#3 selfish reasons for starting a solo business



😍 Something I'm grateful for this week

Most people start a business for freedom, then become obsessed with growing it, and fit their life around whatever time remains. Design your life first, and fit your business around it.

I’ll reveal the REAL reason I was so attracted to a solo business

But first, why did YOU want to grow a lifestyle business ?
Was it to make a million pounds, or was it to have a life that you had control over?

Many fall into the trap of starting a business and having less freedom than ever, as their business consumes their life.

This is because we are all following the wrong business model.

Lifestyle business vs a startup

Social media promotes the startup model, where growth is prioritized at all costs.
Freedom, or even profit, is often not the goal.
The goal is to pump revenue as high as possible, to sell the business.
For the entrepreneur, it’s a recipe for burnout.

If your goal is freedom,
you need to build a lifestyle business.

A Lifestyle business designed to prioritize profit and freedom, instead of mindless growth.
It’s designed to be small, lean, with little overheads.
It’s the ideal model for a solopreneur who wants to have a life outside their business.

it also answers a very important question which many fail to ask themselves:

“WHY did I start my own solo business?

I was asked to answer this for an online publication for solopreneurs this week.

Well, according to my about page on my website….

What ignited my entrepreneurial journey was what I call “digital cowboys” in this space – individuals offering solutions without the results. I got fed up seeing people being ripped off. I couldn’t ignore it and it became the driving force behind my decision to start my own business.⁠ I was guided by an unwavering commitment to deliver real and powerful results.
– Nicholas Robb


What a load of canned marketing bullsh💩t!
I think I wrote this about 6 years ago.
Rereading it now I cringe at this canned response, and I’ve since updated my homepage.

Everyone wants to do better.
Everyone says they are better value.
Everyone says they care about their customers more than everyone else.

To be more honest,
Here’s why I started my own business:

💥I started my own business for selfish reasons.

  • I got fed up making other people money.
  • I got fed up building things for people less talented than me.
  • I got frustrated at not being able to action my ideas.
  • I got annoyed that 80% of my time being controlled by someone else.

So I cut the middleman,
stopped working for other people,
and started building my own thing.

Like many freelancers, I did this for more than a decade as a side hustle before it became a “business”. But when you stop thinking of it as a sidehustle, or freelancing and start thinking in terms of a business, it changes the way you look at things.
There are x3 main self-centered reasons behind my motivations to start my own business.
The first is obvious 👇

💵 Money

This won’t come as a surprise:
My first motivation was more money.
Money is one of the main reasons I kept my Design Hero side hustle going most of my life.

If you’re a freelancer, or an employee who can design, code, write or create things, ideally a combination of these, then you have valuable skills you can earn 6 figures from.

So here’s a brutal truth most small business owners don’t want to hear:

Your wages just aren’t enough anymore.

The world is a bit of a clusterf*ck just now:
Inflation is through the roof.
Corporations are out of control, raiding the world like a Mongol horde.
Living costs are skyrocketing.

Although some creatives are paid very well by larger agencies to produce valuable assets, many small business simply can’t afford to pay the amount of money people need nowadays to grow a savings pot.
People are scraping by instead of saving.
So if you’re a small business owner you need to hear this truth.

Your employees ARE side hustling.
You have a few strategies here:

  1. You can try to stop them. Good luck controlling your staff outside the workplace. 😅
  2. You could pay them more. That’ll hurt your profits.
  3. If you can’t pay them more, you can support and teach them to help them grow.

That’s what I like to do with my team.
The things I teach them benefits me.
If I pay them enough and nurture them they stick around and I benefit.
I have team members who have turned down offers of more money, for the growth benefits.

But if I can’t provide them with enough money or growth, then they will bugger off and become my competition.
So it’s equal footing, or another way to think of it: a Win-win.

So everyone loves money, right?
Money may be a self-interested motivation,
but I DO believe that if you want to make more money,
you have to forget about the money.

If you want to make more money, forget about making more money.

Focus on delivering better results than your competition.
That means providing a better experience for your customers
and providing better results for your customers.
The money is a side-effect of that.

But I’ll say this about money….

No amount of money in the world could tease me back into working a 9-5.

You could offer me £1M a year to work for you part-time, from home, and I would turn it down.
I’ll take the burdens of self-employment in exchange for total control of my destiny,
and independence to choose my own problems.

