Is Your Small Business Struggling Because of Superhero Syndrome?

Milo McLaughlin

Today's blog is a guest post from Milo McLaughlin, a Small is Beautiful attendee. Milo is a self-employed Content Creator and Strategist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author of Clear-Minded Creative.

Take it away, Milo!


I plunged rather blindly into the world of self-employment two and a half years ago when I decided to become a full-time copywriter after ten years as a civil servant.

Since then I've felt every emotion under the sun, from the giddy elation of signing a big contract to the heart-sinking despair of being hit with a sudden hard drive failure hours before a big deadline.

I've come to realise that many of my current problems are caused by 'superhero syndrome' or believing that you've got to do everything on your own. 

As a solo freelancer or solo business owner, we are responsible for wearing many metaphorical hats (you could of course also quite literally wear many hats, after all if you work from home no-one will ever know). 

You are your own Chief Financial Officer, marketing manager, IT expert, and securer of urgent mid-afternoon Caramac supplies. 

Unless you have a particularly understanding spouse, you have to dress and feed yourself, attract new clients and get your finances in order, whilst continuously monitoring the latest Google and Facebook algorithm jiggery-pokery in case your business accidentally ends up falling into online obscurity. 

And whilst there is no feeling like signing a lucrative new contract, as a solopreneur you've not only got to attract new clients, you've also got to get the actual work done that you've promised them you'll do. 

The euphoria of closing the deal can soon wear off once it hits you that you've given yourself another imposing mountain of work to climb and you can say goodbye to your weekends for another month.

Clearly, some of these problems come from bad decisions, such as not charging enough, or miscalculating how long work will take to do - mistakes that are all too easy to make when you're trying to not only do everything, but also make all the decisions about your business entirely on your own.

Samar Owais shares a very thorough list of mistakes that freelance writers in particular make over at Copyblogger - I suspect any newbie entrepreneurs/freelancers will relate to at least a few even if writing isn't their main trade.

I've started to expand my mindset around how I organise my freelance business by reading a few excellent books on the topic, from The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, to The Art of Growth (by Small is Beautiful speaker Tara Gentile) to The Small Business Lifecycle by Charlie Gilkey. 

It's clear from these books that setting up solid systems and getting help/outsourcing where appropriate are both crucial. But even now I know better in theory, I still find it hard to break out of my natural tendency to take it all on myself.

If reading doesn't have the required effect perhaps what we we need is new experiences to shift our habits and ways of thinking. That's why I'm optimistic that attending Small is Beautiful and hearing the experience of more experienced micro-business owners first-hand is going to help me get a better perspective on things and to finally shift from a chaotic way of working to the more systems-led "proper business" approach.

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