One of the reasons I love working for myself is the ability to make my own schedule. I can run errands and go to the gym during the day, avoiding the crowds. I don’t have to set an alarm, and I can work from wherever I like: My home-office, my couch, the beach, or Italy, if I’m so inclined.
But after a few years of working as a freelancer and having spent the last 8 months actively working to grow Blue Whale from glorified side hustle to a successful marketing agency, I’ve discovered something: just like in content marketing, consistency is key in growing a business.
Consistency, and a routine.
The problem with working “whenever I want too” is that it quickly turned into me working all the time. Work and not-work hours weren’t clearly defined, and I often spent a lot of time “working” but not necessarily being productive. I’m working really hard to change that so (get this) I can have at least some of my evenings and weekends back again. The irony kills me.
I’m experiencing a lot of change and transitions right now: personally, I’ve decided to relocate to Kelowna, British Columbia, from Ottawa, Ontario. Business-wise, I’m working on updating the types of services Blue Whale offers and changing how the company operates. Some of the things that I’m doing to support these changes are naturally helping me create more boundaries and a routine:
- I’m setting an alarm and waking up earlier to start the days sooner (a morning person I am not)
- I’m continuing to make health and fitness a priority by scheduling workouts (and doing my best to follow-through)
- I am using my evenings and weekends to spend time with family and friends, as I’m currently visiting on the East Coast (which I can afford to do because of my new-found early-ish mornings)
- I’ve updated the business hours on public sites like Facebook and set an auto-reply to my emails, letting people know I will respond ASAP during regular office hours (this is to both make it clear that Blue Whale is an agency with hours like any other business, AND to help me feel more comfortable setting boundaries. Just because I received an email at 11pm doesn’t mean I have to answer it at 11pm)
- I’m setting aside one day a week to work on content production for Blue Whale (writing marketing blogs, creating my weekly newsletter for subscribers, etc.) and for this site (because, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been MIA for about 5 months. Whoops)
These are all things you can do now in your freelance career, or as you build your side-hustle, to make sure you don’t end up working harder than you need to in order to grow and stay on top of your work load. It’s OK to take days off and schedule appointments during working hours (that freedom is why we as entrepreneurs are OK with working all hours of the night to begin with, right?), but don’t let an inconsistent schedule disguise itself as hustle.
Working all of the time is being glorified on social media right now. It’s OK to take a break, and having a routine will help you take them stress-free.
It’s taken me a while (I think I was sub-consciously fighting back against that corporate lifestyle I was so happy and determined to escape), but after 3 years I’m admitting that setting an alarm, getting up and getting the day started, and maintaining a somewhat regular schedule is actually beneficial to both my sanity and to the business growing.
Tell me in the comments – what’s a business / entrepreneurship lesson you’ve learned that you wish someone would have told you earlier on?