Episode artwork for episode 11 - how to be happy in your business.

Do you feel happy in your business? 

You set up to be the one in control, but it feels like your business is controlling you?

Many of us setup our small businesses thinking of all the perks, the freedom, the flexibility that comes with entrepreneurship. What we don't think about - usually because we don't experience them until we're in it, are all the difficulties that entrepreneurship brings with it.

Having ditched the 9 - 5, you now find yourself on the 24/7 and the clients seem to be calling all the shots.

You can relax, I've got you. I promise this isn't exclusive to you. So many small business owners start to fall out of love with their businesses in the early days.

In this episode I guide you through the common pitfalls of the small business owner, how to overcome them (as well as make sure they don't happen again) and how to structure your business so you fall back in love, and stay in love with it.

Are you ready to be happy in your business? 

Episode Transcript

I’m Holly Christie, your host. I’m a website designer and small business mentor. I have 2 website companies, This Demanding Life, for businesses who are looking to grow with flow (and an amazing, custom built website) and Simply Sites, for start-ups looking for a stellar website and website experience.

This episode is the penultimate episode of this season and, when I was looking for topics to speak to you about, I knew that I absolutely couldn’t wrap up this season without talking about happiness. Over the last 10 episodes, we’ve talked about setting up your small business, good practices, beating imposter syndrome, handling difficult clients, growing your community - big thanks to John Espirian for coming on that episode and, if you missed it, you can catch up by heading to Episode 8 - creating a community.

We’ve also looked at how to make money from your website, where to get clients, how to avoid the pitfalls common in small businesses, how to really sell - big thank you to Niraj Kapur for being our first ever podcast guest and delivering so amazingly - you can catch his interview by looking up episode 4 - Stand out and make sales with Niraj Kapur. We’ve looked at how to overcome things going wrong, conquering perfectionism and the tricky practice of getting your prices just right. Phew! That’s quite a list.

So, on to happiness. This is something we think will come automatically to us when we setup in our small businesses. After all, we get to be our own boss. No more being micro-managed. No more ridiculous sales targets, no more having to report to someone else. Your time’s your own, you can work from your sofa in your pjs, what’s not to love?

Well, here’s the thing, lots of people who setup small businesses do enjoy that side of things, but they often find that having their own business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and, after a while, can end up less happy than they were when they were doing the 9 - 5. Or, more realistically in today’s workplace, the 8 - 8. Some people think ‘well, I gave it a go’ and head back to the employed life, but others’ who want to see if they can become happier in their business, often just need a few tweaks to their mindset, their practice, or both. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

Many small business owners start-up because they are absolutely fed up of the 9-5 grind. The working for someone else, having your time managed and dictated, the inflexibility, the targets, and how untenable it all feels, particularly if you have other demands outside of work like parenting or caring where there are set timescales that need meeting.

The decision gets made, planning begins and after an intense start-up period, here you are doing business! I’d like to say, life is great, but really…. Life should be great. You most likely have a relatively steady(ish) stream of clients but something just feels off.

It could be that you’re having sleepless nights, or you’re just not as happy as you thought you would be when you planned to setup on your own. The dreams you initially had of being in control, you calling the shots, working flexibly, haven’t worked out quite like that.

Instead, your clients are calling the shots, working flexibly means stopping to do school pickup, dumping the kids in-front of the tv and working into the small hours. You feel that rather than being in control of your business, your business is controlling you and you’re not making the kind of money you thought you would.

When you make the decision to setup out on your own, you know what you need to do for your job. But what you don’t really realise, until you’re up and running, is that you need to be skilled at so much more than the actual job you do. Now you’re an entrepreneur, as well as doing your job, you now also have to do:

Bookkeeping

Even if you use an accountant (and in my opinion, they make life so much easier), you’re still going to have to run some sort of bookkeeping practice to make sure you know what’s incoming and outgoing in your business, what you have to spend and what needs to be portioned for tax and other expenses. You’ll need to handle the day to day payments of your business, for example for software you use, as well as raising invoices for clients and checking they get settled and are legally compliant.

Marketing

Gone are the days of the clients being brought in by another department of your business. Now it is 100%, solely up to you to convince people that you are the right person for them and to win the business. You’ll need to market across your website, social media channels, maybe in-print or other digital spaces. You’ll need a personal brand, with strong messaging and you’ll see just how tough the market really is and how stiff the competition is, particularly if the market is saturated (for example website design is fierce with competition) or if you’re particularly niche and people don’t know that they need your services or why your services exist.

