What happened to that feeling of excitement when you started your own biz?
And what about your sense of freedom?
I remember driving to the office on the last day of my corporate career.
I dreaded the day. The speeches. The goodbyes. The tears.
But driving back home?
I felt exhausted, but oddly light. A big smile on my face.
My idea was to take a sabbatical, to take it easy for a year, and discover what I wanted to do.
That sabbatical never happened
I started writing guest posts. I found my first clients. I was swept up by doing the work, and by juggling the many demands facing a one-person biz.
In an office environment, it’s easy to blame others for things going wrong. Working too hard? It’s surely the fault of my boss. Not happy? It’s because a colleague is sabotaging your work.
When you run your own business, you’re responsible for everything. From bookkeeping to marketing, from strategy to personal development, from disaster recovery to pep talk. Feeling overwhelmed, getting frustrated or angry about your mistakes?
Want to know how I learned to treasure my freedom and feel more content?
Below follow the 17 mistakes that threatened to suck the spirit out of my business. Avoid these mistakes so you can enjoy your life as solo flyer more.
1. Ignore side-projects
Why make time for a side-project, when your to-do list is already overwhelmingly long?
Research has shown that side-projects can make us happier, healthier, and more productive. Side projects are fun. They allow us to play. To experiment without pressure.
A good side project is a labor of love, giving us a sense of fulfillment. One of my most popular posts last year originated from a side-project—a course on illustrating recipes.
But I need to take my own advice as I’ve not done a side-project since then, and I know it’s wearing me down.
2. Pick up the wrong clients
Ever had a first chat with a client, and felt that you didn’t quite click? Perhaps you felt they didn’t respect you, or they were insisting on doing things their way.
Whenever I’ve gone ahead with a not-quite-right client, projects turned out to be full of frustrations.
In the beginning, it’s hard to say no to clients, but make it your priority to find out who you love working with and focus on attracting your favorite clients.
3. Not charging what you’re worth
How can you charge more?
Sure, more experience, more knowledge or better skills help command higher fees, but this is the key:
Have the guts to increase your prices.
When I decided to increase my prices for each new client, I began to feel a lot happier with my business. It freed up time to improve my skills, to have more time off, and to develop my online courses.
4. Let clients dictate how you work
Working with a client is a two-way relationship. But when you try to fit your work too much around client demands, you can’t do your best work.
So tell clients how you want to work. They’ll respect you for having a clear process.
5. Forget why you’re in business
Getting caught up in vanity metrics?
Yes, me, too. Whether it’s chasing more Twitter followers, more web traffic, or more money, we easily get distracted by things that seem to matter to others, but might not matter to us.
Why did you set up your own biz? To become famous? Or to lead a life based on your own values?
6. Let people take advantage
I’ve always found it hard to say no.
But I’ve also learned I can’t give away my time for free to everyone who asks. I must set my own boundaries. I stopped giving away my time by reviewing websites for free.
7. Let your inner critic spoil your day
When you run your own biz, your insecurities will show up and make a scene.
Understand what’s bugging you and find a way to deal with your inner critic. And you know what? Since I wrote this blog post about my inner critic and invited her for a cup of tea, we’re getting on fine.
8. Don’t prioritize sleep
Sleep is more important than you think. A study showed that sleeping consistently for only 6 hours a night impacts our cognitive abilities as much as staying awake for two whole nights in a row.
Switching off my computer earlier and sleeping more made me more relaxed, productive and happier.
9. Consider time as an endless free resource
How do you want to allocate your available hours? What gives you most energy? And what helps boost your business?
When I started to schedule my work and made clear decisions on what I would NOT do, I learned to work virtually stress-free.
10. Go it all alone
I have such a strong wish to find my own way, to be fiercely independent, that I sometimes forget to ask for help.
11. Forget your performance review
A boss should review your performance at least once a year. She should compliment you on what’s gone well, and discuss how you can improve. Together you can discuss your personal development goals for the next year.
