Feel Guilty When You Say No? Say This, Instead

Feel Guilty When You Say No? Say This, Instead

One of the greatest aspects of owning an online business has to be the ability to set your own schedule. For me, time freedom—setting my own hours—was the big dream, and I know plenty of other online business owners who want the same thing. But if your dream got a little tarnished with the harsh reality that being an entrepreneur is time-consuming work, you’re not alone. And if you have a hard time saying no, then managing your time becomes even more challenging. Which is why I want to teach you an easy way to say no (even if you’re a people pleaser).

“But,”—your IRL friends say—”You work for yourself! Can’t you come out to lunch with us? Can’t you volunteer for EVERY SINGLE ONE of your kids’ field trips? You have all the time in the world! Right?”

Well, yes… and no.

The fact is, you have all the time in the world regardless of what your job looks like. Whether you’re a corporate 9-5-er, Queen of the Side Gig, or you’re a full-time online entrepreneur, you have the same 24 hours available every day. And while your available weekly 168 hours will look different from someone else’s depending on your work and life responsibilities, it’s still 168 hours.

No matter your work situation, if you want control over your time, you have to prioritize and set boundaries. 

If you’re trying to regain a healthy work life balance, one where you aren’t overwhelmed with obligations, then setting boundaries starts with knowing the danger of the word “yes.” I’m talking to you, people pleasers.

If you find yourself thinking, “When I say no, I feel guilty” or “I’m just not good at setting boundaries,” or “I can’t stand to disappoint people!,” hear me out.

I’m a real people pleaser. It’s a huge (I mean HUGE) part of why I’ve chosen my line of work. If I hear the words, “Can you help me with…” my ears perk up like a dog hearing his kibble hit the bowl. There’s not much that gets me more ramped up than my clients saying, “I’m hoping you can help me figure this out.” I love helping people solve problems.

But I’ve also learned that saying “Yes” automatically to most requests leads directly to a seriously crappy work-life balance. I’ve learned it the hard way. And it sucks.

Here’s the part that might surprise you, though:

“Yes” and “No” are not your only two options.

Contrary to what some business leaders might tell you, you don’t have to eliminate the word “yes” from your vocabulary. Even if you’re a people pleaser. But if you’re looking for an easier way to say no—one that feels more attainable or more polite—build the habit of saying, “Let me think about that.”

Give yourself the gift of time to consider requests. If you were to take on the request, where would it fit in your schedule? What would you have to move or remove? Would it make you feel overwhelmed? And does the new request serve you and your goals better than something else that you’ve already planned for?

Going through this process of evaluating new requests teaches you to consider your time and prioritize. And once you decide where it falls on the priority list, then you can choose whether to say “yes,” “no,” or even something else like “yes, but with these limitations…”

How does this sit with you? Does “let me think about that” feel more reasonable than assuming that “yes” and “no” are your only options? What are some of your other favorite ways to set boundaries with your time? Hit up my DMs and let me hear about them!

Want even more help with time management? Pick up my free time-audit tool so you have a super-clear picture of how much time you ACTUALLY have available.

3 Myths (and One Truth) About Hiring a Virtual Assistant

3 Myths (and One Truth) About Hiring a Virtual Assistant

I talk with women who own creative online businesses literally every day, so let me tell you—if you’ve said to yourself, “I know I need to hire a Virtual Assistant, but…” believe me. You are NOT alone. There’s no shortage of ways you could finish that sentence. That is, there are a lot of reasons why you may feel like you can’t hire help in your business. And some of those reasons are valid. But many of them aren’t. Feel like you need to hire a Virtual Assistant, but you’re not convinced yet? Here are 3 of the most common myths about hiring a Virtual Assistant (and one big truth).

Show of hands: how many of you online entrepreneurs—when you started creating your online business—couldn’t wait to get bogged down in administrative tasks? OK, so that’s a ridiculous question, obviously. When you dreamt up your business, you were thinking of the ways you wanted to share your mission with the world. You wanted to help people solve a problem, create a beautiful space, or create meaningful results in their lives.

You started your business to help change lives, NOT to spend time on admin, right?

