I left the corporate world for the same reasons everyone else does. I was tired of the politics, the commute, the inflexible schedule, and, quite frankly, the demand to look my best every day. I also gave up a few pretty good things — an employer-contributed retirement plan; free health, life, and disability insurance; and, of course, a stable salary that paid my bills and allowed a great vacation every year.
Many people might think that once you are your own boss that your life is all vacation and sunshine. But the “home business blues” are real, believe me, and everyone should be prepared for them to hit and to push through them.
Defining the Home Business Blues
I had never heard of this term until I actually caught this “bug,” and another entrepreneur whom I met explained it to me. Here is how an entrepreneur comes down with the home business blues.
● We sit in our home offices for long hours, connected to all of our devices.
● We may see friends and family one or two evenings during the week or on weekends, but our work life is isolated.
● We work on projects and we meet client deadlines. Occasionally, we actually meet with a client, but most contracts and projects are fulfilled remotely. Skype and other video-conferencing at least put a face in front of our screens, but that is not the same as real life.
Another symptom of this illness is declining health.
● We become more sedentary.
● We do not eat as well because we are not prone to fix healthy food ourselves and instead eat junk food we have in the house.
● As we continue to work as a company of one, we spend far more hours on the job and far fewer hours in any kind of physical activity.
● The isolation causes loss of energy and enthusiasm and, ultimately, lack of productivity.
It only got worse when I faced a business slump. The blues become even worse, and I even contemplated giving it all up and returning to the corporate world I hated. My advice after all of this? Don’t go back. Do not sacrifice your independence again. Instead, learn how to conquer this “illness.”
5 Steps to Beating the Blues
1. Celebrate Every Small Success
Even if it is a very small gig, it’s a success; if you meet a tough deadline, it’s a success; if a client is happy with what you have done, it’s a success. If you re-work your website or join Twitter, it’s a success; if you download a new app and learn how it can save you valuable time and money in the future that’s a success.
And the way you celebrate matters. You do not just pat yourself on the back. You call a friend and make a lunch date; you take a few hours and go shopping, even if it’s only window shopping.
2. Take Steps to End the Isolation
Yes, you are busy and you work long hours. But so does every other entrepreneur who is trying to make his/her business a success. They form networking groups and get together at least once a month, usually for breakfast. They bring in speakers; they bounce ideas off of one another; they refer business to one another; they are people to call when you are “down.”
Some of the best friends I have now are those I met in the local networking group I joined. There is value in joining groups on LinkedIn of course, but nothing beats being a part of a group that meets face-to-face. It’s like having your own cheerleading squad.
3. Get More Physical
Remember that New Year’s resolution you made about getting more exercise? How’s that working for you? Mine didn’t work too well either. It was all about getting more physical exercise. I had posted that resolution on my office wall, too, and even colored it and put pictures of great looking people all around. I didn’t do anything at all, until one night I actually had a date and the outfit I wanted to wear no longer fit. That was it!
The next day I called my local YMCA and joined an aerobics dance class. I love music and I used to love to dance, so why not? It has been one of the best things I have done for myself. Because the class was in the morning, I met some other entrepreneurs, and have an additional support group. And the best thing? After that class, I get to work with all kinds of energy — and I’m much more productive on those days. And, the outfit fits again.
4. Taking Breaks — You Decide
Everyone recommends this, and it is true. But, instead of taking everybody else’s recommendation (which is usually to set a schedule of timed breaks throughout the work day), do what feels right for you. My breaks are not on a schedule. There are times when I am so “into” a project, and it is going so well, I don’t want to take a break for fear of losing my momentum. So I don’t.
At other times, when things are really dragging and I am staring at a blank screen, I do take that break. And it may be for more than the five to ten minutes that the so-called “experts” recommend. I may watch an episode of “Mom” or “Scandal” that I have recorded. It takes me away to Neverland for a while, and I don’t have to think. Breaks are important but on your own time.
5. Get a Hobby — Anything!
Well not anything, actually. Think about what you used to like to do when you had fewer responsibilities. For me, it was music. And there sat that piano I hadn’t touched in years. So, I called the piano tuner, got out some of my old music, and started back up.
One summer, when I was in college, I got a job as a piano bar singer, so that’s what I began with — my old, “fake” books and my somewhat older voice. Through a series of rather crazy coincidences and chance meetings, I have ended up in a small band, and every once in awhile we have a paying gig on a Saturday night.
There is no permanent cure of the home Business Blues. They will hit; they still hit me. The difference is that now I have things in place to deal with them. They are far shorter in duration and not as severe. I think that is a success worth celebrating, so I am going to go watch some TV.