Growing and running a business can feel like you’re always searching for the next great thing. We hit one of our goals and then immediately begin striving for that next goal, all while testing all of the tactics to see what sticks. When is it enough? What does it take to feel contentment in work and life? In this week’s episode, I spoke with designer Franzine Elaine who is all about the anti-hustle culture and slow intentional living. We talk about the identity anxiety facing designers, how she started practicing mindful consumption, and why learning more about herself was the key to a fulfilling, small business.
Franzine thinks one of the biggest challenges facing designers today is identity anxiety. There is so much pressure put on new designers to make money right away, find their style, find their voice, know how to market their business, etc., and all in a very short (unrealistic) amount of time.
New designers want to start their business off on the right foot so they start looking for all the fixes right away. They go to and depend on, social media to solve all of those fixes in their business because they believe the “answers” are at their fingertips. Designers go to social media for inspiration, marketing how-to’s, and even for their identity as a designer. But designers are doing themselves a disservice. It is hard to figure out what is your own style and voice, what type of business you actually want to run, and what lights you up if you are looking only to social media for the answers.
Franzine thinks it’s both healthy and important to take breaks from social media (and to stop telling your followers that you took a break!). There is a push now to get off of social media as a way to “stick it to the man” or fight the algorithm but there should be a dialogue around how each person is affected differently in the way they consume the information and take note of how to consume it based on your own needs.
Franzine doesn’t just take breaks from Instagram but instead tries to consume and use it while being mindful of her mental health around it. She learned to find her own purpose in social media and after reading the book Digital Minimalism, she would take weeks off.
Franzine notes that it does take practice. Social media doesn’t affect certain people but, she notes as a self-proclaimed emotional person, seeing one post could bring up 5 new ideas in her life or business. For her, she needed to find peace in her own mind and find a balance to not have a sensory overload every time she logged in. So for Franzine, her balance was to take note when she’s on social media “does it serve my audience? Does it serve my people?” and then apart from that, know that she did not owe anyone anything. Finding the balance between serving your business and what is actually going to work for you and your mental health is the best way to consume with purpose.
Franzine believes that a crucial first step for designers is to understand themselves and the world around them. That you don’t have to start out right away knowing how you and your business will thrive on social media. Remember that you are always evolving, learn more about yourself and try everything.
Franzine suggests asking yourself these questions.
Then take the answers to those questions, and try new things out to find a balance in work and life. Your work is not the sun. Not everything revolves around it. Entrepreneurs, even in design, have to wear all the hats at the beginning and your business can feel all-consuming. But Franzine points out, that your life comes first and you need to find a way to balance and incorporate your business into your life.
Not sure what motivates you yet? Or what your strengths are? Franzine suggests finding all the types of personality tests as a great jumping-off point. She says that it’s not to mold you into being someone you’re not, but to use those test results as a tool to understand and put into words your strengths and weaknesses. You are not stuck to one personality because you are an ever-evolving person. You may read something about that personality trait from a test and totally relate to it and then have the words to tell your loved ones, friends, and clients this thing about you.
For Franzine, she found it helpful to learn that she was a peacemaker and people pleaser and hated conflict. Before, when a client wasn’t happy she used to get so down on herself but learning the words around her tendencies, it helped her be mindful of the emotion when her mood would change. She was able to take that knowledge and then in her business, be more proactive with clients, explain herself better ahead of any problems, use active listening and separate some emotions from her business.
She notes of course that these tests are not perfect, but thinks it’s important to identify a system to find your strengths and weaknesses, to help you through those emotions. It can be a very validating way to learn about yourself in a more informational way.
Franzine loves a holistic approach to health and wellness and thinks it’s an important step in being a designer to know not only your business but your mind and body. For women alone, take note of your cycle and how it can affect your energy level, your sensitivity levels, etc. Then take that and shift your business around it. Learning that when you are feeling low energy at a certain time each month, how can you shift what you are doing in your business to your advantage? How can it make you more creative or spark new ideas?
When you bring your energy and become more mindful, (of both your strengths and weaknesses) you will then start to attract clients with the same energy. You will find clients who you click with. If you want to attract people like you, find who you are, and just be yourself.
Franzine also highly recommends having your own personal wellness checklist that is a non-negotiable part of your daily schedule. For her, if she feels herself getting upset or overwhelmed she goes through this list.
If one of those key parts hasn’t been checked off it can affect her business and may result in less than great work for the client. So she makes it a priority to shift her schedule around.
Everyone’s wellness schedule and checklist will be different. Yours could be:
Find the things that give you life, energy, and bring joy into your life. This checklist is a way to make sure you are your best self before you can be your best for others.
Franzine started her business with part-time hours because she had no choice but to. Before running her business she was freelancing and then when her first child arrived, she knew her goal was to be a mother and wanted to fit her business around that goal. She also found it easier to build a system from the beginning with that limited time. She started with her values and out of necessity, made part-time work for her.
Franzine suggests working backward on your goals. If your goal is to work fewer hours a week, give yourself a limit each week, restrict it to the things you have to get done in that time, and then forget the rest of the tasks. It can be almost freeing because as entrepreneurs if we give ourselves too much time we will just fill it with other things. Studies have shown that productivity actually goes down after a certain amount of time. So instead of just filling your days and not getting to your goals show yourself some self-love and self-respect to not cross those boundaries. If it’s not making money or not helping you grow it doesn’t need to be worked on.
Have a focus on what is important to your business and your goals, and protect that time. Work backward for your income goals too. Every year you should be raising your prices and refining. Adding another year of experience to your portfolio, your income should reflect that.
Franzine credits the book Company of One with helping her find a voice as to why she wanted to stay small. It used to feel to her that she either had to turn her business into an agency or she had to have passive income. Now there are more choices out there to run and scale a business. And again, when you learn more about yourself, it will help you see those choices. Franzine learned that she could never give up client work. Passive income touts the idea of “never work with a client again” but that was not a good fit for Franzine because she knew herself and her strengths. When she was more in tune with her voice, she started finding like-minded clients that helped her see how important that type of work was to her and her business.
But when is growing and scaling your business enough? When do you know that you’ve arrived at your dream business? Franzine talks about the “Enough Number” she learned from Wandering Aimfully. That if you map out, in detail, your dream life, dream lifestyle, what you want to give, what you want to save, etc. you can find a number that is not as big as you may think.
Take note of how work feels to you. What does actual freedom look like? Does working 40+ hours a week light you up? Do you wish your day was filled with an office full of people? Do you want to slow down? Have kids? Travel? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? There is no one way to have a business or business model but there is only one you! You can change your goals and pivot your business but it will still be you at the center of it. So take the time to figure out a bit more about yourself first. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your goals, and then start to build a business and life around you.