Are you building a sustainable business that is easy to maintain and grow without creating an overwhelmed or burnt out version of you? In today’s episode, I’m discussing the importance of business sustainability and my own experience with burnout. Plus, I’m sharing one easy step you can take today to build a more sustainable business!
The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot is straight.
Make sure you’ve hit that follow or subscribe button on your favorite podcast player to get notified each week as we air new episodes!
Subscribe on Your Favorite Podcast Player
Apple Podcast App | Spotify | Amazon | Google Podcast
Connect with Sabrina
Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest
This episode is brought to you by my Sustainability Guide Freebie, where I’m walking you through 10 steps to a sustainable business. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for years, this guide will help you review the different facets of your business and clarify whether or not you’re set up for long-term sustainable success.
What is a Sustainable Business?
While there are many definitions of what sustainable means, the version we’re talking about today is an adjective for something that is able to be sustained—something that is bearable and capable of being continued at a certain level; the process by which something is kept at a certain level.
In terms of business, this would mean building a business and a life that is bearable and capable of being continued at a level of success over time. The process by which personal happiness, wellbeing and business success can be maintained.
Business Sustainability Doesn’t Lead to Burnout
Burnout can be triggered by many different facets of life: motherhood, social media, social and political injustices, and more. It comes from chronic stress that has not been managed.
When you create a business that is not sustainable, you have created something that will lead to burnout. If your business’s financial success, and or your personal well being comes in waves, and is unpredictable, or if they cannot be maintained at the same level over time, then you are not in a sustainable place.
If that’s you, you’re headed to burnout if you haven’t already arrived at it.
Burnout Is Easy to Come By, But Hard to Overcome
Most of us as entrepreneurs feel that burnout, especially if we haven’t set ourselves up to avoid it. I know I felt it back in 2017. I was running full speed ahead in my business, mentoring photographers, shooting over 150 sessions per year, and traveling with clients for vacation sessions. I had three children under the age of 10 and was considered a full-time stay-at-home mom while working in my photography and coaching business. To say the least, I had a lot going on with little to no margin in my calendar.
While I had a part-time assistant, automation with my CRM, a batch system, and outsourcing my editing, I was still overworked. On paper, I had everything right.
That same year, I had three really traumatic things happen in my life, forcing me to miss two and a half weeks of work right before busy season kicked off. Rather than giving myself the time and space to heal, I kept going. I over-scheduled and overcommitted.
Trauma struck again six months later, yet I still kept going. I put my own mental and physical health at the bottom of the list of priorities.
In July of 2018, I crashed. I was burnt out and depressed. Everything suffered—that was my wakeup call. Finally I told my husband everything and spent the next year getting all of the help I needed and making big changes. Through therapy, acupuncture, naturopathic doctors, diet and exercise changes, EMDR work and more, I put my self-care first. In business, I started putting white space in my calendar.
Intentionally Adding White Space to Your Calendar
As for my business, the biggest change that happened was the development of white space on my calendar. I had to have a buffer of time that was left unscheduled on a regular basis. The shift of prioritizing white space on my calendar came when I realized that I need to plan it the same way I plan for sessions or carpool or vacation. This white space needed to be intentionally set aside, not just what was leftover.
Once I started to proactively build in this white space in my calendar, I started to ease out of burnout. Why? Because my schedule became sustainable. I now had time for myself. I had time to make adjustments for client reschedules or emergencies.
Your Next Step to Sustainability
White space allowed me freedom that I didn’t know I needed. I really do believe that having a sustainable business starts with your schedule.
If I could give you one simple action step to make your business more sustainable, it is to plan for white space in your calendar. Take a look at your calendar for the next quarter and block out at least three hours per week and leave it blank. When you get to that time and you don’t need to do anything in it, do something for yourself. If you get to it and your week went to crap, use that time to get caught up.
