what I do all day & five tips for running your own business

by | Jun 29, 2021 | a slice of life, Balance, Running a Business | 12 comments

I will admit that my job isn’t a normal one.  I often say to my boys, “I know it doesn’t look like I’m working, but this is what my work looks like today.”  Sometimes it’s painting.  Sometimes it’s doodling in a notebook, working on ideas or designs.  Sometimes it’s doing photo shoots or editing photos.  Sometimes it’s playing on social media.  It’s working in the garden, it’s organizing, it’s hanging wallpaper, it’s building something, making something, writing something.  It’s working on a computer.  It’s working on my phone.  It’s recording a podcast.  It’s reading.  And, to make it even more complicated, my hobbies and business are so intertwined that even I sometimes can’t tell when I’m doing something for the fun of it or because I’m being paid to do it.  Because you (those who read my blog) have a front-row seat to this unusual occupation, I thought I would share a glimpse of what I do all day as well as five tips for running your own business for those who are interested.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

First of all, there aren’t really “typical days” for me and that’s what I like most about this gig.  I have never been one who enjoyed doing the same thing over and over again.  I definitely do not have an assembly line personality.  While the work might change from day to day, I try to keep some sort of structure in my week.  I tend to front-load my week so that I schedule more meetings and computer work Monday-Wednesday and leave Thursday and Friday open for creative work.  It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the goal.  Some people like to swap that around (I’ve heard of “maker mornings”, reserving business tasks for the afternoons), but I’ve learned that I need to get the priorities done because I’ll get lost in my creative work.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

Some of my business tasks include…  Checking & responding to e-mail & messages, writing (blog posts, social media copy, freelance articles), editing photos, editing video, schedule social media & blog posts, meetings (with my publisher, licensing agent, literary agent, clients, my assistant, etc.), reconciling my accounts, paying bills, budget planning, long-term planning, and developing new ideas.

Some of my creative tasks include…  Painting (this could be for future art sales, for commercial clients, or for customer commissions), photoshoots (for the blog, clients, or social media), working on my house (for myself, but also for the purpose of sharing on the blog, in my book, etc.), design work (product & pattern designs for my own future projects or for clients), making things (knitting, crochet, sewing, crafts, etc.)

I’ve mentioned this before, but for each day, I have a “big three.”  These are the three things that need to be done that day.  They are a mix of business tasks and creative work depending on the priorities.  Because my running to-do list is always miles long, picking three things helps me to focus and making meaningful progress on larger projects.  This is how I worked on my book.  (It’s coming out in September.  You can preorder it HERE.)  Some work for my book was on the big three list every day for months.  It might’ve been a marketing meeting with my publishing team or writing 1,000 words, proofreading, or taking pictures.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

I’ve learned that I need to do writing in the morning.  After a walk (usually listening to a podcast or audiobook), breakfast, and getting ready, I sit down at my computer and write.  I used to write my blog posts at the end of the day, but I have found that my mind just isn’t sharp late at night.  It was also cutting into my sleep and family time.  So I get my writing done and then I move on to other small daily tasks – checking e-mail, answering messages, following up on projects or commitments, etc.  Then, I’ll hit the other two things on my “big three” list (writing is almost always on there first.)  If I finish those and still have time left in my workday, I’ll either get ahead on tomorrow’s priorities or I’ll do some creative work.

While creative work seems like a luxury, it’s actually vital to what I do.  If all I did all day was work on my computer – maybe optimizing old posts on my website, creating a social media calendar, or answering e-mails, what would I write about here on the blog?  What would I share on social media?  My creative work feeds the business tasks.  One can’t happen without the other (and I wouldn’t want it to.)  It’s a delicate balance, though.  Too much creative work means I’m not taking time to respond to clients, manage my finances, post on my blog, or plan for the future.  Too many business tasks means I don’t have anything interesting to share, write about, or sell.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

When it’s all boiled down, no matter how unconventional it looks, it’s just like most other jobs.  There are the enjoyable parts that are a sweet spot and there are inevitable duties that are boring, but necessary.  And I do both.  I paint and I have meetings with my accountant about paying quarterly taxes.  I work on rooms in my house and have to stay on top of my e-mail.  I get to chose a lot of what I do and I have to answer to clients and I’m held accountable by contracts and deadlines.  I get to explore new creative endeavors and share book reviews and I also have to pay attention to insights and analytics, so I can adapt to shifts in the market and trends.

