The REAL reason why we become solopreneurs

The REAL reason why we become solopreneurs… (story time about my solopreneurship journey!)

I have been a solopreneur for well over a decade at this point, and I think that often, we lose touch with the REAL reason why we become solopreneurs in the first place — and all of the wonderful facets of solopreneurship that there are to embrace. (This is especially true when you’re caught in the “hustle and grind,” or when most business gurus are talking about how you “need” to grow your team, or that “staying as a solopreneur means you’re playing small,” etc. We are here to dismantle that perspective, FYI!)

With that in mind, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my story with you… and also to give you the space to reconnect with your own story, too.

(Be sure to read all the way until the end for journalling prompts and a powerful vision of YOUR future!)

Let’s dive in: 

The catalyst for my business was a health blog I started in 2008, which paved the way for me to get my first freelance writing gigs in the health sector. That lead me to my first big freelance contract with a public relations agency in 2010 (I was hired to do work for their health centre client) — but the problem was: 

  1. PR life is exciting but the way I was doing it was NOT sustainable for someone like me (the urgency/hustle/frantic nature of working in PR is exciting for a short while, but it soon lead to me feeling exhausted and burned out — especially since I have chronic anxiety, nightmare disorder, and insomnia)
  2. I had no idea what I was doing as a business owner (and made a lot of mistakes with the foundations of my business — namely because I didn’t HAVE good foundations set up!)
  3. Productivity and organization just wasn’t in my wheelhouse. One of my 1:1 solopreneur coaching clients first came to me for help because she felt like a “hot mess,” and honestly, that perfectly describes me back when I started my business! I was all over the place, putting out fires, always in reactive mode rather than proactive mode, and it just wasn’t sustainable.

…so when that long-term gig wrapped up, I panicked. I had no idea how to replace my income from that one big contract, and most importantly, I didn’t feel like I “had it in me” or was “cut out” for being my own boss.

I felt like a failure because I wasn’t “able” to hold myself accountable, stay motivated and on track, and discipline myself to make my own business WORK. I was exhausted and frustrated, my systems were a mess, and I didn’t have a good business structure or processes to work with.

It didn’t help that I’ve navigated chronic anxiety, chronic insomnia, and chronic nightmare disorder my whole adult life, either. I figured that since the usual business advice didn’t work for me, maybe it meant that I wasn’t capable of being a successful business owner (I wish I could wrap up Past Sagan in a big hug and tell her that this is so NOT true!).

And as a result, I accepted the first 9 to 5 job I could get — wearing multiple hats at a non-profit (while still doing some small freelance contracts on the side).

Here’s where things got really interesting: That nonprofit had a few core staff members, but it was mostly operating based on interns and people fresh out of university. It relied on the energy and enthusiasm of people being in their early 20s. It was also very much a rotating staff, because many of the intern positions by nature (since they were funded through grants) could not remain on staff for longer than 6 months or a year at most. 

All of this meant that I (along with the rest of the team) was put in a position of needing to HUSTLE, to do the workload of multiple people within 30 hours/week, and to create from scratch documentation and materials for legacy planning, since so much of the work was constantly changing hands as people left and joined the team on such a temporary basis.

…I learned how to accomplish a lot of tasks in the space of 30 hours/week!

There wasn’t really an option — you had to learn how to maximize efficiency in an office like that, and to hold yourself accountable for getting the work done. And the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that I was developing some fantastic skills to be able to be my own boss (especially since, throughout all this, I was also studying to be a Certified Holistic Nutritionist). I kept turning the idea over and over in my head, wondering if I was willing to make the leap and do things on my own… and it was a tough choice, because I knew that the work I did at that nonprofit was important, and I had some amazing coworkers! 

The moment when it clicked for me that I was definitely ready — in fact, past ready — to jump ship and go full-time with my own business was in the middle of a meeting I had with my boss, when she made a comment about *not knowing what I was doing all day* at the office (bearing in mind that I was in charge of the province-wide youth programming, all fundraising and development for the nonprofit, and office wellness. I was wearing three different hats and working HARD!)

I realized then that I was under-appreciated — and I knew I never wanted to feel like that again.

THAT was the moment that I decided it was time to go.

Sidebar: My boss and I got along fairly well, and this isn’t a dig at her! This just happened to be *the* pivotal moment that changed everything for me.

My contract was up for renewal about five months later, so I spent those months prepping everything for my business (and ensuring I left everything in good standing so that anyone who replaced me wouldn’t be struggling at the nonprofit). I was determined that when I went full-time with my business again, that I’d be able to do it right! 

I didn’t want the same “hot mess” experience that I’d had before. I knew that I needed to be mindful of burnout and manage my energy a lot better. And I was starting to realize that since traditional productivity hacks didn’t work for me previously, I’d need to test out different options. 

That was back in 2014 — and I’ve been a full-time business owner ever since. I created a schedule that worked awesome for my spouse (for many years, he worked out of the province for 2 weeks and then was home for 1 week off work, year-round, so I mirrored my business schedule to his own schedule, to ensure we could spend quality time together during his week off work each month), and I wasn’t working a ridiculous amount of hours each week, and I wasn’t forcing myself to use systems or methods that felt “off” to me. 

The work I did involved some nutrition consulting/coaching (since by that point I was a Certified Holistic Nutritionist — the studying and exams that I’d done on the side while working my 9 to 5 job had paid off!), and a lot of freelance writing and freelance editing.

It was liberating. It was joyful. And I could feel how much potential there was to continue going on this path.

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    But there’s more to the story…

    You see, several years later, one of my best friends at the time (who worked 9 to 5 jobs but did some small freelance digital marketing gigs on the side) suggested that we join forces in a business partnership, and create a communications agency together. 

    I liked the idea of us doing a business partnership, but the idea of an agency wasn’t something I’d been working toward. In fact, at that time, I’d started to shift away from freelancing and toward creating and teaching online business courses and coaching other freelancers. I loved the opportunity to support other people who’d been in that same “hot mess” position that I’d once been in! I’d discovered a passion for business management and the skills required for working from home effectively when you’re your own boss, so that was what I was spending much more of my time doing. 

    I wasn’t sure that I necessarily wanted to pivot again and essentially return back to doing freelance writing work for the majority of my time, by joining forces with my friend in a business partnership. The REAL reason why we become solopreneurs

    We had several lengthy, in-depth discussions in which I brought full pages of questions for him regarding his idea for a joint business; we mapped out what a business partnership would look like, how we could make it work without it affecting our friendship (especially since his spouse was one of my best friends as well), and so on. 

    After crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, I felt confident in the decision to move forward with the business partnership. He was still working a 9 to 5 job as we spent the next year developing our business and moving forward with it — I essentially folded my solopreneur business under the umbrella of our business partnership, which involved reworking all of the branding and creating new social media accounts and websites etc.

    And then, about a year into making this decision, he realized that it wasn’t what he wanted after all. We amicably dissolved the business partnership and went our separate ways.

    But the thing was, it wasn’t something I could just walk away from. It was easy enough for him to simply take this off his plate, since it was a side gig for him and he still had his 9 to 5 job. He had nothing to lose. I, on the other hand, had pinned everything on this business partnership; I didn’t have a fall-back plan, because we’d folded my entire business into this partnership. 

    In other words: After spending a full year rebranding my entire solopreneur business into the business partnership and reworking all my strategies, plans, marketing, etc, suddenly I needed to UNDO that entire year’s worth of work and start my solopreneur business again. 

    It was a year’s worth of work that I needed to undertake, all on my own — and this meant a gigantic amount of rebranding, tearing down all my strategies and plans and rebuilding from scratch, dealing with financial losses, having the worst panic attack of my life (I had to call the paramedics because I genuinely thought I was having a heart attack and that this business partnership dissolution was literally going to kill me — I still remember calling 911 because I was so certain that otherwise I’d die there, on the floor of my office, in the middle of dealing with my business rebuild)...

    …All while navigating the grief of business partnership dissolution (and, it would turn out, the loss of friendship with him and his spouse — because it was too difficult for me to move past and maintain a good friendship with them after all of that, with the financial hit and the panic attack, but especially because I felt like I’d been left on my own to pick up the pieces of my entire livelihood).

    Sidebar: I want to make it clear here that I don’t blame anyone for the business partnership dissolution. And it’s probably a million times better that we dissolved it after a single year, rather than building things up for many years and then backing out of it. That would have been even more of an undertaking to deal with! It takes a lot for a person to be honest and realize when something is not for them, and to back out of it. 

    …But I want to be very honest with you in sharing this story, because the reality of business — of life — is that sometimes, it’s really, really hard; sometimes, there’s a huge amount of pain to work through; sometimes, things happen beyond our control, and we are left to pick up the pieces; and sometimes, we can find opportunity in these extremely challenging times. 

    Because here’s what happened next: 

    I began to create the foundations of the anti-hustle framework that would become Productivity Powerhouse — without realizing that that’s what I was doing at the time.

    What happened is that I was dealing with the business dissolution and rebuild while still needing to maintain my ongoing client work etc. I had a business to run, even while I was dealing with a massive project on the backend. And my energy was all over the place. I was exhausted, I was crying daily, I was devastated from losing my friends and the business that I thought I’d have for the rest of my life. I was grieving everything, and very few people in my life truly understood this (we don’t exactly have in place a process for grieving businesses or friendships in our society), which just made it that much more difficult to process and navigate.

    On top of all this, I was going through an identity crisis, and I was questioning everything. One of the big thoughts that kept going through my head was, “I thought this business partnership was IT. I trusted in this business and my business partner completely that this would work out for the long-term. How could I have been so wrong? If I made that bad of a judgment call, what does that say about my ability to make good judgment calls in the future? How can I trust myself in my business decisions, moving forward?”

    I needed to figure out a way to develop my self-trust again, to be willing to understand my weaknesses and where I’d gone wrong with the business partnership, to own up to my mistakes and figure out how to learn from that experience so I could do and be better in the future, and to manage my energy, improve productivity, and take good care of myself throughout all of this.

    And THAT was really the crux for me being “forced” to dive deep into creating anti-hustle methodologies that could support and sustain me and my business during this intense time of my life.

    I began radically shifting my approach to business, to my schedule, to how I structured everything, to accommodate for the huge anxiety flare-ups that were getting in my way, and to be kinder to myself about everything I was going through. I began doing creative writing again (something I’d walked away from for quite a few years) and found that writing and publishing novellas did great things for my energy and mental health. 

    I took back my power and fully recognized, deep in my bones, that I am enough on my own; that my business can be wonderful and liberating and successful and enjoyable with "just" me in it.

    And I realized that through changing my approach to productivity, I was able to have the capacity to navigate heavy emotions, to make room for passion projects, to overhaul and grow my business, and to enjoy myself and my business in a whole new, more freeing way.

    A year later, toward the end of 2019, I launched Productivity Powerhouse to share my anti-hustle methodologies with the world…

    And a year after that, I revamped Productivity Powerhouse with the simple 9-step framework that was the foundation I’d been using for everything (up until that point, I simply hadn’t broken it down into a system/curriculum like this).

    Learn more about how I became a productivity coach in this vlog.

    Here are some of the key takeaways from this story — the REAL reason why I wanted to be a solopreneur: 

    • Freedom and flexibility to do things on my own terms, to live the life I wanted to live, to be responsible and accountable to myself, and to do more of the type of work that lights me up — without anyone else holding me back, imposing their views on things, or throwing a wrench into my goals and dreams.
    • The opportunity to shift and pivot and follow my passions and interests, regardless of what life (or the world!) throws in my direction.
    • To challenge myself to be and do more and better, to live up to my fullest potential and strive for something beyond the boxes that society tries to squeeze us into, and to develop my self-honesty and self-trust (including learning how to recognize and own up to my own mistakes and weaknesses, and managing those without them dragging me down).
    • Accommodate for my mental health — chronic anxiety, chronic insomnia, and chronic nightmare disorder — and make space for all of me, kindly, without trying to hide from or ignore the parts of myself that can feel difficult.
    • Be an example for others of what life can be like… so you don’t have to be stuck in the cycle of burnout or overwhelm or struggles or frustrations, and so that you can, instead, get inspired and see real-life, real-time examples of what is possible for you, too.

    I want you to know that you are not alone. Even though solopreneurship can feel like you’re doing everything by yourself, you are not alone. 

    Solopreneurship is truly one of the most liberating, freeing, wonderful experiences in the world. It gives us the opportunity to follow the path we truly desire; it provides the space and capacity to build a business that fully supports our personal life values, goals, and ideal lifestyle; and it stretches us, pushes us, to be radically honest with ourselves, to learn to trust ourselves, and to challenge ourselves beyond what we might initially think we are capable of accomplishing.

    Here’s what my life looks like, at this point: 

    • I still have chronic anxiety, chronic nightmare disorder, and chronic insomnia. These things have not magically disappeared. However, my business is structured in such a way to accommodate for these things, so that they do not control my life. They are simply there — and that's okay! My business makes room for those parts of me and supports me in the best ways to manage my anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares.
    • I still experience some moments of lower energy, some moments of feeling overwhelmed, some moments of very real fear about the current and future state of my life and business… but because of the deep inner work I do on an ongoing basis, and because of my anti-hustle foundations, I am able to process and work through those thoughts and feelings, so that they do not hold me back from moving forward with my vision and goals. My business runs smoothly regardless of my energy levels because I've designed it to do so.
    • I still work hard and put in the effort for my business (and I enjoy doing that!) — and at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it’s “hard work.” It doesn’t feel heavy or joyless or like I’m chained to my desk. It feels fantastic to put in sincere effort into my business, because this is work I care deeply about and love doing. When I work hard, now, it lights me up. It gives me energy. This is because I am putting in effort for something I genuinely love and doing it in a way that feels fantastic for my brain and lifestyle; I am not forcing myself into doing things I don’t enjoy and I am not feeling “weighed down” by my business. Putting in effort and working hard does not mean that the work itself needs to BE hard or exhausting — there's a difference between "working hard" vs "hard work." 

    I became highly skilled at productivity and solopreneurship through years of trial and error, through experimenting and creating highly strategic (and replicable, and repeatable) methodologies that can be fully customized on an ongoing basis, and through ongoing professional development (for example, becoming a Certified Holistic Nutritionist way back in the day, becoming an internationally board-certified Success & Life Coach in 2021, doing smaller forms of continuing education, and constantly critiquing my work and analyzing it for improvement prior to making changes and building on my existing skillsets).

    This didn’t happen overnight, but it also doesn’t need to take years and years to develop these skills.

    You do not need to wait for a heavy time in your life or business to make meaningful change.

    You can do this work and get fantastic results from it, benefitting deeply from it, at any time in your life or business — you do not need to wait for something to “happen” in order for you to make this move.

    Enough about me! Let's get to what matters here...

    Why did YOU start your business? What drives you?

    Maybe you desire a business that gives you room for freedom and flexibility, independence and autonomy, as the seasons of your life shift and as your multi-passionate interests evolve…

    Maybe you have ambitious dreams for writing a book, offering a life-changing service, or embracing your most courageous, successful self to do the thing you’ve been avoiding for years…

    Maybe you wish you could take a full week off work each month, or enjoy a three-day weekend every week, without it affecting your productivity or the bottom line of your business…

    Maybe you long for more time and energy for what matters most to you — family and friends and awesome life experiences while making each day-to-day great!

    Those are AMAZING driving forces — and I want to help you get all of those incredible things you want!

    → That’s what Solopreneur CEO does for you ♥

    Let's take your dreamy idea a step further...

    Imagine… It’s one year from now, and you wake up in the morning without the frantic, dreaded feeling of “Oh no, I forgot about that deadline… I’ve gotta get to my desk ASAP!”

    → Instead, you wake up at a time that feels good for you, and you feel eager to start your workday — not in a frantic way, but in an “I get to do what I love on my own terms!” way.

    As you go through your day, you never have to wonder what to do next — all of that has already been figured out. You spend some time making awesome progress on your projects, and you’re actually enjoying yourself and having fun with all of it. It feels good.

