Small business owners and sole traders

Working for yourself can be rewarding. For many, being the person responsible for a small business can also take its toll. It’s essential to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
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Challenges of running a small business

Running a small business comes with its own unique challenges. Whether you're a small business owner or a sole trader. A freelancer, independent contractor or gig economy worker.

Challenges can include:

  • working hard for long hours to start your business or keep it going 
  • using personal time for work tasks (such as emails, messages, invoicing, accounts or social media) 
  • not being able to share work worries with someone who understands your situation 
  • managing cashflow, finance, debt and money issues
  • keeping up with government regulations and other administrative tasks 
  • feeling responsible for people who depend on you. 

Signs you might be struggling with your mental health as a small business owner or sole trader

The unique challenges you face, those faced by many small business owners and sole traders, can lead to stress.

Too much stress, or stress that goes on too long can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition. It can also make an existing mental health condition worse.

Prolonged period of stress can lead to burnout. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of burn out.

If stress is impacting your mental health, you might not immediately be aware of changes in your behaviour, thoughts or feelings.

It may be a family member, friend, business supplier, business adviser or client who notices signs that you are unsettled or struggling.

  • not doing work to your usual standards 
  • feeling negative about your work 
  • losing concentration or not being focused at work
  • finding it hard to control your behaviour at work
  • feeling tired all the time
  • missing work deadlines
  • getting behind with money, accounts and finances
  • trouble in relationships with workers, customers, suppliers, family or friends 
  • being late to work, less punctual than usual or missing work.
If some of these signs sound familiar, you can use one of our simple tools to assess your mental health. Choose the one that’s right for you and get the resources and support you may need.

Managing stress for small business owners and sole traders

As a small business owner or sole trader, it's important to take time to manage stress and promote wellbeing.

Look after your mental health and wellbeing

There are many things you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing. Some are simple, others more challenging. Being aware of them and making a plan is a great place to start.

Learn ways to look after your mental health and wellbeing

Develop a personal wellbeing plan

Ahead for Business have developed a wellbeing plan template designed for small business owners. This online tool can help you address the challenges unique to your situation. It allows you to:

  • list challenges at work and strategies to overcome them 
  • identify actions to improve your personal wellbeing at work 
  • develop plans for your business if you need to take time off work 
  • identify professional and personal supports for challenging times 

Free and confidential mental health support for small business owners and sole traders

NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a free and confidential mental health coaching program. It was developed by Beyond Blue to support small business owners and sole traders.

Our mental health coaches all have a small business background. They'll work with you to overcome difficult issues. They’ll provide you with practical skills to manage stress. They’ll help you get back to feeling like yourself.

The service is available nationally by phone or video call and no GP referral is required.

Learn more about mental health coaching through NewAccess for Small Business Owners

Money stress and small business

Money is a big source of stress for many small businesses, from daily cashflow to navigating debt.

People with money stress are more than twice as likely to experience poor mental health (and vice versa). Small business owners and sole traders have more money stress, which impacts their mental health.

Actions for money stress

  • Acknowledge the link between money stress and mental health.
  • Address the financial stress (it's common to try and ignore it, or not know where to start).
  • Seek mental health support to help with the stress that financial challenges cause.
  • Don’t delay – the earlier you seek support for both money stress and mental health, the better.

Find support for your financial wellbeing

  • Small business debt helpline – get free, independent and confidential advice from small business financial counsellors.
  • Moneysmart – providing free tools, tips and guidance to help you take care of your money.
  • National Debt Helpline – find information and resources as well as free advice and support from qualified financial counsellors.

Beyond Blue’s work in financial wellbeing

Learn more about the link between money and mental health, and find Beyond Blue’s Services guide for financial and mental wellbeing.

Creating a mentally healthy small business

Mental health at work is important for small businesses and sole traders.

Whether you employ others, have workers, work for someone else, or work solo, there are tools and supports to help you make work more mentally healthy.

Ahead for Business helps small business owners and sole traders create mentally healthy small businesses. It provides resources and tools tailored to your specific needs.

These resources cover:

  • supporting yourself 
  • support for someone else 
  • support for adverse events. 

Free e-learning: support yourself and small businesses

As a business advisor, you likely have small business owners turning to you for support. But it might be hard for you to know how to help your clients when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

We’ve designed a free self-guided training course for business advisers. It gives you the confidence and tools to help support the mental health of small business owners.

Access Beyond Blue’s free four-part course: Mental wellbeing: support yourself and small businesses

Supporting a small business owner or sole trader

If a business contact, friend or family member seems to be going through a difficult time, talk to them about it.

Learn how to talk to someone you’re worried about

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