Keeping Life Simple as an Entrepreneur

Keeping Life Simple as an Entrepreneur

I don't think many small business owners would ever describe their lives as stress free, or simple. The process of growing, running and maintaining a business is a difficult and time consuming endeavor to say the least. Does that mean that we as creative entrepreneurs are doomed to have endlessly complicated lives? Not in the least. Yes, working hard comes with the territory but, having happier, simpler lives is as easy as changing a few habits.

 

The first step in all of this is to force yourself to let go of perfectionism. We have to understand and accept that not everything will go as planned. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to find the "right" choice when really, any decent option would have worked out. The same could be said for trying to become more efficient. When I was a kid I spent more time trying to figure out how to spend less time on my math homework, than I did actually finishing the homework. It's a pretty ridiculous problem when you think about it. Sometimes most perfect way to do something, is just to get it done.

 

Take your scheduling seriously. Make the active commitment to keeping your calendar up to date, and keep a definite routine (wake up on time, go to bed on time, eat on time...and for the love of God, dedicate a day that you will take OFF of work without exception.) The biggest pitfall of freelance artists is the lack of commitment to a schedule. Yes, we are free from the confines of a nine-to-five job. However, without set working hours we either start to work far too much, or not near enough. Commit to a schedule, and take it seriously.

 

Putting a system of organization into place is crucial to simplifying your life. It's important not just in your business but in every aspect of your life. Choose a task-managing app that suits your needs and style. Make it a part of your life and utilize it to the fullest for at least two months before you decide it isn't for you. There are some great options out there with prices ranging from free to up in the hundreds. I have personally tried out Toodledo, Producteev and OmniFocus. The latter is unfortunately the one I like the most...and I only say "unfortunately" because of the price point ($80 for desktop, $20 for iPhone, $40 for iPad). The app itself is pretty amazing, the price is the only irritating piece.

 

Set the expectations of those close to you, as far as how your life is. When streamlining our lives we will inevitably need to address the people in our lives. What is your focus and where do they fit into this new model? If you let everyone know your priorities then managing their expectations becomes easier. There isn't a single person in my life that believes they will ever see me in May. Everyone knows this, and therefore nobody is let down when I can't make it to something. Do the people you care about the favor of being clear with what you're up to.

 

Since we are on the subject of friends and family...toxic relationships have no place in a simple, happy life. It's time to weed the garden. I know this sounds cold and callous but it is ok to say goodbye to the negative influences in your life. Sever the unhealthy relationships no matter who they are. We are the sum of the people we associate with most. If you want to be a successful and happy person, you're going to have a real hard time getting there if you're always around people that don't fit the bill. You want to be less of a pessimist? Surround yourself with people that look on the bright side. Am I saying that you should get rid of all of your broke friends? Absolutely not! I'm saying that you need to cull the people that are a negative influence on you. Spend less time with the people that don't understand what you want, and more time with those that do.

 

Lastly, take a vacation! The biggest misconception of running your own business is that you have to do everything yourself. This idea that you can't even leave town lest everything fall apart in the week you're gone. Maybe that would be true in the midst of a huge proposal or product launch, but more often than not we just don't want to let go of control. We rationalize it by convincing ourselves that the biggest client of our lives could call while we're gone. How likely is that really? If you're really that concerned, use a voice-mail system that you can check via the web (if you're going out of the country). It is ok to take some time for yourself.

 

In fact the whole point of simplifying things...is to give you more time for yourself. So use it to do something fun!

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2 Comments

Great advice, David. I think we're heading into a new era that will be filled with small businesses and entrepreneurs. So, you're advice is good for more than just photographers.

A few things I learned from running a content business:

1) Don't wear too many hats....In other words, don't take on too many diversified tasks. Instead, try to find a handful of things to be good at and concentrate on them. Then, delegate the remaining tasks to others (employees or vendors etc)
2) Don't micro-manage other people....A good businessman is confident in his decisions. This means that if he hires help then he also trusts them to do the job without too much of his own guidance. Delegate tasks to others and trust them to do their jobs. If there are problems, then find new help. But never get in the position of watching over someone's shoulder and being too much of a "perfectionist."
3) Imagine that all new expenses will be twice what you think they should be... In other words, whenever you estimate the cost of something new then imagine that it will be double what you originally thought it should be. The reason for doing this is because usually there are factors that you can't know about ahead of time but if you've already committed to a high estimate then the unexpected costs won't be a problem when they come up.
4) Count on the unexpected... It's a fact of life that people will be unreliable and there will always be accidents etc. All business owners must factor these in ahead of time so that they're prepared for when they happen and don't get stressed. For example, if a photographer hires a model for a shoot and she doesn't show up because she got in a car wreck or even just "flaked", then he should have already made plans ahead of time for that problem. Business owners that don't plan for the unexpected are always at the mercy of others and never really control their own businesses.
5) Don't get used to making a certain income....The market is constantly changing and what works one year might not work the next. People that are in a time of abundance often over-extend and then get into trouble when business pulls back. But people that "go with flow" and understand that there are high and low points will use the high times to plan for the low times.

Just a few thoughts...Hope that helps some folks

Good advice at a good time for me. Really enjoyed the article and hopefully I can implement some of this into my life for 2014.