    And because you’ve built flexibility into your schedule, when you friend asks if you want to have an impromptu call to catch up, you can say, “Yes, I’d love that!” without falling behind on your workload…

    You get outside for some fresh air in the middle of the day, perhaps enjoy a leisurely lunch or take some time to read a great book, and then you might return to your desk and check off a task or two before closing your computer at the end of the day — fully satisfied with everything you accomplished that day!

    You spend the evening enjoying time with your friends or family or indulging in a hobby that you always wanted to do, but hadn’t ever gotten around to doing before…

    And you aren’t worried or distracted by tomorrow’s tasks, because you know you’re on track, ahead of schedule, and everything you need is already done and ready for you when you start the workday tomorrow.

    How does that feel?

    This life can be yours — it IS yours when you become a Solopreneur CEO.

    ...And if you didn't click that link... What's holding you back?

    Maybe you’re holding yourself back from experiencing that life because you don’t know what to do, in order to get there… (Psst — Solopreneur CEO guides you step by step to get there!)

    …Or maybe you’re holding yourself back because even though you DO know what to do, it feels too scary or uncomfortable to take action yet.

    That’s why one of the key cornerstones of Solopreneur CEO is all about courage…

    → We’ll address your fears and discomfort *and* move beyond them, so that you take ACTION on that life you’ve been dreaming about!

    ⇒ Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to have knowledge, insights, ideas, plans… You need to take aligned, intentional action on them.

    If you are NOT taking the action — if you keep saying “I already know this, I just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet” — then there is a disconnect.

    You need to connect your behaviours, habits, and actions to your thoughts, ideas, and plans.

    Let me repeat that: You need to connect your behaviours, habits, and actions to your thoughts, ideas, and plans.

    If you are not doing that, then this is a problem. It’s going to keep holding you back for weeks, months, YEARS to come…

    ...and it indicates that something needs to change.

    We do that together when you join Solopreneur CEO!

    A few of the things we’ll do together include…

    • Sustainable Scalability (because we want to make sure your growth is SUSTAINABLE: so that you have the capacity continue scaling your business, without tiring yourself out)
    • Transformational & Professional Excellence (embodying your best, most successful self!)
    • Daring Business Growth (taking the big leaps and aligned, intentional, strategic action on those dreamy ideas and plans)

    By the time we wrap up Solopreneur CEO together, you’ll finally feel like a real CEO, your business will be able to run itself without you needing to be at the helm 24/7, you’ll achieve the dreamy goals we set together at the beginning of the program, and you’ll have the courage to continue to pursue your dreams...

    Your business will have the capacity to grow with ease, while supporting both your clients AND yourself:

    "Wow! I feel like my questions are so big in my brain, and then we talk about them and solve them in 3 minutes during a coaching call... This is so helpful!

    I really love our Solopreneur CEO sessions because I get such a different perspective from Sagan, versus the other mentors I have... Sagan is great at coaching on business management and how you're going about doing things and your business structure and processes. I love it. It's very useful!"

    - CJ, pet photographer

    → You are fully capable of taking strategic action on your ideas. I am right here to guide you through the process, to get you unstuck, to get you moving in the right direction, to connect your knowledge and insights to your behaviours and actions.

    All you need to do is save your spot in Solopreneur CEO.

    Can't wait to help you create your dreamy life!

    My final questions for you, now, that I hope you take some time to do some reflecting and journaling on: 

    1. Why do YOU want to become a solopreneur? What is your goal with this?
    2. Why is it so important for you to do this work?
    3. If you think about where you are *now* as your “Before” experience… What do you want your “After” picture to look like? What will you do to achieve the “After” experience that you desire?

    I would love to support you in achieving your “After” experience, guiding you through your own solopreneurship journey, and providing you with the anti-hustle methodologies that have deeply changed my life and business (and the lives and businesses of my clients).

    I am currently accepting clients in my Solopreneur CEO 6-month 1:1 coaching & mentorship program — and I am now inviting you to join me in that experience.

    Learn more and book your spot in Solopreneur CEO today.

    Limited spots available.