Selfcare as a Business Owner
Being a business owner is a unique lifestyle that is, frankly, not for the faint of heart. It can be an amazing and wonderful adventure but also a highly stressful one. Often fraught with pitfalls that you probably didn’t see coming.
The reality is that for most of us it’s probably a little bit of both.
It starts out as nothing but excitement, you’ve most likely left a corporate job, hoping for a new adventure with loads of flexibility and a new life of freedom. Somehow you find yourself working 24/7, constantly at your desk, never seeing the outside of your office. This is the story of so many entrepreneurs and small business owners.
After many years as a small business owner, there are a few tips that I feel are essential to keeping your mental and physical health in check as you run your business and learn to live a life that isn’t dependent on walking in and out of a work day. I hope it’s helpful for you.
There is no way to overstate how deeply important having community and support is on this journey. I think I often use the word journey because it does feel like a very, long, trip of sorts. Some of my very best friends are photographers or in the wedding industry. They understand what I’m working with in a way that other people just simply don’t. Other friends of mine own their own businesses, are entrepreneurs, or have deeply successful careers. Surrounding yourself with people who will cheer you on and tell you the hard things is beyond important. If you’re married, this person cannot just be your spouse. We need people who are willing to chat with us through the ups and downs, laugh, and sometimes cry so we can go back and do it again tomorrow.
Guess what? That doesn’t happen when you’re sitting alone behind a laptop. This means you can’t be so afraid of your competition that you don’t make friends with them. That you’re so worried about your own abilities and insecurities that you’re afraid to go to a networking group. Hard and awkward as it is, you have to get yourself out there because the other side of the awkward stage is the years’ later stage when you can answer each other’s tough client emails because you needed a second pair of eyes and you had one. It’s worth it, promise.
You simply cannot work on your business at 2 am, I don’t care what you say. Boundaries are the fence that help everything stay beautifully in place. One of the issues with creative entrepreneurs, in general, is that we tend to be people who will get excited about something and stay up all night to get it done. Love that passion, but it’s simply not sustainable. To run a successful business you need to be there, for your clients but also for yourself, your family, and your friends. Heck, even your houseplants need a schedule. So do you.
Take a look at what an ideal week might be for you. When do you think your very best? Block it for your most important work. Put regular business hours in place. The great news is that they can be whenever you’d like them to be but they must be regular for everyone involved. Having gigantic goals with zero ability to accomplish them will always be beaten by small everyday work that is consistently put into practice. It’s the tortoise and the hare all over again.
There will always be more emails
Like a moth to the flame is a small business owner to “just one more email”. Or you can replace that with any number of things that take all of the time, energy, and focus, away from other all-important things in your life. Seeing sunshine for instance. 😉 I’m here for a solid intervention to remind you that there will, without a doubt always be one more email. Always. It’s back to boundaries again, you absolutely must be in charge of your schedule. Those emails will be there tomorrow but your child’s sweet face at this moment, will not. If we’re in charge of our own schedules we need to be vigilant to know that no one will be watching out for us. As a wedding photographer, I work all week in the office and then photograph weddings all weekend. Literally, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays we have weddings. Sometimes in a row! Monday through Thursday people need us to be actually running a business. Do that math and tell me where my weekend is? It is quite difficult to find. We get emails literally 24 hours a day with a deeply urgent tone. After years of missing important moments with my family, I have learned to be a lot more guarded about when I am willing to answer those emails.
I don’t have my work email on my phone. I do have clearly communicated office hours and a clearly defined time period in which emails will be returned. So should you.
This one is tough for the best of us. The dream client comes calling, with a dream assignment. You love the venue, you love the planner, but you’re fully booked. Technically you could probably fit one more in, but you know it just isn’t the right thing to do. May I suggest… don’t do it. Or a couple wants to book but something just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like they’re the natural fit that your couples normally are… but you need the revenue for the quarter and it’s probably just a feeling… don’t do it.
It’s ok, actually more than ok, it’s essential to say no. Often and with conviction.
You need to be the gatekeeper of your business and of your other clients. If you’re so burnt out handling the clients that aren’t a great fit what sort of energy do you have left for your couples that are delightful and perfect fits? Be the gatekeeper in a really healthy way. Better to say no to something and treat what you have with absolute care than drop the other things you’re holding because you said yes to far too many things. Someone told me a long time ago, to say no to the good so you can say yes to the great. No is a part of the language of a business owner.