How to Combat Polyentrepreneur Guilt

One of the big signs of a polyentrepreneur is the desire to turn every skill and hobby into something that earns money. This is usually due to an entrepreneurial streak a mile wide, but for those of us who have grown up poor (or have expensive hobbies) there are also financial motivations. And those financial motivations can lead to lots and lots of guilt.

Case in point: I recently opened a package of macro lens add-ons I’d had for months and took them outside to try out on the rose bushes. It quickly became habit to go out every day to check for new buds, new shapes, and try out new angles and new magnifications. I enjoyed myself immensely for a few days… and then the guilt started to creep in. “These photos are nice and all, but even if you do start a photography business no one’s going to buy them. So what’s the point?”

In other words, how could I possibly allow myself to indulge in something that doesn’t earn me money?

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This way of thinking can be deadly. I was trying to stop myself from doing something that I really enjoy, which can affect more than just a single business idea. If you’ve read my list of Top 10 Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs to Thrive, you’ll know that “deliberate relaxation” is one of the most important – it’s #3. True, if the photography business does work it will likely become a bit more work than play to photograph roses, but for right now it’s what I do when I’m feeling stressed or depressed. Taking a few moments to focus on something else and come up with beautiful results does a lot of recharging, or at least it will as long as I keep the guilt at bay. It can also lead to worse results – lack of self esteem, lack of trust in myself, and lack of motivation in future projects and interests.

I have some techniques for combating this guilt.

Don’t be financially afraid.

This is a topic in and of itself that I struggle with hugely (and will likely write several articles on). Approaching your finances with responsibility and confidence instead of fear and anxiety will head off the guilt early on – if you feel financially secure, then there will be no reason you shouldn’t engage in something that doesn’t earn you money!

Even if you aren’t earning much now, take steps to be less afraid and keep the fear from taking over. Budgeting is an obvious step, but for some of us (including me right now) even that is daunting. So I share a piece of advice I heard recently, just a tiny step you can take to change your thinking: check your account balance every single day, and when you do, think of three things that are signs of how abundant your life is right now. This will both remind you of how much you already have as well as make looking at your money a pleasant activity instead of a frightening one. It’ll also make you more aware of how much money you really do have, which can help you curb bad spending habits.

Be conscious of your activities and why you do them.

This goes back to the “deliberate relaxation” thing. On days when I don’t have a plan I’ll often find myself spending hours on the internet or playing computer games, only to end feeling tired, unproductive, and frustrated with myself. However, on days when I spend all day working and then play games for an hour, or rest days that I consciously set aside for play, I enjoy myself and finishing feeling happy, refreshed, and even productive on occasion!

Acknowledge that you need downtime/playtime/non-money-making time and work it into your schedule. Whenever the guilt starts to creep in remind yourself – this is your time, and you as a person are much more important than your ability to make money.

Make this time practical in other ways.

I love to knit, but I’m full up on businesses that are nearly impossible to earn a living at, so I’m keeping it as a hobby. In order to justify the hours spent (and my yarn stash!), most of the things I knit are entirely practical – I’ve made myself two scarves already, and I’m looking forward to a hat, a second set of fingerless gloves (my mother made my first), and eventually bigger projects like a sweater.

If you personally don’t have a practical use for your hobbies, you can also give things as gifts! Giving homemade gifts is getting to be a huge movement right now, and most people understand and appreciate the time you spent – making the gift that much more meaningful.

How have you dealt with your guilt?

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Things Every Polyentreprenur Needs to Thrive: Diverse Opinions

See the full list of needs here.

Sometimes I am overcome with excitement just thinking about how much knowledge is open to us. We have libraries, universities, friends and neighbors… and then there’s that vast world of the internet. Almost any question we have or interest we think of can be researched within hours if not minutes. Hobbyists and entrepreneurs are able to open business with nothing but the power of the internet and their own guts and determination.

And as polyentrepreneurs, we need this. We really don’t have time to try things out ourselves; if we’re to have any time to actually start and run our businesses, we need to take advantage of the wealth of information and experience others make available through blogs, books, and programs.

Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs - Diverse Opinions (LimeLanePhotography)

Start with the basics.

If you’ve never done x before (x=started an online shop/blog, recorded an album, used Photoshop, etc.) then you should definitely start with a source that covers all the basics. And by basics, I mean the stuff that is objective – legal matters like business licenses and finances, getting to know the ins and outs of any software or websites you’ll be using, etc. This stuff can be pretty dull when you want to jump right in and list items or play with photos, but it’ll save you lots of time, money, and heartache in the future. Etsy and other selling sites often have entire handbooks to help you get started, which I strongly recommend at least skimming.

