Real Talk for Women in Business

S1. E3 - Working 'on' your business vs working 'in' your business

June 16, 2021 Season 1 Episode 3
Real Talk for Women in Business
S1. E3 - Working 'on' your business vs working 'in' your business
Show Notes Transcript

Did you know that  66% of businesses make it to the second year mark and only 30% make it to the 10 year mark? 

In today’s episode, Leeha and Nichol will discuss what it means to work in the business vs on the business. 

They will explore steps you can take to make sure you aren’t hustling all the time - and you are in fact getting the flexibility to work in the business, on the business and time for you too. 

In today's episode, Leeha and Nichol chat about:

  • What is working on your business vs working in your business
  • What it was like in our early days when we hadn't built working in and on your business into our business
  • What were some of the challenges experienced and how we overcome them
  • What hats we wear as business owners
  • How we are set up now and the benefits to each of our businesses
  • Does it always work?
  • Our tips for striking the right balance  in our business and life


We hope you’ve enjoyed tuning in to this episode. We would love it if you could please take a few minutes to leave a rating and a few words about why you love Real Talk for Women in Business.

If you have any feedback or questions regarding today's podcast or have a specific topic you would like us to cover, email:

If you would like to know about how an all-inclusive copywriting and website package can help you find your brand voice and connect you with clients, arrange a quick chat with Leeha from Meridian Digital (formally Mind Your Words) today: BOOK NOW

If you would like to learn how a Business coach can support your business needs, book a connection call with Nichol from Nichol Stark Business and Leadership coaching today: BOOK YOUR FREE CLARITY CALL  


“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”

–Madam C.J. Walker, first American woman to become a self-made millionaire

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This podcast contains explicit language

According to supply chain, Game-changer 66% of businesses make it to the second year mark and only 30% make it to the 10 year mark. I found these absolutely astounding, especially when in 2020, there were 2.1 million registered startups in Australia. One of the main reasons for this is because very few business owners spend the required time they need to work on their business. And unfortunately, this is contributing to businesses failing. When I started my business a few years ago, I was hustling every day. There was certainly no structure. And I often wondered  how I was going to grow my business while serving my clients. I was introduced to the term, working on your business versus working in your business.

So rather than working reactively, I needed to learn how to work proactively. Today, we're going to discuss what this means, how Leeha and I have set up our working week, and the steps you can take to make sure you aren't hustling all the time. But in fact, getting the flexibility to work in the business on the business for you.

So let's jump into this week's podcast, working in and on your business. 

Hey there. Welcome to the Real Talk for Women in Business podcast, a podcast, all about helping women entrepreneurs take off in their business. We share real truths, real insights, and really practical tips when it comes to juggling all things, life and business. My name is Leeha Debnam  and I'm a coffee loving copywriter and website designer. 

My business is Mind Your Words. And that's where I help owners of growing service-based businesses. Connect with clients through my all-inclusive copywriting and website packages and of course right here with me is my soulful friend and colleague Nichol Stark.

Hi everyone. My name is Nic from Nichol Stark Coaching.  I am an intuitive life and business coach, helping women quit self-doubt, find their confidence and break free to live their best life.  I coach and empower women in life, business, and positions of leadership to intuitively connect to all aspects of their life so they can attract the life that they not only desire, but deserve. 

You're in for a great episode today. Nic and I are going to talk about the difference between working on your business and working in your business and why this matters when you're trying to grow a business.

We're also going to talk about the challenges of finding the right balance between prioritizing the work that you do for your clients, and then the work that you do for your business. And we're going to share some of our tips on how you can achieve the right balance for you.  Let's kick it off. hi, Nic, how are you going?

Thanks for that lovely intro about what we're going to talk about today. I'm very excited about this one. 

Yeah, I think it touches home for a lot of people that are just starting in their business, but also for those of us that have been in business for a few years and yeah.

Working in your business and working on your business are two very different things. 

I agree. Well, before we even get into the benefits, and some of the things that we've done and some of our takeaways, how about, I just run through  examples first about what the differences are, because I know when I first started my business, I didn't understand or know that there was a difference between the two.

I'll just give you a couple of examples. Working in your business is actually the day-to-day stuff that you do. So it's when you're seeing a client, it's  answering phone calls, answering queries. Paying invoices, scheduling time for your clients. For me, it's coaching my clients, it's writing programs, so that's all about the day-to-day stuff that you do to earn the revenue and it's a right now stuff. Working on your business is more about the holistic,  forward-thinking side of things. So, as an example, doing a podcast. So for us, this is working on our business because we're educating and we want to get information out there.

Plus also growing our brand at the same time. It's business planning, strategic planning. So looking at your vision, your purpose, what you're here to do, looking at how you're going to manage your finances, then looking at all of the activities that you want to do in order to deliver against your plans.

