The Solo Entrepreneur: Tips for the Lone Ranger
The benefits of being a solo entrepreneur often outweigh the minuses, yet working by yourself day in and day out can, at times, negatively impact your mood and, by extension, your revenue. To help battle the solo blues, many entrepreneurs tap into Meetup groups or rent communal office space, but there are other low-cost, high-impact strategies to help boost your psyche and your bottom line. We spoke with some solo entrepreneurs to get their take on the best strategies to stay connected even when working alone.
1. Set a schedule and stick to it
Every entrepreneur knows there is always something he or she could be doing at any given moment to build the business. But if an over commitment to work is causing you to ignore other parts of your life, it can heighten those feelings of loneliness. Be sure to organize your calendar around work hours and meetings, as well as time with others and evenings off.
“Don’t work 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day locked in a little room,” says Mike Scanlin, CEO of Born To Sell, a website dedicated to covered call investing. “You can do it for a couple of weeks if you’re working towards some deadline or having a burst of creative output, but you will get lonely if you don’t keep regular hours and make time to get out in the evenings or weekends.” Beret Kirkeby, owner of Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage NYC, agrees that downtime is essential especially during the beginning stages of building your business. “Work on a schedule. You need attention just as much as your business,” says Kirkeby. “Try scheduling one day a month to start where you force yourself to make a commitment to do something for yourself such as spending an afternoon at the spa or hosting a potluck with friends. As the load lightens, [devote] one day a week [to your life outside of work].”
2. Curate a support dream team
One of the most valuable—and necessary—elements of running your own business is the ability to bounce ideas off of someone whose opinion you value. Angie Nelson, a solo entrepreneur since 2007, offers advice to fellow business owners on her blog TheWorkAtHomeWife.com. She says her best tip for avoiding loneliness is to form friendships with fellow entrepreneurs. “These people get it and understand the crazy hours and unique obstacles you will face,” she says. “They can offer the support that most friends and family can’t.” Take time each week to touch base via email or Skype with fellow business folks and mentors who can offer guidance and support—and vice versa. MeetUp is a great place to reach fellow entrepreneurs, as is MicroMentor.org.
3. Get out of your element
You’ve already joined business organizations to network and stay current in your field, but certified business coach, consultant, and owner of The Neoteric Group Nicki Morris encourages her clients to devote some time to groups that have no ties to their business.
“Join a not-for-profit board. It provides an opportunity for you to ‘give back’ and offer your time and, potentially, your expertise on a volunteer basis,” explains Morris. “It also provides social connections with other board members, the management of the organization, and other community members.” Another idea: sign up for an adult baseball team or a cooking class—anything to combine a much-needed break from work with doing something good for your body and mind. Scanlin agrees: “Get a hobby that involves other people—play on a team or go for a group hike. Do something outside with other people.”
4. Build strategic local partnerships
You run a one-person show, yet your company can benefit from partnering with a fellow small business owner at times. “Build strategic alliances with other solo entrepreneurs who have a business or target market in which you can both have synergy and mutual benefits,” suggests Morris. “For example, a solo physiotherapist who has a senior citizen clientele could build a strategic alliance with a solo financial planner with a similar clientele.” Partnering at certain times throughout the year can buoy your bottom line and combat the loneliness factor.
5. Remember why you chose this path
You have a vision of what you want your life to be. When you’ve been working 14 hours a day for seven months to reach that goal, and you are feeling a little lonely, step back and remind yourself why you are doing it. “You are a self-starter, and you are choosing a lifestyle that has benefits beyond companionship of co-workers,” says Scanlin. “The best solo entrepreneurs are the ones who can network with others when needed (via email or phone), but are also happy working by themselves.”