Find voices you agree with.

Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to find a core of advice-givers that resonate with you. (I’ll include links to some of my favorites at the end.) No matter how good your instincts are, you want to be reading the advice of others on a daily basis. Someone will inevitably think of something you haven’t or convince you to try something you’d written off, or even just phrase something in a way that prompts your own thinking process.

A good way to start off is by just doing some kind of general search on Google – “more sales on Etsy” or something to that effect. Click on a few sites that look interesting to you, read a post or two, and if you’re even mildly interested subscribe to their newsletters. You’ll find out within a few emails if they’re really the kind of people you’re interested in – if you find yourself deleting their newsletters without even opening them, it’s time to unsubscribe!

Keep your eyes open.

Your needs and interest will gradually change, so don’t let yourself be stuck with the same blogs for the rest of your life. Take note of any guest posts you enjoy, articles you see pinned or shared, and bloggers you see promoted, and follow them back to the source. When I started my Etsy shop I was subscribed to only one blog, and almost all of the blogs I now read have come from me following links from guest posts! (I also no longer read any of the blogs I read back then; I outgrew them all or they stopped posting.)

Keep an eye on the competition, too.

There’s a lot you can learn from those in the your field. Don’t be afraid to try out a few things you’ve seen others do – imitate a jewelry technique or color scheme, cover a song, or write your own thoughts on another blogger’s topic. At the very least it’ll keep you on your toes, and may even spur your creativity to new and great ideas!

With this advice comes the caveat: be yourself at all times and don’t copy. I’ve seen some of our competitors try to copy us, and it’s never gone well for them. All the knockoffs at dirt-cheap prices in the world won’t make up for your lack of innovation.

My favorites!

Marketing Creativity: This blog is my current overall favorite! Lisa Jacobs writes quick, helpful, thought-provoking articles and posts several times a week. Her focus is on creative businesses.

Marie Forleo: Marie posts one or two videos a week of her answering questions and/or talking with industry experts. Focus: “creating a business and life you love!”

Smaller Box: This blog isn’t updated regularly, but when it is updated it always packs a punch. Meredith is a partner in a fairly successful t-shirt company and her advice is geared more towards bigger small business like her own (that is ones with six-figure incomes) but there’s still a lot to be gleaned for any small business owner.

What blogs or sites have you found useful? Feel free to comment below!

What to Do When One Part of Your Life Threatens to Overwhelm the Rest

Subtitle: all the things I didn’t do which led me to not post on this blog for a month and a half.

As a polyentrepreneur, life is about maintaining an incredibly delicate balance; neglect of any area can cause it to whither away (especially in talents where daily practice is critical) and neglecting more than one can create a crisis. But even the best-laid plans can go awry. My recent absence from this blog so soon after its launch was due to something beyond my control: my jewelry company got a massive rush order that had me working 10-14 hour days and had contractors over at my house at all hours to help. We barely finished on time, and during the weeks before the due date I got nothing else done.

No singing. (I’ve lost a couple of notes off my range.)

No writing. (I’m kicking myself over readers I must have lost when they saw that June 9th was the last time I’d posted.)

No working on other orders. (I’m still trying to catch up.)

However, though I didn’t have a choice in getting the order or the time frame, there are things I could have and should have been doing every day that made it so I could have handled this order without completely dropping my other obligations.

Always have some things prepared ahead of time.

Etsy allows you to save draft listings to post on your own schedule. Blogs can also save drafts and can even be scheduled ahead of time to post. Facebook can schedule posts. I can take pictures and edit photos of up to 30 new items in a day. I know what my bestselling items are in my jewelry shop and keep intending to make some spare sets. And yet when this order came, all those tanks were at empty – and I didn’t even use the couple of days I had before I could start the order to fill them up.

Not only will having drafts saved make it easier on you in the future, it often takes less time to prepare listings/blog posts/product photos in batches anyway. In more organized times I’ve assigned a different job to each day of the week (product photography, preparing new listings, etc.) and spent an hour or two doing that job that day. Usually this leaves me with more than a week’s worth of finished posts/listings, so if I stick to that system I’ll be fine if another huge order comes!

Make realistic daily goals and stick to them.