Running your own business can often be portrayed in extremes.  Either you’re doing what you love every second of the day and being paid for it or you’re perpetually stressed and in debt up to your neck.  I think the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.  Yes, you have the chance to turn what you enjoy doing into a business, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy and effortless.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

(You can buy the pear platter HERE.)

For those who are interested in starting & running their own business (or you already have and need some encouragement), here are five tips I’ve learned along the way…

tips for running your own business | one

Do something you really love.  If you just moderately enjoy something, you’ll likely end up hating it.  You have to be very passionate about whatever your product or service is in order to stick it out when times are tough.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

tips for running your own business | two

Treat it like a business.  When it’s something you love doing, it’s easy to treat it as an expensive hobby with a business name.  It’s easy to not value your work and to put it off in favor of things that feel more pressing or important.  If painting is your business, then painting is important!  If writing is your business, then writing is important!  Treating your business as a business means you do important tasks even when you don’t feel like it.  It means you are consistent, reliable, and professional.  If you want your business to be successful, no matter how small, treat it like a business, like the “real job” it is.

As an extension of this, I would encourage anyone running a small business to consider what kind of benefits you can offer yourself.  Just because you’re small (even one person) doesn’t mean you can’t have a retirement plan with matching contributions from your company or other perks.  Talk with an accountant who specializes in small business and can guide you through making your company a great one to work for!

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

tips for running your own business | three

Be flexible.  In order to have a successful small business, I think it’s important to stay flexible in order to change with the market, with ever-evolving technology, with trends, and with your own creative interests.  That doesn’t mean you change the heart of your business, but it means you are always assessing your methods, your tools, your messaging.  Businesses that are unwilling to change usually end up going the way of the dodo bird.

tips for running your own business | four

Pay yourself.  Is it a business?  Then you need to be making money off of it, even if it’s just a little bit.  Start off paying yourself something right in the beginning.  Put a portion in your pocket and invest a portion back into the business.  There will always, always be something new to buy to grow your business or make it more efficient.  It is so important to recognize a part of everything that comes in as your salary.  In the beginning, it might be irregular, but it can (and hopefully will), eventually turn into a reliable monthly income for you.  You won’t get there, though, if you don’t go into a business with that mindset.

five tips for running your own business | miss mustard seed

tips for running your own business | five

“Protect the asset.”  When starting and running a business, guess what your greatest asset is?  It’s you.  You are the engine, the brains, the heart, the captain.  If you go down, the ship goes down.  It’s so easy to get caught up in your work, especially if you love it.  I’ve been there so many times!  Neglecting sleep, healthy eating, exercise, haircuts, doctor’s visits, time with friends, in favor of doing work.  But, no one starts their own business saying, “I started a business because I want to be overworked, underpaid, and chronically tired, with no life.”  Recognize that all of those healthy habits are a part of making your business the best it can be, not things that take time away from it.  Your work will be better if you feel rested, healthy, balanced, and fulfilled.

If you’d like to read more posts about running a creative business, you can find a whole bunch HERE.  If you’ve never read my business story (it’s a good one), you can read about it HERE.

12 Comments

  1. Jennifer Knopf

    Hi Marian, Thanks for sharing a snippet of your daily routine. I get bored with doing the same thing everyday as well, and part of what I love as a business owner is that I determine my day’s tasks – physical ones, creative ones, social ones, logical ones, etc. Small business owners do it all and every day is different. I appreciate your reminder that we are our own best asset! It’s easy to get swept up in everyone else’s needs (vendors, customers, spouses, and children’s) and to neglect your own need to relax, stay focused, and to keep dreaming!

    Reply
  2. Linda Ebright

    I hear ya, sister! I ran a home based business for 22 years, and am recently retired. My husband worked with me full time for the last 12 of those years. He handled the biz part, I did the creative. For many people, having him work with me full time (for me!) “legitimized” the business. It was hard for people to take my business seriously until then, even though my income surpassed his. Even my own mother thought this way. We would be eating lunch with her at her senior living facility and she would say “Alan, don’t you need to get back to work?”. I would say, “Hey, I work there too!”. I don’t think she ever got me “working”.

    I blogged as a part of my work, just as a way to stay in touch with my customers around the world. Occasionally I did “A day in the life” posts similar to yours. They always got lots of comments. Everyone assumed the creative part (the fun part!) was the whole part. Hardly? I always felt like I spent way more time on other stuff than the actual creating.

