As solopreneurs, we're either feeling guilty for not being busy, or we're in over our heads with work. Neither phase in the "feast or famine" work cycle is stress-free, which means solopreneur burn out is a real problem.
Here are a few common situations I experienced myself, along with ways to overcome them. I am not going to include tips like taking a deep breath or working on multiple projects as I have tried them before – but these did not seem to help me solve my burnout problems from the origin.
Here's how to turn your marketing campaign around:
Step 1: Listen
The best way to find out what your clients need is to listen. Yep, it's that simple. Be open, let potential clients know you're there to help, then shut up. Let them tell you where they need help most.
As a bag designer, I came across a client who asked me to help her design a “fashionable bag for moms”. At first I went straight into sketching out the bags I thought moms would like.
After going through a ton of variations of a similar bag design, I gave up. I spent two weeks sitting at my desk, looking at the mommy bags on random websites, trying to get ideas.
I felt defeated and thought perhaps designing was not what I am good at or what I want to do. After a few sleepless nights, I decided I needed a rant with a close friend.
Her response changed my perspective entirely:
“You’re not a mom yourself, so why didn’t you go talk to those with experience? Stop trying to be the know-it-all. You just need to learn to ask for help!”
It seems obvious now but I never thought of that as an option back then - probably a common syndrome for solopreneurs.
So I searched online in parenting forums, asked questions in private Facebook mom groups, and even asked a few moms out with their kids for coffee to learn about their pains with the bags they use.
Based on what I heard – that moms want bags that are stylish as well as functional, the project came to life.
Step 2: Plan the work
After identifying the core problems, list out all of the possible solutions. We can break them down to small pieces of actionable steps. This is how we come up with a realistic timeline for the whole design process.
Get a deadline (or make your own) and then reverse engineer from the target date and work back the time allocations. Be sure to account for the rest of your life as you're doing this – like other gigs; business administrative tasks; household chores; and time to relax or be with family. Don't overload any day – the idea is to work the project step-by-step.
Step 3: Make staying on schedule your top priority
The plan won’t work magic on its own. Stick to it in order to earn small wins every day without getting distracted or exhausted. Don't fall into the freelance trap of putting off work one day – or you'll find yourself always playing catch up.
After I started working for myself, my parents often thought that I could go anywhere anytime. They would call me up one morning, and ask me to join them for lunch at noon the same day. I did that a few times just to be a good daughter, but it made me feel very guilty for not working on what I had planned. Don’t get me wrong, I treat them as a priority too, but they have to be trained to understand the way I work and make a living.
Step 4: Get quality sleep
Don't be that freelancer who thinks they're too cool for sleep! Chances are, you're not. We can't function well without quality rests. Get off work at least two hours before bedtime.
Leave some time to wind down, relax the brain and eyes by staying away from the beaming computer screens. Prepare the plans and pack the gym gear in the bag for the next day. Write down all the creative ideas in a bedside notebook and free the mind to welcome sleep.
Step 5: Join a mastermind group or association
Any business groups (formal ones like industry associations or casual ones like groups of friends in our fields) can be our go-to places for help and support in our career. There are always different people with various experiences whom we can talk to when we are stuck.
We don’t have to be a loner just because we are solopreneurs. Get a support group and meet them regularly for market information and inspirations.
Here are a few free-to-join freelancers’ communities:
- Freelancers Union (well done, you are already here! My profile is here.) Freelancers Union holds monthly in-person meet-ups in 20 cities across the United States – check out SPARK here.
- Creative Mornings (regular morning creative talks by various creatives to inspire all of us for free. They are serving in 162 cities worldwide.)
- Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (as the name suggests, it is a group of business ladies coming together for exchange of ideas.)
- Female Design Entrepreneurs (private FB group I created, dedicated to female designers/creatives/artists to share resources and connections. Feel free to join in the conversation.)
Step 6: Set the mind right
It might sound cliché but this is true – change your mindset and the world will change according to your will. We might think we hit a dead end, but all we have to do is to dig deeper and create a new path for ourselves.
Once we reach the other side, we can laugh at ourselves for panicking over small hiccups. A lot of people are there to help. It is up to us if we open up to ask.