Being a solopreneur is empowering. I can work from home, my favorite coffee shop, on the other side of the country or even the world, and not worry about vacation time. I can decide who I work with, how, and when.
It certainly looks shiny and golden from the outside, doesn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty stellar. But here’s the catch- if you are running your own business, when do you take a break? Setting boundaries at the onset of starting your business might very well be the key to keeping your sanity.
In a previous post, I wrote about my time management strategy (which still is going strong, by the way) and how it creates space for me to live my life and run my business. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this recently and the work/life balance expectations people have as entrepreneurs.
Expectations of life as a solopreneur:
You work 20 out of 24 hours each day.
You should never drink water, only coffee, because how else can you keep going?
Exercising is only to make sure you keep your energy up for more work.
Food should only be consumed either at your desk or over a meeting with a potential client.
Friends and family are strategically scheduled into your calendar.
I was at a meetup a few months ago where someone said: “sleep is the new status symbol.” If you have the luxury of sleeping a full 8 hours each night, you must have really succeeded. But in order to get there, say adios to your pillow.
This is insane.
Yes, some grit and hard work must occur when you’re building up your business, but if you are losing out on the rest of life, is it worth it?
How can you scale your business strategically without sacrificing your health, relationships, or passions? Can you still play Frisbee on the weekends?
Let’s set up some boundaries, shall we?
Before you enter the ‘grind’ and just start churning out work, think about how much you actually need or want to make in that month. If you reach that point mid-month, STOP. Give yourself a little break.
Setting goals will help you set good boundaries for yourself so you’re not just always trying to get to whatever the proverbial and elusive ‘next’ step is.
But don’t just set monetary goals.
Set yourself life goals.
What fun things do you want to achieve this month?
Do you want to actually finish that book on your shelf, train for a marathon (I mean that’s crazy but more power to you), or go to a concert with your friends?
If you’re not setting life goals then getting swept up in the grind is all too easy.
Create a list of Must-Haves
What activities in your life can you just positively never live without? I make space for the gym, Frisbee, cooking, time with my partner, and reading in bed every Saturday morning until the coffee in my system forces me to get up and actually do something. I need these activities to stay sane and feel balanced.
I get insanely grumpy if I don’t get my Saturday morning read in bed.
Figure out what your must-haves are and make them non-negotiable.
I say no to client meetings if it’s gym time or if I’m making dinner that night. My life comes first, not the job.
Your life comes first, not the job.
Set up client expectations
Once you’ve figured out your goals and must-haves, set those expectations with your clients. Let them know when your office hours are and actually stick to them.
Detail out in your contracts what they are hiring you for and be extra-diligent about scope creep.
If you set boundaries on the onset, you not only look more professional but it creates a better relationship between you and the client. Expectations are key in any relationship.
Leave your computer behind
You knew that eventually I had to get to the title of the blog post.
Taking breaks is super hard when you are on your own.
I only take one vacation a year where I leave my computer behind.
I’m a counselor for an amazing non-religious youth group for high school students. Throughout the academic year, we spend every Sunday diving into difficult topics that the students pick and us as counselors create programming for.
I’m talking about fracking, the criminal justice system, abortion, Black Lives Matter, gender and sexuality- whatever the students want to learn more about, we help.
Each summer we go on a week-long service camp we like to call “workcamp.” It’s 5 8-hour days of hard manual labor where not only am I making sure the students are cutting their thumbs off with a miter saw, but I’m making sure they are drinking water, working as a team, and learning how to check if the frame they built is square or not.
It’s seriously the most fulfilling week of my year.
And yes, I take a vacation to go do more work.
When I was letting my clients and community know I was heading out, I can’t begin to tell you how many people asked me if I was taking my computer along.
There was no way I was going to work in the hot sun for 8 hours and then get back and do more work!
Before the trip, I worked multiple 10-12 hour days to get ahead on all my client work, turned off the computer, and left it behind.
As solopreneurs, it’s way too easy to bring your computer along with you. Or get work email updates on your phone when really you should be present and enjoying whatever it is you’re doing.
Make sure you take a vacation at least once a year where your computer and phone are not even an option for you.
Taking a sincere break from work gave me a ton of perspective on how I was spending my time. I came back energized.
Wait, that’s a bit of a lie.
I came back from workcamp completely and utterly exhausted BUT energized and ready to jump back into my business.
All I’m really trying to impress upon you, gentle reader, is that you figure out what you are working for.
Set up life goals and expectations to keep you in check and ensure you are still living your life and not just working for the sake of the grind.
Leave your computer behind and get some perspective.