woman who built the wrong business saying 'oh no'

What to Do When You Discover You’re Building the Wrong Business

Solopreneurship is a tricky experiment.

There’s no set path forward. You don’t start as a coordinator, chase the management position, and then work your way into the C-suite.

It’s just you, the examples set by a few people you admire, and an endless series of choices ahead.

As a result, it’s frighteningly easy to start down a path whole-heartedly, only to realize that the gold at the end of the rainbow isn’t actually the future you were looking for.

When you find yourself building a business you actually hate (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us), you have two choices:

  1. Curl up in a ball for a while, get sick on hot chocolate for a week, and procrastinate real action until you run out of money, or
  2. Curl up in a ball for a while (that part’s inevitable), then get back to work and figure out what kind of business you want to create instead.

If you’re holding your Frankenstein’s monster of a business wondering “Oh god, what have I created?” allow me to illuminate a path forward.

I built the wrong business first, too

In 2015, I quit my job at a high-powered agency and went off in search of freelance work. I found myself a few clients through sheer luck (read: referrals from some very kind friends) that had me writing 2-3 blog articles per week.

The income covered my bills and allowed me a decent amount of free time. But I soon became desperately bored and didn’t know how to move forward. Eight months later, I threw in the towel took a position at a local SaaS company.

What I didn’t know then is finding the work that feels good and make money is a process. Virtually every solopreneur goes through a few iterations of their business that doesn’t fit them. Even Amy Porterfield found herself building a social media consulting business that she didn’t love before she pivoted and started her huge business teaching online marketing.

Getting stuck is normal. Changing directions is perfectly okay. The work you put in is never wasted; it’s part of your journey, and you couldn’t get to this point without it.

With that in mind, here’s a simple journaling method for finding a path forward.

How to use daydreaming to find your next career move

Whenever work gets tough, you might find yourself daydreaming about the careers or business you’d rather be working on. That’s normal, and no matter what you’re doing, some days will be harder than others. But when you start feeling like things really can’t continue the way they are, it’s time to pay closer attention to those daydreams. This process captures those daydreams and turns them into actionable futures to consider.

Step 1: Dive into your daydreams

Get out your journal and open to a fresh two-page spread. Or, fold a piece of paper in half.

You’re going to start by allowing yourself to flesh out each daydream scenario that’s caught your fancy. Maybe you dream of transitioning to coaching instead of freelancing, or you imagine switching careers entirely. Instead of judging the daydream, dig deeper. What would you be doing each day? How would you make money doing it? Write as much as you need, and only stop when you can actually envision what that future might look like.

And psst – daydreaming about returning to a ‘normal’ job is perfectly okay.

Here are a few unedited entries from my own journal:

  • Boss lady content marketing director. Delegating + editing blog posts. Virtual team of writers + freelancers. Educational content + thought pieces over creative writing. Working for 100% remote tech company. Writing some pieces for myself. Keep up my personal blog.
  • High-powered copywriter. Working with successful companies to create awesome web pages, sales pages, and launch packages. Delegates to small team of part-time and contract writers. Focus on small biz owners. Speak at conferences.
  • Art streamer. Create art every day on Twitch streams or publish vids on Youtube. Sell prints and Patreon.

Tip: If you have two options that are similar but not identical, don’t combine them. Flesh each one out individually.

Step 2: Figure out how to get there

Now, on the right page or right half of your paper, figure out all the steps and experience it would require to get from where you are to each future. This will likely take some outside research.

For example, for the marketing director role, I researched job listings to see what hiring managers were looking for. For the copywriter role, I researched how other copywriters were structuring and promoting their businesses.

Boss lady content marketing director
  • Get experience pitching for PR + link building. Land coverage in blogs + magazines.
  • “Ability to guide the content creation process from ideation through execution”
  • 5+ years marketing
High-powered copywriter
  • Start pitching companies.
  • Commit to LinkedIn.
  • Get really good at getting results.
Art streamer
  • Draw and paint a few times a week.
  • Start posting pieces and recordings on social media (Instagram and Tumblr).

Do this process for each scenario, even if only one of them makes you excited. Don’t stop until you have a good understanding of what each option would require.

Step 3: Decide your focus

Looking at the options in front of you, answer these questions:

  • Which one do you want to focus on right now?
  • Which one is a future ambition that you might start now as a side project?
  • Which one is really better off as a backup plan (and what circumstances would make you choose that path)?
  • Which one isn’t as exciting?

When I did this process, it quickly became clear that the path I was on led to a future that I didn’t actually care for. Bullet dodged! Then, I was able to select a path that felt much more exciting—and feasible.

When you have all of your options laid out and you understand what each one would require, you have the power of choice. You’re not a leaf in the wind going along with whatever comes your way. You’re course-correcting toward a future that makes sense for you.


Feature photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

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Comments 2

  1. Wow, Jessie, what a timely blog post!

    Just today, I sat in the car and suddenly knew that my plan was wrong and that I had to pick something else. It was such a relief to realize that!

    I haven’t played with different scenarios yet. It’s gonna be exciting!

    Warmly,
    Christiane

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you for commenting, Christiane! There is SUCH a relief in realizing that there’s another path. Best of luck with your journaling, and if you’re up for it I’d love to hear what you uncover!

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