Sometimes, the endless to-do list of being an entrepreneur can be exhausting. No matter how much I do, I feel like I’m missing something major. No matter how many things I tick off my list, there will be a full list the following day.
My tasks feel like a rain cloud over my head.
And I think the online marketing world makes it worse, rubbing salt into this never-ending-productivity-hack wound. Copywriters know that people feel stretched too this, so it feels like every sales page and Facebook ad claims that their thing will help you save time.
As if a $27 template bundle could solve my crippling anxiety about never being enough. 🙄 (It won’t. And you can trust me, because I’ve given into the temptation and bought those bundles, then gotten stressed out about the digital clutter of having too many $27 offers and no time to actually take action on their suggestions.)
So if a template bundle won’t fix the age-old problem of overwhelm, what will?
Easy*: Self-compassion. (*not actually easy)
The keys to less anxiety around running your business are:
- setting reasonable expectations for what you can accomplish
- simplifying your offers & processes
- making your own rules instead of blindly following other people’s frameworks
In the 8 years of running my business, I’ve flirted with burnout endlessly … and over time, I’ve discovered 9 self-compassion tactics that help me breathe easier & stress less:
Don’t take advice that isn’t meant for you.
So much of the advice around the internet — including the information targeted at solopreneurs and micro-businesses — is created for you by giant corporations.
Sure, a site like Hubspot can give you the advice to post multiple blogs every week & post on social 20 times/day:
Smaller businesses have found comfort and success posting one to four times a week, while larger companies can push out daily and, sometimes, multiple daily posts.
(I winced when I read “business have found comfort posting 4 times/week,” like blogging is super easy and we’re willing to sacrifice those extra posts so that we can finally take a vacation. That’s bull.)
Remember that these kinds of sites have dedicated marketing teams whose only full-time jobs are to create. Those marketing team members aren’t also doing the invoicing, the lead gen, the team management, etc.
You’re not going to attain the kind of reach that they have, or rank for the keywords they do. That’s ok. Choose your niche, get specific, and know that you don’t have to get the amount of traffic they do in order to have a successful business.
You’re focused less on volume and more on getting the right people to find you.
Set attainable marketing goals & carve out time
You don’t have a full time marketing team, so don’t base your goals on what works for companies that do.
Instead, set clear, smart content marketing goals that are realistic about what actually works in your life.
For my first 5 years in business, my monthly goal was to one blog and one email.
Now that my business has grown and I have a small part-time team to follow my content process, my goal has grown with it: one YouTube video a week with a corresponding blog post.
Once you have that realistic, reasonable goal, make time for it. It doesn’t have to be daily (or even weekly or monthly if you prefer to batch create your content) … but it does have to be a priority somehow.
Hire a writing team or promotion support
If you know content is part of your long-term strategy, but you don’t want to prioritize doing it yourself, that’s ok! You can hire a writer and/or a content agency to help you to achieve your goals without needing to be at the center of the process.
It’s not cheating to outsource your writing, it’s smart business!
I regularly work with writers & agencies (like Content Direction Agency and North Star Messaging) whose sole purpose is to understand the client goals, incorporate the brand voice, and produce high-quality consistent content that leads to more sales.
Recognize that every yes is a no
Saying yes to content marketing means saying no to something else. My YouTube recording eats up time I could be spending on other marketing channels, or lead gen, or client work.
So I spend less time on social media than I used to. I no longer do Facebook Lives, I don’t participate in LinkedIn pods, I have no idea how to do Instagram Reels.
And I had to take on fewer 1:1 clients to make time for content marketing. It was a really freaking hard decision, not only because I love my long-term SEO clients but also because it drastically impacted my short-term cash flow.
You cannot do it all. Let me repeat that: You. cannot. do. it. all. And that’s ok!
Give yourself permission to choose what’s important and let go of expectations around the rest.
Don’t let your self-worth get caught up in vanity metrics
Getting caught up in stats that don’t matter is a common trap — after all, there are SO many metrics out there, and all the analytics tools give us wayyyy more data than we need.
When it comes to marketing data, figure out what actually helps you make sales, and track THAT.
Metrics like follower & subscriber counts, pageviews, likes, etc don’t actually contribute to your revenue.
Would it be nice to have the Instagram Stories swipe-up function that comes with 10,000 followers? Sure. Will it double my revenue or make me a better person? Nope.
It’s easy to look at other people’s stats (omg that person has 30,000 in her facebook group) and want to match those successes, without having the full picture of what those metrics mean for their business. (I had a Facebook group that people loved, but it only had a click-through rate to my website of 1.5% so I shut it down because it didn’t generate revenue.)
So which marketing metrics should you be paying attention to? My friend Lanie has a great resource about how to choose trackable key performance indicators based on your business model & goals (and how to stop paying attention to things that don’t matter).
Acknowledge trauma & negative self-talk
You might be reading this and nodding along, but there’s a little voice in the back of your head saying, “Yeah, Meg, I know all this is true for most business owners. But it’s different for me. I need to work more and work harder, I need to achieve, I can do it all!”
I’m not an expert on this mindset work — it’s all lived experience for me! — so if this is something you struggle with, let me introduce you to two of my friends:
Nicole Lewis-Keeber, a business therapist who showed me all the ways that the expectations of corporate life were deeply traumatic and influenced my self-perception of never being good enough. If that sounds familiar, go grab her book: How to Love Your Business.
And if you’re struggling with self-doubt and like you’ll never be good enough, check out Tanya Geisler, an expert on imposter syndrome among entrepreneurs.
Follow your intuition & respond to your clients
Your gut knows what you want your business to feel like, so let your business build around what you & your clients need it to be, not what some handbook tells you it needs to look like.
If you don’t want to record live videos or trainings? Don’t!
If you hate offering long-term contracts, find an alternative! (That’s why I moved from retainers to strategy sessions.)
If you feel called to create a new program or run a flash sale, go for it!
You know your client’s needs better than any generic marketing advice, so if something about “the way things are done” doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. You make your own rules.
Let your hard work carry you through tough times
In my first 5 years of business, I had two babies, moved twice, lost a parent, and struggled with a painful health condition. And then when I felt like I finally had my shit together, here comes a global pandemic.
I can’t always show up live. I can’t pay attention to social when the world is falling apart.
But my blogs were still there, published, waiting for people to find them and reach out to work with me. And they’ve created a safety net so that when times aren’t easy, I can still be found.
When things are good: Write, create, dream, explore.
When things are hard: Let what you’ve created carry you for a while.
Lastly: Give yourself grace
Running a business is hard. Running a business while also having a life is even harder. You’re not always going to get it perfect.
If you don’t post on your ideal schedule: Who cares?
If you need to take a month off for your mental health: Go right ahead.
If life pops up, be grateful that your business has flexibility instead of self-flaggelating for not following the corporate rules. Those don’t apply to you.
You’re doing the best you can but you can’t do it all.
Figure out what matters, and fuck everything else. You are awesome, you’re building something from nothing, and you deserve the best.