It's also looking at my marketing strategies and how I want to get my brand out there and produce sales. And, another one that I'm starting to do more of is writing blogs.

So writing blogs again is building awareness and it's getting my brand out there plus educating people. One other one is personal development.  One thing that I didn't do in the early days, very well, was putting some time aside to work on some personal development, some training in order to grow myself during that time. 

Yeah.  I think many women in business start this way. So in the beginning, you've probably got a fair bit of time on your hands. So you're working on your business. You're looking at taking courses so that you can up-skill. You're learning more about marketing, social media, invoicing, email marketing, and the list goes on and on. So you're deep diving into some upskilling and professional development, but then you get busy and you've got multiple clients on your hands. You've got deadlines to deliver on, and if you're not full-time in the business, every hour, you get is precious time to work in the business to churn through the client work that you've got.

So finding  just a spare 30 minutes to work on the business gets tough. Did you find that?

Yeah, I do agree with that. And look, over the last 18 months to two years, it's been a fluctuation of both I've, probably only really come to appreciate working in and on the business as separate activities over the last six months.

In the early days, I was just hustling. I didn't really get much because I didn't understand. I needed to  work on my business, to look at branding and getting my profile out there. So I was just hustling. I was doing Facebook ads. I was writing things . I was having a few clients, but I didn't really have a strategy behind it.

So it was very, very tactical, to be honest. And then through COVID. The clients , that started to dry up, to be honest. And so then I found myself working on the business. So I was developing programs or I was really forward thinking about what I could possibly do, but now I do appreciate the difference and what I need to do in order to work. 

Yeah. As you know, I worked two days a week in my business and in three days I had other employment as well. So for me, it's even harder to scratch together just enough minutes to spend quality time with the kids and with my partner, dare I say exercise, finding that balance is being and it continues to be really freaking hard for me.

And the reality is , I'm three years into my business. It may be a little bit more, and I'm still trying to figure it out, but I know over the years I've made some improvements and I'd like to, I guess, just share a few of those with you.

To find a balance between when I'm delivering stuff for my clients and then  setting aside that time to work on the business, like Nic said to do the strategy, to do the promotion and the brand awareness, all that kind of stuff, I have to free up time on my two business days to do that or  I have one night a week, which I dedicate to on the business.

So I tend to take the chunkier work. So client briefings and handovers for me.  A client briefing is an hour and a half, a handover of a website is an hour. They're a big chunk of my time. So I try to book them in on the same day, one day a week. And that then allows me to do the other day the creative side of my business, where I'm doing the work for my clients.

That's actually a really great way to look at it.  I've had people come to me as clients and say, well, how much time should I be spending, in and on the business? And to be honest, if you've got yourself well set up, 20% of the time, you should be working on the business.

So the fact that you're putting your big chunks of time into working in the business, because that's your client calls and things like that, the 20% allows you that time to see how it's all going now, but then also start to look at the future. I do a similar thing. My Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays are my in the business and then Thursdays on my business.

So I tend to chunk it out like that. I've tried to split days, but I get wrapped up. So if I split one day into, in and on the business, I found I do-one more than the other. So now I've separated that.   

I do client work up until about three o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon. And then I've got time set aside for working on the business.

Other things that I've seen that have helped over the years have been improving my processes. And I'll talk more about that later on in the pod, using time tracking on my projects. So I know how long particular things that I do take .

I know that. Okay, well, this is what I've got to do this morning. I think it's probably going to take me about three hours. So I'm more aware of my time. 

Using a decent project management system outsourcing tasks where I can, so this one is really new for me, but, as an example, I was working on a client's website a couple of weeks ago.

And there was a particular thing that I wanted to do with this website's header. And I spent probably two or three hours trying to search for the code that I needed to do this when I should have just spent I think it was something like 30 Australian dollars, outsourced it to a developer and it took them an hour to do it.

So a lesson to be learned there for me. 

That's actually a real part of working on your business. Because if you take the time to work on your business, you can start thinking  strategically about how you can find those efficiencies in your business. When you're working in your business.

And then you reactively say, oh, just shit. I just can't do this today. I'm just going to offshore it. Sometimes you spend more money and time than you intend because you haven't really thought through why you're doing it, what the outcome is and the benefits. So this is a perfect example of why working on your business is important.

So you can make those strategic decisions and get those efficiencies in place. 

Definitely. And  the pattern that emerges here is to figure out how you're using your time. So you can find  and improve those little efficiencies that you've just mentioned. And those are the changes that can make a big difference to reducing the time that you work in your business, delivering the same outcomes, and the same quality of work, but less time.

So you can free up more time or the time you need to work on your business. 

