What’s the best time to post a new photo on Instagram?
Should I update my Facebook page twice a day, or three times?
If I send my email newsletter once a week, is that too frequently?
Social media marketing experts spend a lot of time thinking about these questions. They do A/B testing on timing and frequency in an effort to figure out what’s optimal. And their research is often totally valid. I read it. I think about their findings when I’m scheduling tweets and writing my newsletter. For me, though, this kind of advice misses a crucial point.
Each task when you’re running a business takes time and thought and focus. And each of us is more than just a business owner. We’re also mothers, and caretakers. We work other jobs and pursue other interests.
When it comes to running a business well, for the long-term, the most important factor to consider isn’t perfecting the timing of a social media update or honing in on the ideal frequency for an email newsletter. The most important factor is sustainability.
How can you fit these tasks (the vital ones that keep your online business afloat) into your life in a sustainable way. Sustainable means comfortable. Not easy, but doable. And not just doable this week and this month, but in six months or two years. After all, building a business is about doing small things every day. Updating a profile, organizing an archive, taking fresh photos, editing listings, researching new products – tending to these micro tasks every single day for years is what the real life of business is all about.
Like you, my life is more than my business. When I’m not working on Abby Glassenberg Design I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young kids. I’m a member of a local artists group in town. I’m a fairly observant Jew which means holidays at home and 3-day a week Hebrew school for my kids. Every day is full.
I thought I’d share with you some concrete examples of how I let sustainability dictate my choices over other factors, and why, no matter what the research says, it still works.
1. I send my newsletter out on Wednesdays at 10:00 am. When I was teaching my newsletter workshop at Craftcation, someone in the audience asked how I’d chosen that day and time. Great question!
Here in Wellesley the public elementary schools release at noon every Wednesday. With kids coming home so early in the day I don’t have time to run on Wednesday mornings. So, I run the other four weekdays instead and on Wednesdays I get right to work when they leave for school. I’m at my computer at 9:00 which gives me a good hour to finish or fix the newsletter if I need to. Although I write the newsletter on Tuesday night, it often needs a final look through and Wednesday morning is the ideal time for me. The newsletter goes out on Wednesdays at 10:00. Why? Because its sustainable for me.
2. I pin to Pinterst from 7:00-7:20 pm. How random! Not really, though. If you spent the day at my house you’d see why.
My youngest daughter, Josephine, is four and she still needs me to sit beside her while she’s in the bath. While she’s in there playing with a family of rubber ducks I sit on the bathmat and pin. It’s perfect. I grew my Pinterest following from 2,000 to 12,900 this way. Why pin in the evening? Because its sustainable for me.
3. I record the podcast at least a week before I publish it, often even further in advance. Podcasting is an iffy endeavor. Before you begin recording a conversation you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes, everything goes perfectly smoothly. Editing means adding an intro and an outro and uploading the file – tasks that take 20 minutes all together.
Other times, though? The guest’s dog barks 13 different times, my mailman rings the doorbell, Skype cuts out, and I had the gain level set wrong. To fix a show like that and make it listenable takes hours and hours. Given that finding hours and hours of uninterrupted time is a challenge for me generally, I always record in advance.
By the same token, my show comes out on the first and third Monday of each month. Wouldn’t it be better to have a weekly show? Yes. But this schedule works for one reason: its sustainable for me.
I could certainly optimize all of these choices. I could use scheduling software for Pinterest, and do A/B testing to see when you like opening the newsletter best. But honestly? I don’ think that stuff is all that important. Composing a tweet that goes out at the perfect time once isn’t nearly as effective as composing hundreds of tweets that go out when you have time to enjoy Twitter.
Search for pockets of time when you can fit your business tasks into your real life in a way that feels comfortable and makes you happy. Your enjoyment in these tasks makes them more perfect than all the social media optimization in the world ever could.
That is all such good advice! Among other things, I am a self-employed freelance musician. While I don’t promote myself through social media (local word-of-mouth is bringing me enough work for the moment), I have to plan carefully how to space out the gigs I have so that I allow myself enough time to learn the music and go to rehearsals while my kids are in school, and hopefully not stack too many evening commitments in a row. When you’re accompanying student recitals, they tend to pile up at the end of the semester – that’s just the reality of doing what I do – but if I have enough lead time to learn and rehearse music, I can handle it. I’ve had weeks that are unsustainably busy, where I’m run ragged and my family has to deal with me not being available several days at a time. I’ve even managed to travel for gigs a couple times in the last few years. That kind of schedule isn’t sustainable but if I know it will only be or a week or two, we can handle it. It’s not an easy juggling act, but I love what I do, so I guess it’s working out for the best!
My travel plans are very similar to yours. I turned down a really great opportunity to travel and teach this fall because it was just too much for my family. I want to be here for my kids and take care of them, and I want to travel. It’s got to work for everyone.
This makes so much sense–it gave me the boost I needed today! Thanks!
I’m so glad, Wendy. Gotta make it work, right?
All good advice. Thanks for sharing.