As you’re your own boss, how do you review your performance? When do you congratulate yourself on your progress? How do you ensure you keep growing?
When I focus too much on my future goals, I forget to celebrate what I’ve achieved so far.
12. Umming and ahhing
We’ve all been there.
Should I write an ebook or develop a course? Should I blog more or less often? Should I set up a Facebook account or try Instagram instead? Should I take on my client work?
Running a business means making a lot of decisions.
And making decisions guzzles up a lot of energy and time.
I try to spend less time on toing and froing, so I have more time for doing the work. I revisit decisions less often. I postpone decisions that are not relevant yet. And I try to limit the time for deciding what’s next.
13. Comparing yourself to others
Let’s be honest … sometimes we feel a pang of jealousy.
How come others seem to achieve so much? With so little effort?
I remind myself that the only useful yardstick is comparing my work this year to my work last year. How have I improved?
14. Race from project to project
When did you last step back to reflect? When did you decide to change course or experiment?
15. Spend time on irrelevant details
You know obsessive perfectionism stops you from making progress, don’t you?
While learning how to draw, I discovered my skills improved faster when I drew a lot. Sometimes quantity beats quality.
It’s a tough lesson—I’ve not quite mastered embracing imperfection yet.
16. Don’t take breaks
Have you blocked time in your calendar to switch off from work?
I’ve given myself permission to skip blogging occasionally. Why be religious about blogging every week?
Breaks refuel your energy and reignite your creativity.
17. Delay happiness
During my corporate career, I used to think “After my next promotion, I can start working less and enjoy myself more.” When I started working for myself, I thought “Once I have more email subscribers, I can work less and enjoy myself more.”
By chasing future goals, I forgot to enjoy the present.
In the last eighteen months, I learned to slow down.
I quit chasing big goals. And I stopped postponing happiness.
I learned to love my work today. To enjoy writing and teaching. To enjoy a walk in the sunshine. Spring flowers. Whatsapping with a faraway friend. Just being me.
What can you do to feel better today?
Recommended reading for solopreneurs:
How to write a business manifesto for your tiny biz
How to write a tagline for your business
How to get unstuck and build a business you’ll love
This is an awesome post! Running your own business can be especially difficult because it is so much responsibility and time. You make some great points here, though, about how to get through the rough patches and be successful. Thanks so much for sharing!
Brilliant post Henneke.
Can identify with all points….especially 188.8.131.52.6…..
Being self employed in construction ( haven’t made full leap…..YET ) when i decided to raise my fees my fellow tradesmen were gobsmacked…
” Are ya mad Daz…..were in recession ”
Recession or not, i did it. Learned to say NO to people & communicated a lot better with prospects.
Thanks again from sunny West Yorkshire
Hi Henneke. I like your list. All very good points. For me, the most important ones have to do with the things that some people might think take you away from your work – side projects, taking breaks, getting enough sleep.
I started my business so that I could spend more time with my family, so if I don’t take breaks to do something with my kids then I have invalidated the whole reason I’m doing this.
Without side projects I would become burned out. They exercise my creativity in different ways and allow me to have a fresh mind to work on my business.
Sleep is critical. You mentioned the study that shows the impact of a lack of sleep on cognitive ability. Long-term lack of sleep also has significant health implications. Your business isn’t going to mean much when you are too sick to work.
My inner critic and going it alone are probably my biggest challenges.
Yeah, thinking everything will change immediately when you start your own business after working for someone else for many, many years… Actually, first it gets worse! For me, at least. Somehow I felt guilty and wanted to please clients and business partners even more.
What made a big change for me, is realising that it’s actually VERY GOOD (for everyone!) if you make yourself the startingpoint of your business. Which means saying “no” to assignments that somehow don’t feel good, stopping with services you actually don’t like doing, keeping away from business activities you hate, but are supposed to be doing (such as network events). Just to name a few things. 😉
But I guess it’s something you have to learn along the way. You can read business advice and several people will give you useful tips, but often you’ll only understand the value of certain things after you’ve experienced them yourself. Untill then, somewhere in your head you’re saying to yourself “that won’t happen to me” or “my business won’t be like that”. Uhuh. 😉
I love the idea of refusing to cut myself short if clients don’t have the project fee. I find myself negotiating a lot.
