Growing up my nickname was SherSher. My younger brother couldn’t quite say my name and “shersher” was the result. Somehow it stuck and even today, I have a phonetic variation of this moniker as my license plate. The problem is, often people assume the plates mean “sure, sure” and there’s a reason for that. I tend to say “sure” or “yes” to just about anything. I am the “go to” person when it comes to volunteering and getting the job done for others but at what cost?
The self-employed face unique challenges when it comes to placing a value on our time. This questioning of our worth comes both from within, (that niggly little devil on the shoulder who voices all our doubts and insecurities) and occasionally from external sources as well – your mother in law perhaps, who thinks you should get a “real” job. Often we feel pushed or pulled in different directions and as a result, may end up directionless. Combined with the dueling forces of the excitement and passion for whatever our small business is vs. the guilt (whether mommy guilt or the good old female guilt we all seem to be born with) it’s a wonder we get anything done! As an entrepreneur you may have a flexible schedule and equate this flexibility with more “free” time to do something that a “9 to 5er” just couldn’t do. If you’re also a mom this translates into convincing yourself you “should” do more. Organize that fundraiser, bake those peanut free cookies or volunteer for the reading program at school. Just because you can however, doesn’t always mean you should. When you commit to something other than your business, what you are really doing is undermining its value and robbing your business of its primary investment – you.
Faced with multiple priorities and struggling under the load of guilt we all shoulder, how do you determine your value and how do you measure your success? When you are self-employed you need to be VERY clear about these questions. First, you must have an overall goal. Corporations call them Mission Statements or Value Statements, even Visions. Be clear about what your Goal is. Then, you need to determine your monetary desires. It might help to think of your work as being paid by the hour, even if that is not how you define your contracts with clients. How many hours should a project take? Have you included research time, sourcing, travel expenses to meet with clients or other costs like advertising? When we work from home we don’t tend to think about some of these overhead costs in the same way that “big business” would. Try considering this: treat your business as if you were renting office space and you had to pay for that space by the hour. Would you still take time away from your “office” if you factored in that cost? Would you volunteer for the cookie baking or take time away from your desk to throw a load of laundry in the machine if you knew the financial implications? If you keep getting bogged down in the “daily details” your business gets bogged down too.
Get up, get dressed and get over the guilt. I know people who say they love the flexibility of working from home because they can stay in their pajamas if they want to. This too undervalues the importance of what you do and your commitment to yourself and your business. Have a scheduled start time. Don’t deviate from your plan, no matter who calls you or asks could you “do me a quick favour.” Schedule your calls, emails and client meetings just as you would in the “real world” and then the world (perhaps even your mother in law!) will come to respect that what you are doing is of real value.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t ever want to be the “sorry I’m too busy to help” person. Everyone is busy and it’s important to me to make time for others and to volunteer where I can. But I don’t have to do it all and neither do you. After all, “many hand make light work” as the saying goes. Just be “sure-sure.” That is, be sure to prioritize your schedule, attaching an appropriate value to ALL that you do. Respect your time commitment to yourself and your business and others will come to respect it as well.
WRiting Right For You
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Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.
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