I know, how bad can it be right? At least that's the view of those relying on someone else for a paycheck. It's pretty common for me to hear how lucky I am to work for myself and surprising how often people expect me to be available on a whim. Or they ask what I'm doing on a work day, when like everyone else, I'm working. There are some realities you need to plan for if you're self-employed. As with all aspects of business, the clearer and more realistic you are, the easier to grow, develop and achieve your goals.
1. There is so much to do!
It takes a certain kind of determination to stay focused on work when the tasks of daily life are calling. Birthday parties to plan, dogs to walk, laundry to wash. Sometimes even your home office can be taken over by Playmobil, toy animals or craft projects. It can feel like daytime business hours are the only chance to get to those attention suckers.
STRATEGY: You have a couple of options here. Plan your schedule. That means content for the blog gets scheduled and posted on ____________ days. New client meetings are scheduled for _______________ days. Picking up & organizing is done at __________ times. You have to learn to let it go. As the master of your destiny, you need to make realistic choices. If your goal is to be the best toy picker upper in your city, then go for it. If your goal is to be the best digital marketer in your city, then work on marketing tactics and strategies.
2. There's Not Enough Time in the Day
Ah yes, the entrepreneur's swan song. I will be the first to agree..... it's hard to get everything done, especially if you're a solopreneur. Here is the thing you need to learn if you want to have a long, happy life as a lifestyle entrepreneur: systems and outsourcing are your very best friend.
in ordSTRATEGY: If you want to build a sustainable and prosperous business that allows you to live your life the way you want to, you need to be smart. While I know you've already got all the smarts you need in order to be a business owner, it's a different kind of smarts that will help you manage this piece. You need to be clever. If you have 1,000 things to do in a day and only 6 hours, the smart entrepreneur realizes the big inconsistency. Decide if you want to work harder, and put in more hours or work smarter to get to your goals. Without question, systems that run like a well-oiled machine will get you there.
Don't laugh, this struggle is definitely real! This is one that you may not see coming until you're curled up on the couch with the dog mid-day when you've got deadlines. Nothing is easier to justify than giving the family pet a wee cuddle when they ask. Or demand it. When they bark. When they're hungry. When they're bored. They're like children - they see you therefore, you can't possibly be working.
I'm lucky that I'm a dog person because I have heard it's worse with cats.
STRATEGY: I don't have a super effective solution for you here, sorry. Other than don't make eye contact. Walking from the office to the kitchen to grab lunch can be really hard sometimes. I see my fur baby curled up on my favorite blanket and if it's cold, if it's rainy, if I am even slightly tired.... I struggle. Any tips for getting the cat off your laptop, please leave a comment below!
4. Loneliness Masquerading As Boredom
As much as working for yourself is freeing and empowering, it can also get lonely and turn into midday yawns, sleepiness, a lack of focus and what seems to be boredom. Don't be fooled. We all need human contact, even serious introverts. There's a chance that from day-to-day what you'll need will vary as well. Some days you'll need to be surrounded by folks and other days you'll need total silence. Honor that. Check in with yourself at the start of your day and throughout your day to see what you need. After all, the ability to check in and act accordingly is one of the perks of a lifestyle business, right?
STRATEGY: This one has a couple of easy fixes. If you're in an urban area, get thee to the nearest coffee shop! Get out, talk to the people making the coffee, talk to the person working beside you. If this isn't your style, find a local business networking group to join.
If you know you are someone who does better outside of the home office, check your area for a shared workspace. These are a relatively new concept and popping up everywhere in Vancouver. Does anyone still offer packaged offices? When I first started as an entrepreneur in 2006, packaged offices were the rage. You can rent your own small office in a big office space. This gives the sense that you are bigger than you are but it may suit your needs. This would also be a super option if you regularly have to meet with client's and potential client's and a public spot won't cut it.
5. Everyone Wants Something From Me!
You are anxious to do well and anxious to please the few clients, or fulfill the few orders, you have worked so hard to get. I get it. Feeling confident in what you do can be tough. And it can ebb and flow - some days are better than others. One of the by-products of working for yourself is struggling to find the delicate balance between the desire to please and the desire to have the lifestyle you really want. If you aren't clear about what your lifestyle business looks like, how it operates and what is not negotiable, you may find the business sucking the life out of you.
STRATEGY: Write your personal boundaries for your home-based business down as if you are writing your hours of operation on your website. If you have a brick & mortar storefront, you aren't going to sit there until midnight every night in case someone needs something. You'll deal with it when you get in the next morning, right? You must run your home-based business in the same way. Some of the boundaries you set are for you, some are for your family and some are for customers and clients.
For example: Mama is not available between 930AM and 100PM Monday to Thursday. Off the bat you know your calls to the dentist, your trips to the bank and your volunteer shifts at the school can only happen around these hours. Going back to point to #1 maybe no housecleaning between 930AM and 430PM Monday to Friday needs to be on your boundaries list. To keep you on track. The other suggestion I have to conquer this challenge is be clear on your Hours of Operation. Just because someone emails you in a tizzy at 10PM doesn't mean you have to answer or respond. In fact, the more you do that, the more clients come to accept that you are available at all times of the day or night. Avoid this. At all costs. Because if you don't, you are serving the business, the business isn't serving you. And that's the point of being self-employed, remember?
Building a lifestyle business is simple and doable with a few tools. Learning how to create something that serves your financial and personal goals is not that tough when you've got a group of like-minded people supporting you. Connect with me on social media and sign up to my newsletter. I am currently working on a new and very exciting project, designed to build a community of like-minded women while offering up marketing and business tools to help you thrive.
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Catherine Mellon is a Social Media Director with 5 years experience helping entrepreneurs & small businesses use the internet to grow their business.