What prompts many entrepreneurs to start their own business is the opportunity for freedom and flexibility – in essence, the ability to set their own rules. They imagine taking afternoons off to run errands, playing in the park with kids on a sunny day or having the flexibility to handle the many other duties that go along with life, parenting and everything else.
The trouble is that ideal tends to go out the window when reality sets in and clients start demanding what they want and need. Before you know it, you have less freedom and flexibility than you did in the corporate world. Instead of mid-week freedom, you have work bleeding into weekends and evenings.
This is why you need to define WHAT you want from your business in terms of lifestyle. Without a clear picture in your mind of the type of lifestyle you want for yourself (and your family), you can’t create the rules and boundaries to protect that lifestyle.
Tips on Creating a Lifestyle Business
Start with the Lifestyle and Work Backward – Decide what you want in terms of a lifestyle and work backwards. Do you want to work a 4-day week? Do you want to take summers off? Do you want to be able to take the day off with no notice?
Then ask yourself what you are willing to trade to get that lifestyle. For example, are you okay with inconsistent income or do you need a steady flow? The answer to that will dictate how you work toward your other lifestyle goals.
Realize You Are Worth It – The reason entrepreneurs give up their lifestyle ideal is because they don’t feel they are worth it. They worry that if they say no to a client request or enforce a particular boundary they will lose the business.
That’s where it’s important to understand your true value – the unique skill set you bring to your clients or customers. From that knowledge, it’s easy to share that you are worth working within your rules because they get so much value.
Set Clear Rules of Engagement – Start your business relationship with a clear set of rules – whatever those rules are! Where entrepreneurs run into trouble is when clients and customers don’t know your rules and assume you follow the typical 9 to 5 corporate regime.
If you don’t work on Fridays, let them know that you will be available for them from Monday to Friday. If you choose to work from the cottage during the summer months or not at all, give them plenty of notice and make sure you are able to meet their needs working within those rules.
Be Consistent with Your Boundaries – This is a tricky subject because on the one hand, you want to be there for your clients and customers and sometimes that means making exceptions to the rules. BUT if you are constantly making exceptions, it negates the rules and teaches them to expect you to bend.
The best approach is to give everyone one chance to bend the rules and ask for an exception, but make it clear that it is an exception and one that they shouldn’t come to expect. That way you can remain responsive to your loyal clients and customers without voiding your sandbox rules.
Only Work Those Who Fit – Don’t try to bend or force clients and customers to fit into your system because those will be the ones who try to bend or break the system at every turn. Instead work with likeminded people who respect and ‘get’ your lifestyle values.
This is where prescreening prospects is important. Consider it an interview for potential clients and customers as much as it is a chance for them to interview you. Let them know your goal is to establish a good fit on both sides and they will be more eager to embrace your rules.
What rules do you wish you established for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments below!