HOW TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR AND STILL HAVE A LIFE
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about balance and how to create space in my life. The last few months have been really busy, which has been really great for our business, but I’m definitely starting to feel a little burnt out. When I was still working full-time at my job and working on Weekend Creative on the side, it didn’t feel like I had the option to rest, I felt like every minute of my time was dominated by work which is partly why I ended up leaving that job sooner than I originally planned. The stress that I was experiencing daily was taking a toll on my body and I hit a point where I simply couldn’t handle it anymore.
My hope was that some of my stress would be relieved when I left, but what I’ve experienced in the past several months that I’ve been full time at Weekend Creative is that the stress didn’t go away, it just changed. In fact, it got worse, and even though I was living my dream, I felt guilty whenever I stepped away from work because that’s not what “good” or “successful” entrepreneurs do. But are we really successful if all we do is work, and never take time away to enjoy the life that this work is providing for us?
Don’t get me wrong, running a business is going to be stressful at times, especially in the beginning. It just is. It will keep you up at night, and there will be days that you work insane hours. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s easy, but I just don’t think it needs to be as all-consuming as so many people make it out to be. It’s almost become a competition among freelancers, like you win if you’re the most overwhelmed, if you’re doing the most, if you work till 3:00am and start again at 7:00am. When someone asks how you’re doing, the only acceptable response is “so busy” or “tired.” We’re taught that we can only be successful if we run ourselves into the ground.
I’ve realized that one of the benefits of running your own business is that you have more control over your work/life balance, not less. It’s really all about the choices you make. It does take hard work to run a business, and I think that we as humans are designed to work hard and experience the satisfaction that comes from that, but we have to recognize that we are only human and humans require rest. You run your business, your business does not run you.
I’m still working on this, but as I have started to create more space in my life, I’ve noticed that I’m more productive when I’m working, and I’m more excited to go back to work after time away. I think that stepping away only helps, not hurts our growth. I really want to change the narrative around work and challenge the idea that to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to work 24/7. Below are some tips that have helped me as I’ve tried to bring more balance to my life, I hope that they are helpful for you as well!
Priorities are so important because they will help guide your focus and tell you what is most important to work on. I set my work priorities based on what will help me achieve the goals that we have set for the month and year. You can read more about the goals that we’ve set in the past here and here. When I go through the tasks I need to do, I start with the ones that are directly related to goals. I’m the kind of person who will spend all day working on things that I like but that aren’t actually productive or helpful, and then work all night on what I should have actually done during the day.
I try to be realistic with my to-do list and recognize that I have limits to what I can get done, this helps me to actually stop working for the day with a completed list. I like to give myself one task that I really enjoy each day which motivates me to get through the things that may be not as enjoyable. Since I started prioritizing tasks in this way, I’ve been able to leave work feeling like I accomplished my to-dos and it’s easier to step away when I get home.
SET BOUNDARIES WITH YOURSELF
Once you have priorities set up, you can set up boundaries for yourself. Set work hours for yourself, and stick to those the best that you can. I mentioned in the previous section that I step away from work in the evenings. I love to end with everything done for the day, but sometimes that just isn’t possible and I have to cut myself off. I’ve made a rule for myself that I can’t work past 8:00pm unless we have a shoot the next day, and my goal is to end the work day by 6:00pm if I can.
I have started limiting the number of times that I open social media and e-mail, checking them each only about 3-4 times during the day because it’s so easy for me to become distracted and derail my productivity. Learn how you work best, and learn to protect your time because the more productive you can be during your working hours, the easier it will be to leave and not feel guilty about taking a break.
SET BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR CLIENTS
Setting boundaries with our clients can be even more challenging for me than setting boundaries with myself. Recently Arabela and I met up with Gabriela from Jurada Studio, and while we were talking about this idea of work/life balance, she said, “remember that you have more control with your clients than you think you do.” That has really stuck with me and transformed the way that I think about our process.
