Entrepreneurship is huge for millennials. Many of my clients run their own businesses, side hustles, or are thinking about quitting their day job to live the life of an entrepreneur. I’ve long since given up a commute and a cubicle for the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. Follow any business guru on social media and you’ll be bombarded with messages about how the hustle is worth it when you finally attain success.
Don’t get me wrong, success is sweet and it does take hard work, but stress will affect you physically and emotionally, and working 24/7 is a great way to end up friendless, unhealthy, and exhausted. I’ve watched too many people become “internet famous” only to feel lonely and isolated in their real lives. I know that’s dark, but it’s also the reality. Let’s explore some ways to avoid burnout and bring some more balance into your life as a small business owner.
Know when to hire and outsource tasks
When you first start out, you do every task yourself. This makes sense because you’re likely not profitable yet and you’re still shaping what your business will eventually become. But once your business begins to grow and stabilize, consider focusing your attention on the main drivers of revenue (like bringing in and retaining clients, producing a certain product, or being the public face of your company).
How can you carve out the time to do this? Hire rockstars and start outsourcing tasks! It’s scary to let someone else handle some of the work, but give it time. A few good hires will give you the time and space to dedicate to growing your business way more than you would have been able to do alone.
Know when not to hire
Adding the right people to your team is important, but even more important is regularly looking over your work processes to make sure they’re as streamlined as possible. That helps prevent inefficiencies you think will be solved by hiring someone (which is expensive!). You may actually need to tweak how you complete certain tasks. Save your hiring budget for when you really need it.
Take time to unplug
Give yourself periodic breaks where you can ignore your email, set your phone to “do not disturb,” and recharge. Ideally, you don’t have to work on every vacation you take, but even the occasional personal day helps. I build personal days into my schedule where I can take a yoga class, meet up with a friend, or even just get some errands done.
Block off your calendar and, if needed, let employees and clients know you’ll be unavailable during that time. Depending on the nature of your business, your employees may be able to cover for you while you’re away, or your business may just go quiet for a few days. I promise it will survive, and you’ll be a better business owner when you come back refreshed and ready to work!
And if you have employees, encourage them to take time off, too. Your business also suffers if your staff is burned out, but it will thrive if everyone has the space to take breaks.
Practice time blocking
Decide which days and times you take phone calls or meetings and do your best to stick to this schedule. You may want to build in a 15 or 30 minute buffer in between calls for any wrap up needed. This will allow you to focus on client work on certain days and strategy work on other days.
Schedule certain times of day for email. I have to admit that I’m not great at this but I do ignore my inbox for awhile so I can focus on the most important tasks I need to complete that day. If you have a series of phone calls to return, do them all at the same time. By batching tasks you’ll find that you’re more productive and able to knock out more work in a shorter amount of time.
Get help from the pros
Professional help can be expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment in your business and your peace of mind. Even if you’re an expert in something, a pro can see your business in a different way than you can and help you avoid pitfalls.
A small business attorney
As your business grows and you start to hire contractors and work with more clients, it’s extremely important that you hire a lawyer to help with contracts, trademarking, setting up an LLC, etc. Don’t try to save money in this area when it could cost you a ton of money in the future. Some legal documents are state-specific, so be aware of this as well.
A financial planner and accountant
I’m a financial planner and I don’t do my own financial plan or taxes! I highly recommend that entrepreneurs work with financial professionals. You’re dealing with a lot that you didn’t consider when you worked full-time for an employer: uneven or negative income, business expenses, quarterly estimated tax payments, and more. It’s more important than ever to set money goals and have someone in your corner who can help keep you accountable, but can also help you adjust your plans as needed. And trust me: you don’t want to screw up your tax return.
Your financial planner can work with your CPA to find tax planning opportunities in addition to ways to grow your net worth over the long term. Sometimes CPAs are so focused on finding a tax deduction in the current year, they may miss more long term planning opportunities like when it makes sense to do a Roth conversion or when you might want to file your taxes separately from your spouse.
A business coach
It seems like anyone with an Instagram account full of inspirational quotes is trying to make money as a coach these days, so you need to choose a business coach carefully. The right coach can be extremely helpful in taking your business to the next level and many of the top entrepreneurs I know have worked with high-end coaches to level up their life. Look for:
- Someone who has successfully worked with others in your industry before.
- Someone who really listens to you and tailors your coaching sessions to your specific needs.
- Someone who integrates building your business to support the life that you want.
You don’t just want someone to complain to for an hour a week (that’s what friends are for!). An effective coach hears your concerns, and then works to broaden your perspective and challenge your assumptions. They come prepared with tools, book recommendations, and action steps you can complete to help create the change you want in your business.
I think it’s wonderful that our generation is so much more open about seeing therapists. There’s absolutely no shame in getting the help you need. I feel that much of my personal, professional, and business success has come from working with an incredible therapist over the last few years.
Why would an entrepreneur need a therapist? Because you blew up your stable life and financial security to follow your dreams and that’s terrifying. Because you’re sacrificing self-care, sleep, and time with loved ones to get your business off the ground and you’re left feeling frazzled. Because imposter syndrome is real and intensifies when you’re launching a business. A therapist can help you navigate the emotional highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.
I often come back to this quote by Ryan Holiday: “Perfecting the personal regularly leads to success as a professional, but rarely the other way around.” We spend all this time upleveling our professional lives but we often don’t put a tenth of as much effort into working on our personal lives (i.e. being the best partner, friend, or lover that we can be).
You are your most important client
It’s so easy to sacrifice your own wellbeing to please others when you run a business. But in my experience, your business is more successful, and your clients are happier, when you can be fully present. In order to do that, you need to run your business in an effective way that leaves you time to take good care of yourself. I’ll leave you with my secret for how I try to effectively integrate client work, business strategy, and self-care:
Color code your calendar.
My big secret is that I put all my client meetings in green (since those are money-making activities), meetings with my team or other professionals in blue (since those are strategy and marketing calls), and all items in my personal life in purple (since this is what makes the other ones worth it).
I’ve found that if I don’t have enough purple on my calendar, then I’m not taking great care of myself and I probably need to plan something fun with friends, go to a yoga class, schedule therapy, or make an appointment to get a pedicure. It’s the easiest way to prevent myself from burning out, by making sure there’s an equal balance of green, blue and purple. It helps me visually catch when I might feel overwhelmed or exhausted from work and build in time to recharge.
I spent a year at a start-up working crazy hours and living in front of my laptop and I vowed that if I ran my own company, I would never do that again. I sacrificed my health, my happiness and my relationships. Hopefully, these tools can help you avoid burnout in your journey as a small business owner and instead build a business around your ideal life!