I've been an entrepreneur for almost 4 years now, and I have to say, 2016 has undoubtedly been my BEST year so far.
I'm feeling happier, less stressed, I'm working much less, I'm doing more of what I LOVE and I've finally achieved enough passive income to live comfortably off of.
The previous 3 years, however, have been a huge struggle for me. Juggling multiple side jobs (Uber, Lyft, dog sitting/dog walking, and Herbalife health coaching were the main ones) while trying to build up both my design and marketing business and this blog have been ridiculously exhausting, to say the least.
I was getting really frustrated because although I was working really hard, day in and day out, I still wasn't making the kind of income that I wanted to be making. It was like I was constantly spinning my wheels, but getting nowhere.
Somewhere in the last half of 2015, I realized I had way too much stuff going on for my own good and I was just fed up with it all. I had reached my limits and decided it was time to do something about it.
I was ready to push my fears aside, get out of my own way and make some big, scary changes in order to reach my goals.
So, I figured I'd write a blog post about what I changed in the past year in order to get to where I am today. 🙂
The Steps I Took That Helped Me Work Less + Earn More in 2016
1. I Stopped Being Cheap + Started Investing in Things That Helped Me Learn Faster
During the last half of 2015, I was ready to do whatever it took to make things better for myself.
I've always preferred to do everything myself because I've always felt like that's the best way I learn. However, I've learned from doing everything myself that it's not always the smartest, most efficient way to get ahead.
As a result, I've learned a lot of lessons the hard way; from making mistakes that cost me BIG money, to spending lots of time trying to find the answers to things. Spending time trying to find answers has proven to be more of a loss than spending money on something that's going to get me the answers quicker and in a more organized fashion (and time is more valuable than money, right?!) 😉
I realized that once I have the know-how, I can make more money faster and with a hell of a lot less stress. Plus the cost of whatever it was that helped me learn has usually paid for itself, and then some, almost immediately.
So from July to December, I prioritized learning everything I could about online businesses and blogging. I purchased and read various books and e-books on the topics. I read blogs and I joined some of their email lists to get the inside scoop. I even invested $500 in an online blogging course that taught me everything I needed to know to grow my blog in the most efficient way possible.
Paying money to learn things faster (and support other small businesses) was definitely one of the best things I have ever done! Plus, just going for it helped me get myself out of the "lack" mindset I had going on about money and into a more "abundant" mindset... which, in turn, helped me put myself in the natural FLOW of abundance.
In addition, I could use all of these things as business expenses so I wouldn't have to give so much of my money to the government! 😉
2. I Applied the 80/20 Rule (The Pareto Principle)
In September 2015, I spent a week in New York City with my friend (who had a successful small business of her own), just to take a break and have some fun. During my trip I asked her for some advice on what she thought I should do in order to make more passive income, get rid of all this stress I had and to create more time freedom.
What she told me seems so simple, yet genius, in hindsight.
She told me to look at all of my income streams and see which one was making me the most amount of money and with the least amount of effort. Then put all of my effort and focus into that one.
This is called the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of your results are coming from 20% of your efforts.
So I took a look at my income spreadsheets and realized most of my income was actually originating from this blog. Not only was it was most of my income, but it was also passive income... exactly what I wanted! 🙂
I discovered two of my biggest income sources were coming from two of my most popular blog posts, which were also both on completely different topics.
This gave me a new idea: apply the Pareto Principle to each if them and create two additional niche blogs.
So, at the beginning of 2016, I started building them. And the results? More passive income from both sources, enough to DOUBLE my average monthly income! I now make almost 3 times as much as I ever made a month working at a regular 9-5 job, but with much less work! I also truly enjoy what I do, I can make my own hours and can work from anywhere in the world!
Dream lifestyle officially achieved.
3. I Figured Out My Inherent Gifts + Personality Traits and Put More Focus on Them
Our inherent gifts are things that we are naturally good at, what we get excited about and what we can get so engrossed in that we often lose track of time.
I've discovered that my inherent gifts are writing, blogging, analyzing things, organizing things, developing things, and creating digital art.
Personality-wise, I would describe myself as an introvert, an empath, a free spirit, intuitive, imaginative, creative, self-reflective, daring and independent. I also like to work alone/be alone as much as possible (it's how I stay "in-tune" with my own guidance system).
Then there are the things I don't like, which include math and managing money, having to talk to people I don't really know (in person or on the phone,) dealing with traffic, having to do what I'm told, and putting a lot of effort into something and not receiving any kind of gratitude or reward for it.
Once I figured out what makes me feel the happiest and what makes me tick, I looked at how much time I was devoting to the activities I hated every day.
That's when I realized why I've been feeling so drained, irritated and unhappy for the past few years! I was spending way too much time on activities that were not meant for me and were, therefore, slowly killing me.
For additional reading about how to figure out what you were meant to do, check out this blog post: How to Identify the One Thing You Were Born to Do
4. I Let Go of My Side Jobs
I realized exchanging a lot of my time for a little bit of money from all my different side jobs just wasn't worth the stress of juggling them all anymore. I didn't quit my 9-5 job and become an entrepreneur to work more for less... and for other companies.
I wanted to work less and work only for myself.
I knew I had bigger things in life to create and accomplish, so it was time to get out of my own way and make some space for me to do just that.
What I needed was to have more uninterrupted time blocks in my day, in order to really let my creative juices flow.
I had to create the space that would allow me to get deep into my creative zone, in order to start building my own things. I couldn't do that if I was constantly being interrupted all day by people who needed my help/wanted to schedule dog walking services or coffee chats with me or if I had to run from one side job to the next all throughout the day.