This really, is an eye-opener.
I struggle with charging what I am worth. Plus, I give time away for free too much.
This post comes at a critical time.
Thank you, Henneke.
Thanks for the thought provoking and helpful post Henneke! Many of these also ring very true for me. Even though it all makes sense when you read it, I know it can still be hard to implement such changes. Like your drawing, I think it’s a case of small steps and practice, practice, practice! 🙂
Guess who I don’t appreciate! Me, Me, Me!
Thanks for a stern invitation to return to sanity. Whew. It’s about time! Thanks!
As always you are spot on. #13 and #17 if practiced together can create, if not the perfect storm, the perfect bind. A practice that can not only wear us out but bankrupt our imagination. P.S. That’s a testimony. 🙂 I hope all things are going good in your world.
Fantastic post. Thank you for sharing those 17 invaluable truths Henneke (^_^)
Loved the post Henneke. I’m sure you had no particular order, but #1 for side projects gets a big thumbs up from me. It’s great for creativity and finding balance. Your Henrietta needs to get cooking again 😉
Guilty X17!! Cheers Henneke 🙂
Doing the kind of work that makes my heart sing and my brain fire up; collaborating with partners and serving clients I choose; and creating the life/freedom I want are at the heart of why I do this.
It’s so tough building a business (harder than I thought too); but I don’t for one minute regret escaping from cubicle culture. I do need a reminder when the going gets tough – we all do.
I have this quote by Bob Marley stuck on my office wall “The day you stop racing, is the day you win the race.”
Greetings from a hot but rainy Antigua
I can’t believe this landed in my inbox today. So glad I took time to read it!! Pure medicine for my self-employed soul. You’re the best!
I rarely leave comments on blog posts, but this post deserved one 🙂
Take care 🙂
Great article and very timely for me right now. My business is only about a year old at this point, but I already have felt many of the things you discuss here. A couple of the biggest ones are self-doubt and trying to figure out where my time is best spent. I’ve found if you get stuck in either place too long you become immobilized. I’m bookmarking this post so I can revisit as necessary. 🙂
Right on the money Henneke. Thanks!
Thanks for this Henneke! I’ve been building an online business for a year and a half. But I tend to forget that I also run a yoga studio, and it’s damn hard to do both well.
So lately I’ve been thinking more about how to delegate and NOT do everything.
#13 is a good one for me. Comparison is a happiness killer. I like the idea of using our own progress as a metric. How simple and logical!
I feel a certain amount of recognition here 😉
Great advice. I need to work on all of these!
I love your writing style, passionate advice and adorable drawings.
So glad I found you!
Your Enchanted Marketing class is so fun and enlightening.
Many Thanks, Amy
Wonderful, Henneke. As someone guilty of many of these, I can relate. I’m especially bad at comparing myself to others and feeling that I come up short. I’m always working on that. Thank you.
I am not a solopreneur just yet, but I can apply some of these mistakes to my life regardless. #8- not enough sleep is surely a true one for me and my former husband used to make fun of me for “going to bed so early and sleeping so much (7-8 hrs for me)! I KNOW I am in my zone if I get the right amount of sleep. #16 is hitting home big time, again, still having a full time job and looking for ways to transition out of it. For the past year I have studied as much as possible, have run Masterclasses and are fiercly looking for a way out… Then, just 3 weeks ago, I got stopped in my tracks with a not so great diagnosis… BUT, the light of this is: I will be off my dayjob for a month and can heal, reflect and prioritize… All happens for a reason…- GREAT post and I will come back to it often as a reminder to be in the PRESENT. Thank you Henneke for your spirit and energy
Hey Henneke – this is awesome.
I feel like I’ve been through almost all 17 of the things you said not to do! But I continue to learn and grow with each day being an entrepreneur.
