreneur, remember: it really is up to YOU.