For many entrepreneurs I've met, being fully booked up weeks in advance with work doesn't always feel good. It may not conjure up feelings of dread exactly but sometimes there can be a little sinking feeling, a niggling doubt, maybe a reticence to get started or a sluggishness at the thought of another day at the grindstone. It's as if you've traded something, you're not quite sure what it is, but it doesn't feel like you've got the best deal. It's really not uncommon.
You have bills to pay, cash flow is important, the work is there so you feel you need to take it, I get it, I totally get it. After 15 years of running businesses I now what it is to be an entrepreneur trying to make ends meet. I know how easy it is to be lulled into thinking that it's work, so it must be good work right? I'm bringing in an income and that's what matters.
It's not. Not really...now stick with me.
As an entrepreneur you didn't create your business just to make money. Stay with me here. Let's face it if it was just about the money, you wouldn't have chosen to work for yourself, there are much easier more straightforward ways of earning hard cash.
It's not about the money, it's about the work. Good work, no, great work takes you beyond the financials. It's work that ignites your passions, uses your creativity, inspires you, adds huge value to your clients. Great work uses your skills and talents, pushes the boundaries of what's possible for you and maybe even for your industry. Great work doesn't have to be grand work, it can be done quietly and without fan fare but it's work you are invested in. It's a little bit scary, it puts you out there in the world, makes you a little bit vulnerable, or a lot. It's work you can do with your whole heart.
Great work is work with the right clients. People who are a pleasure to deal with, who value what you do, who respect your experience, your talent and your boundaries!
Let's talk about boundaries for a moment. We've all been there, we find ourselves in a situation where a client has somehow found their way into our home (maybe even literally) and we find we are constantly at their beck and call. Checking emails, responding to demands, deadlines overrunning, spending more time than we ever thought we would or could on their project, unable to gain control of what has become a bit of a beast. It's easily done, especially when its work-for-the-money kind of work.
When you're doing great work, the right work it's so much easier to set boundaries, firstly because you know your value too. Doing work for the money can lead us to lose sight of our brilliance all too quickly. It takes the shine off things, its darn right dull. Doing your best work has lots of benefits, not least because it brings out the best in you, which creates confidence, charisma and is so much more empowering, it's a no brainer really. You repeatedly get affirmation that you are making a difference, adding value, how could you not be when its such a good fit for you on every level? It's a self fulfilling cycle of awesome.
With all that in place and having that deeper sense of worth, it becomes so much easier to protect your boundaries and the most valuable asset in your business, your time. Once you spend your time, in business and in life, its gone. You can't earn more, you can't invest some and gain interest, you don't get spare change when you spend it. It's gone. Forever.
Your time is your most precious resource and when you're doing your best work you guard that time like a lioness protecting her cubs. It's reserved for the important things.
When you're doing great work, you know that where you spend your time can make a staggering difference to your business and your customers. It's invested in something that grows.
Time spent in this way creates energy, enthusiasm, a body of work that is brilliant, and produces a much bigger return on investment than time spent in the other direction.
Time spent on the wrong work actually devalues the whole transaction. It requires energy rather than generating it, it makes everything harder to sustain. The work you produce as a result isn't really worthy of you. It doesn't show what you're really capable of so its not something you can happily share and rave about. When you do it just attracts more of the same kind of clients and the same energy sapping jobs. It may bring in the cash flow for a while but its not sustainable.
It doesn't feed you or your business in any other way than a direct exchange for money, and that to me just doesn't make good business sense.
If i'm going to invest my most valuable resource of time, I want more than just a small financial return. I want a big financial return, and all the other benefits that come from doing authentic, inspired and elevated work:
A tribe of raving fans and genuine supporters who have experienced the value I can bring.
More energy and vitality that comes from enjoying work, being inspired and experiencing the state of flow.
The peace of mind, and revenue, that comes from a steady stream of clients who have seen the value I've been able to demonstrate through client testimonials and by showing my best work.
The richer and more fulfilling life with my family because i'm so much happier, charging what i'm worth and fulfilling a deep sense of purpose. Even though i'm working, I have more and better time to spend with them. Time when I can be fully present, not worrying about the next job or when my client is going to interrupt with their next demand. Not filled with resentment for being trapped in a cycle I cant seem to break and taking it out on them. Free to truly enjoy our time together.
A body of wok that stands the test of time as a legacy I can be proud of, that's out there making a difference in the world. This counts for service based industries as well as product producing companies. People and the impact you make on their lives is a powerful legacy too.
Now being booked up for the year with that kind of work is something you can be really happy about!
Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash.