Sure, working more hours is the hallmark of reaching the entrepreneurial threshold, but how can you make sure that you won’t burn out by the sixth month? In this first installment of our 3-part “Becoming a Business Owner” series, you’ll find out how to create a successful enterprise while keeping yourself sane, balanced and happy in the process:
Commit to a Mission Statement
A mission statement is a key part of formalizing your goals and solidifying your strategy for keeping your business on track. In fact, it’s so important, it’s recommended that you set aside time to work on your statement several times a week. That way, if or when you get off track in building your enterprise, you’ll have a handy road map that you can always look to for guidance.
Entrepreneur magazine suggests answering the following questions in your statement as creatively as possible:
1. Why are you in business?
2. Who are your customers?
3. What image of your business do you want to convey?
4. What level of service do you provide?
5. What roles do you and your employees play?
6. What kind of relationships will you maintain with suppliers?
7. How do you differ from your competitors?
8. How will you use technology, processes, and services to reach your goals?
9. What underlying philosophies or values guided your responses to the previous questions?
Don’t Expect Perfection
Career expert Kaya Singer puts it this way: “Allow your business to be a work in progress and let go of expectations that cause stress and anxiety.” Prioritize your work; make sure that the things that need to get done get done first, and that others of less importance get done later, or imperfectly. Sometimes, it’s necessary to quickly categorize, based on a meticulous cost-benefit analysis, but for a general prioritizing scheme, try a system like Covey’s Time Management Matrix that helps you instantly sort what is urgent/important. You can’t expend all of your energy on every task, so don’t try. Delegate, discard, or do it quickly and move on.
Schedule In Personal Time
A recent article in INC magazine advises that just “like work obligations, personal commitments are easier to keep if you put them in writing.” When working, we have a tendency to strictly adhere to our work hours only and be noncommittal about other, nonwork plans. Try to make your commitments to your family or your daily workout as rigid as your commitments to business meetings and appointments with clients. Your personal time will re-energize your work time, and you’ll refocus better than before.
In order to force yourself out of work mode once the workday is over, you’ll need to minimize distractions during your scheduled business hours, especially if you start off working from home. Resist the urge to ditch your business responsibilities in the middle of the day to take care of nonessential tasks or errands. Turn down the music, turn off the television, and don’t take calls that aren’t from clients. If you can minimize distractions during the day, you won’t find yourself working overtime to make up for it in the wee hours of the night.
Learn To Say No
FreelanceSwitch considers the art of saying “no” integral to continued freelancer/business owner success: “Too many clients, multiple offers to work on exciting projects, a list as long as your arm of your own pet projects…there is always something a freelancer can be working on.”
An important factor in the transformation of a freelancer to a business owner is the ability to be selective about your projects. Be harsh. Which ones do you want your branding on? Which clients can give you the most in terms of compensation and visibility for your work? A business owner makes decisions on which projects to take on based on ethical values, timing, good-nature of the client, etc. You’ll fine-tune your ability to weed out toxic projects quickly in time, which will pay you back in more free time, less stress, and more overall balance in your life.