Everyone wants their small business to be successful, but what happens when you get what you wish for? Success needs to be managed carefully, otherwise it could lead to burnout.
I know. It’s crazy. I spent years in the corporate world trying to start a business on the side so now things are going well I should be grateful … right?
Like many businesses, mine has ebbs and flows. After two years, I realisedwe were running on a six-month cycle: twice a year we would get a large influx of bookings that booked us out months in advance.
In the past, these floods of new clients were met with excitement.
Yes, I must be doing something right, I congratulated myself. Awesome, I have some security for the next few months!
But something funny happened during the last influx. I watched my calendar fill up with an increasing sense of dread and anxiety. How am I going to keep up? What if something happens and I can’t work? When will I get a break?
The last question was the key to my angst.
The importance of breaks in business
In past careers, I holidayed religiously. I would go away once or twice a year for a few weeks at a time, and often went away for a weekend or two as well. Every time I came back to work I would be full of excitement and enthusiasm, ready to get stuck in to whatever challenges were waiting on my desk.
Yet, in two years as an entrepreneur, I’d never taken a break from my business. Yes, I’d done a fair amount of travelling, but I’d always taken work with me. On every trip I would start my day with a few hours at my computer before going out and seeing the sights, and then return in the evening to check my emails and catch up on admin.
In other words, I’d never been completely switched off. And it was exhausting.
- It meant I became less and less productive as I found myself wanting to be somewhere, anywhere, rather than sitting in front of the computer.
- It meant I left work to the last minute, and then had a spike of anxiety as I raced to meet my deadlines.
- And it meant that I had no energy or enthusiasm left to work on growing the business beyond my regular client work.
Sometimes I found myself wishing I hadn’t been so successful, just so I could get time off.
Yes, as I mentioned before, crazy.
How did I get over it? I discovered two mindset shifts that helped me bring my business back into balance.
1. If someone really wants to work with you, they’ll wait
One of the reasons I never took time off was because I was worried about turning potential clients away.
This was partly financial. I feared if I couldn’t fit them in, then they might go somewhere else and I’d lose that revenue.
But mostly it was becayse I’ve always hated disappointing people. I’ve never been good at saying ‘no’, so I often take on more than I should to my own detriment.
In the end, I realised if someone really wanted to work with me, they’d wait. In fact, they were already waiting three months for my next available spot, so what was an extra two weeks if I scheduled some time off in my calendar?
Those who weren’t willing to wait, those who wanted me to work with them now? They weren’t going to work with me anyway. So really, I wasn’t disappointing them or letting them down – they simply weren’t the right clients for me.
2. If breaks aren’t scheduled, they won’t happen
When I first started my business, my attitude was, I’ll take on as much work as I can while it’s coming in because I don’t know when it will stop.
What I’ve realised is if I wait for things to slow down before I take some time off, it will never happen.
After two years of being booked out, I’ve discovered that my workflow is pretty steady. I have a very targeted niche and am active in that community. This keeps my funnel of work full year round.
Those busy times of the year, the ones where I book out a few months in advance? Those account for a good eight months of bookings. And in the slower times of the year I tend to get a lot of last-minute work that quickly erases any free weeks.
This means the only way to ensure I get time off is to book it in advance. So I now have breaks blocked out over Christmas and for 2016. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I will not be taking on clients during those times. I know those who really want to work with me will do so anyway, and the work I do for them will be much better as a result of having that time off.
Have you ever had second thoughts about your business’s success? How do you keep your enthusiasm up?