I have been running my recording studio business from our home for over two years now. For the first five years, my business operated from a commercial property that I rented in South London. I enjoyed those early renting years as I could easily leave my work commitments behind at the studio enabling me to be relatively stress-free when I got home. When I started running my business from home I noticed my working hours started becoming erratic. Early mornings and really late evenings starting becoming the norm in my working day, these were the sort of hours I wouldn't have worked before in my rented commercial property.
Over the last two years, there were several moments where my stress levels hit boiling point. I've recognised that these stressful times were caused by a lack of self-control in regards to the 5 points in this article.
1. Don't Answer Emails The Second You Wake Up
I am sure many of us have this habit - checking our phones the second we wake up. It stands to reason as many of us use our phones as bedside alarm clocks. It can be all too easy to check our notifications first thing in the morning, however, reading and responding to emails first thing in the morning really isn't a smart way to start a working day.
If you are not the type of person who replies to emails in the first few minutes of waking up then there's no point reading emails until you've started work as there is a strong chance you'll not plan your day ahead well. If you are the type of person who happily responds to emails before waking up properly then stop right now - The worst emails I have ever written have been emails I have sent first thing in the morning when my eyes are barely open. There's nothing more stressful than the feeling of regret when a professional email has been sent to a client with misinformation and stupid spelling mistakes.
2. Establish Clock In & Clock Out Times
I have now realised my working hours where I am at my best professionally and creativity. My working day starts at 8:30am and ends at 4pm Monday to Friday... and that's it. I will not take phone calls, emails or do anything for a client outside of those hours as 4pm onwards I am no longer Dan the Music Producer, I am Daddy Dan for my my wife and kids. I have found that by not structuring my working hours it was causing me a lot of stress as I was trying to fit too many tasks into my day. I now accept that I have 7 working hours in a day. I plan my week's duties first thing on a Monday and schedule my tasks across the week. The best feeling in my working world is getting to Friday afternoon and seeing my "to do" list clear.
3. Action Man
It's not uncommon for my weekly working plan to be interrupted with something like a client issue or last minute request. If a client request is a "This problem must be fixed now" then I action the request immediately without hesitation. A great deal of stress is caused by client demands. Do what it takes to keep client relations in-check as half the battle of minimising work stress is keeping clients happy.
4. Value Time Off
When Friday afternoon arrives and my "to do" list is complete I power the studio down and enjoy the company of my family back down the house for the weekend. For years I never really valued weekends as I thought of weekends as missed opportunities for earning money, when really weekends provide so much more than money - head space. Being able to not think about work or worry about work should be seen as an emotional investment in business. Sure, there will be times when work needs to be done over a weekend but make sure you replace any worked weekends with days off over the week prior or following as time spent away from work is golden. Time off is as important investment in business as time spent working in business. Work hard, play harder.
5. Financial Safety Net
If you are new to running your own studio business then make a financial plan that enables your business to save money that will act as a financial safety net. My rule of thumb is to save three months wages and business overheads in a different business account. Taxes don't even come out of this. Stress levels can climb very quickly when quiet months come around and you will need money to carry you through the low income months. I have had to use my safety net a few times over the years as that's what it's there for. Knowing I can afford another quarter worth of running my business is great for keeping my stress levels at bay so that I can get my head in order for planning how to get my business earnings back up again.
Remember - Work To Live DON'T Live To Work.
Those are my tips for minimising stress levels when running a studio business from home. If you have some minimising stress methods that work for you then please share with the Pro Tools Expert Community in the comments below.