September is National Self Care Month, and while being a creative entrepreneur can be exciting, let's be real: it can oftentimes be extremelyyyyyy stressful. I think self care is something that's hard to address in general as it's frequently associated it with lavish vacations, which are usually pretty expensive, or people with mental illness. For this reason, I generally operate by a self care rule of thumb: if it benefits you in the long run, it's self care; if it hurts you in the long run, it's self destructive. That being said, self care is not spending above your means. This includes (impulse) buying the newest camera gear or artist tools that you don't need, or don't know how to use.
Yes, you need to take breaks. Yes, you need to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and otherwise. Yes, taking a vacation (within your means) is a form of self care. But I want to throw out some other long term self care activities that have surely benefitted me, and that I hope will benefit you.
I know, I know. I had to start by ripping the band-aid off. This one was hard for me to learn as well. The whole point of being your own boss is to escape having an everyday routine that people working 9-5 jobs often do, right? But stick with me for a second, because having routines can truly be beneficial for you. If you want to actually be alert during the day, having a morning routine is critical. What do you need to perform at your best? Let this question guide your creation of a morning routine. Breakfast, reading, meditation, a hot or cold shower, and writing are common items included in the morning routines of successful people. From a business standpoint, what is your workflow process? How do you handle inquiries? How often do you check in with people within your network? These are all questions you should have answers to. Knowing these things like the back of your hand will make things smoother for you and minimize confusion with clients.
The overall goal of having routines is to take some stress from you of wandering through different processes to see what works and/or finding out the hard way what definitely doesn't work. [A video with more about this may or may not be in the works, stay tuned.]
Balance stressful activity with things you enjoy.
Answering emails, marketing, managing expenses, creating and implementing new ideas. So much of being your own boss can be stressful, even though it's necessary. Take some time each day to do something you like to do, like watching your favorite show or reading a book you're excited about. Not everything has to be "business as usual" all the time. And business definitely won't be fun if you're not making time to enjoy your life outside of it.
You are what you eat: take care of your body.
I personally think of cooking as a form of relaxation, but there's just no way I can cook daily. A compromise that has worked for me is cooking my meals all at once for the week, aka meal prepping. Fast food can be an easy option when you're on the go constantly, but no matter how healthy the restaurant, the truth of the matter is that you won't always know what you're putting in your body. If you're looking for regular meals but don't like to cook, some people really enjoy the convenience of meal or grocery ordering services like Shipt (a quick shoutout to this Birmingham-based company), Thistle, Blue Apron, and HelloFresh.
Give yourself (and your clients) less options.
Let's say you're hungry and had to choose between two high end restaurants in which one had 6 main course offerings and the other had 25 main course offerings. Which one would you decide to dine at? Personally, I'm choosing the restaurant with 6 main course offerings. At the end of the day, I'm only going to choose 1 main course, and with less options I'd say it's pretty likely that the chef can make them to perfection even while blindfolded. This can be applied to your personal life, business, or brand. It's not necessary to try to be great at everything or to offer everything to clients, because quite frankly, you can't. Or at the very least, you can't expect it all to have the same quality. Focus on what your niche is, what you're good at, and what you truly enjoy doing.
When it comes to your personal life, I've always operated with a quality > quantity mindset. I'd rather have 5 good fitting pairs of jeans than 20 pairs of jeans that fit...kind of okay. When it comes to lessening how much mind power you're putting toward everyday decisions like what you wear or what you're going to eat, sometimes less is more.
Use social media strategically.
I had a love-hate relationship with social media for a long time. That is, until I took the time to figure out how I could use social media strategically and lessen the time I spent focusing on building a following. I started using apps to help me plan my posts on Instagram and twitter so that I spent less time worrying about staying consistent with posting content. As a nice treat, Facebook already has a built in mechanism for scheduling posts so definitely consider taking advantage of that.
In my opinion, social media is merely an extension and representation of your business or brand. While you may get inquires from Instagram or Facebook, the experience, product, and service you provide for clients is your business's or brand's bread and butter. Start following accounts of people in your industry, people that inspire you, and (my personal favorite) people that make you laugh. Life is way too short to take something as fleeting as social media seriously.
Rest and reflect.
I saved this one for last because it is hands down the hardest thing for me to do. I'm a night owl any day of the week. Getting adequate rest at night can be a challenge, but it is oh so necessary. To perform at your best, you need to be alert. And to be alert, you need rest. That's as simple as I can put it. How will people know how creative you are or how well you can execute a concept if you're so busy yawning when you're around them or you have so much mental fog that you can't think straight? If you're not getting the rest you need, your body will know, and it will demand it at the worst possible time.
Rest also gives you the opportunity to obtain clarity and distance from work to actually evaluate your creative business. What's working? What isn't working? Where should I focus my efforts? Where are my clients coming from? Is there anyone I could be following up with? What business expenses can be reduced? All of these things take time to analyze, and you can't do that if you're so far in the weeds that you haven't taken the time to take a step back and enhance your process.
Take time to take care of yourself, it will be the best investment you can make as a creative entrepreneur.
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