Updated: May 19, 2020
1. Setting Limits (for ourselves and others)
Setting limits for ourselves is one of the most difficult tasks for New Business Owners. After all, we are our own boss, employee, cheerleader, and so much more. It’s important to set limits with yourself and with others as you move forward in your specific niche.
What does setting limits look like, exactly? It looks different for each of us, because we all have different needs, abilities, comfort levels, frustrations, and stress-points.
For some of us, it might be setting a limit on screen time. If you’re in and industry like mine, you’re spending a lot of time on the computer. I’ve found setting limits on how much time I spend staring at the screen have helped me to be more productive and focused when I do sit down and get rolling.
Some niches require lots of customer engagement: sales, cold-calling, pitches, talking to clients or customers, networking, and high levels of virtual or real-life communication. Set some limits for yourself so you have enough time to recharge in between.
When we’re not balanced in our lives, our work suffers. Just as when I’m surfing, I have to find my equilibrium in life and on waves. Too little and I won’t catch a wave, too much and I’ll fall right off once I stand up.
The same goes for our interpersonal relationships, screen time, labor, and all other aspects of work that a small business might entail.
Listen to your mind and your body, and stop when you need to. Even though our society is geared towards that “Go, go, go” mentality, you’ll find your much more productive when you take some breaks and set limits for yourself.
As new business owners, we’re often offering our work, services, and products at discount prices, simply to get our names out there and build up those portfolios, revenue streams, or client lists.
We must be clear about the limits of our free work, however, because if not it can lead to resentment and frustrations for either side. Plus, most of us starting out are often working with friends and family members, or friends of friends. We want to start the foundation of our business off strong, with clear limits as to the amount of work and time we’re willing to provide.
This is important for all businesses and in life in general, but often new businesses specifically get caught in the free-work-for-exposure mindset.
It’s awesome when it works and everyone feels happy, but be careful not to offer up your services at a discount too quickly. You’ll not only find yourself working incredibly hard on projects you’re not being adequately paid for, but also setting a precedent for the price of your work that’s lower than you’d like to charge in the future.
2. Creating a Schedule
Scheduling is, for some of us, seemingly impossible. For others, it comes naturally and easily (AKA me!). Setting limits is a more personal and interpersonal task, while scheduling and goal-setting is a business one. They go hand-in-hand, but they’re a bit different.
When creating a schedule, especially if you work from home, you have to keep yourself accountable, yet be gentle with yourself when you don’t check all the boxes every day. It could be that you’re getting distracted and not accomplishing as much as you might be able to, or it could be that you’re piling too much on your plate on any given day.
What works for one person very rarely works exactly in the same way for another. Some of us need an office space to get those thrusters up and running at full capacity. Others of us are perfectly content on the bed working on our laptops with a cup of coffee.
Whichever type of person you are, create a schedule based on what is realistic and supportive of you doing your best work. I set a timer on my phone, rotating my tasks every 1-2 hours to stay engaged and keep myself from getting bored. You might want to delegate 4 hours to one task, and only then move onto the next—to each their own!
What’s important here is figuring out how to make a schedule that works for you, and even includes dedicated down-time and days off. Being a business owner means there’s practically always something more to be doing, whether it’s social media, writing, calling customers, networking, researching about your niche, etc. but it’s important to not get caught up in the all-day-all-night grind.
Just because there is always more work available to do doesn’t mean we have to do it.
3. Find Ways to Unplug
In this day of digital marketing, networking, social media, websites, and virtual interaction, almost all businesses are online. Restaurants are fielding Yelp reviews, writers are tweeting, stores are uploading their IG stories, plumbers are writing GMB posts, and more!
Unplugging has been immensely valuable to me for my health, sanity, and regulation. When I first started out, I’d spend hours on the computer. I’d lie down to catch some Zs and find my mind still racing from all the blue light I’d been around all day.
When we unplug, we can see so much more. When we put down our phones we can find inspiration in the concrete world and connect with people who are right in front of us. Dedicate specific times in the day or days of the week to using your phone just as a phone, not checking Instagram for a day, or doing 1 activity a week without a phone.
As a web designer, I certainly know and appreciate the power of our virtual spaces and networks, but I also see how it can shift our foci much to heavily into the world of the screen, rather than the world of the present moment.
That’s pretty much why surfing is one of my favorite activities, because it provides me with set amounts of time off my phone and into a world of unplugging, re-focusing, and being in the present moment.
Read about one of my latest mindful activities to unplug on my Beach Bum Poet blog, too!
4. Get some Exercise
Like scheduling, some people love exercise (again, me!). Some people don’t! And that’s okay too. When you’re working for an employer, however, you’re often designated specific amounts of time to sit and do your work, or stand and work, or however else you used to have to work.
Now, being your own boss, it’s easy to get lost in the day. Suddenly it’s 7pm and you haven’t moved an inch because you’ve been on the computer, or you’ve been driving all day running errands! Incorporating exercise into our routines is, to me, even more important when we run our own business.
Because, let’s face it, starting a new business is super stressful. It takes a lot of work and mental energy and our cortisol levels (stress hormones) can often sky-rocket. Whether it’s walking, jogging, riding a bike, surfing, dancing, or any other more creative form of exercise (do people still rollerblade?), make time for it!
The endorphins will help balance out those stress hormones, and you’ll feel healthier and happier, leading to a more productive, focused, and confident you.
5. Affirm Yourself
This has been such a difficult one for me throughout this journey. At times, I’ve gotten extremely down on myself, worrying about imposter syndrome, and worrying I wasn’t been productive enough on any given day.
I’ve since found that affirming myself has been crucial to weathering the negative thoughts and keeping myself from heading down the rabbit hole of doubt and worry. When I remind myself that I have done enough for the day, and see physical goals I’ve accomplished, it helps me to relax and know I’m on the right path.
