Designer friends, this is for you! If you’re feeling drained by your business or want a business that won’t drain you, these strategies I’m sharing will help. I’m going to teach some mindset tips, some super practical working with client tips, and even some marketing and productivity tips that will help you not be drained (or at least not as drained) by your business because you’re focused on the right things. These four tips are very particular things that have helped me in my business, some right now and others in past business seasons.
If you’re not a designer, but work with clients in another way, listen up. There is plenty in this blog post for you, as a lot of what I’m sharing relates simply to businesses that work with clients. I hope this blog post encourages you wherever you are right now and pushes you toward taking action in your business to create a business you LOVE.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
1. Keep your eyes set on YOUR version of success.
Shiny object syndrome is everywhere, and when we're building our brand and website design businesses, we're likely learning from and following many different voices. Unfortunately, we often hear everyone else's version of success through Instagram, a podcast, or any other social platform. Hearing their stories can make us think we need to follow in their footsteps.
I challenge you to figure out what success means for you in your current season. This can be the actual time of year or the current quarter. What success looks like in Q4 of 2022 will differ from success in Q4 of 2023. But, if you aim for your version of success, you’ll be MUCH happier in business.
For example, maybe you're a mom who wants to bring an extra $3K/month on one big design project. You primarily work during nap time or when you have childcare, which sounds fantastic. This will seem less glamorous than saying you have a six-figure business and a template shop that provides passive income. However, it could be your version of success that you need to lean into.
In my own business lately, I've been working on ensuring I'm building a business that supports the lifestyle I want versus a business that looks like what I think it should look like. I'm not telling myself what I ‘should’ be doing. Instead, I'm thinking about how I want my business to support my life and family. I believe that means saying no to many things, not doing #allthethings, putting my family first, and being okay when I cannot work as much.
In the land of Instagram famous business owners and everyone sharing “behind the scenes” on their reels and stories, I just want to remind you… no good business is perfect. No growing business is ever perfect. And what you see on the front end is often just marketing. They might not even enjoy their version of success. So if you want a business that won’t drain you, don’t compare!
If this all feels difficult, try implementing these tips:
- Mute or unfollow accounts on Instagram that are causing you to question your version of success. You don't have to pay close attention to every competitor and business friend if it's distracting you or throwing you off course. For example, in my course, Booked Out Designer, we have an incredible community of designers who use a variety of platforms like Squarespace and Showit. They are business friends with each other. But if one of your business friends is distracting you from your version of success and making you feel like you should be doing what they're doing, it's okay to mute them.
- Learn from educators and mentors who have similar values as you. Of course, their version of success doesn’t have to be the same as yours, BUT I’ve found that when you learn about business from people who are also doing “life outside of work,” in a value system that makes sense for you, you’re learning better business skills that fit your life and goals more.
- Don’t be on social media so much for consuming. Instead, pay attention to what triggers you, and do less of that. It's a great marketing tool for our businesses, but sometimes if we remove it, all that imposter syndrome and false obligation gets removed.
- Ask yourself this question: “If in 6 months you were to say, ‘That was the best six months of business ever.’ - what would have happened for you to make that true?
2. Set boundaries with your clients.
This is a massive part of what I talk about in my course, Booked Out Designer. I make a big deal out of this point because we often make excuses for ‘this client’ or ‘just this time’ regarding boundaries. This is a big mistake; it can make you resent your client and make you feel unnecessarily drained. You are the one who sets the boundaries for a project. It makes all the difference for your happiness in terms of your business.
Boundaries can feel intense, but they mainly play out as you leading the project. You tell your clients how to communicate versus reacting to how they naturally communicate with you when given zero direction. Clients will appreciate having clear guidelines for communication because it helps them know what to expect. Your communication will also guide what they perceive as appropriate.
Some Things To Consider:
- Will you text with clients?
- Do they have Voxer/Slack access to you?
- Do you email or only communicate over a project management system? (Check out what my team uses here)
- Can they call you with questions whenever they want?