Client relationship management

As well as marketing and onboarding clients, you’ll be responsible for meeting the needs and, let’s be frank, whims, of the clients you work with. This can be a whole new level of learning experience as it can take years of practice and experience to make sure you always work with clients who are a good match for you. In the early days we can tend to work with anyone who will pay us and that can be a formula for disaster.

Compliance

All industries will have some sort of compliance standards which you will have to meet. Even if your industry is relatively unregulated, if you have a website for your small business, then you’ll have to meet website compliance standards. You also need to make sure you have the appropriate insurance and, if you work with a team, that you’re compliant in your management of them.

IT Support

Remember the software I said you’ll need to be running for your business to be successful? Even if it’s just a personal laptop, website and bookkeeping software. You’ll be responsible for choosing the right one for you, the purchase and often, annual licensing of it, the updates and making sure you’re employing best practice whilst using it.

As well as any industry specific stuff that will affect you.

It’s no wonder that the job you set out to do, for yourself, now feels like a minor, rather than major part of your day to day experience.

I’m just going to put in here as well - entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone and if you’re reached a stage where you’d rather go back into employment and just do your job without all the kerfuffle of running a business, then there’s no shame in that. It’s all horses for courses and there have been many times during my career as an entrepreneur where I’ve craved the 9-5 and a regular income. However, here we are a decade later and I’m so glad I stuck with it. I’ve gone on to build an amazing team of brilliant people and worked with clients whom have brought a lot of joy to my working day, as well as some whom have gone on to become firm friends.

If you’re looking to stay in it for the long run but would like to be as happy as you can, whilst running your business, then let’s work on that!

The first thing I recommend is you start looking at your business in a different way which means dividing things up a bit. Going back to what we said in the beginning: there’s your job and then there’s everything else. Time blocking - where you set aside certain blocks of time to work on different aspects of your business, will really help. It means you get focused time in each area which needs your attention, you don’t fall behind in any of your tasks, and it stops that ‘dropping the ball’ feeling which comes with realising you didn’t do something you were meant to.

The two things which are going to dominate your work are the marketing and the work. Let’s start with marketing because without that, you won’t have any business.

You need to make sure your website is up to date - this means regularly checking the website copy, that the software is up to date, all your links work and everything on it is still relevant. I always recommend you have your website designed and built by a professional as they’ll know how to structure your User Journey (also known as UX or UI - they all stand for User Experience), so the people on your website have a higher chance of going on to become clients. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of fiddling endlessly with websites - tweaking this or that, adding in pages and offers. Therefore, when I say to review it regularly, once a quarter is fine.

If you can, try to write a blog post, preferably weekly, but if not, fortnightly or monthly. This will help you to share your experience and skills with your audience, build your reputation as being an authority in your industry, send traffic to your website. It will also give you something to share on your social media channels.

For anything other than tweaking the odd bit of text or image, plan it out and ask your website designer to implement it on the website. You’ll get a much better result from them adding it and, as website designers aren’t often available at the drop of a hat, it means you’ll be looking at adding or changing things once or twice a year, which will give you time to plan everything out properly and prepare for any launches you might want to do.

Social Media marketing is going to need a strategy behind it. This means knowing what your message is before you start posting in earnest to get clients. Whatever you choose your messaging to be, make sure it’s consistent and that your posts all lead into that same message. For example, my messaging is that homemade websites don’t make you money. I put this message out in many different ways - I write blogs about what’s not working for you on your website. Ways to improve your website. How to choose a website developer. What you can expect to pay for your website. I back this messaging up with social proof such as testimonials from clients and I showcase the websites when they’re published and will sometimes re-show some of the older sites, to give people a taste of professionally built websites. Sometimes I’ll showcase technical results such as speed tests and why these results matter. It’s all building a picture to show that I’m a professional, who knows what I’m doing and, most importantly, my work gets results for my clients.

Don’t vary your messaging too much. I’m not saying that you can’t throw in the odd personal post here or there, but they can dilute, rather than strengthen your messaging and you don’t want all that hard work to go to waste. One of my personal pet hates is people posting with their children saying along the lines of…. ‘I left my job so I could spend time with the kids, now I have a successful business and never miss an event!’ I know it’s meant to be motivating for others’ in the same boat, but trust me, as someone who has a successful business, who has sometimes missed a child’s event, those posts are very much looking at the ‘end results’ rather than the start-up and middle stages. The best possible scenario is that an ideal client looks at that post and says ‘yes! That’s what I want, too, I’ll choose you to work with so we can achieve that success together.’ What’s more likely is that the person thinks ‘good for you, I feel a million miles from there and don’t feel aligned with what you’re posting.’