Such smart advice! Also, your email newsletter is relatively new to me, but I don’t know how I lived without it!! Thank you so much for all these rich resources. Best, jennifer satsumadesigns.com
Oh yay! I’m so glad you like the newsletter, Jen.
Your strategy isn’t only sustainable, it’s genuine. Great post.
Ali Manning says
A lot of the advice for business owners seems to be geared to those who can spend 8 hours of uninterrupted time in a home office everyday, and that’s just not a reality for many of us. We need to fit in our business tasks around our family’s schedules. I love how your strategies work for you and your family. You’re not trying to fit your business into someone else’s mold or way of operating. Thanks for a great article!
PS I’m catching up on emails and reading blogs at the dining room table while I supervise homework!
Totally. I tweet while stirring pots on the stove. It works for me!
Julie Stocker says
I so enjoy your posts. Very suitable to my own situation, and other bloggers I talk with. Thanks so much for your dedication.
Julie @ Pink Doxies
Sure thing! Thank you for reading, Julie.
I love that you send your newsletter every Wednesday at 10, I look forward to it and schedule time to read it. I know that I most likely will visit at least one of the links you provide. Often I will have time to check out all of them. On Monday’s I get Shiny Happy World — a really great way to start the week, then While She Naps on Wednesday stirs up my creativity again. With so many wonderful blogs it would be easy to spend all my time reading instead of doing so I must pick and choose. Your blog (and Wendy’s) are two that always stay on my list.
Excellent post. I look forward to your newsletters each week. They are relevant and ‘real’.
i wish there was a “like” button for this post. so wise!
Jaime Johnson says
I so appreciate this insight into your schedule. I work part time (mostly from home), homeschool, teach sewing classes to other homeschoolers, am active at church, sew and blog for me and my family AND a local fabric store, and occasionally take on a sewing job. I have moments where I positively feel underwater by my own doing. Most of this comes from comparison – I’m in blogger groups where ladies create their own patterns and sew enough to blog three times a week! I try really hard to blog once a week but I hate the time it takes sometimes. Then there’s the pressure of – I’ve built up whatever little following I have – if I stop, even temporarily, is all that work for nothing – will I lose the momentum? I have been chewing on this for months and I really need to find this place of sustainability. I love to be a part of the sewing community, but I don’t want to ignore my family or stress myself out in the process. Thanks for these words of wisdom!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! As someone with health problems, I get frustrated that I can’t do everything everyone else can sometimes. Or it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because I’m single with no kids I should be able to do more. It’s good to remember that I need to do what’s best for me. I think that doing what I can when I can will resonate with my audience (other creatives living with health conditions) as well. Totally going to share this blog post.! Thank you!
LINDA BLATCHFORD says
I appreciate that you do things according to your schedule. I am also a fairly religious Jewish woman and took most of the weekend off for Shavuot. My time isn’t that regular though, so I’ll have to work on that.
Stephanie Martel says
What a great reminder this was for me! It’s so easy to forget that we do our businesses because ultimately it bring us joy. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the statistics of ‘what works for best exposure’ that we forget to follow the natural rhythms that got us this far. Your thinking is what connects people to you and it works. Great job.
Jacquelynne Steves says
“Composing a tweet that goes out at the perfect time once isn’t nearly as effective as composing hundreds of tweets that go out when you have time to enjoy Twitter.” Yes, I think that’s very true! While I schedule a lot of my social media, I find that the random, “this is what’s happening in my life right this very moment stuff” gets the most interaction. You have to do what’s best for you at whatever season you are in life. And if you are in a season where life is crazy, don’t sweat it because there will come a season when things calm down. You have to go with the flow of your own life.
Vickie Jernigan says
Hello! Starting a regular schedule for myself was a struggle as I started my new blog just over a month ago. I still have my day job. I have a college-age girl so she doesn’t require as much time from me any more, but I do like spending quality time with my husband and friends! I am starting to find my stride! It is still overwhelming at times. But, your post reminds me to keep at it and it will all fall into place! Funny, I was looking for tips on writing reviews on blogs and ran across your post that was timely for me! Thanks again!
Abby, Thank you for this post. I am a bit late reading it. I worked in Corporate America for 30 years and just quit a very high profile position with a national company to start my own consulting business and work with my sister to start a blog. For the past 30 years I worked 8 to 10 hours a day, straight with almost no breaks. Most of the time I didn’t even take a lunch! So I assumed that was what I would do working from home…….NOT! What a joke! Ha! I have three kids and although they are older (18, 16 and 11) with me being home I tend to do a lot more “Mom” stuff more than I ever did when I worked outside the home. Now don’t get me wrong I love that aspect of being home but I did have to deal with the guilt of not putting in a regular eight hour day. Reading your post helps me realize I don’t have to have a “9 to 5pm” traditional schedule….I can work when its convenient and right for me and my family! I can be sustainable!!! yeah! Thank you for this great advice. Gayle
I’m so glad this post was helpful to you, Gayle. It’s a big adjustment to going from a corporate job to being self-employed.
Now THAT is the voice of reason. I love it!