Many people dream of working for themselves, being their own boss, having the freedom to only take on clients and projects they love and working virtually. When I started my business 15 years ago working virtually was pretty rare but the pandemic has changed that. It’s resulted in more people yearning to be entrepreneurs. What they don’t realize, though, is that there is a huge difference between building a business and being self-employed.
Business owners scale their income. Self-employed people trade dollars for hours.
Business owners leverage the skills and talents of others. Self-employed people rely only on their own skills.
Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Every business owner started out self-employed. I definitely did! Just don’t stay there. These tips will help you build a sustainable business instead of just another job and create the life of your dreams.
Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself
Building a sustainable business requires that you leverage the talents and time of others. While it might seem cost-effective to simply do everything yourself—especially in the start-up phase when you likely have more time than money—it’s a path to burnout and stress.
Instead, separate your tasks into those that you love and are especially suited for (such as marketing) and those you dislike and aren’t good at. Then make a solid plan to get those that you aren’t good at off your list of things to do. If you feel like you can’t afford to outsource it all right now, start with what you tend to procrastinate the most on, even if it’s just a few hours each month.
For many entrepreneurs the first team member they add is a virtual assistant. If your unfamiliar with the profession, virtual assistants utilize the internet to work with clients around the world. They often provide a myriad of services but most commonly administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance.
Build a Financial Safety Net
Nothing stresses us out quite like worrying about money. Whether you’re concerned about those college tuition bills you’ll be facing in a few years, or worse, not sure how you’re going to make the rent, it’s easy to lose your business mojo. When I started my business, and for many years while building it, I was the primary breadwinner for my family and I did NOT have a safety net. So I know first hand how stressful this is! As a new business owner, you certainly don’t want money trouble casting a shadow over your entrepreneurial dream.
Before you turn in your resignation, set aside some cash now in case of a rainy day. Aim for at least three months of living expenses but more is definitely better. My personal comfort zone is a minimum of 12 months. Hopefully you won’t need it but having some cash on hand will definitely relieve the pressure of having a new business that’s not earning its keep—yet.
Don’t Allow Yourself to Work All the Time
The trouble with working at home is that you live at work. And that means that there’s no clear line in the sand between your work day and your home life. Since there’s always work to do, it’s easy to find yourself working every available moment—often to the detriment of your family relationships.
You can help avoid this by:
- Setting—and maintaining—clear work hours
- Having an office with a door you can close when you’re done
- Scheduling time for family and other activities
- Taking time for yourself
This was really hard for me to learn as a new entrepreneur! With a cell phone in my hand, I was available to clients 24/7 and there’s no ‘instant replay’ when you miss your child’s home run because you were texting a client from the bleachers! Ouch! Set boundaries and guard them tenaciously!
Don’t create a business that requires you to be “in the office” every day. At the start, you may need to be available more, but you should definitely be planning for the day when you can be “off the grid” for extended periods of time.
- Have trusted contractors who can handle things when you’re not available
- Leverage automation tools such as autoresponders
- Create repeatable systems so you’re not always re-inventing the wheel
While you might not be able to hit the road with no internet access for weeks at a time, at the very least you should be able to reduce your workload to a daily check-in.
Sound impossible? It’s not. With some forethought and planning, you can create a team—and the systems they need—to successfully run your business without becoming overwhelmed and overworked. That’s when you’ll join me in the “Ahhhhhhhhh zone.” It’s awesome here!