12 min read
Have you ever had those times when life totally blindsides you? It could be something small like a flat tire that derails your day or something terrible like a family member gets sick and you need to take weeks off work to go care for them. It could even be something amazing like getting pregnant and needing to take a few months to make sure that sweet baby has all the loving it needs (and for you to get as many 10 minutes naps as you can possibly squeeze into a day). I’m sure we’ve all had that to some degree. We just don’t live in vacuum.
The wonderful thing about an online business is that you can make it work for you while life keeps spinning around you. Whether it’s a blog or software company, you can build systems to keep your business running for you if something were to happen to you or your family that would take you away from work for awhile.
But the time to start thinking about this is right now, well before anything pops up. You need to think about what you can do in your own business to make sure you’re ready to keep rolling when the unforeseen happens.
Since we’re a team of bloggers ourselves, I thought it would be fun to get advice from our own talent pool about what they do to stay one step ahead of life’s unexpected episodes.
When I left my blog behind for a 3 month maternity leave, I had no idea how my community would respond. Actually, I didn’t know if they’d even realize I’d left if they weren’t following my daily baby pics on social media. See, in order to prep for 12 weeks away, I did a few things:
So while all of the above isn’t required for every time away, it does really help prep you and your audience for your absence. And if you don’t, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder so focus on the time away knowing the work will be there when you return.
A 3 month publishing calendar and lots of rough outlines is what helps keep me on track with my blog. For me, the reason is simple, when I sit down to write or sketch, I have to already know what I'm creating. I simply don't have the time to think something up on the spot.
I'm able to come up with 3 to 6 months of topics ahead of time because I group my months into themes. One month may be all about creating sketchnotes at conferences, another about creating them for your blog. Then I do a rough outline for each post, just a few bullet points or images. With that structure in place, I can sit down and get to work immediately without stressing over “what am I going to write about today?”
I’m a huge believer in nice long breaks. Last year I didn’t touch my blog in the month of December. It was my first month in Seattle, and I wasn’t sure how to balance it yet. By the time January rolled around I had so many ideas and I was excited again, plus I understood my schedule and my limitations better.
All my best and recent project ideas have come from taking a long break too. I have to give myself permission to stop a lot, and focus on ConvertKit, or my friends or my family, and I always come out better for it.
Creating something you are consistently proud of is hard. There's comparison, self doubt, and fear of failure that gets in the way. But the biggest distraction from my blog is life itself. Making time to write when I have 6 other equally important things going on is nearly impossible for me. But my biggest struggle is not resenting my craft in the first place. I get so busy with new opportunities and the distractions of life that I end up looking back on my business/blog/side hustle with bitterness – resenting the fact that I “have” to create today. It's a crazy paradox. I know.
Currently working on this mindset and attempting to overcome it by looking at my weekly calendar to map out pockets of time I can work on my blog. Instead of trying to fill them with meetings or coffee dates like I normally would, I'm scheduling a date with myself. Learning to say no to everyone else so I can say yes to myself is a daily lesson. I also use Asana for personal tasks to keep myself on track and to feel the giddy satisfaction of checking something off my short term and long term to-do list.
I always get nervous when I don't have a buffer with posts written. So I always make sure that I have two to three weeks worth of buffer posts. It makes me feel much more relaxed and really takes the pressure off. Because, you know, life happens.
I've noticed that I work great when I'm stuck in a plane of a train, so I try to write a lot during those times. It's a great distraction free way to write – and it makes me feel really good when I arrive at my destination.
I had a friend who had a botched surgery and because of that he was basically taken out of commission for a whole year. But thankfully because he had an online business, instead of going without income for all that time he was still able to have income coming in that whole time. Here’s a couple things I do to stay ahead when times like this hit:
You’ll find that all those old posts have been getting traffic for a long time and that traffic is coming in from search and these other links they’ve had forever and it’s not optimized. You have to go back and rework your About page, Thank You pages after people sign up, and then a bunch of your blog posts so there is a relevant call to action. That’s going to continue driving a lot of sales.
Great advice, right? We told you ConvertKit was built by bloggers, for bloggers!
So to distill all that down, here’s five steps to help you get ahead of life/get ahead of the game/not let life interrupt your work/be ok with life /to roll with the punches.
Get ahead with content.
If you can get to the point where your blog posts are ready to a month or two ahead, then a lot of things can happen and it’s not going to throw you off your game. It’s not going to affect your publishing schedule and people don’t even have to know you’re out of pocket. Then when you want to take a vacation or time off, you can do that without it affect your blog or business.
Focus on systems.
You need your blog to continue making sales even when you’re not around. The easiest way to do that right at the beginning is to focus on auto responders, we call them sequences. These are the automated emails that go out after people sign up for your list.
A lot of bloggers have a two to three email welcome sequence and that’s a great place to start. This is where you could put in some of your best blog posts. But also make sure it has info about your products. There should be a sales pitch in there for your products… if you aren't pitching, it's just a hobby!
Think through everything you do in your blog and business on a daily basis and list it out. (Researching posts, writing articles, finding images and designs, answer support requests, promoting, etc.) How much of it actually has to be done by you? Chances are it’s not that much. Then you can go ahead and hire an assistant to help with some of that temporarily or on an on-going permanent basis.
Learn to let go.
Out of that list of everything you do, make note of what actually HAS to happen to keep your business running. It’s likely that most of that stuff is about getting your business to the next level and isn’t required for the day-to-day operations. If you need to take a little time off, maybe you let some of that stuff go for a while. You’ve got to focus on what’s core and let go of the stuff that’s not critical.
Write an FAQ.
Go through all the comments people email you about often. Many times when you build a list of fans they’re going to email you a lot of questions and want to connect with you. If you create an FAQ, you’ll get a lot fewer emails. Also if you end up hiring someone to help you out, they can use that FAQ to help answer questions.
If you’re running a blog or a solo business, you’re in a much better position than someone who has a full-time job if something happens, but you need to put systems and processes in place now. Just having a plan in place for dealing with those personal life issues will help keep your business running when you can’t personally be there to make it happen.
So this is your time. Right now, before anything unexpectedly bad or good happens to you tomorrow, start putting some processes into place to make sure your business can keep rolling without you. Not only will it help you when those random things pop up, it also makes you a more organized, functional and productive human when you’re already showing up every day. Who doesn’t want that?