The number one priority of every business owner is to stay in business. When you’re just starting out, the pressure to avoid returning to the cubicle farm can be so overwhelming that you put your passion and ideals on the backburner in favor of survival.
In most cases, that means taking on projects you’re not very interested in so you can pay your rent for the next several months. Or it could mean working on retainer with a client you aren’t the least bit excited about, because it’s an easier win than trying to land the kind of client you really want (or maybe you’re not even sure who that would be yet).
It feels like you’re selling-out, because this isn’t the inspired, creative and soul-stirring work-life experience you envisioned you would have as an entrepreneur. But you allow yourself to settle (for now), hoping it will buy you some time to figure out how to make your dream work.
However (and rather unfortunately), most folks never get to that point. More than a few years go by and you discover that things, though not ideal, aren’t so bad. You have a consistent flow of income. You’re no longer hustling for clients. There’s plenty of work to keep you busy and constructive. And, bonus, you’re still your own boss. You’re proud of yourself, of course, but you’re not really satisfied because this not-so-bad reality doesn’t feel like the kind of success you imagined. Instead, it feels like another damn job, meaning:
You’re not so naive that you think your business needs to be “perfect”, but you know where you are now is not where you want to be. So how did you get here? And, more importantly, what’s it going to take for you to get on the right track?
1. Admit that you traded your passion for a paycheck
Let me be clear here: there is no shame in choosing survival over your ideals. It’s the rational choice that most responsible people make when the alternative—returning to a 9-to-5 or starving—seems worse. The problem is that your fear of uncertainty kept you so focused on surviving that you didn’t even notice all the opportunities to pursue what you were really passionate about.
Coming to terms with this truth might piss you off at first, but it will most certainly free you to think proactively about how to address it.
2. Recognize that you’re at a pivot point
It’s important to also realize that you haven’t done anything wrong and you’re not beyond the point of no return. It’s this kind of thinking that keeps brilliant people stuck in mediocrity and playing small. The disillusionment you’re experiencing about your work and income isn’t just you being ungrateful. It’s a sign that you’re out of alignment with your bigger (and deeper) values. The frustration you’re feeling towards your clients isn’t just your restlessness or boredom. It’s your inner GPS telling you that you’ve officially gone too far off your original path, and now it’s time to change direction.
Although the idea of changing direction can be downright terrifying, it’s a maneuver that’s required to get you where you ultimately want to be …
… Working on projects that excite you with clients who make you feel like a rockstar
… Seeing the difference your hard work is making and feeling a sense of reward and purpose in that
… Knowing that your money matches your expertise and there’s potential for even more growth
3. Reconnect with your genius
The good news is all the experience and wisdom you’ve gained through this “off-track” season will inform (and even fuel) the next phase of your business. Before you can make a shift, though, you have to understand exactly how your personality, strengths, knowledge and experience—your genius—are meant to shape your focus and mission. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself moving forward but it still won’t be in the direction you really want to be headed.
Once you’re clear on all that, you can assess how your business needs to shift so you can cultivate the experience you desire and create the impact you want to have.
Over to you
Does your success as a solopreneur feel underwhelming? What’s the biggest point of discontent you’re experiencing right now? Let’s talk it out in the comments.
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