What irks me the most about these ‘end result’ posts is that they often skip over or hide the years of toiling in the background, working all hours, to achieve this or that their business was setup with a healthy start up budget which allowed them to buy subscriptions, or have coaching from the off, putting them streaks ahead of the regular small business owner. So if you’re tempted to do ‘end result posting’ from a behind the scenes perspective, think first, how your ideal client may receive it when it pops up in their newsfeed.

I know this sounds really obvious but go where your audience are when it comes to Social Media. If you’re a product based business, Instagram and TikTok are probably great places to creatively get your messaging about your product out there. If you’re a service based business then LinkedIn and Facebook are good choices.

Whichever platform you choose, build a strategy which gives you a posting structure but doesn’t leave you feeling that your week is entirely dominated by creating and responding to posts and remember, it takes a long time to get traction when you’re marketing a new business so, even if it feels like tumbleweed is rolling by, keep going, there will be many people behind the scenes who are seeing what you’re doing and will connect with you when they’re ready.

Managing Client Expectations

I don’t know what your call to action is but mine is for people to book a call with me. They’ll have seen my pricing on my website, so there won’t be any nasty surprises and they’ll already like me enough from my website and marketing to see whether they’d like to explore working with me. The call is for us to meet online, discuss requirements and see if we’re a good fit. This is all great and I have it automated so people can just book themselves in and often, the first I know about it is when the email invitation goes to them and me. I worked this system for years until one day I got to the end of the week and realised I had spent over 7 hours on Zoom calls. That’s an entire working day getting to know people, giving advice and, I don’t know if you find Zoom as exhausting as I do, but being exhausted by work and it wasn’t even paid work at that.

The answer for me was to reduce the number of hours in which people could book these calls, it meant that I could offer time slots that don’t interfere with the flow if I’m working on creative design, but I still get to meet with people, just not for 7 hours per week!

This sort of system may work for you. I also run it for my clients I’m working with on projects. It means that I know when I’m going to be interacting with people and I also know when my time is blocked to work without disturbances. It’s win-win.

You can also do the same with emails - have certain times a day that you check your emails and when you’ll respond. In most cases, nothing needs an immediate response and I know of many small businesses who have an email signature which says ‘I only check my emails twice per day, or on these days, or ‘thank you for your email, I respond to emails on Tuesdays and Thursdays’. Whatever works for you, time blocking and boundaries will be your friend here.

I know that client expectations don’t just end there and I speak about managing clients in episode 3 - How to stop people pleasing before it ruins your business. Some coaches or mentors will tell you to ‘underpromise and over deliver’. I’m not going to tell you that. I think if you’re selling your services or products for a fair price, you shouldn’t underpromise, and I think you should deliver what you’ve promised. I always deliver what I promise, a high performing, search engine optimised, mobile responsive website. I deliver the absolute best I can out of the materials I’m given to build the website with. I don’t need to overdeliver as I’m already working to the top of my ability and experience.

The shorthand for this section is: be boundaried around when your clients can contact you, so you can actually get the work done. Deliver what you promise you will and always work to the top of your own ability - without working yourself into the ground.

Collaboration

Every business needs a best friend and yours won’t be any different. When we setup in business we imagine the freedom, the flexibility, the making good relationships with clients, but we don’t anticipate that it can be lonely at times. This can be made even lonelier by no-one close to you being in your industry or understanding what it can be like to run a small business. Having a business bestie or 2 or 3 can make all the difference. Especially on those hard days when you feel like you’re being run ragged, or you have a difficult client or you want to run something by someone.

Finding your tribe can take time but you can help this along by networking. If, like me, you’re not a fan of in-person events, then look to LinkedIn or Facebook groups to find people in similar situations as you. They don’t have to be in the same industry, but being a small business owner means you’ll definitely have something in common. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, most of us small business owners are only too happy to connect with people. Collaborating can also go beyond a networking/getting to know you session. Do you have a product or offer a service which is complementary to someone, meaning you can recommend each other? For example I had a client who sold handmade bath products and had a whole section for babies and children. I also had a client who sold children’s books and was an Early Years specialists and suggested they collaborate, putting packs together of books and bath products to sell as gift sets for young children for Christmas and other events. As a service provider, I collaborate with photographers, copywriters and brand designers. It means we get to refer each other and we know each others’ working styles and expectations. Collaboration can be the difference between feeling utterly alone in your business and feeling happy and supported.

