How to stop your business eating you alive
Do you ever feel like your solo business is eating your entire life? In this post, Kate shares some possible ways to claw back your freedom by setting business boundaries.
Last week I was watching a 1950s sci-fi, drive-in classic where two teenagers Steve (McQueen no less) and Jane try to protect their home town from a gelatinous alien lifeform.
Slowly but surely it engulfs everything. It even eats some old bloke.
It’s called The Blob, and for some reason it struck a chord.
I couldn’t figure out why at first. But then I realised that my business is The Blob. And it’s slowly consuming my time, my sanity and my life.
"My business is The Blob. And it’s slowly consuming my time, my sanity and my life."
What started as a two-short-days-a-week job has turned into a 50+ hours a week obsession.
Whenever a new sliver of time appears, The Blob consumes it.
My business Blob follows me everywhere. I create Canva graphics at the checkout. I post in the playground. I even tweet in the bath. (Yes, I like to live dangerously.)
Unfortunately, I don’t have brave Steve and plucky Jane to help me. I just have me.
And unfortunately The Blob ate my willpower many months ago.
But in this post I’m going to take a stand. I’m fighting back against The Blob. I’m reclaiming my town. I’m setting business boundaries. And I’m going to stop it eating old blokes.
Okay, my Blob analogy is wearing thin now. But bear with me, I’m hoping sharing them may help you set some of your own business boundaries.
Blob boundary 1: Stop getting up close and personal
Facebook is a weird place for me. I like to keep my personal profile personal and my business profile… well, you get the idea.
But what do you do when someone sends you a ‘personal message’? Once you accept they’re in your inner sanctum, and there’s no way to get them out again unless you block them.
And then there are the ‘Friend’ requests from randoms:
Not a hello, or even a poke (remember them?), but a straight-up ‘Friend’ request.
It’s like walking up to a stranger at a networking event and squeezing their bottom.
Sure, some people might enjoy it, but I like to keep my Facebook – and my bottom – private.
Blob boundary 2: Say goodbye to Mrs. Nice Guy
I’m a big fan of saying “Yes”.
“Yes, yes, yes.”
But sometimes that teeny tiny word gets me into trouble when I say it before thinking things through.
“Yes, I’ll write a guest blog for your site that will take three hours of my day – even though I later find out that your only readers are your mum and your cat.”
“Yes, I’ll come and present at your event for nothing, while you charge everyone for tickets and I don’t get so much as a chewy party pie to take home.”
From now on I’ll be investigating each ‘opportunity’ to see if it actually is an opportunity.
And I’m going to stop saying “Yes” to the all the shiny ideas in my head, and promising to do things I don’t want to do.
I’ll always be a people pleaser. But I’ll be making sure at least one of the people being pleased is me.
And that means saying “Maybe” more than I say “Yes”.
Blob boundary 3: Stop working from dawn ‘til dusk
Towards the end of my advertising career I finally realised that since I was a wage slave it didn’t matter if I stayed late or came in early. I got paid just the same.
So, I developed the knack of turning up at 9.01 and leaving bang on 5.31. I was a stickler for business hours.
But as a soloist? Not so much.
These days I’m a glutton for punishment:
- A 7am coaching call for my UK students? No problem.
- A late-night webinar to catch the busy parental customer base? I’m there.
- Giving up my weekend to speak at a conference? I’m your girl.
It would be fine if I took some down time during the day. But I don’t. I just work from dawn to dusk, crawl into bed exhausted, and do it all again the next day.
If this is what it takes to succeed, I’ll take something else.
I’m now limiting myself to one out-of-hours commitment a fortnight, and one weekend event every two months.
Blob boundary 4: Remember that customers buy my products, not my soul
We all have those customers.
They’re generally the ones who pay the least but want the most. And because they’re paying you, they think they can bombard you will emails and call you 24/7.
You’ll recognise them by the way they say:
“Can you just…?”
“This won’t take long…”
“Have you got five minutes?”
And for someone like me, it’s hard to say “No”. I’m a giver. I like to over-deliver. (Hey, that rhymes!)
But it’s my own fault. When you train people to rely on you for every little thing, guess what?
They rely on you for every little thing.
And sometimes they take advantage of your generosity.
There’s a belief that the customer is always right. But honestly, sometimes the customer is an over-demanding, needy pain in the bum. (Except for my current customers, of course!)
And you need to push back. Or even just ignore them a little.
So, I’m setting myself some rules.
I’ll learn not to leap on these questions so quickly.
I’ll encourage self-soothing and self-learning.
And if it comes to it, I’ll send them this to web address: https://lmgtfy.com
Blob boundary 5: Learn that it’s okay to let go
I’ll admit I’m a control freak and a micro-manager.
I like to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. I’ll even dot other people’s i’s if they’ll let me.
My inner Blob feels that I must be across everything or else something terrible will happen.
But I need to realise that after nine years as a soloist almost all of the bad things have already happened.
I’ve had failures and fluff-ups, and yet I’m still here.
If I’m to truly escape The Blob, I need to stop feeding it. I need to switch off and do *shudders* real-life things.
I need to turn off my phone, remove my cramped hands from the keyboard and run naked in the fields. (Figuratively, not literally. It’s too chilly right now.)
My business Blob is a terrible attention seeker. And the more time I give it, the more it wants.
My Blob and I need to go cold turkey.
So there you go.
To tame my business Blob and stop it eating my life I’m going to:
- Stop getting up close and personal
- Say goodbye to Mrs. Nice Guy
- Stop working from dawn ‘til dusk
- Remember that customers buy my products, not my soul
- Learn that it’s okay to let go
I’m not sure if it will work, or that I can kill The Blob completely. But I just need to remember what Steve and Lieutenant Dave said at the end of The Blob movie:
Steve: “It’s not dead, is it?”
Lieutenant Dave: “I don’t think it can be killed. But at least we’ve got it stopped.”
Over to you. How do you tackle your business Blob?