I tend to bend over backwards to accommodate the client instead of thinking about what is best for us and our company. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to make your clients happy, you absolutely should, customer service is HUGE. However, if you have a client that comes to you and says that they need images in three weeks, and you know that the project will take at least six weeks to accomplish what they want while still serving your other clients, it’s ok to tell them that you need six weeks instead of trying to cram it all in. It’s ok to say that your prices are set, it’s ok to say you can’t give them images a week early, it’s ok to charge more or push out the due date if the scope changes, and you’ll probably be surprised by how well the client will respond when presented with these things respectfully. Just make sure that you have a through contract to protect yourself if you need to.
I’ve stopped answering e-mails after 5:30pm and on the weekends. I avoid giving out my personal number to clients, but if they have it, I don’t respond to texts and calls outside of working hours unless it’s an emergency. During the week, I respond to all client e-mails within 24 hours and make sure that they feel like they are a priority, but I think it’s completely reasonable to step away and not be on call at all times.
TAKE TIME AWAY
My goal is to take one whole day every week to completely step away from work and social media. I try to do this on Sundays, but the actual day can depend on what the week looks like. I’ve found that I have to plan ahead and be intentional if I actually want to make this happen. It sometimes takes more work upfront, but it’s worth it because I’m so refreshed and more excited about work when I come back after that day. Find what makes you feel rested and try to step away to enjoy life on a regular basis. I bet you’ll experience more productivity and joy in your business.
RAISE YOUR PRICES
This is something that Arabela and I have been slowly doing over the past couple months. We decided to raise our prices and only take on larger projects so that we can take on less work and give more attention to each client. We are also staggering projects so that we aren’t overwhelmed with too many clients at once. I think it’s helpful to have a minimum for all projects so that you avoid taking on a bunch of small projects that can add up to be as much or more work than projects that are more worth your time. If you are so overwhelmed with inquiries and work that you are constantly booked and exhausted, it’s a sign that your prices may be too low. Charge your worth and you’ll feel good about the work that you take on as well as protect your time.
SET UP PASSIVE INCOME AND MULTIPLE REVENUE STREAMS
Passive income is exactly what it sounds like, something that you set up to generate money passively. This is super important because it will create a cushion so you’ll be less worried about finances. Your company can keep generating money while you’re sleeping, while you’re on vacation, or while you’re sick. This will vary depending on what makes sense for your business, but it could be through selling prints, downloads, or online courses. It’s also important to make sure that you have multiple streams of revenue so that you aren’t relying on only one source of income. For us, we’ve started hosting livestreams with Adobe (read more about that here) which has been really nice additional income on a monthly basis. We’re working on more ways to bring in money so that we’re not stressed if client work is slow, and we can only take on shoots that we’re really excited about.
AUTOMATE AND OUTSOURCE
I’m someone who likes control, so this has been a little hard for me, but I am learning to be honest about my strengths and weakness. Automating and outsourcing the areas that you are weak in will not only save you time, but can make your business stronger. Look for ways to automate tasks that you do regularly or at least develop processes for them so that they are streamlined. Think through what you could outsource, for example, filing your taxes. It costs us a little to have a CPA, but she helps save us so much time and money in the long run. I don’t have to spend hours trying to navigate taxes every quarter, and I have peace of mind that everything was done correctly. Other things you could outsource are social media, bookkeeping, graphic design, and photography (hint hint).
HAVE FUN AND CELEBRATE
This is such a simple but necessary part of business, and all of life. You are running your business, doing something that you love, and that should be celebrated. Take time to do something fun to reward yourself for reaching a goal, making it though the week, or getting a contract signed. Take on projects that make you remember why you started your company in the first place, and have fun while doing them.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. Remember that you are your company’s most valuable asset, and if you are not performing at your best, your business is going to suffer. Also remember that as much as we all talk about work/life balance, no one has a perfectly balanced life and this isn’t something to beat yourself up over. For example, right now it’s 7:00pm, and I’m still at the studio trying to get this post up. But it’s all about BALANCE, not perfection. Little steps towards balance will lead to a healthier life over time, but it does take time and practice. Let me know if you have any other tips or thoughts about this, I would love to hear from you!
Is it the weekend yet?