One of the most-asked questions I’ve gotten is basically, “how do you get everything done?” So this week, I’ve got that answer for you. It's extremely simple but has been extremely effective for me.
Today, I feel like writing about just why exactly this entrepreneurship gig is so hard. So stressful. So overwhelming. I want to write about it this way — focusing on the difficulty rather than on the ways you can deal with this difficulty — because I think it’s important to understand the root causes of entrepreneurial stress and hardship because otherwise it’s far too easy for us to minimize it, ignore it, and in doing so, compound it.
I wanted to reach out and ask you a few questions. I’ve been hearing from some people that they’d like me to teach a class. Some ideas have been proposed and I’ve got a few ideas of my own. But before I really go down that path and do all of the upfront work of designing a curriculum and putting together course materials, I wanted to get a bit more info from you guys.
I am a wholehearted believer in the idea that building a business is basically a science experiment. You come up with an idea (the hypothesis) and then you develop a way of implementing (testing) that idea in your business. Throughout the course of implementing, you measure your growth, making adjustments to your idea (modifying your hypothesis) before you start the process again.
Observation, measurement, experimentation, formulation, testing, modification. The scientific method is pretty much all there.
Throughout the process, new ideas emerge and old ones are discarded. Healthy businesses abandon things all the time.
I’ll say that again: healthy businesses abandon things all the time.
I’ve been thinking a lot this summer about discipline. I’ve occasionally found myself googling things like “how to become more disciplined.” But the advice I’ve found has usually been pretty stupid and has felt pretty useless, and all of that has led me to question what discipline even is and whether I need to develop it as a personal and professional trait.
Here’s the thing: if you still don’t know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, who you’re talking to, or what you want from them, then you’re wasting your time (and your readers’ time) with an email list. If you don’t have a point of view and value to provide, you’re wasting your time. If you don’t know exactly who your ideal customer is, you’re wasting your time. If you don’t have a plan to consistently communicate with your email list, you’re wasting your time.
So here’s what I think you need to get in place before you even need to bother with your email list. And since I think the email list is super important to growing your business, mark these down as super important things to get in place as soon as you can.
Other than talent, creativity, a well-defined brand, and a vision for the future, I have come to believe that an email list is about the most important thing your business can have.
It’s more important than your blog. It’s more important than your social media presence. It’s more important than your business cards.
Over the last few years, I’ve completely transformed my approach to business planning and goal setting. Instead of focusing exclusively on outcomes and other measurables, I now always start from two questions: what do I want my life to be like (i.e. what do I want to do, have, or experience) and how do I want to feel?
I've had requests lately for some really specific How-I-Do-It kinds of Memos. How do I organize my week? How do I automate tasks? I thought the first one I'd tackle would be How I Minimize Time Spent on Email, a.k.a. I'm An Email Ninja and You Can Be Too.
I don't use folders or priority flags or mnemonics because honestly, I'm just not organized enough. Still, I average only 22.5 minutes per business day on email (495 minutes total in the month of June).
Because of the cyclical, calendar-driven nature of a lot of the work I do in stationery design and licensing, my year has predictable slow times — times when the money is slow to come in, when the work is slow to come in, or, the worst, when both money and work are slow to come in. The next 90 days or so is one of those periods in my year when everything is slow.
Thankfully, my slow times tend to be preceded by my fast times, and I’m nothing if not good at budgeting. So the slow times aren’t a crisis, they’re an opportunity.
Years ago, I blogged almost daily. I was a new mom and a new business owner and newly diagnosed with depression and anxiety and I was just all cracks and rawness. To write a blog post was to spill out bits of me that I then tried to shape into pictures. I blogged about life and motherhood and building a business. Not once did I ever feel like I had an answer. To anything. At all.
I’m a sole proprietor, which means that technically all of my business income is pass-through income. Despite that, I keep all of my business finances separate (it makes bookkeeping SO. MUCH. EASIER.) and instead pay myself a regular bi-weekly “salary.”
My family counts on it. Without it, I can’t pay for daycare, I can’t pay the mortgage, I can’t buy groceries.
Ensuring that I’m always making a profit is crucial.
Ensuring that I’m always making enough on client work to pay for all the non-client work I mentioned last week is crucial.
Here’s how I do it.
I know the idea is that if you build up your client base sufficiently, you can get to this holy place where you don’t really have to do all that non-billable stuff because your clients are just constantly coming to you with paid work. I’m here to tell you that if you’re running your own freelance business, or you’re a creative entrepreneur of any kind, that’s just not really all that true.
If “excited” were the word I used to describe being featured in a “Meet a Mintie” article on the Minted blog back in January (and actually I went back and looked, and it’s not the word I used, because actually I didn’t really use a word), then I’m not even sure what magnitude of very I would need to put before “excited” to describe how I’m feeling about this latest Minted-related news.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year or so listening to phone calls, webinars, youtube videos, and podcasts in which relatively newer business folks ask much more seasoned business folks questions about how to take their own projects to the next level. In that time I’ve figured out that just about every single question that’s asked about building a business can be answered with one of the following seven answers.