If you’re ready to implement white space and take the next steps to creating a sustainable business, make sure you grab my Sustainability Guide Freebie, where I’m walking you through 10 steps to a sustainable business. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for years, this guide will help you review the different facets of your business and clarify whether or not you’re set up for long-term sustainable success.
Review the Show Notes:
What Does Sustainable Mean? (1:27)
What is a Sustainable Business? (2:05)
What Causes Burnout in Business (2:30)
Seasons in Business (3:59)
My Experience with Burnout (4:34)
Planning White Space (8:40)
Your Next Step to Sustainability (9:44)
Review the Transcript:
Welcome back to the podcast my friend. Today’s episode is something that I’m deeply passionate about because it’s part of my own story. I’ve personally experienced the struggle and have also overcome it. I’m sharing my experience today and an important action step so that hopefully you can avoid a similar struggle. Before we get started, today’s episode is brought to you by my sustainability freebie. In this free guide, I walk you through 10 Steps to a sustainable business. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, this guide will help you review the different facets of your business and clarify whether or not you are set up for long term sustainable success. You can grab it today at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash sustainable, and yes, it’s going to be in the show notes.
Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gebhardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business motherhood and life. myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.
So today, I want to chat about the importance of business sustainability. But before I can dive into how to set your business up for sustainability, let’s chat about what a sustainable business even is. There are many definitions of sustainable but the one that I like in this situation the best is sustainable is an adjective for something that is able to be sustained, ie something that is bearable and capable of being continued at a certain level, the process by which something is kept at a certain level. So if you put that into entrepreneur terms, and creating a sustainable business, it would mean building a business and a life that is bearable and capable of being continued at a level of success over time. The process by which personal happiness, wellbeing and business success can be maintained. Okay, so now that we’re in agreement on what is sustainable business is let’s talk about why this is so important.
Enter burnout. I’m sure you’ve heard this term. It’s kind of a buzzword lately, and it’s often triggered by many different facets of life. We can have burnout as mom’s burnout from social media, burnout from social and political injustices. And we certainly can have burnout as creative entrepreneurs. Burnout comes from chronic stress that has not been successfully managed. It comes from overdoing something and not allowing yourself to breathe, he’ll rest or take a break. When you create a business that is not sustainable, you have created something that will lead to or maybe has already led to burnout. Going back to the definition of a sustainable business that we came up with earlier. Let’s put it this way. If your business’s financial success, and or your personal well being comes in waves, and is unpredictable, or if they cannot be maintained at the same level over time, then you are not in a sustainable place. If this is you, you’re either headed for or currently feeling burned out. There are so many different ways to ensure your business is set up for long term sustainability. And I go over those in my new sustainability freebie. But today, I want to focus on what I think is one of the most important steps. As a creative entrepreneur, you have to make sure that you are planning for and allowing yourself both seasons of hustle and seasons of rest. Entrepreneurs generally don’t struggle with the seasons of hustle. After all, we have no shortage of exciting ideas that we can’t wait to create and launch. Entrepreneurs are generally doers and go getters. It is the seasons of rest that we forget about. And those are the times that will sustain us and in turn sustain our businesses. Before I give you an actionable step for your business, I
want to tell you a story. Back in 2017 I was running full speed ahead in my business. I was busy mentoring photographers, shooting over 150 sessions per year and traveling with clients for vacation sessions. I had three children under the age of 10 and was considered a full time stay at home mom in addition to my photography and coaching business, I had a lot going on and had little to no margin in my calendar. I had a part time assistant to help with client bookings and communication. I was using a CRM to automate things and keep my business organized. I was using a batch system to batch my work. I was outsourcing most of my editing. I was doing everything right. But I was still overworked. I was still headed for burnout. And I didn’t even know what was about to happen. In August of 2017, three traumatic things happen to me within a few weeks of one another. I’ll share those stories in detail in future episodes. But during this time period, I was forced to miss two and a half weeks of work. And I was really burdened with some deep physical and mental trauma that I needed to heal from. Plus, if you do the math on the calendar, that is right before busy season kicks off. But I didn’t have time. I didn’t have the margin in my calendar to stop and take care of myself. My schedule wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t see any other options. So I kept going. I rescheduled clients, I continue to over schedule myself and overcommitted myself personally, I continue to forge ahead thinking that the worst was behind me. However, exactly six months later, tragedy struck again, unexpectedly. So while I was still very much in what should have been healing and recovery phase of my life, I tried to power through that process and was faced with even more trauma. And yet, I still kept going. I still kept pushing forward. Life was busy with my business and my kids. We were also renovating a house at the time and life just didn’t stop. So yet again, I found myself putting me at the bottom of the list and just forging ahead. I was fine. My business was fine.