Now I prioritize sleep, enjoy shutting the laptop down and letting my mind drift to other things after a certain hour, and I’m just generally getting better at taking charge of my business and my time.
I’m much more of a happy camper as a result!
P.S. – thanks for the shout out! 🙂
I started to read this piece and BAM I am at the end. Your writing flows seamlessly from start to finish.
At times #13 gets me. Comparing my progress to other people’s progress. Now is the time to make a conscience effort to change that.
Does that crazy lady climbing the makeshift ladder/ traffic warning have a name? She has so much personality.
Thanks again, Henneke.
A big YES (17 times). 🙂
Great advice here. I’ve been a freelancer for a year and a half now and as a side project (yay!) I work as a speaker on weddings.
When for the first time I declined working with a client it was a really good feeling. I felt this would lead to a toxic relationship between us … He didn’t like me and vice versa.
So, yes: You can decline clients even in the early stages of your business. It helps more than it does harm. Definitely. And it’s better for the client, too.
Next step for me personally is planning more. Especially planning my free time and the time with my family. I used to hate the term ‘quality time’ since ALL the time should be of high quality, right? But I start to feel the concept behind it: In a household with two solo entrepreneurs planning is a must. So even slightly chaotic moi who likes living from day to day needs to fit in. Somewhat. Only for a greater cause, of course.
Thanks for a lovely post again, Henneke
Ah yes, been there, done that, Henneke. Maybe not all 17 but pretty darn close. Of course, I could be in denial. 😉 I spent over 30 years in corporate life. My 1st year was more about healing – mentally and physically – than any great plan. I discovered how to take care of me first so I could take care of my business. It’s still not at a comfort level for me but I’m getting there. Thanks for the dose of reality.
Hope you’re having a great day. What a great post.
I agree with all of the points you raised actually.
Forgetting what business you’re in is such a great point. I know at times I get caught up with the vanity numbers and forget my real purpose..to operate a business that brings in money.
At the end of the day, those tweets and such doesn’t make an inch of difference.
Also the point about sleep is absolutely right. I found that when I get more than 8 hours, I’m more alert and full of energy to write and do stuff for my business. These days I haven’t been getting a lot and that needs to change.
Terrific post here, Henneke.
Have a great rest of the week.
So true!! It’s weird how you so often nail down exactly what I’m feeling at the moment. Although I’m a small blogger, and mainly a surf/yoga teacher/health coach, the same thing still applies. Funny, you think a yoga teacher should be totally mindful and relaxed, but it’s a job like everything else. Always studying, dealing with different kinds of students/studios, managing social media, administration, chasing new teacher gigs, and then trying to get your own yoga time in haha. Thank you for the reminder(s)!!
I so thought this was me. I so often forget to ask for help. 🙁
Spending time on irrelevant details is my way of wasting time. Gotta correct it then 😛
Thanks Henneke. 🙂
As ever, this has come at a perfect time. Thanks, Henneke!
Thanks for you notes
I agree with you with all my heart
Very nice Henneke,
You taught us to slowdown, relax and enjoy our life.
To maintain a decent space between work life and personal life.
This is the reference for a business startup/ who is yet to start a business.
Thanks again for a wonderful post!
With lots of love and regards,
Great article, I agree with every one! No.2 is a big one for me. My acid test with a client is respect – do they respect the people they work with, do they respect what I can do for them, do they respect that I have a life too (!)? If the answer is “no” then don’t be tempted, for one second, to work with them. There are some lovely people out there – so use your time finding them, not working with the people who contact you online, give a pitiful brief and ask for your price, while telling you the job is super urgent.
Also, I like the way you’ve written it – wisdom, but with such a light touch. Thanks very much…very “life affirming”.
All I have to say is OMG. All 17. 😉
This post comes handy at the most. Personally, I learn more from the mistakes than from the recommendations, so thanks for such a useful post. I am guilty of most of them and seeing them written down just made me want to change the way I face things.
Which was the most difficult one and yet the most effective to correct?
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