The feeling of stress in today's society is unfortunately rampant. Long hours and high demands at work contribute to this dreaded feeling for many people. Stress comes with many physical symptoms — from upset stomach and migraines to trouble sleeping. Anyone who experiences it can agree: Stress is terrible. Stress can be even more detrimental for the solopreneur. While we enjoy feelings of independence and are not bogged down by the mundane aspects of office culture, creating our own schedules and managing our own clients without the guidance of any superior or support of reliable co-workers can lead to even higher levels of stress. Combined with unpredictable income, the prospect of stress is very real and it can have a resoundingly detrimental impact on relations with clients, friends and family -- not to mention your own self care. Your first step? Becoming aware of the side effects you’re up against when you succumb to the hazardous pitfalls, so you can get better in preventing solopreneur stress in the first place.
Six primary side effects of stress, witnessed as a solopreneur
Six issues that can occur when solopreneurs neglect to place stress management first are:
- Unhappy clients who can tarnish the reputation of your brand with word-of-mouth criticism
- Poor sleep habits and an unhealthy diet, which can lead to a lack of focus and positive energy
- A lack of accurate sales projections due to disorganization regarding clients and goals
- Strained relationships with friends and family
- Lack of time for personal development and new relationships
- Increasing likelihood of failing to find willing co-workers to expand the business
I’m sure you could even think of more, but one thing remains common amongst all of them: Each side effect of stress detrimentally impacts you and/or your clients. Fortunately, solopreneurs with prudent planning and organization can successfully evade the stressful pitfalls of being an independent worker. Here are a few ways to get started.
Commit to a schedule and get organized
Robotic, automatic memory retention is not yet an add-on for humans, so in the meantime we have to rely on our standard memories, which can be forgetful no matter your intelligence. As a result, it's a good idea to record everything you deem important, ranging from ideas to tasks. Whatever your favorite form of notetaking is, start a brain-dump doc -- whether it’s a list on Asana, a board in Trello, a note in Evernote, a standard Google Doc, or a blank page in a notebook. Even if you don't use all the information, it will alleviate your stress-prone mind to know that the information is there in case you need it. And, it gets it out of your already-full head. Next, consider maintaining a daily to-do list. Keep it short. Write down the most important one to three tasks for a day, with the potential to add bullet points under the broader task. Keeping your list to no more than three will help prevent feeling overwhelmed. Planners and folios are great for keeping to-do lists and schedules organized in one place.
Build an effective client management system
Solopreneurs need a mindful qualitative and quantitative approach to their clients, to make the client process run smoothly from start to finish, and avoid over- or under-booking. I have three tips for building an effective client management system:
- Design a proper onboarding process, from the kick-off call to contract signing and right into getting the materials you need to start the work. Kicking off projects on the right foot can alleviate a lot of stress along the way.
- Maintain a spreadsheet of your current clients, along with personalized data like campaign start/end date, project goals and current status. This will help you prioritize, making it easier to allocate duties between clients equally and effectively. Project management apps like Coach, Dubsado, and 17Hats make client workflows more manageable by helping you track everything in one place.
- Designate specific times to follow up with and update clients on the current status of their project or order. Whether automated or personalized, knowing your clients are aware of the project’s current status will relieve any doubt that they’re unsatisfied with the amount of communication. Clients enjoy transparency and results, and organization and scheduled communication are important to making that a reality.
Give yourself time throughout the day
Working ceaselessly can lead to procrastination. Studies show that people work better in intervals. Some studies find a 52-minute-work, 17-minute-break protocol to be effective, though it doesn't have to be precise. Find a timeline that works for you. (Editor’s note: At One Woman Shop, we love the Pomodoro Technique.) You need to work and focus, but still have time to refresh your mind with a brief break. Giving yourself time throughout the day can prevent stress, bad moods, and boredom. When taking time for yourself every hour or so, remember to breathe — specifically, with your belly for one to two minutes, and focus only on the air you're breathing. Tell yourself to take care of the current day, limiting your information intake to what matters immediately. The best breaks are those that don’t take place in front of a screen.
Stress doesn’t have to be inevitable, solopreneur
Your constant state of overwhelm doesn’t have to be so constant, solopreneur. It's extremely important to practice stress-avoiding techniques thorough scheduling, organization, management, and frequent personal breaks to not only help sustain a successful solopreneur business, but to maintain a healthy relationship with your clients, family, friends -- and yourself.
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