Something had to go.
Although my side jobs were great stepping stones in helping me pay my bills during my first few years of entrepreneurship, and I appreciated all of them for the opportunities they gave me, it was time to start letting them go so I could focus more on what I wanted to do.
It wasn't easy (actually, it was pretty scary) but since I had quit my job to do my own thing before, I knew I could do it again. At least this time I was doing it with more knowledge and experience behind me.
Related: Fear is Just an Illusion
I had to continue to have faith in myself that I could succeed and just be prepared to embrace any additional setbacks I incurred along the way. Setbacks were just new lessons that were going to help me learn and evolve.
If I ever really needed my side jobs to fall back on, I had them there as a safety net.
So I took another leap of faith and let them all go! And so far, I haven't needed them in 9 months!
5. I Developed a Schedule
From as far back as I can remember, I've personally always lived off of a very structured daily schedule (from school, to sports and extracurricular activities, to my 9-5 job and everything in between.) Once I quit my job and started working for myself, I realized I could do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I had all the time in the world, after all!
But through time and experience, I've learned that this was actually hurting me more than helping me.
It was important to be able to leave work "at work" and have some free time to myself: to turn off my brain and do whatever I wanted to do for me (like go to the gym, hang out with friends, or just Netflix binge.)
So, at the beginning of 2016, I made my work hours for my design and marketing business Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm and stuck to it. If a client called or emailed me outside of those hours, I wouldn't pick up or respond to them until I was "back in the office."
I had to set boundaries with my clients out of sheer respect for myself. Being available any time of day to help people just led to a lot of personal stress and frustration, which ended up having a really negative affect on my health.
For example, I'd find myself often missing my planned workout sessions because a client would reach out to me last minute really needing my help with something and I just felt like I had to drop everything and help them right then and there when then really needed me.
After putting my stuff on the back burner over and over again, I finally realized something wasn't right because of how I always seemed to feel after: annoyed, frustrated and stressed.
Since our feelings tell us everything we need to know, I knew something within me needed to be shifted. I later discovered this was actually learned behavior from my childhood. In my family, when someone needed us, we were supposed to drop everything we were doing and basically bend over backwards to help them, because that is what a "good" person does. And I wanted to be viewed as "good" in the eyes of others.
Turns out this was just a limiting belief that was fueling an insecurity within me. I was already inherently "good" and was just prolonging my own suffering by continuing to fuel this limiting belief.
Essentially, I was teaching others they are more important than my own well-being and I will always put them and their needs first before myself.
That sh*t is f*cked up.
I had to take care of myself FIRST in order to be the best version of myself and show up for my clients with 100% of my best energy.
Having set days off also helped me work more productively during my work days, stopped me from procrastinating, gave me something to look forward to, and helped me recharge.
6. I Got Rid of Distractions to Help Increase My Productivity
In order to be more productive, I needed to be more focused and without interruptions.
One major thing that interrupted me on a daily basis, all day long, was my phone. I always felt the need to check my social media notifications or take care of new emails right away, just to stay on top of them and get them out of the way.
The problem with this was that it only made me lose focus on my work. Next thing I knew, it was hours later, the thing I was working on still wasn't done, and now it was really hard to get back into the groove.
So I turned off all notifications for social media and email and put my phone on silent when I was working. I would only check my email and social media at certain times of the day or as a reward after I completed a larger task.
In turn, my productivity skyrocketed, I accomplished more in less time, and I felt less stress and anxiety overall because I wasn't hearing notifications going off all day. 🙂
Out of sight, out of mind.
7. I Let Go of Anything That Was Causing Me Stress
It was time to be a little more selfish with what I wanted and how I wanted it. It was also time to stop trying to please everyone else.
I started paying more attention to anything that annoyed me or got in the way of my daily focus; whatever was bugging me, I simply removed it from my life. As a result, I discovered that the more things I let go of, the better I felt day in and day out. And on top of that, my business started doing a lot better!
One of the best things I learned was to let go of crappy clients.
Letting go of crappy clients was scary at first because I was afraid they were going to be really upset and do something to try to hurt me or my business (like write a bad review or something.) But that ended up being something I just made up in my head (False Evidence Appearing Real?!) and nothing like that ever happened.
Letting go of them, lead to less overall stress and create more space and time for me to focus on blogging, which helped me make more money with less effort.
Can you say winning?!
In Conclusion + What I'm Doing Now
I used to work all day, every day until I reached the feeling of "burn out" and needed to take a whole day off to hide from the world. Now I only need to work maybe 2-6 hours a week, I haven't felt burnt out in months and I do more of what I love on a daily basis! 🙂
I'm now truly working for only myself, I'm creating my own things, I can work from anywhere that has wifi and I can work whenever I want! I'm feeling less stressed, feeling happier, feeling more accomplished, earning more passive income and doing less work!
Over the past 3 years, I racked up a pretty hefty amount of debt (over $40,000) so I'm using the extra money I make every month to pay that off. I guess if I worked more, maybe I could make more and therefore pay it off sooner, but after working so hard for so long, all I've wanted to do these past few months was take some much-needed time off. Once I feel like I'm ready to work really hard again, I will, but for now, it's nice having the time freedom to do whatever I feel like doing, whenever I feel like doing it. 🙂
I hope these tips help anyone out there who is also in the entrepreneurial grind, feeling stuck and wondering how to improve their situation!
Any other advice you have to add? Feel free to comment below!