When you run your own business is an exhilarating and challenging experience. It’s a journey filled with highs and lows, requiring not just business acumen but also a strong mental constitution. Keeping hold of your sanity as a business owner and entrepreneur can often feel as impossible as finding the right clients, getting your marketing message out there, or expanding your business. I’ve been at this a while now, and over the years I’ve learned a few things you can do that really help you keep your marbles where they belong.
Here’s how to maintain your sanity while navigating the demanding waters of entrepreneurship. These are strategies I’ve learned and applied in my own business journey, and I hope they will be as beneficial to you as they have been to me.
#1 Stay True To Your Own Vision
Your business is your baby. You can seek advice and inspiration from others, but never let anyone tell you the vision you have is wrong.
Everyone has an opinion when you run your own company. Those who have companies themselves often share how they do things, attempting to be helpful without realising it can be overwhelming. Friends and family, usually out of concern and good intentions, might suggest safer, less controversial, or less risky options. They might not understand what you’re trying to build and that it’s possible to achieve huge success in that endeavour.
When I first started out, I wanted to write, but no one could understand how I could make money writing blog posts for other people. I was ‘encouraged’ to do something in ‘greater demand’ and went into proofreading and editing initially. It was only when my blog became successful at marketing my own business that my editing clients started asking me to write blogs to market their stuff. I realised then that I had been right all along. Believe in your vision, and follow your passions. They will seldom steer you wrong.
#2 Focus On Your Zone Of Genius, Outsource Or Automate The Rest
There are a million things to do in a business, and when you’re running one, it often feels like the responsibility to do ALL THE THINGS falls on you, and you alone. You will learn to wear so many hats you’ll feel like a milliner. But the more you do, the less you’re focusing on what you do best; your Zone of Genius.
While this has a detrimental effect on your business – because only YOU can do what you do best, while admin and other tasks outside your zone of genius can easily be done by someone else – it will have a detrimental effect on your mental health too. It’s draining. It’s stressful. It saps you of all your mental energy and diminishes your creativity and focus. You become so stressed by all the stuff you find difficult, tedious, or simply uninteresting, that even when you are focusing on doing what you do best, you haven’t the energy for it, your creative mojo is off, or you’re simply too overwhelmed or burnt out from all the other things that you don’t even enjoy it anymore.
You may not have a huge budget to outsource or hire staff to do things for you. When this is the case, automate as much as you possibly can, so the things you DO have to do don’t take up as much time. When you’re able to start outsourcing, delegating, or hiring, prioritise. Get the stuff off your desk that is the most mentally draining and the most time-consuming. Identify what you reasonably can do to a high standard, and make it someone else’s responsibility to do everything else – someone who CAN do those things well.
#3 Take Time Off – Even When You Can’t Or Don’t Want To
Taking time off can seem impossible when you’re neck-deep in work and everything depends on you getting it done. But working all hours of the day and night, and never taking time out in your evenings or weekends, or for actual days off and holidays – even if they’re stay-at-home and binge-watch Netflix while eating junk food holidays – only leads to burnout.
When you burn out, you are forced to take off far more time than you would have needed to avoid the burnout. Even if you refuse to take this time out to recover from your burnout, and push on regardless of the effect on your mental health, the fact that you’re burnt out means you’re not functioning as you should be. So, whether intending to or not, you’re not working at full speed, you may even be making mistakes and causing more damage by continuing than you would by actually stopping and taking the time off to recover.
The upshot is, whether you feel like you can afford to or not, take regular time off. Have clear working times, and stick to them. Ensure your weekends (or whichever days of the week you designate as non-work days) remain fully work-free. Plan holidays regularly throughout the year and take them.
#4 Invest In Learning Critical Areas Of Business Development
Your business is like a child; it needs nurturing, caring for, and encouragement to grow. It will only grow as far as you’re capable of leading it, which means that the development of your business hinges on your knowledge and understanding of key areas of business development.
What those areas are varies from person to person, niche to niche, business to business. For me, it was learning how to market my business without having any kind of budget to spend on advertising or outsourcing to a professional – I learned to craft content that could market my services for me, and in so doing, not only marketed myself but developed a thriving copywriting business. From there, I opened a marketing agency.
