Launching and sustaining an online business can be highly stressful. It doesn’t really matter if you are in a secure job and looking to get out or freshly unemployed and striving to make enough money to pay the bills — stress can always rear its ugly head.
However, if you are fully committed to your business then it can be a real culture shock to pull away from the predictability of a 9-to-5. You can feel like it might be worth giving the whole thing up and getting a job, as if you’re just not built to be a businessperson. Doing so would be a horrible shame and to be quite honest it sickens me to think about it.
Fortunately, there is a way to defeat stress and operate on a far more relaxed plane. You can defeat your negative emotions, resolve your issues and build your business into something successful. And that is exactly what I want to talk about today.
Being in Business is Different
The first thing I must say is that owning a business is very different to being in a 9-to-5 job.
If you grant any entrepreneur the opportunity to explain why being one isn’t the complete fairytale that some people would have you believe, they’ll probably chew your ear off. The fact is that there are benefits to having a regular job:
- You can leave your work at work (granted, this is not always the case)
- You don’t have to worry as much about taxes, health insurance, and all of the other complications that accompany owning a business
- You can rely upon a steady pay check
The list goes on. My point is this — if you are a “new” entrepreneur then it may come as a shock that the grass isn’t quite as green on the other side as you might have imagined. Don’t get me wrong — I love what I do and I have never looked back in regret, but this life aint perfect folks. There are ups and downs like any other.
This “culture shock” can take hold of some people — it can lead you to believe that you’re perhaps just not cut out to be a business owner. It is entirely understandable that you might feel that way. However, to be blunt, these feelings are almost always generated by a lack of profitability. You won’t find many wildly successful businesspeople who dream of going back into full time employment.
A Real Life Story of Stress
The inspiration for this post came from a Leaving Work Behind reader: Nida Sea. I always ask subscribers to my newsletter what issues they would like me to cover and she made a suggestion:
You know what I would like to read? How to not go insane while freelancing. I have days (recently) where I’ve broken down or stressed out so bad I can’t eat. I know I shouldn’t be stressing that bad, but I worry when I don’t hear back from editors, potential guest bloggers, or get any new clients. Is there a way not to stress while doing freelance writing? I don’t think I’ve ever stressed out from a job this bad, and I wonder sometimes if this career path is worth pursuing after all. If you could do a blog post with some remedies, that’d be great.
Reading Nida’s personal account was pretty distressing — after all, we don’t launch businesses with the intent of getting ourselves into such an unpleasant emotional and psychological state of mind, do we? So I scheduled a call with Nida and we talked things over.
It turned out that Nida’s story was pretty typical — she had been a freelance writer for some time, had started working with content mills and was struggling to make the transition to writing for clients who would pay a decent amount per article. After Nida had filled me in on her story I already knew that I could distill my advice down into one key sentence.
“Don’t Fix Your Stress — Fix Your Business”
You can’t “fix” stress. You can reduce the effects through medication but there is no direct cure. What you need to do is resolve the underlying issues. If you make the cause of your stress disappear, the stress goes with it. It is both that simple and that complicated, depending upon the cause of the stress.
When it comes to business-related stress you need to diagnose the issue and then work to resolve it. If you’re working too many hours then you need to figure out how you can work less. If you’re working too few hours (i.e. you don’t have enough clients or custom) then you need to work on that. If you’re not making enough money then you need to make more. I could go on but I’m sure that you get the message.
In Nida’s case it was absolutely clear what the cause of her stress was — her business wasn’t performing as well as she would like. She worried when she didn’t hear back from editors or prospective clients because the very sustainability of her business was at risk. In order to prove my theory I asked her a simple question: “If your business was operating profitably and you had more client and prospects than you knew what to do with, would you still be fretting over responses from editors and prospective clients?” Her answer was of course no.
Once you have diagnosed the problem you can then move onto resolving it.
Improve Your Application
Before you take practical steps to improve your business you need to ensure that those steps are built upon strong foundations. What I am talking about is your motivation and level of application to the task at hand. Few things are more important to a business owner than the amount of motivation and willpower they have to draw upon (tweet this). That’s the difference between springing out of bed in the morning and hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock and rolling back over.
If you feel like more of a snoozer than a springer (something I occasionally struggle with — I really love my bed) then you need to figure out how you can increase your reserves of willpower. There are a number of ways in which you can do this but for the purposes of this post I have some key tips:
- Set clear goals
- Be productive with your time
- Regularly remind yourself what you are trying to achieve and why it is so important
- Embrace the “Do It Now” philosophy
- Surround yourself with likeminded people going through the same process
- Read blogs like Leaving Work Behind
- Join or form a mastermind group and hold yourself accountable to your peers
Don’t just stop with the above if you feel that you need more. I cannot stress how important it is that you learn to apply yourself effectively — the actual planned steps that you make to improve your business simply won’t be properly executed if you’re not in the right frame of mind to do so.
Once you do have a good well of motivation to draw upon to get things done, it’s time to figure out how to fix your business (and your stress).
Fix Your Process
Given half a chance I will tell people that one of the keys to running a successful business is in understanding that everything you do can be broken down into a process. If you have that feeling that owning a business simply “isn’t for you,” like I mentioned above, you need to understand that the problem is not with you — it’s with your process.
So in order to fix your business you must fix the faulty process(es). You do this by breaking down your business into its constituent parts (e.g. your product/service, marketing, pricing, customer service, etc) and objectively analyzing each one. Investigate each “moving part” in your business and figure out where the gremlins are. If possible run each process by an experienced friend or peer to get a second opinion (you’d be amazed at what you can miss). Once you have identified the faulty processes you can set about fixing them.
In my relatively brief conversation with Nida I was able to understand some areas in which her approach was pretty good, and others in which her business was not operating quite so well. She was already reaching out to a few prospects per week which is more than many freelancers do, so that was encouraging. However, the link in her email signature led to a barren website that would have turned off any interested prospect. I would be surprised if a single prospective client replied to her having clicked through to her site.
Her website was the weak link in the chain — if she improves that then she has a far better chance of success. I am not saying that Nida’s stress can be resolved just by her improving her website (I’ve hardly done a full business review), I am confident that she can succeed if she fixes the faulty processes in her business. The same applies to you.
Forget About Stress and Focus on Success
Remember — the key to resolving your issues of stress is in fixing the underlying problem. If you fix your business you fix your stress.
In order to do this you must have a solid base from which you can work from. You need to make sure that you have ample levels of motivation and willpower than can be drawn upon whenever necessary. You need to believe in your ability to succeed in business and ideally call upon friends and peers who can encourage you and hold you accountable.
Finally, you must then turn to your business. Understand that nothing is unresolvable — it is just a case of breaking down what may seem complex into manageable chunks and analyzing each one in turn. When you do that — when you locate and replace the broken links in the chain that is your business — not only will your stress dissipate, you’ll be taking a huge step closer to achieving everything that you want.
Photo Credit: puck90