Entrepreneurship is a wild, wild ride. If you’re one of the lucky passengers buckled up for this journey, you may be well aware that there is a dark side of entrepreneurship that can easily get overlooked. Actually there may be many dark sides, and I’m pretty sure they’re not so secret, but I digress; the weight of entrepreneurship is at times heavy, and for some it can negatively affect your mental health.
I invite you to loosen the seat belt a little, unclench your jaw (there was tension there, wasn’t there?), just for a minute, as I share a few practical ways you can alleviate some of the anxiety of being a solo/small business entrepreneur.
Before I jump in, I think it’s fair you know that I am not a therapist, psychologist, mental health professional in any way shape, or form. What I am… is a self-employed creative who is all too familiar with burn out. I have cuddled with exhaustion, wrestled with failure, and have been shaken to my core by the reality of successes. Panic attacks? Check. Public Flubs? Raises hand. Royal Screw Ups? I’m your girl. We may have a few shared experiences, so please keep reading, but also, please don’t allow this to replace any counseling you receive from a licensed mental health professional.
If I’m being honest, had I stayed the person I was when I began this journey, I would’ve easily quit. Entrepreneurship teaches you a lot about yourself and others, and can grow you in immeasurable ways if you allow it. The lessons I’ve learned about protecting my peace in business have literally transformed my life.
The number one thing experience has taught me is that the key to eliminating a lot of my anxiety regarding work, starts and ends with me being mindful of my time. Once I began to treat my time as valuable, I quickly realized I needed to include spaces in my own life to make time to treat me valuably. The peace of mind that followed made the “roller coaster” ride a bit easier to manage.
Make time to treat me valuably? I’ll show you what I mean below.
Set Your Own Goals
Before I go into more detail about better managing your time, I can tell you with absolute assurance that the easiest way to unequivocally waste your time, is to try and reach someone else’s goals. Especially when you only have a snippet of their bigger picture.
To be inspired by someone else’s achievements is amazing. Following trends for example, as part of a larger strategy can work also. Please hear this though, if you’re in business for yourself, and you’re constantly changing your day to day to tasks, tactics, and approaches based on posts that inspire you or articles you’ve read, that entrepreneurial roller coaster ride is stalling.
Emotionally you may feel everywhere, but productively you run the risk of getting stuck. I get that you’re anxious to make a sale, or build a base, or whatever that thing is you’re working towards. Pause and take this in, consistency and thoughtful planning are two big keys to success. If the route you’re taking doesn’t seem to be paying off, research, adjust and try again. But keep this in mind: “it” may not always happen overnight, and if you’re going to ride this roller coaster, you have to 1) have some kind of strategy and 2) be prepared to put the work in for an extended amount of time.
After solidifying a strategy, I learned that one of the best things you can do for yourself as an entrepreneur is to become extremely self aware of your time. As I began to shift into better practices I went about doing things like taking inventory of how long certain tasks take, and looking for better ways to better steward it. As a designer this meant I had to learn how long certain projects would take. This allowed me to give a more accurate turnaround time to potential clients, better managing their expectations. It also meant that I had to prioritize what was important, find ways to set aside moments for things that matter to me, whether that meant alone time, or time with family/friends, etc.
Now life is life, and the unexpected is bound to happen. I don’t have kids yet, but have worked with them long enough to know that they can leave fun little surprises on those already extensive to do lists. I’ve seen many stories of mamas (dad’s too) making it work, and I so respect that hustle. I’m big enough to admit that I have no experience in raising a child and running a business simultaneously, but I will say that some of the tips I share can help you save some time, and from what I understand about raising kids… that’s a plus.
Getting better at managing your time, will require you to develop another skill, and that’s setting boundaries. If I’m being honest, this is probably theee best lesson I’ve learned. It not only reminds others of your value, but it’s a reminder to yourself you’re worth it.
Setting boundaries sounds easy in theory, but when your goals for the month aren’t being reached, it’s easy to want to sacrifice. Keep in mind that bending a boundary means in the long run you’re establishing a pattern with that individual or client. They may share your “flexibility” with someone else. And before you know it the expectation is set, and you’re more frazzled than before.
It’s easier to set a policy, and be upfront with potential clients, than it is to harbor resentment, and try to manage their expectations later on down the road.
This is a simple example, but one of my “boundaries” is that I’m only available to be reached by customers/clients until 5pm during the week. Nights and weekends are reserved for self care, personal growth and loved ones.
Delegate and/or Automate
In keeping with our focus on time, one of the ways I was better able to manage my responsibilities, was through learning the beauty of delegation and automation. Depending on the size of your company, both tasks can shave down your to-do list, and allow you to be more productive. If you’re large enough to hire employees or bring in a team, delegating tasks is a must. Sharing responsibilities to reach a common goal encourages productivity, and keeps you from feeling a little less alone.
If hiring a team, virtual assistant or intern is unrealistic at this point in your journey, look for ways to automate your processes. There are sooo many programs that can help you do repetitive tasks that normally interrupt your efficiency. Examples like FAQ pages on your website, automated responses for email or social media, pre-configured contracts and forms are major timesavers. Get these set up from the beginning, and improve your work rate in the long run.
Find a Mentor
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Running a business is tough. If you’re looking for help in easing stress and reaching goals, a great approach is to find a mentor or at the very least a group of like minded individuals. When it comes to a mentor, look for someone who’s successful in the area you’re looking to be successful. Advice from family and friends is nice, but expert opinions from people who have lived through what you’re experiencing are more beneficial. They can help you navigate areas you’re unsure of, pass along work, and expand your network.
Remember this when seeking out a mentor, or online support group: you are a multifaceted individual. It’s okay to have more than one person to bounce your ideas off of. It’s also possible to outgrow relationships. Take what works, and leave what doesn’t.
I live by this, so much so it’s actually a service I offer to my clients for social media. Batch your content! Taking time to create weeks or months of content ready to go frees you mind to do other things. Social media is its own job. If you don’t have a team, it’s exhausting to constantly be trying to figure out what to post on which platform. Plan ahead, take a few hours out of one day to create all that content, research trends and share when ready.
Last but not least, find ways to simplify. The old adage “better complete, than perfect” can help you take a load off. Just be mindful of what can afford to not be “perfect”. Simplify a task, simplify your offerings, especially when you’re doing it alone. It’s so much easier to stand behind and promote a few services or products (service based solopreneurs/small businesses I’m talking to you) than to try to wrangle in clients for a slew of different offerings. Figure out what your most profitable offerings are, and become well known for that.
At the end of the day, a great way to reduce the anxiety entrepreneurship brings is to intentionally make time for yourself, and actively search for ways to improve your productivity. Become better at managing your time, and make the time you’re given work for you.
Alysa Clay Brand Stylist, Lifestyle & Special Event Photographer
Sometimes it’s just easier to just go by professional creative. Alysa is an enthusiastic artsy-fartsy chick who is passionate about using arts of all mediums to empower and support creative entrepreneurs. For over ten years she’s been building websites, branding kits, and photographing special moments in the lives of many. The core of everything she does, is always to encourage individuals to be themselves authentically.
Brand Stylist, Lifestyle & Special Event Photographer