Love Your Business, Live Your Lifestyle, Make Good Money
Utopia: an imagined state of things in which everything is perfect
Utopian: modelled on or aiming for a state in which everything is perfect; idealistic
Based on this definition, Utopia is an ambitious goal indeed. Some might even say too lofty considering that “perfect” is an improbable state, certainly over sustained periods of time. We; however, argue that without an idea of a Utopian state – how can you assess what is imperfect and in need of improvement in your business and life? How could you know what ideal state of life/business to build towards? If you don’t aim for it you certainly won’t reach it.
After a few years, design studio founders often find themselves wondering how they ended up resenting their business. The hustle for clients, long hours, leadership demands and bank balance anxiety has resulted in feeling like they work for their business rather than their business working for them.
This is why we advocate starting your business strategy with a design of your Utopia. It’s your compass and decision criteria to help you navigate to a place where you love your business, love your lifestyle and make good money. Without this clear vision, you’re navigating blind through the many critical decisions you face. There are many possibilities along the journey of business building that could be pursued. Should we keep growing? Hire? Take on this new big client? Start dropping smaller clients? Trim our team down? Evolve our expertise? Without a deep self-awareness of your path to Utopia, you’ll have a hard time making these decisions. Especially since pursuit of it often means fighting against traditional business norms and outside social pressures.
Love Your Business
Your business should be whatever the f**k you want it to be. It’s that simple. Design it and work towards it diligently. This isn’t saying that building a business you love will be easy. Far from it. Staying on course towards the best version of your business will at times be harder than caving in to the lucrative potential client that is sure to clash with your studio culture or hustling for sales to meet payroll while ignoring your own pay / sanity.
You should strive to love your business, work in areas of your signature strengths, look forward to work every day, be proud of the quality of work produced, generate strong cash flows, face new challenges, and work regular but manageable hours.
Live Your Lifestyle
This is where you may have to fight convention and business norms. You deserve to live the life of your dreams. The fact that you founded your own design business does not dictate that you must work evenings and weekends for the rest of your life. It also doesn’t mean that you must sacrifice your lifestyle and free time to serve your clients and keep your team employed.
What we’re advocating for here is time. Building your business in a way that allows enough time to do the things you love: spending time with family, travel, weekends free of client demands, etc. It may also mean working hours that make the most sense to you. At Measure we often work on a Sunday so we can get out hiking, paddle boarding or skiing on a Monday when the crowds are gone. This is your business. Be selfish about it.
Make Good Money
This might sound like a no brainer but is often hard to achieve. You must strive to love your business and lifestyle without sacrificing your value and ability to earn good money. Designers love to discount themselves, their value and their ability to charge what they deserve. They also tend to over hire in an effort to achieve studio status or surround themselves with more creativity. Both of these actions decrease the ability to make good money.
The bank balance is a powerful beast. We write in detail about it Here but in summary – it can produce anxiety, fear and short term thinking to a paralyzing degree or it can produce freedom, pride and a cycle of more powerful work, producing higher value clients. The ability to generate healthy cash flows and fair take home pay will greatly enhance the love for your business and lifestyle.
We’re not advocating that “getting rich” be part of your Utopia. In fact, a compelling study from Princeton University found that people don’t report any greater degree of happiness over an annual salary of $75,000 (see link below). Enough money is a fine balance, but keep this in mind when setting your goals.
An Ongoing Journey
The truth about Utopia is that it evolves over time. It’s not a destination in true form. As your life and values change, so will your ideas of Utopia. Today, maybe you’re happy to spend a lot of hours working in your business because you love immersing yourself in the work. Down the road you might want to alter that to have more freedom and time for yourself – major life events change people. $40,000 take home pay might have made sense for a couple years but you plan to buy a house or have kids so you simply need more cash.
Utopia is also an ongoing state. You might be in it right now and simply don’t pause enough to reflect or don’t appreciate your business and lifestyle often enough. Revisit your Utopia Design regularly and consider that it evolves. In the famous words of the Greek philosopher Homer, “The Journey is the Thing”
A pre-requisite to designing your Utopia is a healthy dose of self-awareness. What really drives you and will lead to a true sense of well-being? For you to love your business you’ll need to be keenly aware of your strengths and find more opportunities to work in them while developing a deeper expertise. You’ll also need to engage your weaknesses and, if possible, find opportunities to balance them with great people. Loving your lifestyle will require knowing the things that provide you deep contentment and striving for a purpose outside of work – lifestyle elements that enhance your well-being. To make good money – you’ll need to know what amount is enough and both battle against the temptation to work for more and the habit of discounting your value and earning potential in the market. Self-awareness may indeed be the key: understanding what Utopia feels like and realizing when aspects of it start to become a reality.
Love your business, love your lifestyle and make good money. Be selfish about your Utopia design. Dig into your core motivations and use these as a guide to decision making. Creating a business that achieves these goals may be one of the hardest thing you’ll ever do – but is well worth the effort.