Last week I sent a more personal email out to my newsletter subscribers than I would normally. It was inspired by an unfortunate coincidence of quite a lot of bad news for friends and hearing a few ‘inspiring speakers’ talk about how much they had sacrificed in terms of their family, friends and health to achieve success. It really got me thinking!

There are a lot of people who started their own business to get a better work life balance, leaving behind a hectic work schedule, and then promptly start working just as hard but for themselves. Often for less money!

So what can we do to stop this from happening? Try this simple exercise

Write yourself a work contract.  Think about the conditions you are going to put on ‘working for your business’ and write them down in a formal way, an employment contract. 

Things you might want to think about include (but should not be limited to):

  • Annual Leave
  • Hours of Work
  • Use of Social Media during working hours
  • Flexible working
  • Training
  • Pension
  • Reviews
  • Remuneration (pay + perks + bonuses)

Here are a few examples of terms you could put in place:

Annual Leave
All employees are entitled to a minimum of 3 weeks annual leave. During this period they are not expected to check their mobile phone or email.

Think about how much time off you want each year and block some of it out in January so that you don’t schedule things in. Even if you don’t go away you need time off. Ideally it should be 6 weeks not 3 but you have to start somewhere! I have about 13 weeks off each year (my terms are that I don’t work during the holidays, sure I sometimes slip but by starting with that as standard I am more likely to stick to it).

Hours of Work

Employees are expected to work no more than 8 hours each day. Any overtime worked can be taken as time off in lieu. No work should ever be done on Sundays.

How long do you think you can do good work for each day? Don’t work longer than that! Picking one weekend day that you DO NOT work means you get at least one full day off each week. Even if you only do an hour of work it still means your brain goes into ‘work’ mode and you don’t properly switch off which means you don’t rest and then can’t bring the best to your business.

Use of Social Media during working hours
Social media should not be used during working hours except for work purposes. (Stop checking Facebook!)

Most companies have social media policies now because they realise how much time it wastes. If you feel like you could spend less time on Social then install a blocker to stop you using it and get on with the work! 

New Client Bonus

Every new client you bring on board gets a £20 cash bonus. This was a reward I used when I first started my business. I felt bad that I wasn’t earning much and that everything I earned should be put back into the business or the family pot. Having been used to a salary of my own this was a big shock but a ‘guilt free’ £20 meant I was able to buy little treats to reward my hard work without worrying. It was part of my terms! 

If you have a family who are impacted by your work then it might be useful to get them involved too and ask them what they think is reasonable.


Monthly accounts are to be done on the first Monday of the month and are to be followed by lunch with a friend. [insert activity of choice].

With no boss to notice when you’ve done a good job of the boring tasks you need to take it upon yourself to do some praising. Pick the thing you hate doing most and tie it to a reward. If funds are tight it could be a walk in your favourite spot or at trip to the library to borrow a new book then an hour to read it in peace. 

In summary

I hope these give you some ideas for the things that are important to you to make your business work in a way that serves you. 

I’ve created a printable contract you can download and fill in. While you might feel like a bit of a wally writing a contract with your business when it’s just you, it’s a good way to separate yourself from it and be objective. Plus psychologically you are more likely to stick to it if you write it down and even more likely if you sign it!  

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