When you’re in your “honeymoon” phase of business development, you’re not envisioning the late nights responding to client emails, the “just let me finish this one newsletter before I start dinner” frenzy, the hours and energy that you’ll spend on business support work that really isn’t the reason you started this business in the first place.

But before long, that honeymoon phase is over and you ARE bogged down in management and administration. 

Where do you even start with finding great online business support? Fellow online entrepreneurs and Facebook groups can be a wealth of knowledge on the subject—for better or worse! Hiring a virtual assistant or other business support services (like a project manager or online business manager) can be daunting. So let me help make it easier.

I’m here to debunk 3 common myths you’ve probably heard about hiring a virtual assistant for your online business.

MYTH #1: “I’M SAVING TIME JUST DOING THE WORK MYSELF.”

AKA: “It’s easier for me just to keep doing this work because I know how I want it done.” 

AKA: “Delegating to a virtual assistant just takes too much energy.”

AKA: “It would be a waste to hire someone else to do this when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.”

YOU GUYS. Just… no. Believe me, I get it. When you first think of delegating, you can feel overwhelmed. Where do you even start? Fortunately, I have a lot to say on the subject of how to go about hiring a virtual assistant (and I can help you hire a VA without feeling totally overwhelmed.) 

The truth is, yes, there’s a little bit of extra time and energy that goes into onboarding a virtual assistant (or an online business manager). But when you find the right VA for your online business, you get that time back in spades. 

Which leads us to…

MYTH #2: DIYING SAVES ME MONEY.

This is closely related to Myth #1 (and they’re both equally false—as long as you’re hiring the right person for business support services.) I wrote a whole post on this recently that breaks down how much more money you can bring in every quarter when you have the right online business help based on real-life examples.

MYTH # 3: I NEED TO SCALE MY BUSINESS FIRST. THEN I’LL BE READY TO HIRE.

If you’re an online entrepreneur who is struggling to get your first clients, then sure. It may benefit you to get to a place where you’ve got some revenue consistency. But if you have fairly consistent clients and you want to *grow* your business? I’ve gotta tell you: you’re ready.

THE TRUTH? IF YOU WANT TO SCALE YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL, YOU HAVE TO STOP WASTING TIME ON ADMINISTRATIVE WORK.

Stop:

  • Scheduling clients

  • Fidgeting with your client onboarding system

  • Scheduling your social media posts

  • Setting up your own lead pages

  • Formatting and scheduling your newsletters

  • Tracking down missed payments

  • Proofreading your own content

  • Tracking your own analytics

…just to name a few!

Are you ready to up-level your business? Then you need to be spending your work hours on client-attracting, high-value work. Are you still doing most of those jobs I listed above? If so, you’re going to find it harder to grow your business because you’re not spending your time where it counts. If that’s the case, I’d love for you to check out my Set Up to Scale Up program, where I help creative women with online businesses (just like you!) scale their businesses and increase revenue while doing what they love.

How to Prep Your Business for the Post-Pandemic World

How to Prep Your Business for the Post-Pandemic World

Does the coronavirus pandemic have you afraid to make new offers online? Does selling your services as an online entrepreneur suddenly feel different? Scarier? I’ve heard a few variations of this fear in the past few weeks. Maybe you’re telling yourself: “Nobody is buying,” “I can’t raise my prices NOW,” “I’ll make my offer again when things go back to normal.”

Are these familiar?

Here’s the truth as I see it: Yes, some people are watching their budgets more closely right now because of economic instability.

But it’s NOT true that no one is spending any extra money right now.

In the last month, I bought two fitness programs, a social media content scheduler, and a course on Instagram.

I had 3 new potential clients reach out to me last week.

Things are happening right now in online business. Are things normal? Obviously not. But has all life (and online business) ground to a halt? Also no.

If business is slower than usual for you right now, let me offer a few suggestions so you can have some inspiring wins, even if you’re feeling sluggish.

Tip #1: Prep your business to return better than ever

This is a great time to concentrate your energy on your internal systems. How can your business run better when life goes back to a (little more) normal? What systems can you set up now so that when your workload increases, your work feels better and easier than before?

Take 2 or 3 of your routine business tasks. For each one, write down:

  1. One to two sentences about the purpose of this task. (For example, “Combine all of my business receipts into a folder so I can easily send them to my bookkeeper at the end of the month.”)

