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Lessons from 3 years’ creative business building — Part 3: On growing a solo business (or not)

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This is Part 3 of a true story. You’ll enjoy it more (and it will make more sense) if you check out Part 1 and Part 2 first…

On growing a solo business

April 2014–mid 2015 : Adrenalin kicked hard when I published my ‘Work with me’ page.

Lucy Eckley , Breanne Dyck , Gretchen Behnke and Kate Haggman were kind enough to apply their professional eyes to the page to which I’d become too close.

Unbridled joy struck when I received the testimonial from my first client. Solo-slog weariness vanished. A body clock wacked across several time zones became worth it.

More lovely clients came and echoed the praise of the first.

We had lift off, baby.

I had my first glimpse of digital ease with super VA, Kathryn Hall . Alistair Gill , ‘my’ unwavering Google Analytics go-to guy became this treasure ship’s first mate.

Switching to the worry-free world of web hosting with , keeping projects rolling beautifully in Basecamp and invoicing like a pro with , was inordinately satisfying.

Then I used ‘ zaps ‘ to connect a few apps and pow! I was commander of the internet.

Palpable creative reward came from working with designer Sara Berkes on my ‘leveled up’ opt-in gift, Rebel Without a Clause : the busy solopreneur’s guide to online editing. The collaboration process, the results and the ensuing feedback from happy readers, triggered pretty powerful neuro-chemistry.

So did a Skype call with James Ranson when I really needed to talk to another editor; to have a sounding board and empathiser. To have another champion of quality on my side.

But the natural highs wear off.

That’s an edited version of history too.

…the ‘or not’ bit

Within that transcript of victories, I increasingly felt the limits of 3 things:

  • budget
  • brainspace
  • bodily will.

My financial, physical and mental health was suffering. I’d spent significant time alone and sedentary as I battled what had become the ‘business beast’. There was so much to learn and apply.

There was little to temper the ceaseless learning curve and my strengths were increasingly underused. I couldn’t get into flow often enough to feel its restorative power.

Doubt crept in.

I was bone tired.

My spark was elusive.

Going to meet and make friends was inordinately taxing. It wasn’t them.

It was me.

An honest look at the triumphs and despair of being a #solopreneur. Thanks @ispytreasure —

I knew intellectually it was okay to change course completely if I wanted to. (Inspiring others to be courageous and curious was the foundational tenet of this site).

I knew intellectually there was no shame in getting a part-time job or returning to contracting while I worked out how to be more effective as my own boss.

But I felt nothing.

Growing a solo business — or as it was, not growing it — had turned me to a husk.

‘Never give up!’ seemed like a cruel mantra.

What I didn’t feel then: it was good to impartially assess life regularly and ask myself if my circumstances were serving me well. It was sensible to act (guilt free) upon the answer. It was essential to take care of myself.


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