The Truth About Work Life Balance for Entrepreneurs

The past six months have probably been the most productive six months of my life but I had to make a lot of sacrifices. My work life balance suffered. It’s made me think a lot about work life balance, and it will be of increased importance to me going forward…

I hear a range of perceptions about what work life balance is like for entrepreneurs. Some people think it’s great because you can make your own schedule. Others think it must be awful because entrepreneurship is really, really hard.

Most employees in competitive fields I know work a lot of hours. Some people want to start a business so that they will have better work life balance.

Below are a few important points about what work life balance is like for entrepreneurs:

1. Different Types of Businesses Have Different Work Life Balance

There are different types of businesses, that have different work requirements and can enable different levels of free time. For example, an information marketing business can become pretty automated, and enable you to have a more flexible schedule. Conversely, building a billion dollar enterprise SaaS company will probably require a lot of work. As an entrepreneur, your work life balance will vary depending on what your goals are and what kind of business you are operating.

2. Being Incentivized is Highly Motivating

Entrepreneurs are incentivized on the upside and have fear of downside. If you are successful, you receive direct compensation. If you fail, the time and money you have invested will be lost and it could be a major setback to your life and/or career. Both the fear and potential reward are highly motivating.

Some people tell me they would find it hard to self-start as an entrepreneur. I find it the opposite because of the incentive structure.

I actually think incentives is the biggest reason why startups can beat big companies. Furthermore, I think having the right incentive structures in place essential for just about any system or economy to function properly (but that’s for another blog post ha)

If you are a salaried employee without stock in the company, and without bonuses for performance, you would have less reason or motivation to “go the extra mile” because you wouldn’t be compensated for the value you create. Conversely, you would feel less of a need to create value because your livelihood doesn’t depend on your ability to create value – you have your salary even before you start creating value.

3. Flexibility Makes a Big Difference

Some businesses give you flexibility in what you work on, when you work, and where you work. Not all businesses offer all (or any) of these flexibilities, but having this flexibility can make a big difference on both your work productivity and life happiness.

Work when you want

If you are tired, you can take a break. Ultimately, this flexibility can make you more productive. If you want to go out on a Tuesday night, you can sleep in on Wednesday if you plan it accordingly. Ultimately, this flexibility can make you more happy.

If you are totally exhausted, it wouldn’t be productive to work. Conversely, if you are feeling extremely focused and energized, it would be highly productive to work. Similarly, if you have an important life event that you want to attend, it’s good for your life quality to be able to take off for it if you please.

I love being able to occasionally go out on a Tuesday night, or take a day off for a fun event. I love being able to work when I’m feeling productive, even if it’s a Sunday. I love being able to rest when I’m exhausted.

Work on what you want

You can outsource, delegate, or hire someone to do the work you don’t want to do are less effective at. Ultimately, this can make you more productive and happy.

Work where you want

Where you choose to work can have a big impact on both your happiness and productivity. If you’re a new parent, you could work from home as a way to spend more time with your kids. I’m writing this post from Southern France, where I’m “workationing” for the month of July. This is the view from my “desk:”


4. When You’re Passionate About Your Work, It Feels Less Like “Work”

When you’re passionate about your work, you have less need for for breaks and are less troubled by working. When you enjoy the people you work with, you have less need…

If you work 8 hours per day and sleep 8 hours per day, you’re spending half of the waking hours of your life working! If half if your love is spent in misery, you would probably not be very happy. If you’re not passionate about your work, as an entrepreneur or employee, your work life balance will feel a lot worse because you’ll have a greater need for the life part.

5. Time is Against You and Speed is Your Advantage

Speed is probably one of the biggest advantages a startup has over a large company. By working 80 hours per week, an entrepreneur can compress what would take someone working 40 hours per week one year to complete in to six months.

In the early days of a startup, before you have “product/market fit” or much traction, you need to move fast so that you can figure out if you have a viable business or if you need to move on before wasting more time and money. It’s better to fail fast than slow. And the sooner you succeed the sooner your stress will reduce and the sooner you can start having better work life balance.

Time is against you because time literally is money. There’s a lot of great technology out there that’s made it cheaper than ever to start and grow a business. But it hasn’t gotten any cheaper to “live.” Expenses like rent, food, etc. are as high as ever. As an entrepreneur, you have to work fast to prevent those expenses from eating up your savings.

As an entrepreneur, there’s always something you could be doing. When you have a job, you’re paid for your time. Sure, there are deadlines, etc., but you don’t have a formal obligation to work more time.

Because you are incentivized and have ownership, it almost feels irresponsible not to do that thing you could be doing. “What am I doing relaxing when I haven’t yet met x milestone?” The reality is, you need to relax in order to meet x milestone, but the incentives an entrepreneur make it difficult to deal with.

Key Takeaways:

  • Depends: Work life balance as an entrepreneur will depend on what kind of business you have and what your goals are.

  • Flexibility: Even if you are working a lot, having flexibility on when you work, where you work, and what you work on can improve your productivity and happiness.

  • Incentives: Fear of downside and direct compensation for upside as an entrepreneur make you a lot more motivated to work.

  • Most employees in competitive fields work a lot of hours too…everything has it’s pros and cons.