When you dream of success, do you envision late nights and weekends spent holed up in the office? Probably not. Unfortunately, this is one of the sacrifices that many make in order to achieve financial success. But what good is all that money if you don't have time for your family or even yourself?
Being "rich" is no longer solely defined by how much money you make. Today, freedom is valued nearly as much as income. For a growing part of the workforce, making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while working 60-80 hours a week isn't a worthy trade-off. In fact, many people turn to entrepreneurship for exactly this reason: they want the opportunity to make big bucks while maintaining control over their own schedules. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. In many cases, owning a business is more restrictive than working for someone else. However, there are things you can do as you build your business to avoid handcuffing yourself to your desk. With these tips you'll be able to carve out the freedom to work and play.
Top 5 Ways Business Owners Limit Their Freedom:
1) Employees. As your business grows, it will make more economic and operational sense to hire full-time employees. However, when you are building your business, employees can create more problems than they solve. As an employer, you are responsible not only for your employee's salary, but also for their personal and professional development.
Alternative: Use quality contractors whenever possible. Hiring a contractor for website development work, writing, admin support, or sales doesn't always look like the cheapest option. But if you factor in your time, the quality of the results, and scalability, it's often the best value for a young business. Relationships and incentives with contractors are very clear. These relationships require significantly less management and typically provide better reporting than full-time employees. If you don't have a good local source for hiring contractors, this Inc.com article provides a great list of freelance sites.
2) Office Leases. If you have an office lease, you'll feel compelled to spend much of your time there. The lease may also incentivize you to fill the space with employees, even if you don't need them just yet. Additionally, if your business is still growing, it's difficult to determine how much office space to lease.
Alternative: Transform a room in your house into a home office, join a coworking space, or sign up for a virtual office that offers office spaces and conference rooms all over the world when you need them. For mail, go paperless! Mail is another chain often tied to an office lease that you should avoid. Virtual mailrooms like Earth Class Mail and Mailbox Forwarding, Inc provide scanning, shredding, and bill payment services.
3) Hourly Pay. If you build a business where you, personally, are paid by the hour, you will never be in control regardless of how much money you make. In fact, you'll have less control the higher your hourly rate is. Your high-paying clients will feel like they own a certain amount of your time, and they will feel entitled to determine when they will use it.
Alternative: If you are a lawyer, accountant, or other professional, this is going to be nearly impossible to avoid. Those building service businesses should focus on creating processes from the beginning, so that other people (contractors or employees) can service the clients. Another option is to build a product-based revenue model rather than service-based. Products don't necessarily have to be manufactured or capital-intensive. For example, customer leads are a type of product.
4) On-Premise Servers. On-premise servers are basically big computers that live in your office and house all of your digital files. By their nature, these servers are difficult to access from remote locations. Server firewalls and operating system issues can make mobility very expensive.
Alternative: Save all your business files in the cloud using a service like Dropbox for Business (if you don't have extreme or specific security concerns). You can also consider getting a virtual server from a company like VMware. These cloud services allow you to scale up or down as needed and provide instant access to your files from anywhere in the world. No more emailing documents to yourself or worrying about whether you have the current version on your laptop or desktop.
5) On-Premise Communications. Office fax machines and business phone systems are tethers that can only hold modern business owners back.
Alternative: Use cloud services for phone, fax and contracts. The biggest tether on business owners and employees alike is fixed communication. Having to wait on a call, fax, or contract to come through is extremely limiting. Cloud services like eFax, RingCentral, Nextiva, Jive, and HelloSign provide managed communication services that make your communication tools follow you--not the other way around. If you want a single service that offers online faxing and esigning for contracts, this article lays out your options.
2 Bonus Tips to Make Your Business Life Easier
1) Use a cloud-based project management tool like Trello or Basecamp. If you hire contractors and even a few employees, you'll need an easy way to assign and track their work. Cloud services eliminate the need for both parties to download software to their computer, which is a great bonus. They also allow you to create projects and specify participants, organizing all your business activities.
2) Get a great bookkeeper. They can work from anywhere--especially if you have a paperless office. You should be intimately familiar with your own books, but you need an experienced bookkeeper to regularly review and update your books to ensure that you don't make any major mistakes. Hiring a good bookkeeper will make taxes easy and guarantees good reports to keep you in excellent financial standing. If you don't know where to find a bookkeeper, use one of the freelance sites from the previously mentioned Inc.com article.