Life is tough for many small businesses at the moment, with figures out this week suggesting that trading conditions have hit a three-year low.
The myriad of challenges of running a start-up can be magnified when you’re a sole trader. Without anyone else to share the burden, the workload and stress can become overwhelming.
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Robert d’Apice, founder of personal finance tool Prosple, says that remaining cool, calm and collected as a soloist requires work.
“A solo founder is a really hard job. It surprised me how difficult it is, because as a management consultant in my previous job I thrived with independent work,” he says.
“Your highs are really high, but your lows are incredibly low – and there is no one around to help lift your spirits. Plus, with no accountability, it’s often easy to give in to the voice telling you to give up.”
“It’s really important that you spend time on yourself to keep your head in the right place, otherwise your business will suffer.”
So how should you try to remain on top of things?
Here are five top tips on staying sane as a self-employed person:
1. Get a board
Managing your motivation is one of the hardest realities of a single-person business. Forming a board means you have a formal process for goal-setting and review, as well as providing external accountabilities.
“Motivation is often easy in your early days, while you’re still on your honeymoon high, but when the going gets tough you’ve got no one around you to keep you strong,” d’Apice advises.
“As soon as I founded Prosple, I built a board of experienced business people that I knew I could trust.”
“Whenever we meet, I set clear objectives that I plan to achieve for Prosple before we meet again, and we review those objectives at the next meeting.”
“Otherwise, when I’m in the thick of it, it’s often difficult to track where Prosple has exceeded expectation and where we are struggling.”
“It’s also just good discipline. As a one-person-show, you’re trying to do a lot of different things at once. Having to prepare for a board meeting every few months is a good chance to stop, exhale, and set some medium-term goals.”