    I could make lots more comments, but I’ll try to end. One funny thing people always asked me “how do you stay motivated to work every day and not just goof off, since you work from home?”. I always said the hard part was stopping work. I would work 7 days a week (trying to get ahead on weekends when my customers weren’t emailing), and most evenings. I would sometimes say “the amount of time I work is directly proportional to the amount I earn!”.

    Best to you in the years ahead – thanks for blogging!

    Reply
  3. Julie | Home On The Hill

    Great advice. Reading this I find in many ways my daily life is similar to yours Marian, much of what you describe resonates with me. I am also a small business owner running my own web & graphic design agency from home, plus home also happens to be an alpaca farm that I run with help at times from my hubby.

    Main difference though is I don’t get paid for blogging about my other passion which is decorating our farm house with vintage & upcycled pieces as well creating art/craft. 😀 But it is my escape & my way to relax – it’s another world when I’m playing with creative ideas that are just for me & not having to match a client’s brief.

    The biggest down side I find for small business owners is we often work longer hours than employees in a 9 to 5 job & you can’t just walk away from work at the end of the day as easily, or delegate work, or know someone will pick up the reins if you have a day off sick.

    Arranging a holiday is a major deal for us with the farm & the business combined with 3 dogs & my 89 year old mum who lives on the farm with us – it’s like a military operation organising all the logistics! LOL

    But I wouldn’t swap my at times crazy life for a ‘normal job’ – I love being my own boss & although knowing the business survival or failure is all on me can at times feel like a burden, at the same time the buzz I get from seeing clients happy with my work, or helping people start their alpaca farms is worth it. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Debbie Hibbert

    I love reading your words, Marian! You are so talented, in so many ways/areas, but I absolutely love your writing! I swear you could write about watching paint dry, and present it in a way that I would find interesting, entertaining, educational, etc. I’m so excited to get your new book, but while I’m waiting, I purchased a copy of one of your older books. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us!🙂

    Reply
  5. Roberta Cordell

    I saw your beautiful pear platter on your shelf. In one of your posts you said it was available on Amazon, I have not been able to find it and wonder if it is still available. Thanks

    Reply
  6. Karen B.

    It’s fun to hear about what it takes to do what you do. I have followed you a long time and I’m forever impressed at your unending talents. I love your artwork but I also get inspiration from your decor and other ideas. Thank you for always entertaining me with your work.
    xo,
    Karen

    Reply
  7. Diane

    Marian, I have been a follower since the beginning. I love how true you are to yourself, how you let us into your life and how you open yourself to us. I appreciate the work and time it takes to give us the amazing content you do! Thank you!
    I have always loved that platter, no idea it was your work! WOW

    Reply
  8. Wendy

    Oh Marion – I get exhausted just reading what you pack into a day. Do you have a cleaner? I find housework cooking shopping gets in the way a lot of the time plus I like to play golf twice a week.
    Love 💕 your blog – greetings from Australia

    Reply
    • Miss Mustard Seed

      I actually don’t use a cleaning service currently. I used to use one every two weeks in our last house and it was glorious! I was in my studio (outside of the house) all day, though, so it was nice to have someone clean while I was gone. Now that I’m home all day, I just clean here and there and Jeff and the boys pitch it. While cleaning is annoying at times, I get a lot of great ideas when I’m cleaning!

      Reply
  9. Amanda

    I really love that you included you don’t do the same thing everyday because that doesn’t fit with your personality. I am the same way, but I still enjoy some measure of structure. I have always dreamed of doing something creative but so much blogging advice/ business advice is conveyor belt “niche it down” that just doesn’t suit me. I’m a creative person, who often feels pulled in several different directions, and have felt badly for not being “focused” enough. You are a great example of having vast creative endeavors, but married with focus and structure. Thanks for sharing. I love all your books and content by the way, and feel inspired by your story, as it’s sooo very relatable. Your home looks amazing, and brings so much inspiration to me as I work towards redoing our “project” home as I affectionately call it.

    Reply
  10. Sandra

    Your blog is beautiful and very interesting. Unfortunately, it’s so crammed with advertisements it’s almost impossible to read. Even when I click on the X button, they pop right back. Right now, just trying to comment, there are 3, sometimes, 4 adverts coming and going. UGH!

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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