Hold Steady Solopreneurs

I’ve started noticing an increasing number of people out there ready to tell you how to run, grow or “hack” your business.  They’re online, across all the main social media platforms, and they’re offline, at all the networking events.  They’re super quick to tell you what you “should” be doing, and I’ve noticed that many offline “experts” don’t stop to ask what you’re already doing, or worse still, don’t listen should you start to explain where you’re at.

Over the past few months, I’ve had a number of conversations with solopreneurs who are increasingly full of self-doubt; having succumbed to the louder voice in the room, they find themselves wondering whether they’re approaching their business “properly”, or worse, they’re wondering if they’re even cut out for entrepreneurship.

These people are truly motivating and they successfully transmit a message that makes you intuitively want to be a better version of yourself.

In the globalised network era, it’s easy to go online and find someone whose back-story is truly inspiring and whose telling of that story makes you feel that you too can go and grab the world with both hands. These people are truly motivating and they successfully transmit a message that makes you intuitively want to be a better version of yourself. But in equal measure, there are increasing numbers of shouty and attention-grabbing “experts” out there who will quickly tell you that you should be earning six figures (because everybody in business should be able to earn at least that, right?), that you’re not leveraging LinkedIn / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram effectively, that if you don’t know how to market yourself digitally, then you may as well not be here.

But who are these people? What is their story? And what right do they have to tell you these things?

For me, the right to tell you anything at all in business comes from a credible history of experience. I will take input from someone whose professional story I admire, or whose strategies are proven, backed up by testimonial.  I won’t buy coaching from anyone who’s left full-time employment, completed a coaching course, bought into a franchise and is now telling the world that they hold the key to successful entrepreneurship. I want to see the battle-scars and war wounds that inevitably come from running a business over a number of years. I want the advice I receive to come with the benefit of hindsight.

I acknowledge however that it can be hard to ignore all this shouting and, when you’re already feeling doubtful (with experience I can affirm that this is all part of the journey), someone telling you that you should be doing things differently can cause even more anxiety.

My advice, in the wake of all this noise and bluster?

  • Hold firm.

When you set out on this path, you’ll have had a clear idea of what you wanted to, and knew you could achieve. It’s important to remember that business is a marathon, not a sprint and that it’s perfectly natural to experience highs and lows. In fact, failure is an essential component of learning how to run a business and the longer you go without it, the harder failure will be to deal with once it comes around. You’ll have good times and bad times; that’s all part of the path you’ve chosen.

  • Work out where you need help

The best thing about entrepreneurship is that it presents continuous opportunity to learn new stuff. Some things will totally appeal to your learning curiosity and others will leave you feeling cold. Work out which elements of your business you’d appreciate help with, remembering that few and far between are the entrepreneurs who are fully competent in all aspects of business.

  • Let your network guide you

Building a support network is as important as building a client pipeline. A support network is a network of people who can help maintain and grow your business.  Find people you like and trust to help you out with the bits you don’t like or don’t feel good at. Remember that trust in a commercial relationship takes time to build; think about the time it can take to win work from a new customer and reflect that back into the relationships you’re building with your support partners. Your support network can also help you make sense of your business and your specific commercial context, and so continuously identifying support partners who may be able to help you down the line is essential.

  • Trust your intuition

In the internet age, it’s never been easier to find guidance online to show you how to do things.  It’s vital however to remember that business is not prescriptive; there’s no 100% right way to do things. How you run your business will depend on 1001 different nuances and perfect doesn’t exist in business any more than it exists in real life. Always remember running a business is a journey, not a destination; as much as the media will kid you with stories of entrepreneurs who became billionaires overnight, the reality is usually far grittier.  In any case, seldom does an entrepreneur make a fortune and settle into early retirement without a backward glance.

Always-on internet access means that we now live in an age of distraction and it’s never been easier to succumb to self-doubt when we are continuously overwhelmed by messages of how to do things faster/better/easier.  Solopreneurship is (usually) a life choice, so be clear about the kind of business you want to build for yourself and hold steady in your convictions. And don’t forget to breathe and enjoy the journey.


Cathryn Barnard
Cathryn Barnard
AS co-founder of Working the Future, Cathryn helps business leaders prepare for the future of work. She writes about future of work trends and topics, and specifically about how commercial landscapes are set to transform and disrupt. With so many technological, socio-cultural and environmental factors converging concurrently to change the way that businesses are structured, Cathryn focuses on the transitions that business leaders and workers alike can make to both prepare for and thrive in significantly different trading environments. With a degree in modern languages and a career in staffing and recruitment, Cathryn has always been fascinated by how people communicate and interact. Having owned and run her own businesses since the late nineties, Cathryn has developed an in-depth understanding of the challenges involved in setting up and growing a business, and her experiences bring a “real-world” perspective to her writing about the future of work. Outside of work, Cathryn has a keen interest in music, theatre, and film, meeting new people and learning new things.

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