I have seen it over and over again. These people have that glimmer in their eyes, launching a new business selling products that they love to make, scratching that creative itch that just won’t go away. The beginning is the honeymoon phase, the period of time when everything is just perfect. There is nothing but love for you, and you cannot wait to get to the point where you can quit your job and awaken every morning to pursue your new passion and make more and more stuff. Don’t even try to lie and tell me that you haven’t thought of it…..Come on now……I see Facebook posts, Instagram posts..
Then one day, the thrill dampens when someone tell you that all of the handmade product buyers are on Instagram. You are shocked, you thought they were all of Facebook and you have been spending $300 a week and countless hours targeting your audience on Facebook ads. Then, a customer slams a negative review on their Twitter and publicly asks you for a refund and of course they “tag” you on the post. As you are logging on to your twitter account the ASPCA commercial with the sad animals comes on TV, the news interrupts to talk about another mass shooting, and now the election news is back on the TV and your blood is now boiling beyond control! Now. you have to learn freaking Instagram, but not until you deal with the pissed off customer before they jeopardize your perfect clean record. And you still have more products to make and ship before the close of your business day. You are seriously approaching meltdown city. A few more days like this and you will burn out. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It should not be this way. While you cannot avoid the crazy, stressful challenges of entrepreneurship altogether, you can avoid becoming a small business casualty. Here are seven ways to avoid handmade entrepreneurial burnout.
1. Articulate Precise Personal and Business Goals and Time Frames
How will your business complement your lifestyle and serve you and your family? How many sales do you need to close each week to make your annual sales goal? What is your annual sales goal? What is the lowest possible cost per product your business can absorb and still maintain a healthy profit margin? Do you want to sell your business in the future, or let it die with you as the sole owner? If the former, what do you need to do to maximize the value of your business over time?
This is a tiny sampling of the questions you need to ask on the front end of your business, before you spend thousands of dollars on equipment, supplies and programs. Map out your plan. Identify in advance what you want to achieve so you can take action steps that will lead you in that direction.
2. Maintain a Manageable Product Line
After you know what you want your business do to for you, map out a product line that make sense. (Sorry, but this means you will probably not be able to make everything you love to make.) Like many new entrepreneurs, chances are good that you have too many product ideas and not enough time or supplies to execute them all.
Start with a small, targeted line available in a few variations. Launch with products that have the highest profit margin (even if they are not your favorite ones to make) so you can build the steady stream of cash flow needed to fund your growth. Resist the temptation to make, package, photograph, Instagram, blog about, and sell every single thing you can possibly make just because you can. Be focused. Be strategic.
It’s far better to sell a large quantity of a few products than to sell a small quantity of a lot of products.
3. Don’t Do Anything that Does Not Fit into your Articulated Goals and Time Frames
I have heard it said that people become successful because of what they choose not to do, even more than because of what they choose to do. After nearly 17 years in business, I have concluded that this is true. Trying to do too many things often means you end up doing nothing.
This Forbes.com article cites a study that concludes that multitasking reduces efficiency and performance, and even lowers your IQ. Talk about stressful!
Make a list of all of the things that must be routinely done in your business, then double check it and eliminate anything that can either be merged into another activity or which does not really need to be done at all. Your final list should contain only the things that must get done to feed your goals. Work with this list and nothing more.
4. Schedule Everything You can Possibly Schedule
Now that you know what you have to do, you can schedule it. Subtract 6 to 8 hours for sleep from your daily allotment of 24 hours, and write down what you will do, and when, in the 16 to 18 hours you have left. Include time for yourself and your friends and family of course, and stick to this as closely as possible. This is the only way you can ensure that the items you have identified as critical actually get done.
5. Create a Branded Ecosystem by Focusing on Serving your Existing Target Customers
It takes less money, time and energy to keep the business of an existing customer than it does to pursue and win a new one. Of course, part of your job is to acquire new customers, but don’t do so at the risk of losing existing ones.
Nurturing a small but steadily growing group of people who buy your products all year long means you are building brand-loyal customers who will buy and tell their friends about how great your products are. The more they buy and the more you serve them, the more thy will see themselves in your products.
Also, through your social media channels and markets or events you host, many of your customers will likely meet each other and new relationships can blossom. The result should be an ecosystem in which you and your brand can thrive. Cultivate these relationships and use your social media to solidify them. They are your bread and butter.
6. Delegate Non-negotiable Action Items that You Cannot do Yourself
Now that you have pared your non-negotiable business tasks to the bare minimum, it’s time to get some help. Farm out everything you don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, or are not good at doing. If, like many Makers, you have control issues, delegate small tasks first. Once you see how happy, relaxed and not burned out you are when you delegate you will become quite good at it.
7. Avoid as Much News as You Possibly Can and Still be a Reasonably Fun Party Guest
The news is distracting and distressing on multiple levels. This NPR News article cites several studies documenting the negative psychological effects of bad news: acute stress and symptoms akin to those experienced by people with post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few.
Avoid the news. Suppress push notifications unless they feed your goals and priorities. (See Number 1, above.) Maintain as much of a positive mindset as you possibly can. You will have to fight for this, but it’s worth it. You cannot effectively manage the details of your business if you are constantly replaying tragedies in the back of your mind.
No matter what you make and sell, or what kind of business you have, be clear about what you are creating and embrace these steps to minimize frustration and maximize profitability and, of course, fun!
Question: How do you avoid handmade burnout?7