I knew I was in trouble right off the bat. I needed to make about 250 bracelets a day to finish on time, and I estimated based on nothing that I could only finish 50 bracelets a day by myself. However, I went ahead and a) only made 50 bracelets a day, spending substantial time goofing off (turns out I can make more than 100 of those bracelets a day, something I only found out a week later); b) assumed that my two main contractors could handle at least as much a day as I could (turns out one of them averaged 20 a day); c) didn’t take steps to bring on more help until days later; and d) pretended that the deadline didn’t actually exist.

This turned out about as well as you’d think it would.

We were lucky in that we were able to get a week extension on the deadline (though I promptly got behind again because I’m professional like that) but extension or no I would have saved myself a lot of stress (and gotten a lot more sleep) if I’d had and met realistic personal and overall quotas. I don’t know what I’m most ashamed about: pretending that somehow the extra bracelets would get done (magic?), or not realizing that I could (and needed to!) make 100+ bracelets a day.

Check in with everything else for a few minutes a day.

My goal going into this order was to do at least the bare minimum with my other responsibilities every day. I was sure, especially in those early days when I was only making 50 bracelets, that I could still keep up with my shops, my photography, my writing, and my singing. I actually kept that goal for the first few days, but that was almost part of the problem – instead of the bare minimum I was spending hours away from the order. Then I switched into crisis mode and let everything drop entirely, hurting my voice, my online presence, and the momentum I’ve slowly been building in my jewelry shop after several months of slow sales.

Next time I’ll actually stick to my goal and do it right. First thing in the morning I’ll get everything out of the way – answer emails, package orders, sing for a few minutes, etc. I’ll keep an eye on the clock and do these things as quickly as possible before starting on the day’s quota. When I break for lunch and dinner it’ll be back to the computer to take care of emails, to write a little and edit photos, before switching right back to the order.

ORGANIZATION.

I spent hours in the last few days counting bracelets, alternately finding that we were a hundred ahead or a hundred-plus short. The day before they had to be shipped I had to run to the store at least twice for thread and beads we didn’t have. I was actually unable to make the last few bracelets because we didn’t realize until the last minute that the client hadn’t sent us enough beads and I didn’t have time to find replacements. It was awful.

When I have orders like this I always assume that I should throw myself in and figure out the specifics later, and for smaller orders that works okay. It wasn’t until this order that the inherent flaws in that system became clear. So learn from my mistakes – I would have saved myself a lot of time and money if I’d organized everything from the beginning: separating out thread and beads into packages of 50 or 100, buying supplies in bulk instead of driving all over town to find a few skeins of thread in an obscure store, planning meals I’d serve at our hours-long bracelet parties instead of throwing whatever looked good into my cart. Next time I’ll definitely start with a plan and a spreadsheet.

Squeeze in a little self-care.

What we did do fairly well with this order was take frequent mini-breaks. Every hour or so everyone currently at my apartment would get up, stretch, take a short walk outside, and get a snack. Even just a minute or two made a huge difference in our focus and our bodies – my cousin even got more flexible, and I was able to keep the wrist pain at bay (I’m at risk for carpel tunnel).

Though that helped, it didn’t quite cover it. I was pushing my mind and body to the breaking point and when I finally put down my work and headed to bed, they took downtime whether I wanted it or not. Every night I found myself getting on my laptop intending to do work and still wandering aimlessly around the internet an hour later, or pulling up a fanfic on my phone in bed intending to read one chapter and finally turning off my light when I’d read “the end.” And the worst part is that because I spent the whole time chiding myself for “wasting time” I wasn’t even getting the full benefits!

So schedule time for yourself. No matter how busy, you can take half an hour to read a book, play video games, or go to the gym. This will not only keep you sane during your busiest times but will also shorten the time you’ll need afterword to recover.

Good luck with your future huge rush orders, hell weeks for performances, and taking of massive tests!

Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs to Thrive: Support

See the full list of needs here.

 10. Support.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and at least a few of them (hopefully around 8-9) need to be spent sleeping.  So get it through your head now: you cannot do this alone. This might mean hiring employees, it might mean outsourcing some of your business functions, or it might simply mean that your siblings, friends, or significant other will pitch in every now and then. It should also definitely mean hanging out with your fellow polyentrepreneurs. : )

Hello! Welcome to the first full-length article dedicated to expanding my Top 10 Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs to Thrive.

One of the defining characteristics of an entrepreneur is a do-it-yourself attitude; it’s kind of necessary to that “creating and running your own business” thing. Especially because when starting out the vast majority of us are forced by lack of funds to wear all the hats, even the hats we plan to hire other people to wear later.