If you are currently motivated by money,
think how much money do you actually need to live comfortably?
It’s probably not as much as you think!

After a certain point 40% of your money will be going to the tax man,
so there’s diminishing returns to think about too 😅

Of course, It’s easy for me to turn down good money because I have enough money just now.
Ask me again if I were struggling to pay bills and my answer would be very different.

Money doesn’t equal happiness. But having enough money certainly makes it easier to be happy.
Money gives you choices.
Money dictates the degree of freedom in life.

Money is a yardstick that you can use to measure success, but shouldn’t be a goal in of itself.

This is hard to achieve. If you’re interested in a solo business, you’re probably an introvert, and you’re probably highly task-oriented. This means your goal driven, and money is an easy motivator.

I constantly have to remind myself that I’m in this for the time, not the money. I want to make enough money, then focus on clawing back freedom.

What “enough” money means is different for everybody.
“enough” is usually defined by your peer group.

This is why Bezos doesn’t just suddenly stop hustling and give up all his money to charity.
He has to keep ahead of his peers, and Musk or the Zuckerbot are nipping at his heels.
For some unfortunate souls, there will never be “enough”.

The issue here is that in our modern world, social media has expanded your peer group.
If you are comparing yourself to the 1% of people on social media who are making x10 what you are,
then there will never be enough.

For me, “enough” means I’m financially secure.
I like to stockpile enough savings to be able to stop working for 6 months, if I had to.
I worked hard and long to be in this position and every day I thank my lucky stars.
I feel very fortunate and everyone is in a different situation.

If you don’t have enough money, that’s a painful situation to be in.
We’re all running the same race in life, but every week I speak to someone who’s starting line was 5 miles backwards.
So I’m acutely aware of how obtuse “money is not important” can sound.

But with my coaching clients, one thing I notice very often is that people have unrealistic ideas of what is “enough” for them.
Most don’t have an exact figure in mind, but if I press them, they usually will blurt out that magic “6 figures”.

I’d encourage you to actively put on some blinders.
Stop comparing yourself to your neighbours, your more successful siblings, your false “peers” on social media
(most of which is wildly exaggerated and curated),
and ask yourself this important question:

“do I have enough, that I can live comfortably, within my means?”

If the answer is yes,
then there’s something far more valuable than money….

You can always make more money,
but you only have a finite amount of time.
– quote by me, just now, I just said it.

⌛ Freedom

Freedom means different things:

  • freedom from an income ceiling.
  • freedom from set working hours
  • freedom from bad bosses
  • freedom over your day to day choices.

I now structure and plan my business around freeing up my time.
I automate, systemize and optimize my business so I have time to read, to explore, to learn, to reflect.

This isn’t always possible. I have crunch times. I have periods where I work long days.
But I frequently remind myself that my goal is not to make as much money as possible.
My goal is to make enough money to be comfortable and have time to enjoy it.

So I aim to split my time 50/50 between my business and my life.
Day to day I don’t separate it equally,
rather I integrate it, so the two are indistinguishable.
This is what I teach in my course “Life by Design”.
But this isn’t a sales post, so I’ll continue with the key point 👇

When I have more time,
I plan better,
I think better,
I work on the right things…
….and I make more money, ironically.

So, time is the second motivation to grow a lifestyle business.
But there is another reason…

Once you have “enough” money,
AND you have more free time,
you’re going to be faced with a unique kind of problem.

A problem which will cause you stress, pain, discomfort and maybe even depression.
A problem very few are fortunate enough to have…

🎯 Purpose

So now you have time and money,
but if you have enough then why do more?
this is the question which will cause you a lot of pain.

For a time, you will probably continue to try to scale your business, out of pure habit.
You may have been conditioned from years of practice to run the hamster wheel, or the hedonic treadmill of “MORE”.
Our western society values success over all else, including happiness.

But if you don’t NEED to work for more money,
then you can work less.

if you work less, then you have more time to think about stuff,
and this is the question that will be at the front of your mind:

“What now?” 😖

You aren’t working for more money,
you’re actually working to fill your time and give yourself something to do.

If lockdown has taught us anything, is that when people don’t have a purpose, things quickly fall apart.
You need something bigger.
You need purpose.

When you’re not endlessly chasing your next paycheck you have time to do a bit of thinking about your larger purpose.

blog 3 needs 1


The power of knowing your WHY

But “purpose” or your WHY can be a slippery little bastard.