  2. The materials you need in order to complete the task (Dropbox, links to a specific website, etc.)

  3. The step-by-step process to finish the task. There’s a couple of ways to do this. The most straightforward is to go through the process and write down the steps as you work.

And guess what? Now you have a documented process.

Benefit #1:

As you write down steps, you’ll be forcing yourself to think through your process. Are there unnecessary steps in it? Are there steps you do out of habit or because they used to be required, but they’re not anymore?

Benefit #2:

Congratulations, you’ve just written a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that you can hand off to a Virtual Assistant.

Tip #2: Acknowledge your wins and address the future

Write down a few recent wins. Even if it’s “I buttoned my jeans and they still (mostly) fit!”

Then, identify one thing that’s working well for you in your life or business (that’s a “Keep Doing”), one thing that’s not working (Stop Doing), and one thing you’d like to try (Start Doing). And honestly, right now? Maybe you can even make that “Start Doing” one optional.

Tip #3: Do some market research

This is the PERFECT time to massage your messaging. Get a sounding board (or a group of them who fall into your “ideal client” category.) Show them a piece of your messaging that isn’t getting results. Maybe it’s your FB ad copy or a sales page. Get their feedback. What resonates? What gets them excited?

Bonus points for setting up a call with a small group and giving each other feedback on one piece of marketing.

Which one of these are you excited to try? Leave a comment below and let me know.

5 Ways to Know If Your Creative Business Is Leading You to Burnout

5 Ways to Know If Your Creative Business Is Leading You to Burnout

Often, organization doesn’t feel easy for creative online entrepreneurs like you. When you’re multipassionate, trying to corral those exciting and brilliant ideas can feel like herding (mental) cats. Let me ask you a question: does managing your business feel more time-consuming, frustrating, and like just more work than you think it should? Do you ever feel like you’re on the edge of burnout as an online entrepreneur? Does the idea of organizing your business leave you feeling emotionally drained? There’s a good reason you’re feeling that way. Without the right support as an online entrepreneur, you’re inviting burnout and mental exhaustion.

If you’ve found yourself spending way too much money and way too much time on tools that promise to fix all of your admin worries (but don’t work), I might have an idea of what’s gunking you up.

Here are 5 of the most common ways that running your business is leading you to burnout.

Do any of these burnout symptoms sound familiar?

1. YOUR EFFORTS TO STREAMLINE YOUR WORK ARE ACTUALLY CAUSING MORE WORK.

We’ve all been there. We have the best intentions to get organized but then end up getting distracted, redirected, or lost along the way. Here are some classic scenarios:

  • An online entrepreneur recognizes she’s stretched too thin and wants to delegate tasks to someone else. To do so, she spends precious hours of her own time and energy each week/month spoon-feeding this new person information, and creating new To-Do lists for herself to ensure the new team member can do the old To-Do tasks she’s trying to offload. The result is she’s spent the same wasted amount of hours on the same old tasks, it’s just dressed up as “delegating.” (Little disclaimer: Delegating is great! Just make sure you’re inventing the offboarding wheel once rather than setting up a new system that requires the same amount of effort from you each time a task is due.)

  • An entrepreneur sees she’s unorganized and looks for productivity software to help. She chooses the most detailed and intensive one, assuming it will give her the most support. Instead, she finds herself frustrated, confused, and scheduling hour-long meetings with tech support and lost in a customer-support email wasteland. In the meantime, business tasks are being dropped and important items are lost in the cracks thanks to her new confusing software.

  • An online entrepreneur decides it’s time she “gets organized once and for all” and emphatically heads out to buy a planner, pens, sticky notepads, a new water bottle that says “boss” on it, stays up all night reorganizing her work desk, decides to update her email signature, gets a new professional headshot, buys business cards, creates a Twitter account, tries a new website building platform, and creates a mood board and — wait a minute — has she done any work?

A fast way to identify if you’re creating more work for yourself is by answering this single question: “Is the task I’m about to take on going to move the needle on the specific task that needs completing? Or is it simply a new task that runs adjacent or parallel to the task I really need to deal with?” If the answer to the first question is NO and the second question is YES, stop. Refocus. Go back to what you’re truly trying to accomplish.

