Only 30% of U.S. employees feel engaged and inspired by their careers. This is likely why so many turn to Solopreneurship, with sole enterprises making up 73% of all U.S. businesses. The question is, how can solopreneurs stay motivated and engaged? How can we avoid the problems affecting so many corporate employees? In this article, you’ll find six strategies that can help solopreneurs stay motivated.
1. Align Your Business with Your Lifestyle
A solopreneur’s business inevitably overlaps with off-work activities. If the overlap leads to stress, fatigue or time lost, motivation suffers. That’s why aligning your lifestyle with your business is a good way to stay motivated.
Here’s an example of aligning life with work: If you enjoy socializing after work, keep a schedule that leaves evenings open. Another example: If you’re a young parent, find ways to give yourself distraction-free time when working from home. By making decisions like these, you can stay fulfilled as an individual and a professional – and keep your solopreneur motivation high.
2. Don’t Go It Alone
Staying motivated as a solopreneur can be tough. Having a like-minded person (or group) near you provides valuable support and motivation. That’s why more and more American sole proprietors are using paid coaches and mastermind peer groups for company.
With a paid coach you get encouragement, expert advice and quick problem resolution. With a mastermind you get valuable networking opportunities and camaraderie. What matters is that both give you company, accountability and energy.
3. Use Personal Penalty Pacts (PPPs)
This is a spin on an idea from Nir Eyal’s excellent book, “Indistractible”. The concept is simple; as humans, we dread losses more than we crave wins. Creating situations where we have something to lose is one of the most powerful ways to find motivation.
One way to create these situations is through Personal Penalty Pacts. These are personal promises which, if broken, result in penalties. Here’s an example of one: “If I don’t run 12 miles this week, I’ll burn a $100 note come Friday.” Personal Penalty Pacts work very well for deadlines and other scenarios where you need a short-term burst of motivation. They’re less effective for long-term goals, at least in my experience.
4. Apply the Goldilocks Rule
When you run your own business, no one else is setting nor monitoring your workload for you. This makes it easy to do either too much or too little on any given day. In the former case the result is burnout; in the latter, it’s boredom.
That’s why we have the Goldilocks rule which states work should be “not too hard, not too easy, but just right.” When you use this rule, you always have enough challenges to keep work exciting – and enough victories to make it rewarding. You can apply the Goldilocks rule quantitatively, i.e. by doing more or less work to match your appetite. You can also apply it qualitatively, i.e. by adjusting the difficulty of the work you do.
5. Reward Yourself
You’re your own top employee. To stay motivated as a solopreneur, reward yourself for work done and milestones reached the same way you would with any other hire. One way to reward yourself is with fun activities. For example, I give myself 15 minutes of watching films, dining out, etc. for every one hour worked. A full 8-hour work day means 2 hours of doing whatever I want in the evening.
Another strategy is to attach motivating “bonuses” or “prizes” — cash, gifts, spa days or other services – to important business milestones. When a milestone is reached, you get to have fun and enjoy yourself!
6. Have a Business Plan
Most “stay motivated” articles talks about goals. But I want to go a step further and encourage you to write a formal business plan. Doing so will increase your likelihood of success, but that’s not all. As a motivated solopreneur, you’ve got infinite decisions to make. Making decisions is stressful to the point that it can lead to “decision fatigue.” The best thing you can do is make decisions in advance, and at scale, via a formal business plan.
If you’d like a simple, actionable plan that’s easier to make than a formal business one, this action plan template is a good place to start.