We’ve all heard the term ‘work-life balance’. For a long time, the idea of balancing your work life with your home/family/leisure/whatever life was a goal that many pursued. It’s still a valid concept, but this blog post isn’t about that. Instead, I’m going to write about your work-work balance.
Your work-work balance is the process of juggling work for others (generally client work) with work for yourself and your business. It might seem that chasing the money is more important than tweaking your website or posting on social media. After all, the ‘money’ is what pays your bills. But hear me out on this.
Since the end of summer last year, I’ve been lucky enough to have regular freelance copywriting work – brilliant! But with that ongoing workload comes a dilemma. How do I continue to make sure that I’m consistently visible online, or that my financial records are up to date, or simply that I’m being paid for my client work? All of that takes time, and when you have a regular, continuous client workload (not that I’m moaning), finding the time to work ‘on’ your business as well as ‘in’ it can be difficult.
What does it mean to work ‘on’ your business?
Working ‘on’ your business might mean:
- planning out your social media posts and mailing list emails for the next quarter or year in a way that fits with what you want to achieve over that period of time
- putting a process in place to track your invoicing and cash flow, so there are no nasty surprises
- auditing your website to make sure it’s up-to-date, relevant, and effective
Working ‘on’ your business is more than marketing, tech updates, and doing the admin. It maintains your business and helps it to grow.
Why is it important to work ‘on’ your business?
This may seem like a moot point, because obviously you have to do some work on your business anyway. You have to invoice your clients. You have to fill out your tax return. You even have to update your computer. So, maybe I should have said, ‘Why is it important to work on your business effectively?’.
This is especially pertinent if there’s just you in your business, but it can also apply if you employ a workforce. To run a business, there are certain tasks that must be carried out to keep your business running.
Paying the bills to keep the lights on and your workplace heated is an important one, unless you work from McDonalds or a coffee shop. How about making sure you have a computer that works, a reliable internet connection, and up-to-date software? You need to make sure that you are paid for your work and that you, in turn, pay the taxman.
Working on your business means that you have an overview of all of these tasks, are in control of them, and have therefore safeguarded the future of your business.
Working on your business can provide you with an overall view of your business that prevents nasty surprises.
For instance, imagine this. You’re head-deep in client work and the topic you’re writing on. You are in the zone, creating at speed, and have an eye on the deadline you agreed with your client.
A text pings in on your mobile phone. The last payment from your debit card has sent you into into an unarranged overdraft. Puzzled, you look at your bank statement online. The client payment you were promised for a week ago hasn’t appeared.
You check the email-conversation with the client. Yes, they definitely said they would pay you on that date. You’re not going mad.
When you ring them, they apologise and say it was an oversight. How silly of them. Of course, they’ll pay you straightaway, although of course that won’t be today.
Somehow, you manage to divert funds into your bank account to cover the overdraft until the client pays you. Phew! Disaster averted.
Going back to your client work, you’re no longer in the zone. You are decidedly ‘outside’ the zone. Before you can return to what you were doing, you need to go back to your research and gather your thoughts. The process of sorting out your finances has not only taken up the twenty minutes or so it took to check your bank account and emails and ring the client. It has also caused you to spend more time going over the research again and getting back into your creative flow.
If you had only kept an eye on your bank statement before now, you would have noticed that the client hadn’t paid. You could have chased them and made sure you didn’t go overdrawn.
Working on your business prevents those painful, jarring, stop-and-start jigs by keeping your eye on the proverbial ball.
If we focus on working ‘in’ our business and disjointedly fit in the admin tasks, social media posts, and tech upkeep, eventually we lose the bigger picture of the condition of our business. We lose perspective.
When we lose perspective, we lose the opportunity to look ahead and plan where our business is going. Is what we’re doing actually working? If not, how could we improve it? What new opportunities are there out there? What’s happening in the world beyond our four walls?
Working on your business builds perspective by allowing us to see how it all works together. It provides us with a holistic impression of our business. Once we know what condition our business is in, we can begin to plan:
- our week – what slots are for client work and what are for admin or lead generation?
- our marketing – what’s the plan for the year, what marketing vehicles will we use, and what do we want to achieve?
- our client workload – which months of the year are likely to be light on income or when will we have to turn down work?
- what needs to be changed or improved?
- new paths and products
- how we can grow the business
Without a clear view of where we are, it can be difficult to see where we want to go.
How do I find my Work-Work Balance?
So now you know the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of work-work balance, what about the how?