2. YOU’RE NOT CONSIDERING YOUR NATURAL ENERGY FLOW:

This is so, SO key, you guys! The 9-5pm schedule is not for everyone, especially for creative entrepreneurs!

If you’re dumping your most important items on your plate in the morning and find you’re totally mentally exhausted by lunch, you’re really setting yourself up for a day half-wasted. Instead, try tackling your priorities during the pockets of time you feel your most alert, most creative, most focused, even if that doesn’t mean they’re done “first.”

Perhaps it’s in the early morning hours before your family wakes up or late at night when the rest of the world is quiet. I’ve seen people rock a “2 hours on-1 hour off” format that begins at 8am and ends at 7pm. Sure, they start a little earlier and end a little later, but they have an organic 3 hours of “off-time” built in to tackle life’s other daily needs.

The beauty of rocking your own business is having the freedom (and permission!) to structure your hours in a way that works best for you.

3. YOU’RE WASTING TIME TRYING TO CUT CORNERS INSTEAD OF JUST DOING THE THING.

Tale as old as time. When we feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained, we can sometimes panic looking for ways to avoid the grind rather than *master* the grind. Instead of dropping your shoulders and plowing through the work, you spend your day procrastinating and completing a lil’ bit of this here, a lil’ bit of that there, so on and so forth. Then, at the end of the day, you ultimately didn’t save any time and you have nothing finished to show for it.

4. YOU’RE FEEDING YOUR “MUST-HUSTLE” BEAST AND TEETERING ON THE BRINK OF BURNOUT.

Listen, I know how good it feels to be “in the zone.” However, there is an important distinction between good business management and setting unrealistic expectations on an impossible timeline. While it feels great to get work done, it’s important to remain practical about what you’re asking from yourself. Maximizing your work when your energy is high is great, but don’t plan your projects around that level or productivity forever and always. You’re going to burn out eventually, and all of that momentum and progress you made will be sacrificed and lost in the long run when suddenly you feel like you can’t do ANY work.

5. YOU’VE FOUND YOURSELF IN A CONSTANT STATE OF REACTING.

One fast way to tell if you’re in a cycle of bad online business management is to determine if you are always in a constant state of reacting. What I mean is: You’re playing defense. Your days are spent putting out fires, addressing issues that popped up the day prior, and tackling items as they happen, making it impossible to get started on your own goals and objectives. It’s like trying to fill in cracks in a wall while water leaks through.

Good business support will do two things: 1. Allow you to play offense — i.e. put you in a place where you can be strategic, thoughtful, and innovative about the business moves you want to make and ultimately have space and time to put them into action. And 2.) build you a sturdy foundation so water doesn’t begin to leak through the cracks in the first place. I have a lot more to say about this, but that’s for another blog.

Remember: without the right support as an online entrepreneur, you’re inviting burnout and mental exhaustion.

 

Fortunately, I can help you take the reins on your workflow and implement systems that counteract the pitfalls described here. If this sounds like exactly what you need right now, then I’d love to introduce you to my Set Up to Scale Up Strategy Session package. In just 3 hours together, we can build that solid foundation for the most painful part of your biz.

I promise it’s possible to stop spinning your wheels, capitalize on your energy, maximize your time, avoid burning out, and play stellar offense for your business, and I’d love to help.

1 Quick Hack Creative Entrepreneurs Can Use to Plan an Easier Launch

1 Quick Hack Creative Entrepreneurs Can Use to Plan an Easier Launch

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Buffer Time. White Space. Unscheduled Time. Whatever you want to call it, it’s something I’m a little bit obsessed with right now (because I’m kind of hoarding it, but that’s just where I am ATM.)

pretend the ring is free time, m’kay?


See, last week was crazy. There was snow. The kids had time off school. My husband got a cold, then he graciously shared it with the rest of the family (and I still haven’t totally recovered). Plans changed. Stuff still got done, but, you know… less than usual. Life showed up.

Life’s fun that way. You cannot stop it from showing up. And it usually doesn’t RSVP.

Since you can’t prevent the unexpected, you have to account for it. So anytime you’re making a plan (one with some kind of timeline attached to it), you gotta add Buffer Time.

