There’s often a common theme to the conversations about work I have with lots of people who have a job and receive a salary.
They’re intrigued by what it’s like to be a freelancer and clearly imagine carefree days of lounging around and drinking coffee with the odd hour of work here and there.
So there’s an element of surprise when I say I get up at 6am every day so I’ve got time to go for a run and do a few chores before sitting down at my desk by 9am. The reason for my motivation is simple: if I don’t work I don’t get paid and that’s a pretty good reason to be disciplined.
It’s an answer that invariably leads on to a conversation about the stresses and strains of running my own small business. It’s a conversation that always interests me because it makes me realise how stressful my job sounds: after all, while I can take credit for any success I achieve, I must take full responsibility for the failures too.
So when I heard it was Stress Awareness Month in April, it started me thinking about all the things I do to manage any stress and run my business well.
Here’s what I came up with…
I manage my time as efficiently as I can
For me, staying on top my business is all about feeling like I’m in control of it rather than vice versa.
For example, I operate a Default Diary. (If you Google it, you’ll find lots of templates you can use, although I just use my Outlook calendar.) It means that each week I set aside time to do all the important things in my business such as marketing, admin and planning. I also use it to schedule in all my client work so I know I’ve got enough time for everything and won’t forget anything. And I colour code every task so I can see at a glance if I’m spending too little time on client work or not enough time on the business.
I automate my business as much as I can
It’s amazing how much time is taken up doing the same things over and over again, so I try to minimise this wherever I can.
For example, I have templates for letters and emails that I write often (such as quotes, networking follow ups and so on) so these take much less time to send out than they might.
And all my files and contacts etc are in the cloud and synced across my laptop, tablet and phone, so I can access everything from everywhere.
I manage my finances as well as I can
I spent the first couple of years of my business using two Excel spreadsheets for my finances. The first showed the income and the second showed the outgoings. I thought the system worked fine and I had to be convinced that paying for a cloud accounting system would be worth it, but now I’m a complete convert. I use Xero but I know there are lots of other packages such as QuickBooks that people swear by. I can see at a glance how the business is doing and accounting now takes minutes not hours.
I have a strong network of people around me
I’ve been lucky enough to meet lots of fantastic people in the five years since I set up Pippin. It means I know the right people when I need a hand or someone asks me for a recommendation. It also means I’ve got people I can turn to when I need advice, inspiration or simply a bit of a boost.
I treat myself well
My home life is just as important as my work life. My working day stops at around 5pm unless I have an evening networking meeting because my time with my partner is pretty much sacred.
I also eat healthily and stay fit. For me, both these things are vital for feeling good about myself and having a positive attitude.
What about you?
These are the things I do to keep my stress levels under control. What do you do?
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