As a solopreneur working from a home office, it’s very easy to have your work life take over your whole life. I’ve also seen some entrepreneurs post in Facebook groups about the struggle they’re having with work-life balance. I think a large part of creating a “gap” between work life and home life has to do with the small decisions we make and the good habits (or bad habits) we form.

In this post, I’m going into the 5 bad habits that I won’t be adopting in my business life.

bad habits #1: Answering emails after 4pm

I may be working late, and I may work until 3am. I will also probably have my inbox open to gather bits of information relevant to the current project. However, if an email comes through at 2am, I am unlikely to reply.

I know that working through the night is another bad habit, but I’ve been a night owl for years. I’ve had to stop myself from regularly working at night. Now I only work late if the project is urgent, or if I’ve built up good momentum and am motivated by the progress I’ve made. Late night is focus time, not communication time.

When I have my email open at midnight, I do see those emails that were delivered after 4pm but replying to them isn’t immediate priority.

The reason I don’t answer emails after 4pm is because my night-working hours are usually spent focusing on the detail in a project, and this receives all my attention. I do my best not to hop around from project to project and task to task and dilute my focus. Answering that late-night email means I would need to task switch and lose focus on the current task.

I also choose not to reply to emails late at night as many people have their email set up to receive on their mobile device, which is invariably next to the bed. Receiving an email at midnight – especially if the phone buzzes – is inconvenient. It also gives the impression that I am available at any time, which I am not. I might be working on your project late at night, but I am not available to chat, as this would ruin my focus and result in a potentially inferior quality product.

bad habits #2: Having work email on my phone

Doing this would stress me out. I don’t have my work email on my phone because I would feel the sense of urgency that accompanies receiving a new email. Even if the email doesn’t require immediate attention, I still feel it shouting at me: “Look at me now, reply now!”

Even if I’m working on other projects or relaxing (and I’ve swiped away the “new email” notification), I probably wouldn’t be able to ignore that email or stop myself from thinking about it. I know myself, and I’d eventually cave, read the email and reply to it. Then my mind goes off on another tangent, and my focus is lost (or if I reply to the email in my time off, my mind switches back on, and I don’t get to relax properly).

It’s for the same reason that I don’t have Facebook or Facebook Messenger installed on my phone.

bad habits #3: Commencing working on a project without receiving a booking fee

Too often as creative and business owners, we are so keen to get going on a project because we are genuinely excited about that project. We begin working on a brief and creating work product without ever receiving money or a signed contract acknowledging project commencement.

I believe that starting work without receiving a booking fee is no good to anybody. As a creative, you need to ensure that a client has committed to undertake a project with you. Your booking fee is a way to confirm that the client has agreed to start the project.

When you do creative work in general, you book clients into your diary and you schedule client work according to receiving bookings and payment.

If my schedule puts client A before client B and client A doesn’t pay, you are then stalling on a project and will then finish it later which impacts on client B, who might very well have paid on time. It’s imperative that clients who would like to move ahead on a project actually pay a booking fee. This helps to ensure timeous start and completion, which is to the benefit of both the client and creative service provider.

bad habits #4: I Will Not Copy someone else’s website

No matter how much I may like some else’s website and no matter how many websites I look at, I will never copy someone else’s website. There is nothing original in the world anymore. However, I like to think that the websites I create are interesting and different, while remaining true to my clients’ brands and serving the point of effectively expressing their brand online.

I don’t believe that a skilful web or graphic designer needs to copy work that someone else has done. I believe if you are true to the strategy and the brand direction of the business, it is possible to create a website and graphic assets that express the identity of a business in the digital sphere.

Copying a website just means that you are not confident in the identity and direction of your own brand. I believe brands who have created a compelling identity won’t need to copy another website. Copying someone else’s website infers that your product or service is inferior. It implies that you don’t have or are not confident enough in your idea to create a unique brand identity.

bad habits #5: I Will Not Use Free WordPress templates, change the content and pretend it’s a premium product

I don’t use free WordPress themes in my work. I have written about free WordPress themes vs paid WordPress themes in a previous post.

Free WordPress themes are excellent to use if you are a beginner or designing your first website and you need to bootstrap your business website. However, because I am in the web design business, I do not believe that it is appropriate for designers to use free website themes.

I also take particular offense to people who call themselves web designers, but what they actually do is install a free theme, change its content to the client’s content and then charge a premium for the work. I design all my websites from scratch with a website page builder and customise the website according to many factors, including but not limited to desired functionality, project brief and scope.

You simply can’t accomplish the goal of a custom-built site with a free WordPress theme.

I hope this post let you in on the way I think and my approach to my business and work.

melissa de klerk

Melissa De Klerk

Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi

Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.

You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.

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