Back when I was a corporate Project Manager (‘lo these many months ago), I learned some really valuable advice around this idea. 

Now, I know you’re not a corporate project manager, but stick with me here, I promise this will end up applying to you. 

The advice was NEVER to tell management the Best Case Scenario timeline. N.E.V.E.R. So, sure IF the clients gets us all of the specifications in on time and IF they include all the stakeholders’ ideas and IF the testing phase runs as normal and IF… you get the idea. There are a lot of variables that can impact a timeline and a lot of chances for Life to show up at any one of them.

If a project manager were to tell the boss, “Well, we expect the project to take 8 weeks, but if everything goes well, we can get it done in 5,” which part of that do you think the boss really hears? It ain’t the longer time frame, I promise. And how often do you think the project ACTUALLY gets done in 5 weeks instead of 8? There’s probably some data out there on that type of question, but I’m not going to look it up. Both you and I know that it’s probably not very often. Thanks, Life.

And how does the boss feel when the project takes 8 weeks instead of 5? Well, sure, you may have SAID that you expected the project to take 8 weeks, but that’s not what they heard, so when 5 weeks pass, then 6, then 7, the boss gets more and more frustrated and YOU feel more and more stressed because the pressure increases with every extra week that goes by.

So what does this mean for you and your creative business? Here’s what I want you to do: go back to that corporate boss scenario I just laid out for you and read it again. But THIS time, imagine your brain as the boss.

Does that change how this scenario feels?

Those extra 3 weeks between “Best Case Scenario” and “Actual Projection”? That’s your buffer time. It’s the time you add in because you know that Life’s gonna show up.


Giving the Best Case Scenario timeframe is one thing when your job may be on the line, right? That is, it’s easy to err on the safe side if you think your boss is going to be mad at you for missing a deadline. But when you’re both the planner AND the boss, it is SO easy to give your brain that Best Case timeline. And then when things don’t pan out in the best way possible, you’re stressed. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed. Maybe you start avoiding the work entirely. And the longer you put it off, the more daunting it feels.

So consider this your friendly reminder that no matter your plans, Life’s gonna be there. Add in some cushion time to your plans. Just a little unscheduled time around each task (small tasks need a little less, big tasks a little more). No need to be super technical with the amounts (that gets deep into project management territory and we don’t need to go there today). There may be some trial and error and find what works. And if you’re someone who tends to procrastinate when you have the opportunity, keep that in mind. That is, don’t go nutso with your Buffer Time—try to balance momentum with white space.

Allowing yourself a little leeway in your plans will make a HUGE difference in how you feel about them. You’re still gonna get there. But it’s going to feel SO much better on the way.

4 Ways to Shift Your Work Mindset From Avoidance to Ease

4 Ways to Shift Your Work Mindset From Avoidance to Ease

If there’s one thing that unites every client I’ve ever worked with (no exaggeration), it’s the fact that we all come to a point in our plans when we hit A WALL. There’s some task that has to get done, but you just… don’t. Maybe you feel like you CAN’T or you JUST DON’T WANNA. I’m talking about avoiding work you don’t want to do, and procrastinating that work.

There are always reasons (or excuses) for not doing The Thing, but when we start playing The Avoiding Game, it brings up a lot of guilt. I’ve seen this with clients. I know they’ve hit a wall AND they feel guilty about it when they start avoiding me. They stop returning emails and letting me know their progress. It’s because they’re not as far along as they like and it can be hard to own up to that to someone else.

BUT. Just like we can give ourselves all the reasons to keep avoiding a task, there are JUST as many paths to actually finish those tasks in a way that feels authentic and ease-y. Sometimes it just takes another person to help you see what those different paths are. That’s one of my favorite things to do with clients—to take that big roadblock that feels overwhelming and figure out the way around or through it. You know that incredible feeling of relief you have when you FINALLY get the Big Thing done that you’ve been avoiding? Like you just want to celebrate? Yeah, that’s what we’re going for.

When you hit that wall and start procrastinating on a task, there’s one question I want you to ask yourself. “Do I have to do this thing now?”

 

OK, I know, that sounds overly simplistic. Let’s break it down.