In a polyentrepreneur this tendency seems to be even worse. I met one man a couple of years ago who truly mourned that he lacked the time and expertise to not only fully run the two or three businesses he was planning, but also to build his own house, grow his own food, even put together his own car! If he had his way (and infinite hours) he would do everything himself. And for many polyentrepreneurs, that draw is hard to ignore. Plus, many of our businesses are built on our talents – you can’t outsource or automate your singing, poetry, public speaking, or dance!

On the other hand, having someone to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off of, or who has a different set of skills than you do, can be a huge boost for your business! So can dropping off your receipts with a professional accountant and not giving a second thought to taxes. And, as mentioned above, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Obviously, no matter how much we might wish to keep our businesses all to ourselves, it’s not possible or even recommended. But how to we get from admitting that to actually applying it?

Identify where you don’t need to be involved.

Take a step back from your business(es) and look objectively. Every business, even one built around the talent of a specific person, has parts that can be outsourced. It’s hard to let that control go, which may make it hard for you to see what can be delegated, but there has to be something. Common areas that can be outsourced include: scheduling, marketing/pr, copy writing/editing, taking and editing photos, building a website, bookkeeping, and order fulfillment (if you ship physical items). Make a list of all the aspects in your business that you can let go of, even if right now you don’t want to.

Decide what kind of help you want/need.

Now that you’ve identified the areas of your business that will not whither away without your constant supervision, look at each area and decide who could take on that task. Some things, like bookkeeping or building a website, are best done by a professional (or a talented friend if you’re lucky); depending on your size and budget, outsourcing those may be beyond your abilities right now. However, other things, like shipping, can be handled by almost anyone; you could hire a teenager from your neighborhood or just have your brother or sister or significant other pitch in every now and then. If you want something in between, try putting out a general call for help on your personal Facebook page or in your circle of friends. You may be surprised who has helpful talents, which can also save you money if you’re in the shoestring-budget boat.

Don’t panic.

It may be that you look at your business, find some tasks that could be given to others, and then seize up. Will the person you hire package your items with as much love and care as you do? Could someone else know the best way to photograph your items? Could your PR person possibly understand your brand well enough to pitch to the right people?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Calm your fears by using a technique I heard about from Meredith of Smaller Box (a fantastic blog that I strongly recommend): train whoever you hire so thoroughly that they come to know the business as well as you do. Show your new hire how to package items and then watch him or her do it over and over. Show the photographer your previous product photos and explain what’s important to show (plus, honestly, anyone you pay to take your photos should have a good idea of how to shoot well!) Hire someone to do PR and then have them follow and watch you for weeks or even months until they learn to think like you do when it comes to getting press for your company.

In short, take whoever it is and mold them into the employee that you need them to be. (Within reason – with a different perspective/skill set, they may have good ideas that you haven’t thought of! Don’t squelch that.)

Get moral support, too.

There’s a reason this point on the list was called “support” and not “employees.” No matter how good your hires are, you still need your friends/family/community – and when you’re too small for a hire to make sense, they’re all you have! So reach out and find others who want to hear of your successes and are willing to listen to your gripes, who can lend help and advice in a pinch, who are rooting for you and truly want you to be your best self. For most of us there will be at least a couple of friends/family members or a significant other who fits the bill. You can also find support in Facebook groups, forums, and Etsy teams (if you’re on Etsy). You won’t be the best you can be if you don’t have the emotional support too.

The Top 10 Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs to Thrive

This is the quick list of 10 things every polyentrepreneur needs to thrive. In the coming weeks I’ll be expound on each point with a dedicated post.

10. Support.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and at least a few of them (hopefully around 8-9) need to be spent sleeping.  So get it through your head now: you cannot do this alone. This might mean hiring employees, it might mean outsourcing some of your business functions, or it might simply mean that your siblings, friends, or significant other will pitch in every now and then. It should also definitely mean hanging out with your fellow polyentrepreneurs. : )

9. Access to multiple and diverse opinions.

Even with a regular business, short of one-on-one coaching there is no way that anyone has all the answers for you. As a polyentrepreneur this is even worse – the chances of someone else having the exact same blend of passions and businesses as you is pretty much zero. So instead embrace a wide variety of opinions and learn how to pick out what you can apply to your own situation.  Just be wary of casting the net too far – you don’t want to spend more time reading advice than you do applying it!

8. Trust in yourself.

Even the best support will do nothing if you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re doing. Some days this is easy, and other days it’s harder (I have a mood disorder, so I know ALL ABOUT it being hard) but just keep reminding yourself that you are awesome.

