Hey Rebooters! Hope you’re loving the new weekly format! We’re back with you today talking about freedom… and how to create that with your hours of business!
What drives creatives to set up their business? It’s usually the lure of freedom, the thought of flexibility and being in charge of your own hours. And yet in the early days (ahem, weeks, months, years), you often find yourself dancing to everyone’s tune but your own, whether it’s your clients or your family and friends, or your workload.
What we want to emphasise is that you are in charge of your business. Whether it’s time or style or type of communication, it’s your responsibility as the owner of a business to set your boundaries and make it clear from the very start when and how you work, so your clients can’t take over your life and diary without even meaning to!
What we talk about
Emails – wonderful invention, yet the bane of our lives
If you check your email first thing, you start your day at the mercy of everyone else, with each email being a way for someone else to set your priorities and tasks for the day. This habit can be a hangover from previous desk jobs, and can be a really hard one to break.
Finding the right time to check your emails is really totally your choice – for Carla it’s end of day, to help create tomorrow’s to do list, or in the middle of the day as a procrastination tool. For Sarah it’s a first thing in the morning job, but she has a system which has evolved over time which makes them much easier to deal with. This involves glancing over new emails every day, and then shifting into folders – to keep / follow up / to read later means that she’s checked there’s nothing major or urgent and her inbox is done in five minutes every morning.
Both of us have had some mindset shifts to get here – and as when your emails turn up most often can also depend on your industry, it’s worth looking at this and then creating autoresponders or other systems so you can train your clients and customers, and set their expectations of when you are around and able to reply.
You’re allowed to do this, whatever stage your business is at! Setting and sticking to your boundaries is totally ok.
And all of those choices, around emails and other things, should be rooted in how you want to run your business, and your life.
Don’t let other people dictate your task list and in what order you do them – if you’re in charge of your working day, you need to decide what that working day looks like!
Distraction is real, too – if you’re constantly distracted from what you’re focusing on when you’re interrupted, you’re not going to work as effectively as you could – and emails, phones, notifications can all be just as distracting as other humans.
Things take over because we allow them to
If you, like most people, have left a job where you’re accountable to at least one person, being totally responsible for what is and isn’t happening in your business is quite a big mindset shift.
Unless you’re clearly rebellious like us and do your own thing and just don’t shout about it too much at the time…!
But if you’re going to fit your work to your life, rather than squidging your life in around your work, it’s really important to be quite firm with your boundaries, routines and rhythms you’ve set. Even more so if most of your humans you see socially work 9 to 5.
“That doesn’t work for me” is a useful sentence, because saying a flat no is actually quite a hard skill to master, especially as women.
Another favourite saying – “your lack of planning is not my emergency”. These things are helpful to keep in mind, because ultimately we do want to give our clients good service, look after them, make them happy and fix things for them – but it’s not our problem to fix, and you are not obliged to juggle to fit last minute requests in.
The concept of a rush fee, and bringing this up very early on when someone needs something last minute, is a very useful one, and not one you should be ashamed of having.
The paradox of freedom and routine
You can’t sustainably work all the hours at both ends of the day – and while burn out is something we all experience, it’s not something we want to do often.
True freedom often means having a routine – so that there’s structure in place for the things that have to get done, and having boundaries so that you can say no to things, and from those unlikely seeds, freedom grows.
We’re not fans of the hustle culture of entrepreneurship which tends to glorify millions of hours of work and no sleep – in the beginning, of course you work longer and harder to get things up and running, but that isn’t sustainable for very long.
Working from home perceptions
“Can you just…” is probably the most annoying phrase in the life of an entrepreneur who is working from, or based at, home. We think the last 12 months have changed this a bit, because so many people have been forced to work from home, and have realised that just because you’re at your desk at home, it doesn’t mean you have endless time to put the washing on, do the cooking, look after your cousin’s kids or various other things you may previously have been asked to do.
Having said that, if it’s your own choice to get up for a screen break and do the washing so you don’t have to after work, that’s a perk – but it shouldn’t be assumed that it’s your job because your office happens to be in your house.
If you’re a night owl, you’ll also need to remember to time any noisy housework and DIY for more sociable hours. Carla may or may not have bought a quieter vacuum cleaner due to her ongoing habit of doing housework at 2am!
Phones, video calls and availability
Conventional wisdom says that as a business, you should have a phone number everywhere. Neither of us do this and we’re very happy about it – don’t feel bullied into having your phone number everywhere.
And neither of us are fans of unprompted phone or video calls – you can hear the horror as we talk about this, and this is one reason Carla has a separate phone for clients (which is often switched off!). Switching your phone off is an option, you’re allowed to not be available 24/7 just because you’re a business owner.
You are allowed to communicate in your business in whichever way suits you, and to not communicate in the ways which stress you out. It’s your business and you can choose how you do it. Including replying when you fancy but scheduling emails to go out at more appropriate times!
A permission slip, from us to you
The hours, the channels, the ways you communicate, the work you offer, the social media platforms, everything about your business is yours to decide. This is our permission slip to to you, to make the choices which work best for you, not the ones you think you “should” make because that’s what is expected.
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