Self-sabotaging is when the things that you’re doing, or thinking, are actually not in your best interests… and, if you’re human, you’ll have experienced this.

Here are 15 very common forms of self sabotage to look out for when running your business. Not so you can give yourself a hard time about how many you recognize (!) but because we have to spot these sneaky subconscious ways of self-sabotaging our business to be able to do anything about them.

Time management and prioritisation

1. Diving into work without a plan because there’s just TOO MUCH TO DO… This might feel efficient, but it will probably lead to focusing on the wrong things and finishing the day feeling exhausted but without having done the really important stuff.

2. Trying to do too much. Many of us have a natural tendency to be over-optimistic (unrealistic) about what we can achieve. Ambition is fine, but not when it then leaves us feeling like a failure when we don’t manage to achieve it all. Try tracking your time to learn more about how long certain things REALLY take, and allow yourself some ‘cushion time’ for when thing inevitably do take longer.

3. Always tackling the easy or quick tasks before the more challenging ones. That’s fine occasionally, but if it’s leading to the things that will actually make the biggest difference always being the things you run out of time to do, then try ‘eating the frog’ first. Tackle at least one boring/scary thing first thing every day, and see how much better it makes you feel.

4. Kidding yourself that you are brilliant at multi-tasking. Honestly, there’s no such thing. It’s not multi-tasking but task switching, and there’s a cost in terms of energy and concentration every time you switch your attention.

5. Getting distracted too easily. Turn off those notification sounds, decide consciously when you are going to go on social media or check your email, and try the pomodoro technique of working in concentrated bursts. (Members of the Confident ELT Freelancer Collective swear by our focused co-working sessions)

Business decisions

6. You are still trying to serve absolutely everyone with absolutely everything. As well as making it MUCH harder to market effectively (who are you actually trying to speak to?), it’s also exhausting because you’re constantly having to create new products or services to meet a whole range of needs.

7. Your ‘business model’ is just what you happened to do because you saw other people doing something similar. If it’s working well for you, that’s fine, but you do need a business model designed around what your clients need/want, what suits you, and which allows you to price appropriately.

8. You are focusing on anything other than creating leads and sales. Yes, Canva is great, and reels can work very well to build an audience. But not if you’re actually just faffing about because you don’t want to seem too ‘salesy’.

9. Constantly comparing yourself (usually negatively) with others. Being aware of what your ‘competitors’ are up to is a good thing, but there is no one right way to do anything, and what works for them might well not work for you and your clients. Try and stay in your own lane. Try stuff out, see what works and make your decisions based on that.

10. Under-charging and over-delivering. You’re so worried that you might not be providing enough value that you are spending hours and hours delivering an amazing offer, and charging very little. And the clients you have don’t even seem to appreciate it. Hint, by under-charging and over-delivering you are self-sabotaging by attracting the wrong kind of clients.


11. Falling for all this ‘bro marketing’ nonsense about having to work 24/7 in your business to make an impact. Yes, the first couple of years can be quite hard going, but you have to pace yourself, or you won’t even make it to year 3. It comes back to prioritizing.

12. Never asking for help. This might be help from your family, or actually getting in some paid help or support. You do not have to do everything on your own. There are no medals available for this, and it’s absolutely a form of self-sabotaging. You will almost certainly make faster progress and make better decisions if you let other people in.

13. Not taking time to have breaks, eat properly, get outside. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are going to sustain yourself and your business long-term, you need to look after the ‘golden goose’ (that’s you)

14. Worrying about ‘what if’s’. When the responsibility for running your business and making money is just on your shoulders, it’s natural to have the odd wobble. What if no-one signs up? What’s key here is to distinguish between what you can and can’t control. Identify the aspects you can control- how many emails you send, how good the copy is etc- and create a plan to do them as well as possible. Those aspects you can’t control- will people actually buy etc- tell yourself that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it.

15. Failing to recognize and celebrate your achievements. It’s so easy to always just focus on what didn’t go well. Sure, we need to do that in order to learn from our mistakes. But we can also learn from what did go well- and understand WHY it worked, so we can do it again.

Ultimately, all our ways of self-sabotaging our business are expressions of fear. And that’s completely understandable. Running your business can absolutely be scary. But these things can also make our lives harder than they need to be.

So, once you’ve identified your particular ‘favourites’, just try and notice them, and develop strategies to start tackling them. One by one, little by little.


If you’re an ELT freelancer/business owner you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the business advice out there…

Should you start a podcast or a YouTube channel, a mailing list, a membership? Is it a good idea to keep things as simple as possible, or should you be looking to diversify? What does scaling even mean, anyway?!

Would you like some clear step by step advice tailored to your stage of business? 

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