I was finally my own boss, full time! I said goodbye to my coworkers and spent the next two weeks journaling on the beach, reading and relaxing. I wanted to start the new year — and my now full-time business — with a fresh start. Being your own boss is amazing, I said to myself.
I calculated that I’d only need to work 20 hours a week on paid projects to match my former corporate salary. Not too bad, I thought, I’ll spend the rest of my time at the pool, fixing up the house, working on some passion projects, and I’ll finally have my nights and weekends back!
The clients didn’t pour in like I’d imagined and I discovered that running a business was a lot more time consuming — and expensive — than expected. I was as slow as molasses at writing blog posts, but pressured myself into posting once a week… there goes 8 hours. And of course, building a social media presence was of utmost importance, so I was posting to Instagram 3x a day and tweeting incessantly… another 5 hours a week. Then there were Facebook groups! I was constantly on the lookout for posts about design so I could share my expertise and pitch myself to those seeking a designer (and of course, “network”)... another 15 hours a week. Yikes! More than half of my designated "work hours" were spent on blogging and on social media!
Since I was new to having a full-time business, I was thirsty for learning. I’d jump on every free webinar that crossed my newsfeed and snatch up people’s lead magnets like a stealthy hyena. I’d binge read business books on the weekends and listen to podcasts as I cleaned and exercised.
More Client = More Work Hours
Eventually, my client list grew, and my time was filled with inquiries, proposals, contracts, invoices and managing finances — whew! It’s no wonder my nights and weekends started to get away from me. Those 20 hours a week I needed for client projects seemed minuscule compared to the 50 hours a week I was spending in my business!
As you can probably imagine (and have perhaps experienced yourself), keeping up with this day after day was exhausting! I may have been good at design, but had no idea how to run an actual business. All of those business books and webinars weren’t enough to keep me on track — or perhaps I was reading the wrong ones. Who needs to learn about funnels before you learn how to manage your schedule?! I was on the fast track to a burnout, and only a year into my business was ready to be done.
There are so many things I could’ve done different to run my business, rather than letting it run me.
Here are some ways you can avoid these pitfalls
It’s so important to set these in place before your clients, customers, family and yourself get into a routine of expectations. I didn’t have boundaries for my communication and would be in my inbox 24-hours a day (besides when I’m sleeping, of course). I also took on rush projects day in and day out, causing me to drop everything else to work late and finish on time. I never set limits for my work hours, so I never felt the pressure to get things done in a timely manner, or prioritize my to-do list effectively.
As my good friend Kathryn Hofer of Modern Planner always says, time management isn’t about time. Time is a limited resource, so we must learn how to prioritize our tasks within those 24 hours we're all given each day. Some things just aren’t important… others can be delegated. And finding a schedule that maximizes your productivity is key!
Rather than taking on any and everyone who’s willing to throw money your way, even when you know it’s not a good fit for your expertise, you should hone in on your strengths. You’ll work much faster and will deliver higher quality of work, which will leave your clients in awe and turn them into raving referral engines. You’ll have more confidence in yourself and will avoid the frustrations of a project you can’t get just right.
Recognizing your value, and charging accordingly, will help you land the right clients. If you’re constantly bending and lowering your prices, you’ll end up bitter and frustrated, and your clients won’t appreciate your craft. Your time is valuable, your skills are valuable, your background that got you to where you are is valuable… lean into that! Taking on half as many clients at twice the rate is much less stressful!
Having systems and workflows in place can save so much time and frustration. No need to reinvent the wheel with every email, client inquiry, contract, etc. It feels like a daunting task to set these up, but once they’re in place, you’ll be much better off. You can spend less time on admin work, and more time doing what you love.
If your business is all 1:1 – dollars for time – it can be limiting. There are only so many hours in a day, so once you max out, you need to find a way to scale… raise your prices, hire a team, etc. You can also add some passive income streams or some one-to-many offerings. Whatever your approach is, think long-term as far as scaling goes.
Ready to regain control over your business?
I could go on and on about how to regain freedom in your business. But don’t just take it from me… take it from the 19 influencers who will be sharing on these topics and more in the #TakeBackYourBiz Summit! We want to help YOU find more freedom, joy and growth in your business, so you can find more success with less stress.
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