I recently took a well-deserved vacation up and down the West Coast. I scheduled my blog posts, doubled-checked my invoices, and gave my clients the scoop, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to miss out on something.
It was my first time away from my business for more than 72 hours, and as I packed and prepped, I started to feel some serious separation anxiety coming on. The night before I was set to leave, I opened an email from someone I had wanted to coach for a while. She was finally ready to sign on, and I was ecstatic.
“This is so great!,” I emailed back. “I’m totally thrilled to be working with you, and I’ll send you everything as soon as I get back in town next week.”
Her reply was immediate.
“I really want to get started right away. Can we have our first session while you’re on your trip?”
My stomach sank. She needed my help, and I needed the money. This would mean changing my plans or at least building in time on my vacation for a few hours of work.
“Seriously?” I thought. “I’ve been working on this relationship for months, and now she’s ready? I’m supposed to trudge my laptop to the beach with me, or worse, stay home? I’m a life coach, for pete’s sake! I’m supposed to be good at this stuff! I need to get a handle on what I will and won’t allow in my biz. And fast.”
After pacing my office, my head swimming with confusion and guilt, I realized:
“What I really need is my solopreneur bill of rights…a personal set of rules or guidelines I can go to when things get crazy or tough decisions have to be made. I need a compass, and I need it to be tailored to me.”
Here’s what I created, and here’s I what learned from the process.
Game-changer #1: Challenge the solopreneur trap
“If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.” - My mom, circa 1990 and every day after.
I usually (lovingly) roll my eyes when a client spouts this particular piece of martyrdom because it’s rarely true…except when my client is a solopreneur or freelancer. As one women shops, it is literally true that if we don’t write the blog post, that blog post isn’t going to exist. But just because you are the one responsible for making sure everything gets done, that doesn’t mean that you have to be the do-er.
Identify specific tasks that really don’t require you. For example, your savvy VA can probably handle scheduling meetings once in awhile, or if you truly hate balancing your books, hire a freelance bookkeeper or service. Challenge the notion that because you are flying solo, you have to suffer through tasks that aren’t serving you.
Game-changer #2: Say no with grace, not guilt
Most of us get into business because we care. We genuinely want to help our clients, and we long to create, express, and change the world. Naturally, when we want to say “no,” guilt arrives. After all, much of the business blogosphere teaches us that we have to take every opportunity and constantly hustle in order to “make it.”
Between people-pleasing tendencies and striking while the iron is hot, no wonder we end up in burnout.
When approached with an ask (like scheduling sessions on vacation), my new “no” strategy is simple:
- Speak up and think: I usually say, “Thank you! I am determined to finish a few current projects before taking on new ones. Let me check my calendar and give you an answer next week.” Then I truly consider: How much time is this actually going to take? How much of my energy will it pull? Is it a good fit for my brand? Do I actually want to do it? If I say “no,” what will I be able to say “yes” to instead?
- Follow through: Give a definitive answer. It might feel better to avoid a “no” you don’t want to give, but stringing someone along won’t assuage your guilt, and no one benefits from a half-hearted “yes” or your half-assed participation. Say no with a smile and nothing but positive intention in your heart, but don’t leave the door open for negotiation if you aren’t willing to negotiate.
- Comfort any lingering guilt: Saying “no” doesn’t mean you aren’t a helpful, flexible person, it just means that you chose another value that’s more important in this specific decision, and that’s okay.
Game-changer #3: Create your own Solopreneur Bill of Rights
Create a short list of rights you need to remember when things are tough, scary, or overwhelming, and post it in a place you see often.
I had a simple intention for my Solopreneur Bill of Rights: I want to be more like honey than water in my business. Water compromises its shape to fill the container it’s in, while honey flexibly glides about, capable of filling the container it’s in, but ultimately retaining much of its original shape (and sweetness).
My Solopreneur Bill of Rights reads:
- I have the right to say “no” to projects and clients that aren’t a good fit for my business.
- I have the right to keep office hours and turn my laptop off when office hours are over.
- I have the right to catch up on email every few days instead of the second it comes in.
- I have the right to charge what I am worth. Period.
- I have the right to raise my prices as I gain experience and expertise.
- I have the right to take a lunch break.
- I have the right to ask for help from my community.
- I have the right to avoid putting undue pressure on my business by taking a bridge job when things are slow.
- I have the right to be honest about my expectations.
- I have the right to love my business and change things about it that aren’t serving me.
Fellow solopreneur: You started this business for a reason. You have a right to enjoy running it.
Now it’s your turn. Create your Solopreneur Bill of Rights and post it in the comments or on Instagram. Tag us @onewomanshop and @amyecoaching so we can cheer you on!
Latest posts by Amy Everhart (see all)
- Why You Need a Solopreneur Bill of Rights, and How To Get Started - November 3, 2016