In July of 2018, I crashed really hard. I hit a level of burnout and depression that I had never felt before. I just woke up one day and was numb. I had visions of running away and starting my life over. I was so deeply unhappy that I just didn’t care anymore. My work suffered, my client relationships had become met. My personal relationships were crap, my circle of friends diminished. I didn’t have joy in anything anymore. And that was my wake up call. I knew I needed help. I talked with my husband and for the first time I told him everything. He was shocked. He had no idea because like I said, I had been brushing it all under the rug and putting on a fake smiley face. That was my turning point. I spent the next year getting all the help and making all the changes.
Obviously I had to work on myself first and pull myself out of the pit. This involved lots of therapy, acupuncture, naturopathic doctors, diet and exercise changes, EMDR work and so much more. I literally became the self care queen. As for my business, the biggest change that happened was the development of whitespace on my calendar, I had to have a buffer, I had to have time that was left unscheduled on a regular basis. Putting whitespace into practice was so hard at first, I’m an Enneagram, three and a type A personality. I like my days scheduled and programmed and I do not like to sit still, rest and downtime are hard for me. The shift for me came when I realized that I need to plan for whitespace on my calendar. The same way I plan for sessions or plan for carpool or plan a vacation whitespace needed to be intentionally set aside, not just what was leftover. Once I started to proactively build in this white space in my calendar, I started to ease out of burnout. Why? Because my schedule became sustainable. I had time for myself. I had time to make adjustments for client reschedules I had time to deal with my family when a kid got sick or there was an emergency.
White space allowed me freedom that I didn’t know I needed. I really do believe that having a sustainable business starts with your schedule and I know that creatives struggle with scheduling, it can feel restrictive or hard for creatives to plan their time but I promise you it is such an important process. Today I want to leave you with one simple action step toward creating sustainability in your schedule and therefore your business plan for whitespace. Take a look at your calendar for the next quarter. Yes, the next three months and block out Have at least three hours per week and leave it blank. These three hours need to be considered work hours. So ideally they need to be when you have childcare. If you block off three hours in the evening or on a Saturday, that time is going to get sucked up with laundry, sports and errands. So block off that time every week for the next quarter. And then leave it alone. Let it stay open. Leave it blank. Don’t schedule a new client or a session there. Don’t make a doctor’s appointment there. Don’t plan anything in advance. Just let it be a buffer. If you make it to that day of the week, and you have nothing going on, amazing.
Get yourself a pedicure or take an app. But if you make it to that week and your schedule went to crap because of a sick kid, you can use that buffer three hours to catch back up. Consider it like breathing room that you need. Trust me here this practice is hard to get started. But once you start, you will see the value in it. Your future self will love you for this. That’s it for today, my friend. If you want to ensure that your business is set up for sustainability, make sure you grab my free sustainability guide and start working through those steps today. Again, you can grab it at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash sustainable friend I want to see you succeed. And that means avoiding burnout, or worse. Success comes when you have intentionally created a business that works for you and your life. Protecting your schedule is imperative to this process. It’s okay to say no, it’s okay to take on less projects. It’s okay to allow yourself white space on your calendar. Happy planning my friend. Until next time.
Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhardt photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.