One of the biggest drivers for many solopreneurs is the "solo".
You don't have a boss telling you what to do, and you don't have to spend time managing other people. For people with an independent streak, it's the perfect gig.
Except when it isn't, of course. Running your own business has many benefits and it can be exceptionally freeing, but it also comes with additional responsibilities. You're in charge of handling all the strategic duties and the burden of the grunt work behind every project, in addition to your own business responsibilities.
With all the added pressure, it's easy to feel burnt out or overloaded. You might even start to wonder whether or not you should even be working for yourself.
But before you shut down your website and clean up your resume, you might consider an alternative strategy for dealing with all the extra obligations: Outside help.
As a highly independent, "I can do everything" kind of person, I wish I learned this lesson much sooner but it's not too late for you.
Here's how you know it's time to find an extra hand (or two).
1. You're running on empty
The first and most obvious sign you're ready for help is physical and mental exhaustion. This can include everything from chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, illness, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, or even more frequent outbursts of anger. Burnout can also come with symptoms of detachment, such as a loss of enjoyment, pessimism, isolation and apathy.
It's easy to overlook some of these signs in their early stages. "You're just tired from a busy week," you might say. Or, "Things will settle down once this project is done." Only things never seem to settle down or your energy remains low.m
Often these symptoms are the result of working too hard or working on the wrong things. You simply have too much on your desk and your brain is screaming for a break. Or, maybe your workload is okay, but you don't have enough of the work that really motivates you. Either way, the result is overload.
The longer you without addressing the overload, the worse things will get until you experience complete burnout. Burnout is much harder to recover from than overload -- catch it while it's still manageable.
Where to find help when you feel burnt out
When it comes to burnout, the best source of help is actually you.
You've heard this before but it's true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can catch the symptoms soon, small tweaks may be enough. Going to bed early, eating three solid meals a day, and stepping away from your desk to get some exercise can help alleviate burnout. Don't forget to evaluate your current clients. If you continually dread talking with a particular client, it may be time to let them go.
But if you're already feeling overwhelmed, consider taking taking additional steps by creating a schedule, doing difficult tasks first thing in the morning, or by taking a mental vacation.
2. You're suffering from decision fatigue
Even if you're not experiencing other signs of burnout, you may still struggle to get things done because of decision fatigue.
Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, who coined the phrase "decision fatigue", believes that humans have limited willpower, and that the more decisions you make throughout the day, the harder it becomes for your brain to make them.
Baumeister notes that we went up making poor decisions and lose productivity toward the end of the day because we simply have too many choices in front of us. If you spend too much of your mental energy deciding what to do, how to do it and when to do it, you'll be more likely to make a poor decision or drop the ball on a project by the end of the day.
The rub is that as a solopreneur, you'll be faced with significantly more choices than most traditional employees. You have to make decisions for yourself, your business and even for your clients. If you find yourself constantly flummoxed by what to charge a client, whether you should take on a project, or how to start your day, you're probably suffering from decision fatigue.
Without some outside perspective when it comes to decision-making you run the risk of not being able to make decisions at all. And that will only hurt your bottom line.
Where to find help with decision making
Taking on decision fatigue is about eliminating choices that you don't absolutely have to make. To reduce your daily choices, automate repetitive tasks and activities. Use an app like Calendly to schedule client meetings, eliminating the brain drain of the email scheduling game. Create automated email responses for days when you want to focus on other projects.
Automation isn't just good for your business, automate what you can in your personal life. Try a service like Amazon's subscription program to ship frequently purchased items so you don't have to remember to purchase them or run to the store. Put as many of your bills on autopay as you can.
Any form of automation will free you from the endless micro-decisions that tax your brain unnecessarily and prevent you from operating at 100%.
3. You're scaling your business
Even if you're not suffering from burnout or decision fatigue, you may still need help for more positive reasons.
There comes a point in every solopreneur's journey where's time to ask: "Am I ready to scale my business?" Can you take on more clients? Are you ready to re-brand so you can charge more? Should you target a different market or focus on more personally enjoyable projects?
Scaling your business can be exciting, it can also be scary. Maybe you struggled to get where you are now and you're not sure where to go from here. Maybe you grew really fast initially but aren't sure how to keep growing.
Or maybe you have your strategy figured out but you realize there simply aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you want to do. Either way, there will come a time when you have to drop the solo act and get some assistance, even if temporarily.
Where to find help when scaling your business
At this stage, you might need a variety of sources of outside assistance. You may need a coach or mentor for advice, or you might need to fire additional help to handle the workload.
Start by assessing your needs. If you're not sure about what steps to take next, look for someone who has been there before who can guide you on your journey. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help you focus your attention. (Our assessment program is designed to do just that.)
If you know where you want to go but aren't sure how you to handle additional work, consider outsourcing some of your projects or hiring a third-party team to mange some of your tasks. Finally, consider working with a virtual assistant to manage bookkeeping, help manage decision fatigue and reduce your overall stress.
One thing many solopreneurs have in common is stubbornness, or a willingness to never give up. While this is an excellent trait for starting your own business, it can backfire if you're too stubborn to realize it's time to seek help.
Keep in mind that no one is truly self-made; successful people have someone or something in the background aiding them on their journey, and so should you.
Whatever you do, don't be afraid of turning to others to get your needs met. Growing your business comes with enough challenges on its own. Don't be so headstrong that your business (or your brain, or body) suffers for it. It's actually the strongest way you can bet on yourself.