Also, learn to trust your gut when it comes to advice. I’ve had more than one person express misgivings about my current path (including a freaking MENTOR who suggested I just drop my business pursuits entirely to focus on school instead) but they’re not the ones walking it. I am. And my gut, my soul, my whole person feels incredibly excited and motivated when contemplating the challenging road ahead. Anything that gets you up in the morning is good, no matter what others think.

7. A challenging schedule.

When I started going back to school, instead of falling off my productivity with my business shot up; once university was out for the summer my productivity slowly dropped off again. There’s nothing worse for a polyentrepreneur’s motivation than having all the time in the world – that’s probably why most of us start up multiple businesses in the first place! Make sure you have many (within reason) and varied things to do, whether it’s a hobby, classes, going to the gym, a full-time or part-time job, or even just making sure you do a little bit for every business every day instead of focusing on one business a day. In fact, when I’m really having trouble focusing, I’ll even set my timer to go off every 5 minutes and switch my activity every time it does.

6. Your own space.

You’re going to be amassing quite a few things and you’ll need somewhere to put them all. Whether it’s as small as a cupboard or closet or as large as a whole room, make sure you have a place you can call your own. Make sure you keep it clean and organized so you don’t have to waste precious time trying to find things!

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5. Motivation, not jealousy.

Nothing will halt your progress faster than looking at what someone else has and getting grumpy. Instead of steaming, learn from them. Instead of feeling small, think to yourself “I can do that.” Use everyone else’s success and good ideas as a springboard for yourself. And anyway, isn’t that how a lot of our talents get discovered – by looking at someone else’s work and thinking “I can do that”?

4. Planning.

I’m not going to promote a specific form of planning because different things work for different people, but you’d better find out what does work for you and stick with it. To-do lists, calender reminders, planning your day hour by hour; whatever will ensure that you’re getting done what you need to when you need to. I use a combination of HabitRPG, lists written in my notebook throughout the day, and the occasional self-imposed deadline plastered anywhere I’ll see it to keep me on task.

3. Deliberate relaxation.

It’s even easier for polyentrepreneurs to burn out than regular ones – we have so much more on our plates! In all the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to forget to take time for yourself. Alternately, you may find yourself trying to take relaxation time, but feeling so much guilt about it that you cut it short and don’t let it do any good.

Repeat after me: you cannot succeed unless you take care of yourself. Repeat that now, and repeat that whenever you want to work through another lunch break, put off a nap, or lose an hour of sleep to get just one more project finished. And then head off to your bath, put down the phone and pick up the novel during lunch, or do whatever else it is that makes you feel like a refreshed and ready you.

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2. Passion.

I’ll admit it – being a polyentrepreneur is kinda crazy (if not outright stupid). The only reason to put yourself through this special cross between heaven and hell is because you have no choice. You’re passionate about too many things for them to line up and take turns in the coming years – you have to do all of them now. If you don’t have passion for it any more then get rid of it. You have too few hours in the day as it is.

1. Big fat dreams (that are written down to become goals).

It’s difficult to get anywhere without a goal to work toward, and the dreams of polyentrepreneurs are especially large – you have to have room for all your passions! And with a life so large, full of so many things, it’s necessary to have at least a basic road map to make sure you don’t lose sight of where you want to end up. Dream big, dream long, then make some goals and work toward them a little bit every day.

How to Know if You’re a Polyentrepreneur

 

1. Whenever you pass an empty building for sale, you begin daydreaming about what business you could put there.

2. Whenever you or anyone around learns a new skill you immediately wonder how you could best make money with it.

3. You cannot picture yourself working a “regular” job for the rest of your life.

4. While in college, you switched majors several times, had to take an extra semester or two to fit in classes for all of your interests, and/or double majored or minored.

5. You pick up new hobbies in the space of days, and are willing to try anything. (I don’t even drink and I’ve considered trying to brew beer.)

6. Any “your interests” field on a social networking site is a long, long list.

7. You keep branching out into new techniques, markets, and variations of your current business. (What if I make really long friendship bracelets and make them into dog collars?)

8. You know that trying to be everything to everyone is a bad idea, so you plan to serve several niches instead.

9. You are fascinated by all aspects of business and all types of businesses, even if it happens to be something you’re not interested in trying yourself (I recently spent a merry half hour with a magazine for pool company owners).

10. You never really grew out of wanting to be a ballerina space cowboy doctor when you grew up.

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You live colorfully.