We’re going to ask that same question in 4 different ways.

 

1. Do I HAVE to do this thing now?

Is this task actually necessary? It may sound dumb on the surface, but think about it. Sometimes we can get so in the weeds with a project, that if we were to step back and look at the bigger picture, we’d realize we don’t ACTUALLY have to do The Thing. It’s a “can’t see the forest for the trees” scenario. Try stepping back and looking at the big picture. This is a great time to enlist a friend, accountability partner, business coach, or colleague (especially if they’re already familiar with your big picture project). Someone on the outside can often see the big picture more easily and can help reevaluate how the task fits in.

If the answer to “Do I have to do this thing now” is “No”, then GREAT. You can mark that thing off your list, Buddy, and feel so much better for it. But if the answer is “Yes”, move on to question number two.

2. DO I HAVE TO DO THIS THING NOW?

Do you have to be the one to do it, or can someone else do it? If, yes, someone else can do it, then hire help. Especially if it’s a task that you have to do repeatedly. If you’re always going to be avoiding it, then that feels pretty miserable to have it always on your plate. (And if you’re not sure if there’s someone else who can do that kind of thing, check out my free download, “83 Tasks You Can Hand Off to a VA.” Even if your specific task isn’t on the list, it can be a great idea generator.)

If you still feel like you have to be the one to do it, then ask yourself: Are you putting it off because you don’t know how to do it? Or because you hate it? And if the answer to either of those questions is “yes”, then circle back to the idea of hiring help. Hiring help doesn’t *have* to mean outsourcing. If it’s something you don’t know HOW to do, maybe you can just bring on someone briefly for a tutorial, or someone who can write up a quick instruction document for you, for future quick reference. And if it’s something you HATE doing, then maybe bringing on help looks like doing a one-time strategy session to problem solve the task and other ways through it.

3. DO I HAVE TO DO THIS THING NOW?

How urgent is it? Can it be rescheduled for a better time? Are there other things that need to be done first? Be careful here. If you’re rescheduling because deep down you want to dodge the task altogether, then you won’t feel any differently about the task the next time it comes around on your calendar. Then, when it does come up again, if you start this avoidance cycle again, your project is going to get pretty far behind (which feels crappy). So be honest with yourself about your reasons for rescheduling the task. 

Are you waiting for a more convenient time? One of the most common reasons I see clients have roadblocks is that the task feels big, overwhelming, or unmanageable. And when that’s the case, your best bet is to break that task down into smaller steps. What are all the different *little* steps involved with getting The Thing done? You can keep breaking each task into smaller and smaller steps until you hit that moment of, “wait a minute. I can do that.”

Let’s say the task you’re avoiding is to make a workbook for your e-course. What are the steps involved with that? Let’s see, you’ve got to write content, create graphics, and decide how to deliver the course. But that may still feel too big, so let’s break down the first of those. To write content, maybe first you need to decide the steps you’re taking your clients through, then come up with an outline of bullet points for each section, then write a section at a time. Does that feel more do-able?

4. DO I HAVE TO DO THIS THING NOW?

Or, put another way, Do I have to do this thing in this way? Is there a way you could reach the same objective with a method that feels ease-ier? Using our example above, maybe it’s the writing part that you avoid. Can you record a video instead? Make an infographic? Use that creative, multipassionate brain to try to think of a way you can use doing something you love to get to the same end point.

Finally, how else could you make it more appealing? Consider making the task feel more luxurious. Take yourself out on a little work date. Go to your favorite cafe to work and order that honey lavender latte and scone that you save for special occasions, then get down to work. Take yourself out for a pedicure as soon as it’s done. Give yourself something to look forward to make The Thing feel more like a joy and less like a slog.

Let me know what you think! Do you have any favorite ideas above? Is there one you’re going to try now to finally get The Thing done? Comment below and let me know OR join the conversation in the Efficient/Creative Entrepreneurs Facebook group! There is a live video about this very thing posted in the group, so click the link, join the group, and put your thoughts in the comments!

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© 2021 The Efficient/Creative   |   DESIGNED BY BROOKE LAWSON

© 2021 The Efficient/Creative
DESIGNED BY BROOKE LAWSON