Back in the spring I remember chatting to a young farrier half way through his day – it was about 3pm and he had been shoeing his first horse at 6.30am, and had his last appointment at 8pm that night. He was saying how busy he was at work currently and how he had to make hay while the sun shone so to speak, and take the work as it came in.
It’s definitely a mentality of the self-employed. If you aren’t working you aren’t making money. But that means you can end up working all hours of the day, and almost working to the point of exhaustion. It’s really hard to find the right work-life balance in terms of the hours you work and the days you work.
When I first started my business I remember leaping at every opportunity to teach or work; usually the rubbish hours, or days made of awkward shifts. But as you and your business become more established you can begin to get picky; ensure specific days are your days off, give clients an option of time slots (so instead of saying “any time Tuesday” you can say “Tuesday at 10 or 11.30” or whatever fits in with your work schedule). You could even turn work down!
When I saw Otis’s farrier last week he was telling me he had a quiet week. In a similar way to me, he was finding it eerily strange and discomforting that the diary was empty. But he was using the week as a reprieve from a very busy few weeks. I had a similar situation last month in that I had an incredibly busy week with Pony Club, and then a slightly quieter week after – whether it was actually quieter or whether it was just quiet compared to an intense week, who knows? – but I tried to use the longer evenings, and lunch break, to get on top of other life jobs; emailing friends, cleaning the house, designing and ordering everything for the new bathroom.
I think most self-employed people have a similar outlook on their working life, and it’s only with age and experience, that you learn not to overload yourself. Running your own business is not for the faint hearted! It’s tough, but very rewarding.
Another thing that people don’t realise with those who run their own business is that your working day is twenty four hours long, seven days a week. Even if you run a shop, then once the doors close you still need to balance the books, check the stock, and tidy the shop floor. My Friday evenings are spent checking and filling in the diary for next week, balancing the monthly spreadsheets, and updating clients on their horse’s schooling sessions and confirming lesson times. You are also always at the end of the phone for booking appointments, be it Friday night or Sunday morning. And people want responses instantly.
It’s so hard to find that balance. I would love to see a smart phone that has been adapted to be both a work phone and a personal phone, because no one wants to carry around two phones. In my design you would be able to categorise contacts and apps into “work” and “personal” and then at the end of the working day you turn your “work” setting off (perhaps the phone could do it automatically?). From this point, work related apps no longer ping notifications; phone calls from work contacts go straight to voicemail, and texts or emails are muted. Then you could check that tomorrow’s first client hasn’t cancelled if necessary, but you can also enjoy an evening of peace. I think that would really help people in modern day life find their work-life balance and be able to switch off, which is important to keep you fresh for work.
So any techie readers out there; if you want to give designing a work-life app a go, I’d be happy to trial it!