As this week is World Mental Health Week, it feels like a good time to talk about some of the conversations we often have with founders, particularly around feeling lonely and isolated.
According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs.
There’s no doubt that taking the leap to becoming a founder is exciting, thrilling, brave and exhilarating. But it can also be lonely, despite what you may see on Linkedin or Instagram of entrepreneurs ‘killing it’ and ‘living my best life’ 😬
One of the things we often see at thestartupfactory.tech with founders, particularly solo founders, is a dip once the MVP is built, the reins are off and you’re suddenly out in the big wide world generating sales (or at least trying to).
You think it’ll be easy (or easier than it actually is) and, suddenly, you’re alone with an app or tech product which isn’t quite where you wanted it to be (because it’s an MVP and you don’t have an Airbnb budget), your diary isn’t full of meetings, your pipeline is looking empty and there’s no team to talk to.
Suddenly your ‘founder high’ starts to turn into a low, you’re questioning your decisions, over analysing everything (remember for a start-up 80% is always good enough!), motivation dips, and suddenly your sleep and lifestyle are affected.
This isn’t about painting a negative picture of the start-up journey; we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was the best thing in the world. But it is about sharing the reality of the founder journey, and helping you understand that if you feel like this, you’re not alone, and there are some things you can do to help.
- Get out of the house. Sounds simple but a change of scenery can have a huge impact on the perception and productivity of your day. Go for a walk, a coffee, a run, anything which helps you get outside and appreciate the world is bigger than the four walls you’ve been sitting in.
- Connect in person. Seems a strange thing for a tech business to say but we’re huge advocates of interacting with real people. The conversations you have in person, the energy you get from people can’t be replicated on Zoom. Online meetings have their place, but they’re no substitute for a face-to-face conversation. If face-to-face is possible then do it.
- Find a tribe. In his brilliant book Lost Connections, author Johann Hari makes the comment that “humans need tribes, like bees need hives”. You need to find a tribe. Whatever you’re going through, tech challenges, equity concerns, funding questions or a sales and marketing barrier, every other founder will have been through the same. In Manchester we’re lucky to have so many groups set up to support founders find one and join in.
- Set boundaries. One of the most challenging things when running a start-up is giving yourself permission to switch off. Set some boundaries, no emails past 7pm, book the gym class, make plans. Your life is more than your start-up, give yourself permission to do something other than work.
- Consider a coach. When you’re starting out cashflow is tight, so it seems strange to suggest spending money on something like coaching. However, having a space to talk through your concerns, set goals and be heard can be so valuable in helping you decide what’s a priority and what isn’t. If budget is an issue there are also free mentoring schemes available.
These are just five things which might help. It goes without saying that our door at thestartupfactory.tech is always open (in fact we had two walk-ins yesterday and we love it!)
Make the effort to connect with people who have been there, or are currently on the same journey as you, and suddenly knowing others are on a similar journey might make you feel a bit less lonely.