How to create a simple and sustainable business

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Do you have a sustainable business?

In today’s online entrepreneur world, you’re told to HUSTLE.

If you’re not hustling, you’re doing it wrong.

Working until 2am is a badge of honor, because it brings you closer and closer to that elusive and arbitrary 6-figure income.

In this world there’s a constant need to keep adding more and more to your plate. Facebook ads, Instagram stories, funnels, more services, because if you’re not hustling, you’re NOT doing it right and you’ll NEVER reach 6-figures, making you the biggest failure that ever failed.

Except this is all BS.

Running a successful service-based business does NOT have to be complicated.

You don’t have to work nights and weekends to be a successful business owner. In fact, you can work part-time, while making a full-time income.

You don’t need to do all the things. In fact, doing a lot fewer things is better and will make you more money (while saving your sanity).

You don’t have to hit someone else’s arbitrary monetary definition of success (though six-figures is totally possible without insane hustle).

When it comes to creating a business that actually works for you and ends the hustle, there are three key things to remember:

Work expands to fill the time available

Whether you have 2 hours or 20 to complete a project, the project will take that long to complete.

This is known as Parkinson’s Law, and in my experience, it’s true.

If you set your work hours to ALL day–literally–your work will take ALL day. That’s how you end up working at 2am and hating your business because all you want to do is curl up and go to sleep.

But if your work day ends at 5pm, hard stop, you’ll get your work done by 5pm.

The same is true if your day ends at noon.

Or your week ends on Friday.

Setting boundaries around the time you spend working doesn’t limit the amount you get done, it actually makes your work hours more productive, and can allow you to get MORE done in less time.

You need to get rid of anything that isn’t working

Or that’s taking up too much time without making enough money to compensate for the time spent.

We’re constantly being told that we need to do MORE in our businesses, when in reality, doing less, and doing it well, is the answer.

When you try to do everything, whether it’s offer all the services your clients could possibly want, or try to use every social media platform, or chase every shiny new object the internet tells you to chase, we end up doing nothing very well.

And all of this stuff takes up all of our time. We think that if we JUST master this one new thing, or just update the fonts on our website, or just add something new to our offerings, we’ll get where we want to go.

But most of this stuff is just noise.

According to the Pareto Principle (aka the 80/20 rule), for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

What’s that mean?

That means that 20% of your services is likely resulting in 80% of your revenue.

And 20% of your marketing efforts results in 80% of your new leads.

And to reverse that, 80% of what you’re doing is only giving you 20% of your results.

Ouch.

So why not cut out all the crap, and focus on what’s working instead? Take a good hard look at everything you’re doing in your business and eliminate anything that’s not serving you well. Double-down on what IS working.

YOUR definition of success is what’s important

Somewhere along the way, six-figures became the definition of “success” in the online entrepreneur world.

Now that number is shifting to seven-figures.

And when entrepreneurs don’t measure up, they feel like failures.

But the truth is, these numbers are completely arbitrary. They’re what someone else decided should be the goal for everyone with an online business.

And for some people, those numbers make sense.

But for a lot? They’re just big numbers that make them feel like they’re failing, when that’s not even close to the truth.

There are two important things here:

1) YOUR numbers are what you need to hit, not someone else’s. And I mean your REAL numbers based on supporting the life you want to live, not some imaginary Instagram life shown to you by gurus on the internet.

You have to determine how much money you actually need to make, based on your real-life expenses and the kind of life you want to live.

For most of us, we’re looking to pay our bills, live comfortably, get some travel in each year, and not spend our days glued to our computers. That may or may not cost six-figures in your world, but the important thing is that you figure out what it does cost, and base your income goals around that real number.

2) There’s more to life than money. If your only goal is to Scrooge McDuck a pile of cash, then you’ll probably never be happy. The money you make will never be enough.

Instead, focus on what your successful life actually looks like.

Does it mean more time to spend with family and friends?

Or being able to stay home with your kids instead of returning to a soul-sucking cubicle where 80% of your take-home-pay goes to the cost of daycare?

Maybe it means the freedom to travel the world, and not have your computer as your constant companion?

Does it mean living in a great location, skiing in the morning, and then working a few hours each day?

A successful life looks different for everyone, but we’re sold a specific version of success in the online world, that most of us don’t even want. But if we’re not clear on what we DO want, then we’ll never feel successful.

tl;dr

Hustling constantly is BS.

There is absolutely no need to work as much as most freelancers do. Instead, limit your work hours and you can get the same amount done in less time.

Stop doing all the things. Most of it is just busy-work anyhow. Evaluate your business, find where you’re wasting time, and eliminate the time wasters. Focus on what IS working.

Create your own definition of success. Stop listening to everyone else, and focus on your own business and life.

About Erin Flynn

Erin Flynn is the founder of Successfully Simple™, a hub for creative entrepreneurs who want to work less and live more. Erin’s mission is to help female creative entrepreneurs ditch the busywork and redesign their businesses around what success means to them. Find her on Instagram @SuccessfullySimple