Busy Is Badass.
I have a tattoo on my arm in Sanskrit that means “devotion” - specifically devotion to god. It’s 10 years old. Now, as an atheist I find it humorous to some degree but also, I kind of love it. It’s a key to my past and I think it says a lot about the type of person I am. I’m DEVOTED. I’m devoted to my friends and family. My work. My passions and interests. My belief system. Myself.
Most of us are devoted to something and we spend a considerable amount of time “worshiping” that thing. We think about it, share it, love it with our whole hearts.
In a workshop yesterday I suggested that small business owners invest in their businesses more than almost anything (except their kids). As a follow-up, I put out there that I also don’t feel confident that a business can be successful without that level of devotion - at least in the beginning.
There were crickets.
I’ve shared this before, but I’ll say it again: I don’t think the ‘less hustle’ movement does small business owners any favors. It makes us feel like we’re failures if we’re working our asses off out here. I, myself, bought into it in the beginning and then realized I was a fraud pretty quickly. I even bought that “busy is not a badge of honor” pin and wore it around on my jean jacket lapel. I get the appeal obviously. None of us want to think it requires an enormous amount of hard work and dedication to make something wonderful and sustainable. We would very much like to believe we can do it in between Netflix binges and “on the side” a couple of hours a week. THAT would be incredible actually.
My opinions on this topic gradually changed as people would ask me, “How many hours a week do you spend on your small business?” and when I shared it with them there eyes would grow wide. I was confused at first. Doesn’t everyone spend this much time, energy and money on their business??? The answer is a resounding NO which is also, likely, one of the reasons why so many don’t succeed at making money.
I know, I know, talking about money and the making of it is super unsexy. We’re in it for the LOVE. The PASSION. The PURPOSE.
So, so, true.
Also. We are in it for the money.
It’s an actual job at the end of the day. It has to make money or it can’t be our job long-term. We’ll need to quit and go work for someone else. If you want your business to work long-term than it HAS to support you financially. And if you don’t focus on how to make that happen and ONLY focus on the fun and the stuff that makes you feel “good and happy” then you’re not going to be in it for long - or you’re going to experience resentment and burnout as a result when your business doesn’t deliver you the results you’re looking for.
You’re in a relationship with your business and it needs to be a healthy one where you give and you get back in equal proportion.
I spend an average of 4 hours a day on instagram, 2 hours a day on calls (with my team and with clients), an hour a day on back end organization (spreadsheet maintenance, budgeting, tracking, updating), an hour a day on emails, and an hour a day writing or editing. That’s 9 hours a day as a baseline and that does not include photoshoots, online programs, graphic design for marketing, editing photos (I spend TONS of time editing images each week), updating my website, trouble-shooting tech issues that arise, managing and supporting my team, etc. You can see how 12 hour days can quickly become the norm.
I may start my day at 9 or 10 am… sometimes even 11 but I work most often until 9pm. Yes, it’s true that eventually you can delegate out a lot of things so that your time is spent more efficiently, but even delegation requires a tremendous amount of explanation, training, feedback, follow-up, and more! Anyone who’s ever managed people understands how much time can get consumed by supporting team members and clients with random things that pop up throughout each day that don’t fit in your tidy little job description. Managing a team is a job in and of itself!
If you believe whole-heartedly that you can create, sustain, and grow a thriving (pays you an amazing salary and employs others to support you) small business with 5-15 hours of focused work each week than I will legitimately pay you any amount of money to teach me how. Not really. But kind of actually.
In most cases it’s just not feasible. I’m sure there are exceptions. There are always exceptions of course, but part of my commitment to my clients is that I will never feed them fluff. I’ll always be real about what it takes to make things work - even if it’s not hot. And I firmly believe that a killer work ethic is the backbone of effective small businesses. I think I took that for granted in the beginning and I honestly felt like I wasn’t working 60-70 hour work weeks because it usually didn’t FEEL that way to me. I loved what I was doing and it felt amazing. It still does! There are rough days, of course. We all have rough days with anything we do, but overall it was a dream and an honor to get to do things I’m good at that support others and be compensated for that work. It’s not like I was clocking in at a coal mine every morning at 5am and plugging way until dinnertime. I had autonomy in my life to work when and where I wanted. I had the ability to say no to projects that didn’t inspire me. I was doing stuff that came relatively easily to me. It felt like “More happy, less hustle” was a perfect and honest tagline for my business! I felt happy most of the time - not “hustly”.
I told people they needed to devote 2-4 hours a day to growing their small business to start - every day - and felt like I was being super easy on them and they still looked at me like I had three heads. FOUR HOURS A DAY?!? And with that, I moved into the hustle camp.
While I don’t believe in exhausting yourself or toiling away at work that doesn’t fuel you, I DO believe in intentional and efficient work practices that require a huge amount of consistency. I don’t believe there’s an easy button. I don’t believe someone else can do all of the tough stuff for you. And I don’t believe you are the exception to these tried and true business principles. Do work you love and (most of the time!) it won’t really feel like work. It will feel exhilarating! Also, sometimes, it will just feel like work. And those parts are necessary too. Nothing is fun 100% of the time. Except maybe eating cotton candy. Or maybe not actually.
Why am I saying all of this GIANT BUMMER stuff? Because I want you to be successful. I want you to have your dream job. I want you to quit that 9-5 you can’t stand anymore and do the thing you’re good at every morning when you wake up. I want you to have money to pay all of your bills and go on fun vacations and buy that purse you really, really want and just can’t splurge on right now. I want you to be able to save for your kid’s college funds or redecorate your dining room or buy the good groceries at Whole Foods. I want you to have the life you’ve always dreamed of and I know it’s possible for you. I really, really DO!!! I also know it will start with you understanding how much will go into building that life and then rolling up your sleeves and saying a “YES” to that work.
Someday we can build our businesses to the point where we have teams who do all of the things and we can highly customize our work weeks and the things we spend our time on. Someday. Not today. Today we have a foundation to build.
What are you devoted to and how can I help? I’m in it with you. I am.
PS - image above is of Kimberly Morris of Smitten In The Cle from a recent photoshoot.