Love Your Business: Guest Post #9

All month long join me here as I welcome amazing contributors with one thing in common
we love our business {blog/shop/etc} and we want you to love yours too!
To keep up to date with this series view all posts here.

Hello! I'm Ellie Snow: graphic designer, blogger, and business owner. In 2008 I started a daily design blog called Mint, and in 2009 I started a stationery business called Hello Tenfold. I also design invitation collections for Bella Figura and Paperless Post. The past few years have taught me a lot of things I wish I had known from the beginning! I've written about self employment with my friend Margot on Pitch Design Union, and well as an ongoing series for Mint.

Here are my top six tips for new business owners:

1. Balance is important
It's easy to lose yourself when you're starting a new business. And when things heat up, it's easy to go overboard and take on more work than you want to. But I've learned to focus on the balance of my personal and business lives; when it comes down to it, your friends and family are more important than work, plain and simple! For me, I wasn't able to find a good balance while working out of my house... the second I had some down-time I was on my computer working, no matter what time it was. I felt like I was on the clock 24/7, unable to step away from my inbox or the design layout that just needed a few quick tweaks. Moving my studio out of the house and taking on a lease was a hard decision, but I'm so much happier for it. I keep set hours, and even take lunch breaks (!). Remember that staying happy and balanced makes you a better business owner, and it's hard to put a price on that.

2. Say no
Figure out what kind of work you want to do, how much you can do it for, and stick with it. A "dream project" with no budget won't be such a dream when you're exchanging emails with the client at midnight (and not getting paid for it). When I take on a project I ask myself several things: Am I going to learn/grow from taking on this project (and does that make up for any other shortfalls, like low budget or rushed deadline)? Does the budget afford me to make my hourly rate, giving the project scope? Is the deadline reasonable (not possible, reasonable)? Do I know all the project details and parameters? Have there been any red flags in my communication with the client thus far?

3. Stop comparing yourself/your business to others
When you find yourself focusing on the brand-new blogger who hit it big, the friend with the book deal, or the designer who's one-woman shop blossomed over-night into a bustling business with 15 employees... it's time to shut down the computer and get some fresh air! The online networks we create these days make the world a smaller place, but it also means we start comparing ourselves to all the over-zealous, type A people out there who have risen to the top. It's easy to forget that those people made sacrifices (free time, relationships) that you might not be willing to make. It's important to focus on the goals you've reached, and the steps you should take to reach the next ones. Breaking big goals into smaller tasks helps put things into perspective, and keeps you trucking right along.

4. Get help (accountants, employees, etc)
For me, part of finding a good balance between work and personal life meant hiring an employee. I realized that there were tasks I no longer wanted (or needed) to be doing myself, and that I would never reach that ideal 30-40 hour work week if I didn't get some help. It's certainly hard to make the jump to paying someone else, but it's likely to lead to less stress, and you can always start out with a $10/hour intern or a contract employee to test the waters. Before hiring my employee, I made a list of every task I do to run my business, and split them into piles ("have to do myself" vs "someone else could do"). Maybe it's a contracted bookkeeper or photographer rather than an employee, but there are bound to be ways to outsource the things that are making life less pleasant. Keep in mind that you might be better off hiring someone who has skills you don't, rather than hiring someone who wants to learn from you, or has a similar background.

5. Track time
Tracking time is something I started doing in January, and the benefits have already been enormous (I opted for Harvest). The job that's taking an emotional toll is a lot easier to swallow when you realize it's not taking as much time as it feels. It's also helpful in evaluating your prices, seeing where you spend too much or too little of your precious time, and evaluating what type of person you can bring on staff to help.

6. Pay yourself well
Like most people, probably, I started out my business thinking that I didn't need to make that much money (in fact, I was ready to take a rather big pay cut). But after a while, not getting paid fairly turns into clients not respecting your time, longer hours, and frustration when unexpected (an inevitable) road bumps come along. Again, there's no point in running a business if you're unhappy at the end of the day, and happy business owners are better business owners!

image credits: pope saint victor (image 2 is available for purchase on society6)

About the Author


  1. all such great advice. love this! :)
    xo TJ

  2. This is fabulous advice...I can see myself in every single tip-meaning I need to make some changes!

  3. Thank you! Such fantastic advice. I'm really trying my best to follow some of these tips already -- like saying "no" and comparing myself to others. It can be really hard sometimes, but it's good to get a reminder.

  4. Thanks for the shout out for Harvest, we sure appreciate it, and we agree - tracking your time definitely helps you decide whether to take on a new project, how to estimate the amount of time it will take (based on past projects), and to make sure you get paid for all of the time you put in. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you do have any questions – we’re constantly improving things here, and we love to hear from the folks that use Harvest!

  5. Well written and great advice. I especially love and needed to hear #3.

  6. Fantastic Post,wonderful perspective and good practical advise. As a relatively new small business owner overwhelmed with custom work at the moment,I am going to work toward putting every one of these tips in motion from this very smart and talented designer.
    Thank you Ellie!

  7. Thanks so much for the fantastic tips!

  8. After reading this I was thinking, I'm going to comment on what a fantastic article this is! Then I scanned the comment and saw the word "fantastic" three times in a row...well done, you, thanks for the great article!

  9. Great tips! Tips that everyone who wants to be true to themselves should definitely follow when pursuing the dream of working for yourself.

  10. Great advice, especially the last point about paying yourself a fair wage. I'm just starting out and trying to decide all this stuff so a reminder to make sure I think about how much my time is worth is just what I need right now!
    Amy C @