- Is your calendar always open for impromptu meetings?
You may know the answer to these questions, but your client needs to know too. So ensure you are also communicating your turnaround time when they can expect messages from you, your office hours, when payments are due, and what happens if they pay late. The overall key here is clear communication.
So many people want to speak poorly about service businesses, usually to sell people on their course or program. Service businesses are excellent and can be great long-term. So many people will speak poorly of them because working with clients can be challenging and ‘take too much time.’ Having boundaries will help you build a design business that won't drain you.
3. Don’t box yourself into the 9-5 mentality that you have to work within certain hours or that your work should take X amount of time to complete.
I've mentioned this concept in recent posts like this one. So many of us come from corporate jobs where everyone's work requires 40 hours/week to complete. I see many new designers come in with a mentality that you must work 24/7 to achieve anything. I’m all about working smart and hard early on, which requires hustle a lot of the time, but if you want to avoid burnout, you have to focus on sustainability.
A Few Practical Tips To Avoid Feeling Drained:
- If you plan to work at night, do it deliberately rather than surrounding yourself with distractions. If you go into it simply working because you're bored, you won't get as much done. Doing this once or twice a week is much healthier than keeping your laptop open all day.
- When you’re done with work for the day, close your laptop or shut down your computer and say “All Done” or “Work Finished” OUT LOUD! I got this idea from Nancy Ray on episode 154 of her podcast. I do this every day, and I love it. Something about saying this out loud helps me!
- Schedule your time, what you will work on, and when you will work on it. This will keep you from working aimlessly or frantically. When you're busy, this will help you get things done. On the other hand, when you don't have much to do, you shouldn't work aimlessly simply because it's ‘working hours.’
Check Out Other Episodes About Time Management And Scheduling:
- 177: Try These 5 Strategies to Get More Done with Your Limited Time in the 1st Year of Motherhood and Business. ￼
- 163: Quit Wasting Time: 7 Strategies To Protect Your Calendar And Schedule Meetings Like A Pro ￼
- 160: Powerful Productivity And Time Management Secrets For The Busy Working Mom (From Some Amazing Entrepreneurial Women!)
- 159: Multiple 5-Figure Months with Part-Time Work Hours — HOW?!
4. Work with clients who you respect, who respect YOU and your prices, and who you feel good about serving.
You might think, “Elizabeth, that sounds so dreamy, but it's hard to find clients like that.” My course, Booked Out Designer, can help you find dream clients that would love to work with you. It's just about finding them, marketing to them, and having the systems to bring more of them into your business.
Our student Facebook group for Booked Out Designer, is a spot where people who've all taken the course can ask questions and receive continual support. A few weeks ago, I saw two posts from students celebrating firing a client or saying no to a client with red flags. It feels funny to celebrate, but this is what it looks like to build a business that won’t drain you.
We've all had or will have clients at some point that you will want to fire. Maybe they're challenging to work with, don't respect your time and skill, or make a million revisions. Whatever the case, we can get distracted by dollar signs and ignore red flags. If it's going to drain you or keep you from growing your business, it is ok to fire a client or reject a project. We are simply making room for a better-suited client to come along.
I’ve seen this happen with Booked Out Designer students. They let go of a bad client and find another, much more aligned, client to work with. In the course, there is an entire video on red flags to watch out for on discovery calls. At some point, most designers will have a ‘nightmare client.’ That doesn't mean you or the client are a terrible person. It might just mean that you guys are not well suited to work together. This is a learning experience for you in your design business. It does not mean you failed.
I invite you to check out my Guide To Mastering Discovery Calls For Designers here. It will help you prepare for discovery calls to book better clients and set you up nicely to lead and be confident on calls as you sell.
Recap Of The Tips We Covered:
- Keep your eyes set on YOUR version of success.
- Set boundaries with your clients.
- Don’t box yourself into the 9-5 mentality that you have to work within certain hours or that your work should take X amount of time to complete.
- Work with clients who you respect, who respect YOU and your prices, and who you feel good about serving.
October 11, 2022