Set up procedures
Yes, I know that sounds boring but honestly, it works. If you set up a procedure for each important process in your business, you will know exactly where you should be (and of course, where you are) in each process.
It might be a procedure for invoicing, for instance, or for accepting a commission, or for onboarding a new client. Whatever it is, break down the process into steps. For example, if it is invoicing, the steps might be:
- Deliver work to client.
- Invoice at the same time.
- Check for payment.
- Response if paid.
- If not paid, chase.
Part of the procedure could be time-specific, for instance, tying it in to delivery dates, payment deadlines, the activation of late payment fees, and so on.
Setting up procedures takes out the guesswork about where you are in a process and saves you from having to rely on your memory.
You can automate by using tools and templates.
Tools are all those software packages and apps that make life easier by talking to each other and doing the work for you. For instance,
- social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Loomly, and Buffer
- email marketing tools such as Mailerlite, ConvertKit, or Mailchimp
- business accounting software like Quickbooks, Sage, and Freshbooks
The benefit of using these kind of tools is the time they save you. I use Hootsuite to schedule my social media posts so I don’t have to stop client work to write and post something on Twitter or Instagram. It’s all done for me (other than coming up with the post in the first place). Email marketing tools can streamline your email campaigns or weekly/monthly newsletters mailings, especially if you have a large mailing list or want to segment who you send emails to. I use Mailerlite for my author newsletter, for instance.
Templates save you time too and take the think-work out of ‘where do I start?’. I use a template for the articles I write for clients. Each client has their own template so that I know I am working to their particular specifications. Equally, it could be a template for your Instagram posts or your monthly newsletter. Templates mean you don’t have to look up exactly how a new article or email should look. You can simply use the template.
This might not apply to everyone’s business, but if you can delegate some of the tasks that drag your attention away from client work – go for it! I see more and more freelancers and small to medium business owners using virtual assistants (VAs) to handle their:
- client onboarding
- appointment making
- social media
- email campaigns
I’m sure there are plenty of other tasks they can handle too. It’s one career path that has exploded over the last five years or so with an increasing number of PAs and administrators embracing self employment themselves. Hourly rates can vary between £15 and £35, but knowing that someone you trust is handling that aspect of your business for you means that you can get on with doing the work you enjoy and/or brings in the pennies.
A good place to start looking for a VA is the Society of Virtual Assistants.
Make an appointment with your business
When you meet with a client (or speak to them on the phone), you’ll often book a time and date in to do so. The same goes for meeting with your accountant or going to see the doctor. Why not make an appointment with your business?
The best way to commit to working ‘on’ your business is to set up a slot of time, preferably each week, when you will check in with it. To further commit to keeping that appointment, record the appointment. Write it down. Add it to the calendar on your wall or on your phone. Treat it in the same way you would treat any other important appointment.
You might even want to indicate to your brain that this is ‘appointment time’ and not ‘client work time’ by:
- taking yourself to a different part of your workplace (for me, that’s the couch in the lounge)
- putting your keyboard away and clearing your desk before you start
- using a specific notepad or tablet just for your ‘on’ business work.
Whatever your routine is, try to prevent distractions during that slot of time. Turn off or mute your phone, if you can. Don’t check emails. Settle somewhere that other people (for me, my husband, teens, and our demanding hound) are unlikely to disturb (find) you.
If you must have your computer on, then only have the screens and tabs open that you need and don’t check new emails or social media.
Make a plan
Remember how I said that working on your business gave you perspective and a bigger picture? Well, this is where that comes into play.
Taking time out to work on your business doesn’t just mean do the admin and write a few social media posts. It also gives you the chance to create and follow flexible plans. I say ‘flexible’ because life just loves to throw curveballs, or bricks, or lawsuits at us. Plans should always carry a level of flexibility to cover the ‘just in case’ factor.
What should you plan then? Well, that’s entirely up to you but it might be:
- your social media posts for the next month or so
- a product launch
- updating your website
- an email campaign
- how you intend to find new clients
- your intended/likely income over the next year
- your goals for the next 12 months
Following a ‘flexible’ plan in your business means taking the right steps to reach your intended destination, rather than happily skipping off down a pretty lane only to find out it’s a cul-de-sac.
Like any balancing act, finding and maintaining a work-work balance can be a challenge. Get it right though, and you’ll wonder how you ever managed to cope without it.
If you’d like to develop your work-work balance by delegating your blog posts or articles, I’m always happy to take them off your hands. Drop me an email today.
Image courtesy of Johannes Plenio on Unsplash