Meet Maria Mustapha, business consultant and owner of JMA Projects who reminds us why we should make more of a conscious effort to change our work schedule, before we feel overwhelmed and burnt out.

Yay! So you’ve finally left your corporate job, which was sucking the life out of you, crushing your creativity, and filled your days with jumping through hoops for difficult clients, even when they are rude to you.

You’ve now started your own business doing what you love, and it’s all going to be different!  Your business will give you the time and flexibility to spend more time with your family, you’ll get to work on the type of projects that you love, and for wonderful clients who appreciate your creativity. Maybe you’ll even get to live the dream of working and travelling, but more importantly; there will be no boss telling you what to do and how to do it.

But that’s not what’s happening, is it? The only difference between having a permanent job and your business, is that now you have more pressure and responsibilities.

Although you knew it was going to be hard, you didn’t realise that it was going to be this hard!  Now you’re doing everything! Instead of being able to phone the IT department for any IT issues, you find yourself relying on the good will of your “more techy than you” friend or from asking questions on Facebook.

You are constantly hustling, learning how to have sales conversations without feeling like a used car sales man, and looking for clients, even when you have clients, because you want the feast and famine cycle to end!  You end up working long hours trying to get through your never-ending to-do list, you don’t see your friends and family, and you are constantly worried about your business even in the dead of night, when you’re supposed to be asleep!

Doing this, day-in and day out every week, can eventually lead to mental health issues. A study from the accountancy software firm, FreeAgent, found that 73% of business owners and entrepreneurs have had their mental health put under strain by running their own business, with many high-profile entrepreneurs, like Arianna Huffington sharing their experience of collapsing from burnout and exhaustion. And, although, it led her to change her lifestyle, It’s incredibly easy reach this point, especially when you hear well- known entrepreneurs like Gary V talk talking about the “hustlers mentality” to be successful.

There needs to be more of a conscious effort in making the necessary changes, before your body forces you to make those changes.

Here are 4 ways to do this:

1. Carry out an audit of your day / week

What tasks do you carry out throughout the day, and how long are you spending on them? The purpose of this is to know what is taking up your time, and how does it help you move forward in your business? An obvious example is; how much time are you spending responding emails? Checking your inbox and responding to emails can be incredibly time-consuming, so a great way to reduce your time spent on it, would be to schedule times throughout your day to check and respond to emails.

Create labels so that emails with certain key words or from a certain client will go those parts of your inbox, and you can deal with them more efficiently.

2.  Outsource successfully – the key word being successfully!

I highly recommend outsourcing, but before you do, it’s really important that you:

a) Ask yourself if this is a responsibility or task that you should outsource. An example is sale conversations i.e: discovery calls or free consultations. Although this can be outsourced, do you prefer to speak with potential clients yourself to make sure that they are a good fit for you and your business? Or are you happy for someone else to take ownership of that for you, whilst you focus on delivering the work?

b) What do you want them to do? If, for example, you are planning on outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant (VA), bear in mind that VAs have different skillsets and experiences. There are VAs who do graphic designing, social media, content writing, web design, developing sales funnels, general admin including calendar management, and more. So, it’s really important for you to know what specifically you need help with, and how you want them to carry out the work beforehand.

Chris Ducker, Virtual CEO and founder of Youpreneur; who specialises in outsourcing online talks a lot about this on his podcast, and blog, including how to hire you first VA:

3. Developing your processes and systems.

There are a number of reasons for having processes and systems in your business, even if the words themselves make your eyes glaze over! Processes and systems make it easier for you to focus on what you love doing; being creative, and on your “why”? The “why” you started your business in the first place. It makes it easier to outsource, easier to automate some of the repetitive and mundane tasks, whilst providing a consistent service for your clients, that make it easier to build on your successes.  

A great tool for documenting your processes is “Loom” which you can use to record your screen and develop training videos for any new team members or freelancers that come on board. You can also use “Temi” or “Rev” to get them transcribed, so that you have it written form, and you can develop them into checklists.

4. Choosing the right clients for you, and setting boundaries

Final note: Guest posts shouldn’t read like an advertisement for your business. There is nothing more in authentic then someone wanging on about how great their offering is. People want to know about your business challenges, interesting points of view, human interest stories not a first-hand account from a business owner on why they are great.  

This is your business – not anyone else’s yours!  So it’s OK to set boundaries and expectations with your clients. But you first must know what your expectations and boundaries are, and more importantly not be afraid to insist on them.

Although I have expectations of my clients in my contract, I also have it as a separate expectations document as part of their onboarding, which I have them sign to confirm that they’ve read it.  It not only outlines what I expect from them, but it also stipulates what they should expect from me. It includes when they should expect a reply from me (within 24 hours), my working times/ days, and requests that they provide me with the relevant information in a timely fashion, with steps on how to do that.

But all that will mean nothing, if I hadn’t properly specified my ideal client. When we are told to specify our ideal client, its talked about in terms of gender, age group, what they read, and where they hang out etc. but what about their attitude, the way they work, and how responsive they are.

For you, it may really be important that your client is someone that you could be friends with, someone who is OK that you don’t work Fridays, or doesn’t mind that you may have your kids in the background once in a while. What is important to you?

Now I know that you already feel overwhelmed, and have a lot on your plate as it is, but if you are looking for longevity in your business, and you want to be able to focus on doing what you love, it’s important to put aside a bit of time every day to set up systems so that you can stop drowning in your own business. These aren’t an exhaustive list of tips, but they will help give you a step in the right direction.

Want some free advice?

For a limited time only Maria is offering a free call for advice on how to work better and smarter in your business!

About the author

Maria Mustapha is a business strategist, she takes the good stuff from corporate and uses it to help entrepreneurs grow a business that they love!

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