I have two offices; One is 400 miles away, and the other is 2,300. In 2009, I made the decision to leave my office and focus on growing my company, and while I might not recommend such a drastic move for everyone, I can’t stress enough how important it is to separate your life from the life of your business.
There are a few obvious rules that the government lays out for us. Don’t intermingle your personal and business bank accounts. Be careful how your business is registered, and who checks are written out to. Spell everything out on your taxes. Don’t forget to report cash and tips… But those are just the tip of the iceberg. Like your finances, I suggest that you don’t intertwine your personal and business emails or calendars. The professionalism (or lack thereof) from using an email like lilGxoxo@hotmail.com for your important sales messages is beside the point. But the real reason to separate your personal email from your business is to put boundaries in place that separate your personal life from your business life, and then to respect those boundaries.
Imagine you log into your email one night to send your mom a message, and in doing so you see 5 new “urgent” business messages. Before long, you’ll be working late into the night, neglecting your friends, family, and your personal time. If something is really urgent, you’ll get a phone call. So keep your business email separate, and have the discipline to check it only during business hours.
Next, set your “hours of availability”. In most jobs you would be required to stick to a normal 9-5, but one of the best parts about being self-employed is having a results-driven responsibility in your company, rather than a time-driven requirement. As long as everything is running smoothly, I am big fan of setting a schedule that works for you, taking into account your personal obligations, other commitments or activities, spouse, social life, etc. Your employees should be able to do the same. But the key is to make sure that the schedule is consistent and not different every day or every week. This way you always know when people are available, and you can schedule meetings, appointments, and deadlines accordingly. My wife also works, but when she gets home there is a hard-stop on my business productivity, and I love it. Turning off your computer and email is liberating, and sticking to a schedule like that ensures your personal sanity.
As self-employed business owners, one of the least consistent parts of our jobs is getting paid. Maybe your business is seasonal, or you have a big pay-day that gets you through the year. For those just starting out, you may have opted to take no salary for several months so that your business has enough cash to survive. Regardless of your individual situation, my suggestion is to put yourself on salary. Whether it’s $100 a week or $1000 a day, getting used to paying yourself on a regular schedule will get rid of the guilt behind those large withdrawals, and allow you to better manage your personal finances. If you’re a one-person shop, set up an automatic transfer between your business and personal bank accounts, and then be sure to withhold or pay the applicable federal and state taxes. Or, consider one of the many payroll services out there that cost under $70 a month. Smallbizpayroll.com (by paychex) is a pretty easy system to get started with, but also consider QuickBooks or your bank.
The point is to treat yourself like an employee in your own company. You didn’t start a company to let it run your life, so be the Boss, not the company.