Yeah, definitely. I  also like  blocking time off in my calendar. So a couple of things that I do, I use Outlook.

So that's the calendar I use. I allocate time in my calendar for working on my business.  If I need to do a chunk of work on something specific, I'll put it on my calendar. And the other thing I do is I color code everything. So I know, if something is in my business, if it's training, if it's picking up the kids, because sometimes I get so caught up that I forget to actually pick the kids up.

So that's nice highlighted in red.  Color coding for me is also a really great way to visualize, and I'm a visual person, so it's a snapshot in a visual, and I can see what I'm doing quite easily. 

 You mentioned to me the other week, Nic, that you have integrated all your calendars.


So  you don't have a calendar for your business and a calendar for your personal life. It's all integrated. So at any one point in time, you can pick up that calendar and see, okay, this is what I've got on today. Whether it be business or whether it's working or meeting with clients, in your case, doing some stuff on the business, or picking up the kids from school, you can see it right then and there.

That was actually the important part for me because I was doing things very differently. And I guess I carried that over from my corporate days. Everything was either way. Work and home are different, but to be honest, as a business owner, it's all integrated, your health, your family, your home, work, it's all integrated. So therefore it's all in my outlook at the moment. 

What we might do is actually, , I'd love to talk about why this is important, because there are a lot of people out there that still don't appreciate or understand why it's important to have these two things and look a lot of businesses go well for the first year, they go well for the second year or not so well for second year, sometimes. And then by third to fourth to fifth, they then just. Almost dissipated as a business because they didn't put the planning and the structure and the sustainability into their businesses. And they just don't last.

I have a client at the moment and  have been working with her for probably a year and a half. She grew very, very quickly, in the first six months of her business. So she had a plan. She had an idea. She wanted to have X amount of dollars in her bank account, and she wanted to grow and have a team.

And get a brand out there, but what happened is a year and a half later because her focus was so much about sales, sales, sales, sales, sales. What she didn't do was take the time to build that sustainability into her business. And now she's at a point where she has grown, but is struggling to bring on more clients and to have an operating model that supports the fact that the business may be going through a  decline in sales. So again, this is just a perfect example of if she had spent that time upfront. Understanding what her business plan, her strategic plan, what the priorities were for her and her business.

I don't think she would be in the position she is in today.  Yes. Because of the environment we're in, everyone's going through ebbs and flows, but not to the, not to the extent that she's having. right. now. 

 And I can share another example  from personal experience.

We were talking earlier about how . I'm just doing two days in the business. And so it can be so easy to just get caught up in client work and not prioritize  anything else outside that client work. And what I've done in the past is, all that client work, but I haven't done any marketing.

I haven't done any contact with my email marketing lists. So none of that. And then you get to the end and you're like, well, where's my next client coming from. Now I structure that on the business stuff as I'm working through it. So I'm still marketing. I'm still writing blog posts.

I'm still engaging with my audience. So I'm not getting to a point where I'm like, holy shit. Oh, quick. I've got to do some marketing because I need a client next month. Yep. Sorry. It's so important to just keep setting that time aside. And  if you've set that time aside for that week, and then something crops up, shit happens, right.

Be flexible with it, set it aside, but be flexible. And  don't be too hard on yourself. If that week you don't get an opportunity to do anything in your business, keep putting it on your calendar, keep aiming to do it. And you will find that time. 

Oh completely. Definitely. Flexibility is a key component of this.

 Yes. It's good to have a structure and you should have a structure because it's your business. You want to grow it. You want to bring sales in. You want to get your name out there, but at the same time, as you say, things can go wrong. And if you don't allow yourself the flexibility and cut yourself some slack, like you do, you can send yourself into a bit of a spiral and it all goes to shit.

So scheduling. Is great, but having the flexibility, it balances and marries quite nicely together. Yeah. 

So, how about what we do now is share our top three tips for  finding that balance between working in the business and working on the business. 

Yes, let's do it. Alright. 

So I'm going to launch into my first one, which I mentioned a bit earlier on, which was improving your processes.

And for me, this was really about. Mapping out what my existing processes were in terms of onboarding my clients. How I was writing copy and designing websites, and then offboarding my clients. So I mapped that entire process from start to finish. And then I looked at ways that I could create efficiencies.

Now, when I first started my business, I didn't have a lot of money to invest in fancy schmancy, CRMs, or anything like that. And it's only been in the last 12 months that I've actually invested in a CRM that allows me to do some automation. So I'll talk about that second, because the first thing I want to say is that you can still create efficiencies without splurging on fancy programs.

You can use free versions of things like Asana or click up, which are project management tools that allow you to map your processes so that you can know where at any point in time, while with a project or with a client. And you can also, in terms of your emails, instead of rewriting every email that you send to a client, save templates in a word document, copy and paste, copy and paste. Adjust as you need to  but save time.

