February 22, 2017

Self-care and the start-up

5 great work habits for entrepreneurs to boost wellbeing while building a brand.

Running a business is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. You get to make money doing something you’re passionate about, while having full control over your work schedule — the amount of freedom can be a little addictive, and very inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself. When everything from marketing to product creation is on your plate, you can find yourself more stressed than you should be – and too overwhelmed to do something about it.

That’s why it’s important to build smart work habits that not only help you work more efficiently, but ensure you look after your wellbeing – which in turn gives you the energy and creativity to push your business even further.

Instead of doing more, review your goals

Tara Gentile, a small business consultant and strategist, notes that a common problem for busy entrepreneurs is trying to grow their business by doing more of the same – “more work, more offers, more email subscribers, more marketing.” But when you’re only focused on doing more, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually reach the point where you have more tasks than you will time to do them.

Instead, set bigger goals that help you keep focused on the major steps for your business to level up. “It might mean taking a risk and hiring a team member, or cutting one product and going all in on the other,” she says. “But, however you approach it, it’s going to mean doing things differently. Doing things differently will get you out of the burnout cycle and on to growing your business.”

Price yourself right

As an entrepreneur or freelancer, you may be at your desk 40 hours a week – but not all of them will be billable towards your target income. When calculating your hourly rate for clients:

  • Factor in that between 25-50% of your time will be spent on marketing your business, talking to potential customers and doing admin.
  • Remember to account for the costs of running your own show. For example, you might base your hourly rate off an employee salary, then increase it by a factor of 1.5-3x to cover taxes, healthcare, and business expenses.
  • Review your rates periodically. Don’t forget to benchmark against others in the industry – and your own productivity – to make sure you’re being fair on yourself. Depending how fast your skill-set is growing, a good rule of thumb is to up your fees when you’re booked out for a month or two.

Be realistic about productivity

Especially when you’re starting out, you may find it difficult to clock how long one specific part of a project will take. Underestimating your time spent in your business can mean under-pricing your services – and when you aren’t making enough money, it’s hard to convince yourself to take a break!

Start tracking your time so that you have concrete numbers to create estimates for services or projects – this is less labour-intensive than you might think. There are tons of apps that make it easy to do from anywhere – trial a couple until you find one you like.

It’s a good idea to pad your time estimates too — consider multiplying your expected time taken by 1.5 to account for revision requests from the client or unexpected delays in communication.

Get organized

Staying organized can do wonders for your peace of mind as an entrepreneur. Creating a workflow that works for you is a highly personal process, but these tools can help:

Evernote is great for storing documents and your notes to self, as well as bookmarking inspiration for new projects. And the phone app comes with a scanner – no more losing notes, receipts, business cards, or invoices!

To keep track of your to-do list: Asana and Wunderlist are great if you’re more of a linear thinker, or if you want a more visual way to manage your projects, try MeisterTask, Trello or Asana’s new board option.

Organizing your cashflow and invoicing can remove a lot of stress, too – Quickbooks and Xero are accounting apps for small business owners, while Harvest and Freshbooks additionally have time-tracking and easy payment tools built in.

Make time for yourself

Todd Henry, business author and speaker, says one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is letting business take over their lives. “Make sure you’re taking time on a regular basis to fill your mind with inspiring stimuli and ideas,” he says. Whether that’s checking out art exhibitions or settling in with a new Danish noir TV show, it’ll help you stay fresh and generate great ideas.

An underrated favorite is to try a series of podcasts and audiobooks. There are so many great ones to choose from, whether you’re into surreal audio dramas or non-fiction narratives about design – and they can be “read” while you’re cooking, walking the dog, cleaning the house, or in the car.

Want to make your work time more productive? Try these tips

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