Solopreneur is a fairly new term buzzing around the internet as more and more people are deciding to ditch the day job and be a business owner. A "solopreneur" is an entrepreneur who works and runs a business single-handedly. She likely hires contracted helpers here and there but, over all, she is on her own when it comes to developing her business.
Recently, I conducted a survey of women over 40 who work as therapists, coaches and other helping professionals. I asked what they most longed for deep in their hearts. The number one, most popular answer? FREEDOM.
And freedom is exactly what solopreneurs are aiming for. Freedom from the commute. Freedom from a desk. Freedom from big corporate. Freedom from working on someone else's schedule.
But without very careful attention to self care, solopreneurship can lead you into a very seductive trap as my colleague Laura Reagan, LCSW-C and I recently discussed.
Laura said, "For me freedom is owning my own business, being able to construct my schedule around my own and my family's needs. That is the ultimate in self care. When I work for someone else I feel conflicted about asking for time off when needed to support my family. I still put family first but being able to manage my own schedule is so empowering."
I asked Laura, "So do you feel FREE? I most certainly do as a business owner but even that can overtake us if we don't stay mindful right?"
Laura replied, "You're so right. Hustling to do more, do more, do more is a seductive trap for entrepreneurs and business owners. It's an ongoing practice to put my own needs first, but I'm mindfully aware of the need to do this, and every day is a new start."
After all, she attends to the administrative tasks, the networking and marketing, the client/customer service as well as the one who delivers the service and/or creates the product. Does this sound like you?
And guess what! Self care typically does not make it on that list of endless list of to-do tasks.
I know this first hand. Ah, the irony.
There I was. An expert on the subject of self care. I built my business around the notion. As a licensed professional counselor, a yoga and meditation teacher, a holistic wellness coach I launched my online business in 2013 while running a brick-and-mortar psychotherapy practice and wellness center.
I had sold my thriving counseling center and closed my yoga studio in 2012 because I wanted to go SOLO and slow down. But I fell into the trap. I had no idea what I was in for. Being a solopreneur was supposed to offer me freedom from the complications and long hours that came with managing a full scale staff. Little did I know.
I built a successful online business in 2014, contracted with a few tech people here and there and hired a few coaches for short term support. I bought a lot of online business development programs and I worked and worked and worked around the clock. I worked while I showered. I worked while on vacation. I'll never forget sitting for hours on my hotel room bed on my laptop while my kids and husband went to the beach without me. I wasn't sleeping and I was missing meals, consumed by the endless tasks of building my online business.
While I was busily creating my online programs and helping clients with their self care and leading programs centered around self care, my own self care suffered.
But I caught myself and I learned quickly...
Because without your health (mental, physical and spiritual) you can't enjoy wealth.
Here are ten tips for your self care as a solopreneur.
These are things I do to keep my self care at the top of the priority list:
- Schedule everything and do not stray. Even creative flow time can be scheduled, Down time can be scheduled. Schedule clients. Schedule health care appointments. Schedule exercise. Create a schedule and stick to it.
- Don't allow social media to swallow you. While social media is absolutely crucial to successful online business, you have to be very careful or it will eat up your time and energy. Hire an intern to help you handle your social media. Schedule time to get on line. Watch the clock because if you don't you'll fall into the black hole and before you know it you've lost hours of your life.
- Go to bed. Seriously. Don't work until the wee hours. You need your sleep. I learned this the hard way. Shut down the laptop and put the smart phone away 2 hours before bedtime and enjoy a movie or snuggle with your loved one on the couch.
- Move your body. It may seem obvious but solopreneurs - especially those of us with online businesses - are prone to sitting at a computer for hours and hours. Set a timer at the top of every hour and when it dings get up and go for a brisk run up and down the stairs or better yet take a walk outside and get some fresh air.
- Hydrate. Again, may sound obvious but it is part of the trap - hours go by and you've not had any water. Drink a full glass of water every hour after you move your body.
- Eat 3 Squares. It's all too easy to forget to eat or over-gnosh when working as a solopreneur because you don't have anyone around to remind you and you get lost in the head-down focus of solo work. Use your timer and plan your meals. Make sure you're getting a naturally colorful variety of foods in your system and be sure to eat breakfast. A woman can not live on coffee alone.
- Connect with friends and loved ones in real time. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of relying on social media to provide you with the illusion of being connected. You need to look into the eyes of people. You need to hug and be hugged. You need to talk and share voice to voice. It's important. Schedule lunch or dinner together and leave your smart phone in the car.
- Learn to say "No thank you." As a solopreneur you may feel you need to take every opportunity to network in order to promote your business but if you fall into this habit you will run yourself into the ground. Take it from me. Been there. It's essential to learn how to turn down invitations. Here are some phrases you might use: "Thank you so much for thinking of me! I won't be able to make it this time." or "Sounds like a great time! I'm booked right now but I will get back to you." or "I'm going to have to take a pass. I'm trying to keep my schedule balanced and already have a lot on my plate."
- Observe a spiritual practice. Dedicate time each morning to observe quiet and stillness before you get busy with your business of the day. Light a candle. Say a prayer or meditate or do some yoga or just sit in silence and BE. This will help you connect to what really matters in this life and will keep things in perspective.
- Hire help. Even though this is your business you need not be alone. Hire people to help you so you're not so overwhelmed. Vet out your candidates carefully and make sure they are capable and reliable.
True success in business can only be achieved and enjoyed if we are attending to our own care of body, mind and spirit.