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The Solopreneur Slump and How to Make a Comeback
I felt like I had hit rock bottom. In effort to curb my anxiety, I tried to meditate by focusing on my breathing. The sounds of insistent honking and traffic from outside my hotel window in Jaipur, India seemed to resemble the inner turmoil I was facing. I was trying to decide if it was time to throw in the towel and end my dream of being a solopreneur.
If we go back in time, 2015 to be exact, I used to be a corporate drone. I was doing the normal 8-5, Monday through Friday, and was bored out of my mind. I felt like just another identification number among many other robots chained to their cubicles.
I remember “multitasking” while on a conference call (we all know that means “not actually listening”) and looking at travel blogs. I came across the term “digital nomad,” which means you can work all over the world with a laptop in hand and accessible Wifi. Something inside me clicked: this is the lifestyle I wanted.
I’m not sure what came over me, but I began dedicating all waking hours to this dream of becoming a digital nomad. The next eight months were spent teaching myself a skill that I could earn money with while traveling. I chose to build websites and do affiliate marketing. When I wasn’t working my job, or learning web dev things, I was majorly downsizing. My goal was to get rid of everything that couldn’t fit into my 40L backpack.
I would schedule appointments for friends to come and raid my closet. The juicer I never used went on Craiglist, my bed went to Goodwill, and my fat cat Henry moved in with my sister. It was hard to part with all these material items, especially my kitty, but it was also liberating. I didn’t have things weighing me down anymore. It was almost like a lifestyle cleanse.

The Solopreneur Slump and How to Make a Comeback

On March 21st, 2016, I quit my job and boarded a one-way flight. I will always remember the date because of the numbers: 3-2-1. The next year was spent hopping from one amazing city to the next.
Here are just a few of the things I did:
  • Hiked through the Scottish Highlands while listening to Scottish folklore
  • Attended Oktoberfest in Munich wearing a dirndl
  • Celebrated Holi Festival in India
  • Rode a camel through the Arabian desert
  • Stayed in a 15th century Tudor home in Salisbury, UK
  • Saw Lake Bled in Slovenia
  • Bathed in the public baths in Budapest
  • Relaxed in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
  • Saw the Book of Kells in Dublin
  • Sat on the Princess Diana bench in front of the Taj Mahal
In each of the 20 countries I went to, I learned something different about myself. I learned how to be completely independent and how to gauge people quickly. Most importantly, I gained confidence. Being on your own and recognizing that you can fulfill your dream was the most empowering experience for myself.

Back to the Hot Mess Express

Let’s jump back to that anxious woman in India. I was a nervous wreck. The problem was the road was beginning to wear on me. To most people, it sounds like a continuous vacation. In reality, it’s hard work. You’re constantly trying to find your way navigationally and emotionally. On top of trying to build a business, I wasn’t juggling all of the stressors very well.
My business was barely staying afloat, mostly by my own doing. It’s difficult to keep focused when the Taj Mahal or the Sheikh Zayed Mosque are just waiting to be explored. My savings were dwindling and I was lacking a focus.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I got a call from my mother, letting me know that my grandmother had passed away. This was the beginning of my nervous breakdown and what ultimately was the deciding factor for me to go home and get my head on straight. I needed stability, time with my family to grieve, and to really think about what I wanted in life.

The Digital Nomad Back in Iowa

My journey back to my home in Iowa was a grueling 26 hours. I landed just in time to run home to my parents’ house (I’m technically homeless since I got rid of everything), shower, and put on a black dress for my grandma’s funeral.
The next few hours were surreal; I’m sure it was a combination of jet lag, grief, and my already high state of anxiety. My friends and family would approach me and ask about my adventures. I’d give them what I call the “elevator speech.” It’s my quick story of what I’m doing, where I’ve been, my favorite places, etc. Answering the usual questions people ask you.
The one question that I wasn’t prepared for was – “What are you going to do next?” I skirted around this question multiple times. I had no idea what I was going to do next. In my mind, I had two options.
Option 1 – Go back to the corporate world. I kind of missed having a steady paycheck, a home to call my own, and reliable benefits (like health insurance). But, I knew that I quit that life for a reason. How would I be happy going back to that life, especially when I had experienced so much freedom?
Option 2 – Keep building my business and continue down the road of the uncertainty of being a digital nomad. This was a dream I had worked so hard to accomplish, why wasn’t I happy? I questioned if it was something I would be able to continue.
[RELATED: Sit Up Straight and Relax! Productivity Tips for Digital Nomads]

Ding Dong, It’s Decision Knocking

Having a Type A personality makes uncertainty and a lack of a plan difficult to handle. The first time in my life I had to look myself in the mirror and ask – “Colleen, what do you want to do with your life?” Every time I asked myself this incredibly difficult question, something deep down inside me told me not to give up. This voice was saying, “Maybe this is when most entrepreneurs give up. If you keep pushing, for just a little bit longer, you can find success.”
One day, I was watching an entrepreneurial Ted Talk and I had a moment of clarity. Right now, all I was doing was freelancing. I needed to have a direction and a mission with my business, instead of picking up odd jobs.

What I was missing was my purpose.

I started networking with other small business owners and would ask them about the difficulties they had with their websites. This is how I found my differentiator as a company. Most businesses complained about how their websites were so expensive, or it was difficult for them to manage on their own. Business owners are self-sufficient, they want to be able to edit their website on their own. With this new direction, my business began to grow.
My client base grew through word of mouth and I had more stability by gaining more customers and thus making more money. To manage the workload, I began to travel slower. Instead of spending a week or two in a city, I’d spend a couple of months. This would allow me to focus, but still be able to travel and pursue my passion for traveling.
I didn’t have to give up my dream, I just needed to refocus my goals. The path of a solopreneur can be a struggle but remember no matter how long and lonely the hike is, there is a beautiful view at the summit.

Hi, I'm Anna!

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