Being a solo founder takes a lot of hard work, determination, and ambition. From the idea stage to full realisation, there is a path ahead of you that is filled with long days and late nights. However, although founding a company on your own can be a grind, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself while doing it.
Having fun while founding is not only important to keeping you sane, it can be a driving force towards success. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
You’ve heard the phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” It’s a famous quote from the movie “The Shining.” While it’s an extreme example, that movie does show how quickly someone can get wrapped up in their work and lose themselves.
Work can be overwhelming. As a solo founder, it’s almost a guarantee that it will be. However, being in the right frame of mind is incredibly important to your overall success. Laugh every day. Seriously. Whether it’s at yourself for doing something silly or a funny cat video on YouTube. Keep yourself loose and remember to inject some joy into a hard day’s work.
Fall Down 5 Times. Get Up 6.
To be a solo founder, you need to develop thick skin. Get used to hearing the word “no” because it will happen a lot. Whether it’s investors who don’t want to take a chance on you or prospective employees who aren’t looking for a risky employment situation; “no” is a phrase you need to get used to.
You can expect to fall down a lot. The important part is getting back up. Regard each setback as a learning opportunity (because that’s what they are), and come back twice as strong. Don’t dwell, learn. The famous inventor, Thomas Edison, once remarked:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work
Did that quote give you a chuckle? Good, then you’re following tip #1. Apply it to tip #2 now and get up, learn what didn’t work, and come back strong.
Celebrate Your Successes
How do you define success? When you’ve scored your first investor? Hired your first employee? Fulfilled your first order? The answer truly is: all of the above. Each success is a milestone on your journey from solo founder to successful business. Celebrate them without reservation.
I have a glass bowl on my desk that I call my 'Bowl of Success'. Each time I hit a goal, overcome an obstacle or have a win (no matter how small or big) I write it down on a post-it note and pop it in my bowl. I get a real kick out of seeing the jar fill up. It's also a mood lifter to read through these when I am having a low day.
Remember the first two tips? These all tie together. When you get knocked down, you can perk yourself up by reaching into the bowl and remembering how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, you aren’t enjoying the good times!
Surround Yourself With Positivity
Being a solo founder can get lonely and there will be times when you feel like giving up. Therefore, surrounding yourself with the right people is important. Whether it’s friends and family who provide support, or (more importantly) any early employees / co-founders you take on.
There is no shortage of people who will bring you down, even if it isn’t on purpose. Instead, surround yourself with positive people who will lift you up and help give you the strength you need to keep moving forward.
Remember: It’s Excitement You’re Feeling
Whenever you’re feeling scared, nervous, or apprehensive about your business; take a moment to relax. It’s normal to feel tingles in your stomach when walking into a pitch meeting, or anxious when you’re waiting to hear back from the VC firm who’s considering investing with you.
Tell yourself that what you’re really feeling is excitement. Often, that is truly the case. And excitement is a powerful, driving force that can keep you going. Turn those nerves into a positive force that keeps you going.