Battling Burnout

Roses from Washington Park in Portland, Oregon

The hardest parts of owning and operating a small business require me to talk to strangers diplomatically every day. Living outside my comfort zone is part and parcel of life. Dealing with this plus the day-to-day operations of the business itself is very demanding.

Here are the top Four Most Difficult Aspects of Running a Small Business for me. I’ve included how I battle burnout to slog ahead toward entrepreneurial independence.

#1- Billing/Collections

The delicate dance of collecting payment when a client has bounced a check or a Paypal payment skips requires diplomacy and patience. In the web development and marketing business as a desperate last resort we have the option of removing the site from our servers or posting a 404 page. This is NOT a desirable option. Luckily we have iron clad contracts, open communication and remain friendly at all costs. I’ve never had to take a site down due to non-payment….yet.

Burnout cure: Wait for at least an hour then send an email.

It’s best to have a form letter for this instance that you personalize with the clients name and business. Assume the best. Cards expire. Limits are exceeded. Run the card or check again in five days. If after an email, a follow up phone call and running the card three times, it’s time to accept you’ve got a deadbeat on your hands. Honor your agreement.

That’s it. Don’t overthink it. You don’t need a bitter dispute or resentment.


#2- Sales

I love to meet new people. After the 10th or so “networking event” in a month I begin to have social fatigue. I’m in rending garments mode, ready to flee into the wilderness. Add cold calling, canvassing and a rigid regimen of follow up via email and social media; I’m ready for utter isolation. Sales are essential. I sell a complex, technical product. In order to provide a great product we have to know our clients. Sales meetings are frequently just the first step. Selling is dating. Don’t expect your client to “put out” a sale after just one meeting. Your prospect will go from a potential client to a stone wall if you push too hard, are rude or simply think only of your own needs.

Burnout cure: Meditation. Long walks & Hiking. Sleep in.

Selling done right is hard. It can feel like a lot of pressure. Desperation is repellant. In order to stay fresh and likeable for myself and loved ones, I have to turn it off sometimes. I have to be present in my own life and leave behind all the frustrations of selling.


#3- Marketing

Sales and marketing are not the same thing. Sales is straight forward. You find leads, qualify them, make contact and hopefully cultivate sales from there. Marketing is much more complex. It ranges from creating collateral and content for the web, brochures, business cards and sales materials to pricing and distribution strategies of your product in the marketplace. This is frequently misunderstood.

Burnout Cure: Adopt a Marketing Program.

Pull out a sheet of paper and start writing all the things you’ve wanted to do for too long. Update the website. Interact on your social media accounts. Print a brochure. Pull out that stack of business cards you collected over time, add them to Evernote or some other simple tracking method and start writing emails. Go to some networking events. Just make some calls to find someone to do it for you if you can’t do it yourself. Eat the elephant a bite at a time.


#4- Turning Work Off

Owning a business is all consuming. Sometimes I dream about aspects of the business. It’s not healthy to constantly obsess and can cause burnout.

Burnout Cure: Take a day off. Two back-to-back is better.

Yes you can. You must. If you find you don’t have the time, perhaps it’s time to hire someone? Delegate more or rope one of the family into helping out. It’s better to have some down time now than face catastrophic burnout later.