Trying to keep your purpose in mind every day is impossible, when things come up to distract you.
I often lose sight of this, chasing the money or success dragon.
It takes constant effort and good habits to remind myself that my real goal is not just growth for growth’s sake.

so try to remind yourself WHY do you work?

Was it to make a million pounds,
or was it to have a life with stability, and freedom to do what you want?

  • If your motivation for starting a business is purely for money then you’re probably going to be disappointed.
  • If your motivation is only money then you won’t enjoy what you do and you’ll never have enough.
  • If your motivation is purely money you’re always going to be chasing MORE.

My motivation for growing a solo business is to do LESS!

I’m not talking about cutting corners, I’m talking about keeping it lean, systemizing and automating the day to day.

So I can make more room for the important stuff…
The reason why I want to grow a solo lifestyle business,
is to have personal freedom to do the things I enjoy when I want.

Now I give away the systems, tools and methods I use everyday,
to run Design Hero as a multi-award-winning solo agency,
because it’s the best way to help other freelancers become systemized solopreneurs.

We live and work in an environment that was designed for the 1900’s.

Let’s look at our 3 pillars through this lens:

💵 Money

The major influence on Western culture is capitalism, whos sole purpose is to make profit. This profit is distributed upwards.

This means your hard work will NOT pay off proportionally.

⌛ Freedom / Time

Th9-5 was invented by Henry Ford, and was a revolutionary working pattern designed for the production line, yet we s till follow this work pattern.

Ironically this shift was intended to introduce balance, so his workers could spend time caring for families.

In 2023, in most nuclear families, both parents work, and yet still often struggle to find time to be with family, or run the home.

If you ask your boss why we are still using this work model, they may reply with answers such as “culture”, “accountability” or worse: “this is how its always worked”.

We literally walk around with supercomputers in our pockets, and AI at our fingertips, yet we are busier than ever and have no time for basic life admin.

🕊️ Purpose

In the West, our culture, for better or worse, is heavily influenced by traditional Christian teachings which links morality with hard work. Regardless of your religious leanings, this culture persists today and we feel cultural guilt and pressure around the idea of rest, downtime or leisure.

Without this downtime, we don’t have time to consider that our purpose may lie elsewhere.

It’s not surprising that 60% of people believe “they are in the wrong job”

So is it really selfish to want Money, Freedom AND Purpose?

I don’t think so.

It does require going against the grain:

It means being assertive enough to say: “I want these things that others don’t have, and I’m going to arrange my life to make it happen.”

It means not accepting the status quo.

In other words, if you stuck out in school, you probably have some great traits in you for solopreneurship.

Your success in life is largely determined by your willingness for non-conformity to social norms.

So there’s x3 selfish reasons why I started my business:

💵 first for money
⌛ then for freedom
🎯 then to fulfil my purpose

My purpose might change over time. It probably will. I still have my doubts, or feel that my work isn’t meaningful. Imposter syndrome is a constant battle, it will hit hardest when you’re growing the most. It’s something that needs time to sit, to take shape, and it’s a fluid thing that changes over time. But try not to worry about it too much;
Set aside time to think about it, set aside time to act on your thoughts, and you’ll figure it out as you go

If you’d like help making more money, freeing your time, or finding your purpose,
then you can book a 1 on 1 call with me.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with these key takeaways 👇

Subscribe for 6 simple systems you can use right now to live more & work less.

💡 Key Insights for solopreneurs

Most people start a business for freedom, then become obsessed with growing the business, and fit their life around whatever time remains.
Design your life first, and fit your business around it.

Don’t forget why you started.

Too many people lose sight of why they started their business venture
it’s easy to fall down a rabbit whole of todos and emails
and end up with the business running them.

🛎️ Daily reminder for solopreneurs

Your WHY is the thing that will keep you going when you don’t feel motivated.


💥 How to take action in the next 5 mins

Write down your WHY. Review at least once a month, and anytime if you’re feeling like you aren’t achieving your goals.

Picture of Nicholas Robb

Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

Ready to...
Win your freedom? Put life before work? Grow a solo business? Redesign your life? Systemize your business? Gain back time? Quit the rat race?

Subscribe for simple systems for solopreneurs you can use right now to redesign your life, and build a 6 figure lifestyle business around it.