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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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!
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.
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.