None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t first learned marketing. I didn’t have financial resources to get in front of people, so I learned to use the resources I had; my time and creativity. It also meant learning about money (which I did from the fabulous Denise Duffield Thomas), part of this was learning how to properly price my services, and the importance of working passive income streams into my revenue, but a larger part of it was money mindset; learning how to think about and approach money in a business context, to enable me to build a business that wasn’t just busy but profitable. Self-development was also key; learning my own worth, to value myself and my offerings, was crucial to ensuring others saw the value in me and my work. Gaining the confidence to share my work, to tell my story, to invite others to join me on my entrepreneurial journey, was critical.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, there will be areas in both your professional and personal knowledge that need your attention, focus, and care. Invest in the development of those skills that will help you develop your business and see it grow. Yes, this is pivotal for business growth and success, but you’d be amazed at how closely your ability to maintain momentum in your business – the sense that you are making progress, moving forwards, achieving – is tied to your mental well-being as a business owner. Feeling stagnant, stuck, or stifled, is a huge mental load that takes a terrible toll.
#5 Set And Enforce Clear Boundaries
Running your own business means you’re in control, including setting boundaries that work for you. If talking on the phone isn’t your cup of tea, establish systems for easy correspondence via email, live chat, or video conference options, and automate as much as possible. Make your preferred payment methods, like PayPal or direct bank transfer, the standard in your invoicing and payment systems, providing clients an easy way to use them while subtly discouraging other methods.
Remember, you set your working hours. You don’t have to respond to phone calls, emails, or messages outside the days and times you’ve decided to work. Instead, set up systems that capture enquiries during your off hours and assure people you’ll get in touch within a specified timeframe. And when it comes to difficult clients, don’t be afraid to refuse service, and even sack your clients if they become problematic.
#6 Trust The Ick
You have the power to choose who you work with. If you get a gut feeling that a prospective client isn’t the right fit, trust it. Politely refuse by suggesting that you might not be the best fit for their needs, and offer alternatives. This is something I delve into in my post on overcoming self-doubt as an entrepreneur, where I talk about the importance of listening to your instincts in business.
#7 Avoid Toxic Independence
While independence is a hallmark of entrepreneurship, it can turn toxic if it means you’re shouldering more than you can handle alone. It’s crucial to know when to seek help, delegate, or collaborate. This doesn’t just lighten your workload; it brings new perspectives that can be vital for growth.
One thing I’ve learned about forging your own path and building your own business is that you learn to handle shit on your own. You have to; there’s no manager to report to, nobody to pass things off to, nobody to step in when stuff gets complicated. While this is incredibly rewarding, and gives you a strong sense of self-confidence, it can have a knock-on effect in your personal life. You get so used to doing everything yourself at work that you forget it’s okay to ask for help with other things.
I’m terrible for this, and it has put a huge strain on me and several of my relationships. As a result, learning to recognise and avoid toxic independence is just as important to retaining your sanity while running a business as avoiding toxic clients.
#8 Handle People Who Are Unsupportive
Dealing with unsupportive individuals, whether they’re friends or family, is a reality for many entrepreneurs. Limiting their contact with your business, cutting them out of business discussions, or finding creative ways to reframe your work can be effective strategies. For example, I explain to my 97-year-old Pop that I’m a writer, which he understands better than ‘digital marketing.’ By doing this, I alleviate his concerns and my stress. There are plenty of ways to handle unsupportive family and friends in your business journey, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so; it’s better for everyone!
How To Run Your Own Business Without Losing Your Mind
Running your own business is as much about managing your mental well-being as it is about managing your business operations. Each of these eight strategies plays a vital role in preserving your sanity amidst the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship. Whether it’s staying true to your vision, setting boundaries, or learning to trust your instincts, these approaches help you maintain balance, reduce stress, and keep you grounded. Remember, a healthy mindset is key to a successful business. By implementing these practices, you not only nurture your business but also take care of yourself, ensuring that both you and your business thrive in the long run. So, as you journey through the exhilarating yet demanding path of running your own business, keep these strategies close to your heart—they are your anchors in the vast ocean of entrepreneurship.
If you’re interested in reading more about my entrepreneurial journey, as well as learning the content marketing method that enabled me to build a six figure freelance business and open my own marketing agency, signup below to read the first chapter of my book, Divine Blogging, for free…