I follow a lot of creative people on Instagram: photographers, illustrators, entrepreneurs.
I was scrolling through a few weeks ago on what the English call a “Bank Holiday” (Americans, read: Memorial Day, MLK day, something like that), and one of the freelance illustrators I follow posted a picture of herself working, with the caption:
“No bank holidays when you work for yourself.”
Now, excuse me, but…no.
I understand deadlines – probably more than most people (I used to be a journalist, don’t you know.). But probably 50% of the reason I started my own business was so that I could have more flexible time to spend with my family, to spend on my life.
Have you ever heard about workplaces like Google and SAS – how they offer amazing benefits like gourmet meals and on-site massages and flexible hours and bringing your kids to work? Wouldn’t you love to work somewhere like that? Me too! And guess what? I DO. I have an amazing boss, and her name is Faith Dwight.
Here are just a few ways I be an awesome boss for myself:
I impose a strict policy of no work phone calls in the evenings. Let me tell you something: if you answer a phone call from a client at 9pm on a Tuesday evening, you are setting a precedent of Always Available. Do you want to be Always Available? I don’t (unless you’re my kids – and even then, I like to go to the bathroom by myself sometimes).
I only take a limited number of bookings a year. Part of the reason I started a business is because I want more time for my family, so what’s the point of working every single Saturday? I shoot one wedding a month. If a second wedding comes up that looks like something I just can’t miss, I talk to Simon about it. If he’s happy and I’m not going to miss anything important, I will take it on. But if he’s not – or even if I’m not 100% sure I have the capacity to shoot it and still cover all my other responsibilities, I pass. Even if it’s hard. Even if it’s a Bohemian wedding on a ranch with gypsy caravans in the Cornish countryside. (But seriously, if you have a wedding like that, talk to me now because I really want to shoot it.)
I have a cleaner. A while back, I had the realisation that I can’t do everything. I am not a supermom or a superwoman or a super anything (except maybe a super brownie maker. My brownies are legit.). You know that episode of FRIENDS where Monica has the crazy closet full of junk, but the rest of her life looks immaculate? I have a literal junk closet, but I think we all have a figurative one, too. You cannot do everything: work, family, housekeeping, your health…something always has to give. For me, it was my housekeeping (and my health a little bit too, but that’s a story for another day). And because I’m not great at it, and I don’t enjoy doing it, but I want my kids and my husband and myself to live (and work!) in a clean, safe environment, I hired a cleaner. No shame.
I embrace holidays. This means Christmas, Easter, and all the other no-name bank holidays. If I wouldn’t be working as a bank teller, I sure as heck am not going to be working as a self-employed person. Why would I allow myself to be a more demanding, less flexible boss than someone who doesn’t even care about me? I. Love. Holidays.
If I want to get driven into the ground by work – to miss my kids’ school plays, to be dog-tired all the time, to sit inside on the computer while the rest of the world is outside in the sunshine – I’m sure I can find a magazine in the city that will happily abuse me and call it a job. But that’s not what I choose.
I choose bank holidays, and restful weekends, and five weeks of vacation a year (and I’m working on that on-site massages thing).
I choose a life.
(And you should, too.)
I’d love to hear from you in the comments: How do you be your best boss ever?