How to take the pressure off

In July I opened up my calendar for free check-in calls for clients and readers at the midway point of the year. It’s been fun to hear where you are and what you’re working on. If you took advantage of that opportunity, please keep in touch, and if we haven’t spoken yet, please reach out!

One of the biggest stressors I kept hearing was the amount of pressure being put on new businesses and career leaps to make money right away. And not just some money, but the same amount made at the established roles you were in at other companies.

If you’re under five years in business, and definitely if you’re under three, that is too much to ask. In fact, you’re setting yourself up for failure and burnout.

Why? Because putting pressure on your new leap to ensure your financial security means every step you take MUST WORK at a time when you’re still figuring out what this new venture will be.

When you’re building a business, even a couple years in, you very much need to be in Research Mode.

Among the things you’re learning are:

  • Who your customers are

  • What they want

  • What they’re willing to pay

  • Where to find them, as well as

  • How to run a business from quarterly taxes and choosing a legal structure to if/when to hire help, setting hours and more

It’s like worrying your baby isn’t speaking in full sentences yet while you’re still getting a hang of their feeding, changing and sleeping schedule.

As you collect more information in these vital areas, your confidence as a business owner (or parent) increases, as does your ability to effectively attract and retain happy paying customers (or happy babies).

You need research time!

What you don’t need? The pressure to know all of these answers before you’ve done the research. You can’t figure these out without trial and error, and you can’t do that with “you have to make enough money right now” playing on repeat in your head.

The same is true for more established business owners going after new markets, professionals looking to make a major mid-career leap, and writers, artists and performers putting themselves out there.

We have to take the pressure off in the short-term in order to have more long-term success.

How to take the pressure off

1) Create the long-term plan.

If you have a business plan, that is your long-term plan. If you don’t have one yet, then take a few minutes to imagine and list out your ideal work life, including the specific amount of money you want to make, the number of hours you want to work, the kind of physical environment you want to work in, and the kind of people you want around you / how much focused alone time you’d like.

When I do this with clients, it’s a full coaching session or two of us brainstorming all aspects of your work life, but a smaller, targeted list will work in the interim so you have something to refer to.

Once you have that, lay out what you’ll do today, this week, this month in order to build toward that goal. The smaller the steps the better so you can check them off and feel your own progress.

(By the way, long-term can mean six months, two years, whatever you want. You define it.)

2) Create the short-term one.

Given what you’re building toward, and that it will take some time to get there, what do you need in the meantime to feel calm, secure, like you can keep going?

Make another list answering that question, which can include a certain amount of income to cover expenses and have a nest egg, the kind of health insurance you and your family require, the number of hours set aside per week to devote to your new business, etc.

Similar to above, this list allows you to determine what you do today, this week, this month in order to achieve these short-term stabilizing goals which in turn serves the long-term vision.

3) Make empowered choices for yourself.

What does it mean to have these two lists?

You may get a part-time job.
You may move in with your family.
You may stay working with your less-than-ideal employer for an extra six months.

Things you may have been considering before, but the difference now is that with these lists you can make an empowered choice in service of the life and work you’re building for yourself.

So instead of, “I either make enough money now by following my passion or risk failing and having to return to work that doesn’t feel inspiring,” you can say with confidence: “I’m proactively choosing this short-term option because it gives me the security and time to build what I really want.”

You’re still working on that long-term plan, so please make sure you have a to-do list from it that you’re checking off daily. The only thing that’s changed is that you’ve removed the pressure of everything having to work immediately and allowed yourself a chance to find your bearings. To do the necessary research.

You haven’t failed, or stopped, or given up. You’ve built a plan that can really work and in a way where you can feel healthier and happier at every stage.

Like a boss.

Do you have to make less to do what you love?

When contemplating a leap into a new career or business, it’s hard not to start negotiating right away.

I could probably live with a small pay cut.

Maybe the hours won’t be so bad.

Yeah, it’s a lot of driving, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

Because of that pre-negotiating, it can feel nearly impossible to leap. As if you have to choose between what you value, like either you’ll enjoy your work or have the financial security you crave.

How could anyone choose between those? Why should anyone have to?

You don’t have to give something up in order to be happy at work.

You can make a stable, sizable income enjoying what you do.

The first step toward that is to stop negotiating before you have to. Instead, picture what you really want. All the bells and whistles. Benefits, paid vacation, freedom and flexibility.

Yes, even if you work for yourself all of these are possible.

Once you’ve made an initial list, get more granular. Based on the number of hours you want to be working, what will you do with the rest of the time? For instance, if you’d also like to finish your novel, then specify how many hours per week you want for that too so you’re building the fullest picture.

Your list, what we call your Ideal Work Profile, can contain details about what a work day looks like, how much travel is involved, how many or few people you interact with, what your office looks like or if there is one at all, how you feel valued, how you’re compensated, and what you do when the work is done.

Normally during the second call with clients, we make this profile together. If you really want a change, we need to know what to aim for.

Don’t know yet what you’re doing to make this salary? No problem. Believe it or not, the smaller details on your profile will inform the bigger questions that may still be fuzzy.

Meaning, if you know you want to work 5 hours a day mainly from home with a couple outside meetings each week, then the industries, organizations and opportunities will sort themselves around these requirements. Or rather, you’ll start seeing opportunities coming your way through the lens of the Ideal Work Profile you’ve created.

Make your list first and let everyone else, including your customers, negotiate themselves into your ideal.

It’s pretty incredible what happens then.

I’ve watched clients achieve the income they desired, the appreciative colleagues and clients they hoped for, and the downtime with loved ones that had felt like a far-off dream.

If you want to build your Ideal Work Profile together, we can discuss that in a consultation.

If you’d like to build this list in an intimate circle with everyone doing it together, comparing notes, and supporting each other really going for it, my signature program Career Clarity & Community starts on Wednesday. The other women coming forward are building their own businesses, clarifying what they want for themselves and why so we can get there together.

Let’s make your leap a reality.