Self Employed and Miserable? This might be why.

I recently spotted a survey of employees in manufacturing which concluded that they were the least happy and engaged profession in the US with the 5 top reasons being cited for this: 

  1. Unsupportive manager
  2. Lack of tools and resources to complete the job
  3. Little opportunity for professional growth
  4. Poor internal processes and systems
  5. Dissatisfaction with colleagues

This made me think about how this translates to those of us working alone or running our own business, the ways in which we can sabotage our own success and happiness, and then what we can do so that we can be much better bosses to ourselves.

How familiar is this to you? 

1. Unsupportive Manager

If you had a boss who spoke to you the way you spoke to yourself would you stay working for them for long? A boss who told you, even after you had poured blood, sweat and tears into something, that your output  (and consequently you as a human) wasn’t good enough, would never be good enough, and that people - EVERYONE - would judge you. That you'd never amount to anything.  A boss who told you some days not to bother because there was no point, it’d all fail anyway.

These are the kind of the things I’ve said to myself and my coaching clients say to themselves ALL the time. I'm sure it sounds familiar to you too. It needs to stop. 

In my coaching sessions with founders & solo-preneurs, we work to reframe and replace these limiting beliefs and negative self-talk with real data and self compassion. I'm not saying that you walk around like a megalomaniac with illusions of grandeur and a refusal to believe that you're anything other than IN-FUCKING-VINCIBLE, however next time you notice yourself saying these horrible and unhelpful things to yourself, speak to yourself as you would to an eager and devotedly loyal employee who is doing their best and watch the difference in your motivation and energy towards your business. 

2. Lack of tools and resources to complete the job

As an entrepreneur, freelancer, solo founder or startup you’re suddenly no longer just responsible for delivering the skill or service that you have trained in and been good at. You’re now responsible for product development, sales, marketing, accounting, HR, innovation and probably a lot else besides - all on your own. 

I used to beat myself up in the early days of running a business because my branding wasn’t on-point and as slick as someone else’s, that I didn’t know how to develop a really robust business plan, that I wasn’t marketing strategically etc etc. I somehow forgot the fact that in all the other companies I had worked in they had specialists doing all of that and it still took them forever and a day and a load of stress to get it right. 

How to get beyond this? Focus on what you’re great at, try to develop the areas you absolutely need to and OUTSOURCE what you can to people who can do it better than you. That’s not failure or laziness, it’s smart business. Once I started to accept that it was a cost of being in business and being open to getting people to help me things totally changed for me. 

3. Little Opportunity for Professional Growth.

How many of you have a personal development plan? How many of you have a coach and/or mentor? How many of you go to networking and professional development events? How many of you have a business you don't know how to scale? How many of you get regular feedback on your skills, strengths, weaknesses and ways to leverage these?

It’s easy to stay stuck in the short term or just to focus on building business rather than yourself but if you don’t invest in yourself then your business will be stunted and you will quickly lose motivation because neither of you will be reaching your potential.

Find mentors to look up to, a coach to propel you, link with other people in the industry, go to events. Take your personal development as seriously as your business development. 

4. Poor Internal Processes and Systems

Do you have a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual plan? Or even one of those? Many people who run their own businesses and many of my creative clients feel like they’re allergic to structure and processes, which is why the free life of entrepreneurship appealed, yet the blunt truth is that you simply will not be able to scale your business without it.

Set days to do set things will ensure you stay on track and having consistent client experiences will create trust and confidence for those working with you. 

The first thing I do with all my coaching clients is develop a plan for the period we’re committing to work together and I hold them accountable to it while allowing for flexibility as the business evolves. After all, how will you know when you’ve hit success if you didn’t know what you were aiming for. 

5. Dissatisfaction with Colleagues.

Similar to point number 1 in that you’re your own boss and your own colleague. Be nicer to yourself. Period.

On top of this there's the fact you're the only one. Many entrepreneurs, freelancers, founders etc feel incredibly lonely because they don’t have anyone else to split the decision making with and to truly share the highs of their successes and lows of their bad days.

Think about your social circle and support network. Are there other people who are also running their own businesses in there? They will get it and be able to support you much easier than those who aren’t. 

Get a coach or mentor to support you, be your cheerleader and work alongside you. When I coach entrepreneurs and people who work a lot by themselves a HUGE amount of our time together is spent on mindset, helping you feel re-energised and not alone. That someone else cares and it matters to them whether or not you tick all those things off your to do list, rather than it slipping into next week which can happen when we think no one is bothered or interested and it's all too much. 

Network. Make new friends. Even if you're an introvert, do it just do it more selectively. Find or create a tribe that uplifts you and that you can learn from and bounce off of.  One of my intentions over the next 6 months is to develop an online community of the brilliant people I work with so that we can support each other, it’s really helped me being part of one through my own coach. If you’d like to be informed when it goes live please register to join my list here. I promise I don’t spam or sell info, I’ll just make sure you’re among the first to know.