Years from now, when Favor the Bold is super successful and I’m living on the beach somewhere, a writer for Entrepreneur or Forbes will interview me and ask, “What’s the secret to your success?”
My answer? “Sushi from the supermarket.”
Yesterday was a busy day. I had tons of work to do, so I took my lunch break to run some personal errands. I knew I was short on time, so I grabbed a couple sushi rolls from the grocery store for lunch. I know, supermarket sushi is gross. Stop judging me.
I brought my sushi home, handed one box to my husband, who was also working from our apartment, and walked to my office with my box of sushi in hand to eat it in front of my computer. (And I just realized how gross eating supermarket sushi at my desk sounds. I’m judging myself now…)
Anyway, to make a long story short, my husband, being the good Frenchman he is, stopped me and convinced me to take an extra 15 minutes and eat my sushi at the table like a normal person. Once I realized that an extra 15 minutes probably wouldn't change the course of my career, I was all in.
I plated our sushi on real dishes, got out the carved chopsticks we brought back from our travels in Asia, put out little ceramic bowls for our soy sauce, and oh well, what the hell, poured two glasses of chilled white wine to wash it all down. We brought our food out on our balcony and had a relaxing meal in the sunshine. And the whole endeavor only took 20 minutes.
“Ok, Elissa,” you’re saying. “Where is this going?”
The moral of the story is this-- turning what would have been a mediocre lunch into a highlight of my day came down to one thing: taking the time to make the experience more pleasurable.
We all want to enjoy life more. We want to slow down, take the time to appreciate the little things, live in the moment, and all the other clichés.
But as creative entrepreneurs and small business owners, it seems like slowing down and enjoying the moment is frowned upon. Hustle is king. Business isn’t supposed to be relaxing. Pleasure is the antithesis of hustle.
Well, I think we have it all wrong. In fact, I’d argue that slowing down enough to make your work more pleasurable is actually good for business. So here’s how to do it.
1. Make your business more pleasurable for yourself
Start with the basics: where you work.
How does your workspace make you feel? Creative and inspired? Or stressed out and cramped? And what can you do to make it more of the former?
When I first started working from home, I hated my office. My desk faced a blank wall and the whole room felt stale, suffocating and sad. And as a result, I never wanted to work.
So I made a change.
I turned the desk around to face a window. I got rid of a tall bookshelf right behind me that made me feel cramped (feng shui, muthafucka!) and replaced it with smaller, hidden bookshelves that opened up the space. I bought some (cheap) original art that inspired me, got some Ikea succulents and a scented candle to decorate my desk space and invested in a Spotify premium subscription.
Now, when I work, I listen to jazz or instrumental music, light a candle, drink water with lemon slices, gaze out the window or at my plants and art when I need inspiration, and have a ritual where I light my candle when I’m writing. The whole experience is so pleasurable that I actually look forward to working-- and spend more time doing it.
I’ve talked before about overcoming procrastination by making the tasks you dread more pleasurable. And I’m writing about it again because by god, it works!
Of course, part of running a business is doing the day-to-day tasks that don’t necessarily light up your soul, but that doesn’t mean you should hate every minute of it. Make a list of the tasks you dread doing. And as you go through them, ask yourself these questions:
- What could I cut out?
- What could I delegate or outsource?
- What could I do differently?
- How can I make the remaining tasks less miserable?
There will always be tasks you hate doing, but be sure to challenge your assumptions about what is absolutely necessary. If you hate doing something, try to see how you might be able to change it to make it more tolerable.
Struggling to make those admin tasks a little less soul-destroying? Don’t underestimate the power of some music, a scented candle and a glass of wine to make the time go by quicker.
Ahhh, regular content creation: the bane of most creative entrepreneurs’ existence.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Content creation can be just as easy and natural as other parts of your business as long as you truly love two key parts of it: the subject and the channel.
When I say “subject,” I mean the topic of your content. Do you actually want to read the stuff you write about? Would you watch one of your videos? If not, why would anyone else?
Remember, to be interesting, you have to be interested. In order to stay motivated enough to churn out new, quality content regularly, you need to genuinely be interested in the information you're sharing. When you love the topic you're talking about, your passion will inspire others to love it. Of course, it also needs to add value for your audience, but if you hate your content, you’ll eventually hate your business.
So make sure the topic you’re sharing is one you’re passionate enough about that you’d talk about it even if no one was listening.
The channel for your content is the way you deliver it: a blog, video, a podcast, social media, etc. So when it comes to making your content pleasurable for yourself, focus on the channels you like and ignore the rest.
Some people will disagree with this. They’ll say that you need to be on [enter every social media known to man] because that’s where your audience is. They’ll say you need to do video/ podcast/ infographics because "no one reads anymore."
And maybe there’s some truth to that advice. But the fact is, if you hate doing it, you won’t do it. And we all know that when it comes to content, consistency is key.
Plus, let’s face it, you can’t be everywhere. You can’t do everything. You’d be much better off choosing a few channels that really fit your business and your values and leave the rest.
For example, I hate video and Twitter, so guess what? I don’t bother with those. I might challenge myself one day to face my aversion to being on camera and do it anyway, but I’m not forcing myself onto Periscope every day just because some social media guru says I need to.
So now that we’ve made our work more pleasurable for ourselves, we need to think about our clients’ pleasure as well. Because let’s face it, no one likes a selfish lover.
2. Make your business more pleasurable for your clients
Enjoying your work is important for staying motivated and passionate, but motivation and passion don't pay the bills. Your clients do.
So ask yourself: what would make doing business with you a more pleasurable experience?
Yes, doing quality work and being a nice person in general will make your clients like working with you, but what would make them love working with you? What would delight them? What would make working with you not just a pleasant experience, but a pleasurable one?
Often small details can make all the difference: something as simple as a beautifully-designed welcome pack or high-quality product packaging can take your client's experience from "good" to "Ohmygod I love this girl!"
Want more ideas for delighting your clients? Of course you do:
- Add an unexpected bonus to your product or service that isn’t in your sales pitch.
- Give a small gift that makes clients feel special (and sets you apart from competitors.)
- Send a hand-written thank you card when someone signs a contract with you.
- Put in place a seamless client on-boarding process that makes new clients feel taken care of and welcomed.
3. How to get started
Look at your work and ask yourself, “How can I make this more pleasurable, for my clients and for myself?”
Because working for yourself will never be easy, but it should at least be enjoyable.
And yes, there will be days where you just want to throw in the towel. There will be nightmare clients who make your life hell. There will be mistakes upon mistakes upon mistakes. And a scented candle is not going to make them go away.
But neither will hustle.
Pushing harder, doing more and working faster might make your business successful, but it will also make you miserable. And believe me, I’ve been there before and it is not worth it.
So I’d like to offer this alternative: take the time to make your work a more pleasurable experience and delight your clients. You’ll stay motivated, inspired and creative. Your clients will not only come back for more, but will tell their friends. Your business will grow.
And, most importantly, you’ll actually enjoy your work.
Because what's the point of starting your own business unless you love what you do?