So you're not typing something from scratch. 

So I think we need to do a podcast on automation. Tools and techniques of different tools and project management. So we can chat about those ones in a further podcast. 

Yeah. And I love systems and I love processes, so we've definitely got it. So there are a couple of tips if you're just starting out.

If you are in a position where you're able to at all, you're working with a CRM. I use a CRM called DUP cyto. I freaking love it. It has changed my business. It's not cheap. It is  an investment per year, but I have automated a lot of my processes. So, for example, I've created a lead capture form.

My contact form on my website. My potential client goes in, puts a name in, put their details in and they check off what they're interested in working with me on, whether it's a copywriting project, a copywriting and website project, or even if they're not sure, depending on what they click on that little button.

Within 30 minutes, an automated email goes to them so they can book some time in my calendar. I didn't have to write an email for that. 

So, this is really important to delineate between working in and on your business. So, I haven't got those systems in place and all of my work is manual at the moment.

So when someone comes in, I do a manual email and it's a pain in the ass, and I need to spend  time working on my business in order to set those things out. So. 

And that, yeah, that working on your business, I had to take that time to map that process, to develop all the email templates that I send to my clients, that I send it at the push of a button.

I don't have to type anything and it's got links in it to forms and contracts and all that kind of shit. It's all in there. But I had to make the time in the first part to be able to get all that in place. And now I see the benefits. Because I've got less time working in the business. My next one is around the dedicated days, which I covered at the beginning and , blocking out time for learning as well. We're always learning. So set some time aside, even if it's just an hour, to read through some of the bloody shit that lands in your inbox from the various subscriptions that you have.

Or if you're doing a course, try it, and schedule that time. I'm not a big fan of working nights, but I have to do it. So I do have one night a week, which I set aside to do some coursework or to do some other kinds of learning.  So dedicated days and blocking out your calendar. And if you're into colors like Nic, then go ahead and light up. that calendar with some colours. 

Now the third one is really, really important and I'm so bloody guilty of doing this. And that is overwhelming myself with multiple tasks, multiple courses, and losing from time to time, that ability to prioritize and focus. And when you get into that state of overwhelm, I start to get a bit panicky and I start to get short and sharp with the people around me because I'm anxious.

And I just want to get shit done for my clients.  That's just my personality. So to avoid doing this to yourself, if you have got some time set aside on a Tuesday afternoon, between three and five o'clock know what you're going in there to do, and just do that. Don't try and juggle three or four different things in that time.

So. Be specific about the time that you've got and what you're going to use that time for. 

And that's the flexibility component when we talk about working in and on your business. And so  I'll touch on my top three. So my first one is actually scheduling time.

And what are you saying there? Yes. I scheduled a time. For working in my business. So Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are my on business. But if I had a Tuesday afternoon where I didn't have any clients,  just spend some time or two hours getting it done. 

How many times have we rescheduled this pod

We are the Queens of it where we've been very flexible, 

but it has to be 

Well, that's the thing.  It's great to have a schedule and it's great to, to color code and have that because it is really important too. Understand what your week looks like, but if, if shit happens, you just need to be able to pivot, to switch, whatever it might be so that you can maximize that time.

Because I found, like last year, when I didn't have the processes in place or the planning and the scheduling in place, I was scrolling through Facebook. Hours upon hours because I didn't have a schedule. I didn't have a structure. So if anything, it gives you that structure to build efficiencies into your business.

Flexibility, what we've just spoken about, that yet things can go awry. Things can pop up having kids. So Leeha's got younger kids. I've got older kids, but you still have things that need to be done and things that will pop up. So again, being able to structure your days so that, you know, things are going to pop up and you need to be able to have that flexibility.

To just do it. The last one, which we haven't really touched on, but I'd like to spend some time on, is understanding the hats that you wear when it comes to working on your business.  When you think about a business in an operating model, there's many components. We're CEOs, we're business owners, but we also have the additional hats of, as a chief financial officer, a risk component. Your operating structure, marketing, , there's so many other hats that as business owners, we do wear and understand what they are, what you need and how you're actually going to use them.

And that's how it works for your business. So you may need to have a marketing strategy or a risk strategy, but you also need to be able to understand how to execute against those risks and those marketing strategies. So, I guess that's probably an important delineation is working on your businesses, looking at the strategy and what you need to do and what you need to put in place.

Whereas working in your business is the execution against those strategies. 

Excellent. Well, they, you have it today about the differences between working in your business and working on your business, and why this matters when you're starting or growing your business. And we've spoken about some of the challenges that Nic and I've had, but also shared some of our tips on how you can strike the right balance for your business.

Have a wonderful week. And we hope that you tune in now next time. Thanks. Thank you.


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