Being self-employed requires a lot more than what most people realize. If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, you’ll want to know all about your field, your products and your customers… but you’ll also need to know about running a business. It is important for business owners to realize all the hidden areas that eat up a surprising amount of time and energy behind the scenes in running a business.

Whether you produce one piece of art per week, one book every 3 years or 500 products, you are running a business and must treat it as such. Five-year business plans and annual agendas (a.k.a. action plans) are essential elements of any business.

If you take your career seriously then go over the business plan every 5 years—discover what worked, find out why you didn’t achieve what you hoped and write a new 5-year business plan. Host monthly meetings, and try to accomplish the “list of to do’s” before the next meeting. It is also wise to allow for spontaneous brain storming sessions on a regular basis.

Querying and marketing, record keeping, managing the blog, bookkeeping and prepping taxes, as well as time for education and research all need to be scheduled in. We spend a surprising amount of time cleaning the studio, offices, entry areas and client bathroom. Other tasks that eat up time include prepping the studio for workshops and sending out reminders for appointments, invites to events or promoting an interview that was just published.

Depending on the type of business activities you have planned, you might be managing a blog, updating a website, doing an advertising campaign or utilizing social media. Logos, imagery and promotional materials will need to be created. It is also nice if you have a media page, where you share links to places you’ve appeared in the media. You may need to produce new articles, press releases and create fresh web-content so that your site doesn’t look stale and to ensure constant media exposure.

Whether you have staff, outsource services or have a partner, you’ll have to learn how to manage people-skills in the workplace. Here are the most important tips for working effectively as a team:

• Being patient with each other.

• Understand, empathize and work within the other person’s abilities.

• Working with what the individuals enjoy (or loathe) to do.

• Understanding when circumstances prevent agendas from happening.

• Being a ‘cheerleader’ or ‘problem solver’ for each other.

Letting go of things that cycle in the mind over and over, long after the workday is done can be a challenge. The best thing is to write it down, whatever it is, and when it pops up in your mind again tell yourself: “It is okay; it is written down, you won’t forget and you can get to it when you have time.” Make sure you actually get to those lists.

Changing your mindset can be helpful too. Learn how to see all pressures you face in a positive way. Instead of being stressed about all those items on your many list of to-do’s, celebrate the fact that all these great options are there to follow up, on one item at a time.

To be successful and also content, business owners learn to enjoy feeling pressure. Personally, I like having a list of things to do and feeling productive. I like looking back at the day and seeing that my efforts had some kind of measurable effect. A satisfying sense of accomplishment is important to me. I tend to keep a positive attitude, although with chronic pain and some sleep deprivation once in a while… I can get a little cranky too. Overall though, work doesn’t get to me. Complications do. When things go wrong and equipment fails or we lose data… that’s when I can get grumpy. However with each complication comes a learning curve and we develop new prevention skills and contingency plans.

I’ve learned too that just because there are options and opportunities that some businesses have had success with, doesn’t mean we have to do them all. Some of those options are not the right choice for our business at this time. Location, contacts, abilities, talents, budget and timing—these all play a major role as to what works for the individual business.

As you can see, open communication and a professional attitude will take your business to the next level. Learning how to be flexible and stay organized, create strong plans and be prepared for contingencies will help you stand strong when issues come in to disrupt business activities.

By Dave Brummet