4 mantras that got me through difficult times in my solopreneur journey

A business owner shares some of the biggest lessons he has learned while building a career consultancy.

4 mantras that got me through difficult times in my solopreneur journey
[Photo: Flickr user tico_24]

When I started my own career consultancy five years ago, I never imagined my own psychology would play such a big part in fueling my business growth, work quality, and overall happiness.


But I soon learned that it wasn’t just about building something from scratch and bringing in clients. I had to understand how to develop a positive mind-set and instill a firm belief that I was going to be successful. After all, as an entrepreneur, I had no choice but to bring my A-game every single time. Otherwise, my business wouldn’t survive.

While I don’t currently see myself going back to a corporate role anytime soon, I will say that being a solopreneur has been the most challenging professional endeavor of my life. For the first time, I was forced to figure out a lot of things on my own without a roadmap to guide me. Here are some lessons I learned that helped me push through the hard times.

1. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it

I enjoy running my own business–I have total autonomy over my time, and I value the flexibility it provides. That doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park.

There is a lot of work involved in helping people relaunch their careers. Pumping out regular content, original articles, and podcast episodes to expand my reach takes a lot of effort. So does preparing and delivering high-quality training and coaching sessions. On top of that, I’ve had to spend hundreds of hours handling the administrative affairs of my business.

Whenever I’m facing an uphill battle with my business, I try to remind myself that nothing worth doing comes easy. There is a reason why so many small businesses fail, and I realized that being able to keep going when times are challenging is the one thing that separates those business owners who make it from those who don’t.

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2. This is a marathon, not a sprint

When I first started my business, it wasn’t unusual for me to work until the early hours of the morning. I enjoy my work, and I do some of my best work in long, uninterrupted stretches. But while this discipline served me well when it comes to growing my business, there were moments I paid the price in physical exhaustion. I’ve literally fallen over from working too hard.

This kind of routine isn’t sustainable for anyone. I want my business to thrive for the long haul–not see short-term success followed by a crash and burn. Nowadays, I try to make a point to pace myself. As Jim Collins outlined in his book, Great by Choice, to avoid overexerting yourself, you need to move consistently at a pace you can handle, rather than sprint and stop.

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3. Don’t stay down for too long

I hate rejection as much as anyone, and I had my fair share of it when I worked in the corporate world. However, I always felt like the organization provided some shock absorbers. I could always attribute something not working out to some organizational issue, company-wide constraint, or team dynamic. However, since working for myself, every single bump in the road has been harder to bear. Because when people say no, they’re saying no to me, my work, and my offerings. There’s no one else to blame.

As a solopreneur, I’ve had to learn to bounce back from disappointments quickly. There’s always another client to serve, another talk to give, or another piece of business to pitch for. My livelihood depends on me being able to show up and deliver my best work every single time, so I’ve actively worked to build those muscles that help me get up quickly.

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4. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with

When I first started my business, I had just completed a professional coaching course alongside a group of respectable coaches aspiring to build their own coaching practices. After we finished the program, the group hosted regular meet-ups where you could go to reconnect and share tips. Unfortunately, I didn’t always find these gatherings to be helpful. Many of the conversations I had were with coaches struggling to find clients or gain traction, which left me feeling rather uninspired about the prospect of being able to thrive in an already crowded industry.

I appreciated the camaraderie and certainly respected fellow coaches, but I quickly stopped attending these events because it wasn’t useful for my psyche. Instead, I started surrounding myself with people outside of the coaching industry. I attended networking events geared toward creative solopreneurs, listened to podcasts about startups, and read books that had less to do with coaching and more to do with entrepreneurial psychology.

I began to understand the phrase, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” something Jim Rohn famouly said. Since I’ve worked on surrounding myself with the individuals who do things that I aspire to, I’ve seen a transformation in my outlook, emotions, and intentions for the better. This has translated into business results.

I’ve had my fair amount of moments when I thought about throwing in the towel, particularly when I didn’t gain the traction I worked so hard to achieve. When that happens, I remind myself that business ownership is tough, but getting through the frustration is always worth it. That has helped me stay on track and look forward to every single Monday. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but five years in, my business is thriving, my work remains incredibly fulfilling, and I have no plans to leave this work behind anytime soon.

Joseph Liu is a speaker, career change strategist, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast featuring stories of career reinvention. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.