Build in time for admin

I often find that when work gets busy I’m doing my admin last thing at night or hurriedly generating invoices at the end of the week. It’s not ideal. We should all be working on our businesses as much as we’re working in them. By this I mean - working in our business, is doing the job - in my case, this is website design and mentoring. Working on our business is the marketing, the admin, the compliance and IT support and anything else. I find using an accountant and accountancy software, in my case I use FreeAgent, helps to keep me on track and I generate invoices on a weekly, rather than ad-hoc basis. I know we all want to capture people as and when they’re ready to buy but in most cases, if someone’s decided to work with you and you tell them ‘I send out invoices once a week on this day’…. They’ll expect and pay for it then, you won’t lose the sale because the invoice doesn’t go out for a couple of days.

The key to being happy in your business is to have great boundaries with both, your clients and with your time. If you’re ring fencing time for a certain activity, make sure you don’t eat into that time with something else.

Develop good work practices - this means taking the time to do the tasks you don’t want to do, as well as the ones you do want to do. As a creative designer I can fall into this trap! Luckily I have an amazing team who help me to stay on track and, if I know I’m likely to drop the ball on something, I may well ask a team member to pick it up for me, in advance of this happening.

Try to create realistic timescales. I was explaining to one of my team recently, who was trying to get her head around a website design, that some of our website time is pondering how the design will come together. Don’t count on yourself being at 100% productivity for every working hour; you’ll just be setting yourself up to fail. If you think a task is going to take a set amount of time, leave yourself roughly 30% extra time, to make sure you can do it to the best of your ability. If you end the day with extra time, I”m sure there’s always marketing that can be done, or you can finish early and enjoy that flexibility that small business owners are in the game for, in the first place.

The better your processes, the more it will feel like things are coming together. Trust me. I have watertight processes and it’s helped in many a situation where a client has tried to push on timescales. It also means that things get done when they’re meant to and not just when I remember. I need to give a big shoutout to my team here for making sure this happens, but having a brilliant team is all part of the process!

That’s everything for today, I hope you’ve found this episode useful and if you’ve been wavering in your business, that it gives you the encouragement to tighten things up and carry on! If you need any help with identifying what is and isn’t working for you, or where you should or could be putting your time and energy, you can always book a free, no-obligation call with me through my website; thisdemandinglife.com.

As I mentioned in the beginning, we’re coming to the end of this season and I’d love to know what you’d like me to talk about in the next season. You can email me directly at: holly@thisdemandinglife.com or Link-in with me on LinkedIn, where you’ll find me at: hollycchristie.

If you haven’t already done so I would be so grateful if you could please leave a rating and review for this episode or the podcast in general, it helps the podcast platforms to recommend it to new listeners and I would love for this free resource to reach as many people as possible.

Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you for the last episode of this season, next week!

Small Business Growth

I’m so excited to have your podcast alongside me as I grow my business. Looking forward to taking action on your steps and learn from someone who knows what they are talking about. Thanks Holly – you’re a star!

LisaJaneYork

Brilliant first episode!!

The first episode of “Your Business, Your Way” is a refreshing take on the entrepreneurial journey I needed to hear this morning . I felt reassured hearing Holly emphasise a crucial point: you don’t need to know everything to get started. This approach is a game-changer, especially for those new to the business world, breaking down the barriers of perfection and complete readiness that often hold us back.

What I loved about this first episode of the podcast is its blend of practical advice with an undercurrent of motivation. It reassured me that starting with what I know and learning as I go is not just okay, but a smart way to grow. The podcast feels like a supportive friend, nudging you to take those first steps while keeping the mood light and approachable.

For anyone at the crossroads of starting or scaling a business, this podcast could be the push you need. It’s a promising mix of insights, stories, and encouragement. I’m eager for the next episodes and recommend it to anyone looking to embark on a business venture in a way that’s true to them. It’s an exciting start, and I’m genuinely looking forward to where this podcast will take its listeners next.

wmbaggs

Really Refreshing

Looking forward to the next episode, I’m hooked already. Really easy to listen to and definitely strikes a chord with me. 

MrsH68

Just listened to your first podcast episode and it’s absolutely brilliant! Good work Holly!

Mike Cottam

Feeling inspired

Would definitely recommend this podcast. Aimed at those small business owners, but for someone who has recently started a new role in my company, this definitely motivated me on this cold wet Monday morning to not be afraid of being vulnerable in the workplace and putting myself out there!

Can’t wait for the next episode

izagoo9067

Small Business Growth

I love listening to each new episode of Holly’s podcast. It feels like she has read my mind and understands the challenges I find myself up against when running my business. Her advice and insights are fantastic and I’m looking forward to hearing her future episodes. This is a great resource for any small business owner trying to establish a successful business in the online (and/or offline) world.

Fay Wallis