Be kind to yourself as you’re starting a new business. You’re learning how to balance your time in a totally different way and often wondering what the next steps are. It can be overwhelming to try and fit everything into our to-do list. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day!
Give yourself positive feedback for the small stuff. Pat yourself on the back when you get some tasks done, and be gentler with yourself when you don’t check off everything on that list.
Because the list is pretty much endless when you’re starting your own business, keep that in mind. There really are a million things we could be doing at any given time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we failed if we don’t. In fact, getting sucked down too many different paths can be the exact thing that detracts from our overall success.
Think of ways to affirm and reward yourself in small ways. Maybe go for a walk after getting a particularly difficult project done, to remind yourself there is a beginning and an end to each step. Being your own cheerleader is tough, but it’ll make continuing this journey much easier in the long-run.
6. Be Patient
I am not a patient person. I want things to happen, right now, immediately. Getting discouraged when things don’t take off right away, or you’re Instagram isn’t getting enough engagement, or you’re not landing as many clients as you’d thought you might is normal.
Just recently I had a project I thought was a done deal fall through. Initially I got frustrated and impatient—"I want to build your site now!”—but then I realized the client will be ready when they are ready, and that’s okay.
Being patient with ourselves and others is equally important as setting limits with ourselves and others. We must hold firm to our limits while remaining patient and optimistic. If we don’t, we risk getting bogged down in anger, negativity, and rushing.
When we aren’t patient with ourselves, we can get discouraged and lose sight of what’s most important—providing our services or products with care and joy!
7. Think about Your Brand
Branding is no longer limited to your general aesthetic, your color scheme, or logo. Branding is about a company’s values, ideas, goals and aspirations, and general reputation. Now more than ever, one’s brand is symbolic of many, many things.
Beach Bum Poet LLC, for example, is highlighted by shades of blue (one of my favorite colors), a relaxed atmosphere, and the ocean-inspired fluidity and dynamism of spirit that I strive to embody. Think about what comes to mind when you hear the name of your brand, what you want it to represent to people, and how to make that translate.
One of the most powerful ways to translate branding is through content, which is why I focus on content writing so much for my web design clients. You can truly tell stories that bring a business to life when you delve more deeply into the why behind a business.
When you’re starting out as a new business, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to name your company, what you want it to mean, and what you want it to evoke for people. Thinking about branding can be nerve-racking, but it can also be completely enthralling!
You’ve got so much freedom to create your business’s identity, so run with it! Make mock-ups, write word association lists, and research your niche to see what other businesses are doing. Take a walk around Home Depot and look at paint colors to get inspired!
See your branding journey as an opportunity to find your voice and your values, rather than a chore required to start a business. Incredible things can happen when you let yourself get creative and invigorated by the branding process, rather than feeling constrained and exhausted by it.
8. Get Some Business Cards
So, you’ve got a brand, and a logo, and an idea or a catchphrase. Now, go out there and order some business cards! In our digital age, business cards can seem a bit archaic. If I’m being honest, I ordered tons when I was starting out, and I knew many of them would get lost or thrown away or forgotten in the recesses of wallets.
But I also knew I was starting something, something concrete and real that I could touch and hold and give to people as I made my way into the networking realms. Business cards are a bit outdated, but they are also the hallmark of business, the old-school way of saying, “I’m here, and I’m legit, and I’m ready to work!”. I love my business cards with all my heart.
The reason I love them so much is because they affirm for me that I am doing something. Like the LLC license, the website, and all the other things I’ve done to legitimize my business, my cards show me how far I’ve come, and I absolutely recommend getting some for yourself.
9. Tell People!
One thing I was highly mindful of when I decided to start Beach Bum Poet LLC was to avoid using the word “trying”. When I was working my last week at my restaurant and people would say, “What’s next?” I made sure to say, firmly and proudly, “I’m starting my own business!”
Not, well, I might, you know… or I’m thinking about…, or I’m going to try to… because I knew that was not the mentality I needed. I needed to say out loud, again and again, that I am a business owner and I’m starting my own venture. If not, I would start to doubt what I was doing, and internalize those maybes, mights, and tryings into my own psyche.
Being proud of what I’m doing has come right along with telling people. At first I was embarrassed to say my business name out loud. I worried what people would think, whether they would judge me or think I was silly. I worried people would think I was too young to start my business, or think I was crazy.
What I found, the more I shared what I was doing, was support. People think my business name is cute, catchy, and fun. They think it’s amazing I’m starting my own business, and love that I’m doing something I’m passionate about. The more I affirm what I’m doing, the more positive feedback I’ve gotten. And, what I realized more than that, is that I’m happy with my business, I’m proud of it and excited for what’s next.
10. Get a Website Created!
So this would seem like a blatant self-promotion (it is, a little bit) because of course I would love to design your business website! But, truly, any business starting out needs a website, whether it’s designed by me or someone else.
Remember how business cards are the old-school way of legitimizing your business? Well, a website is the new-school version. A website not only confirms your presence online, it also provides a huge avenue of access to myriad consumers you wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise. Websites are a way of concretizing your brand, showing clients you’re official, and making it clear that you know how to adapt in the ever-more technological realms of business we are seeing in the world today.
Plus, when you have incredibly sincere, customized and search engine optimized content, it will bring clients and search engines alike flocking to your website, empowering you to keep doing exactly what you love the most—running your own business and being a boss!
Do you have other ideas and tips that aren’t included here? Are there other strategies you’ve used to grow your business that you want to share? Comment on this post or connect with me directly via my messaging app here on Wix, or shoot me a text or email.
I’d love to hear from you!