What’s the difference between working on your business and in your business?

Vicky Shilling leaning against pillar green dress

May 30, 2022

I'm Vicky Shilling

A wellness business mentor, podcast host, author and I help you start and grow a successful wellness business.

My magic is in being able to break down the practical and strategic parts of business building, coupled with helping you cultivate a mindset that supports those actions to get the outcomes you desire.

Strategy + Beliefs =
Business Prosperity

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Here’s why this is important:

Whilst it’s great if you’re busy every day working away in your business, it can sometimes feel a bit limiting and less than the fulfilling career you’d been promised. Your work will leave you feeling frustrated and trapped if you keep working in and not on it.

Read on to find out more.


Something I hear constantly is this sort of thing from wellness business owners, perhaps you can relate:

  “The only thing I have time for is looking after my clients and sending them notes / delivering my existing classes”

“I’m just about keeping up with marketing my business through the usual channels, but I know I should be doing more”

“I’ve got ideas of other things I’d love to be doing in my business but I just never get around to making them happen!”

“I wish I was someone who was a bit more strategic; I feel like I just react all the time in my business, but my brain is too busy with the day-to-day”

“I’d love to get just get off the treadmill of the daily work and plan a bit further ahead but I just DON’T HAVE TIME!”

Do any of these sound familiar?

If you’re nodding along, I see you. And the solution to these woes is to spend a bit more time working on your business, not just in it.

What do I mean?

Let me explain.


What’s the difference between working on your business and in your business?

Your business has taken off – hooray! And massive well done to you. You’re busy with clients and your days are packed. A little too packed for your liking in fact.

When you start a business you wear many hats – especially as a solopreneur. You need to be the finance manager, the marketing manager, the social media manager, the sales person, the graphic designer and the practitioner that actually delivers the product and service you trained to do.

But if you’re not careful all of these responsibilities will completely swamp every minute of your day and totally supersede the one vital role to a thriving business that you’ve overlooked: the position of CEO.

The jobs website Indeed states that:

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“…the primary aims of a CEO are to explore expansive opportunities, manage the company’s resources and set goals and deadlines…to strive towards in daily operations.”

— Indeed

If you think of yourself the solopreneur as a whole team of people working on your business (it’s just those people all live in your head!), how the hell would all the little guys know what to focus on and what their priorities were, if they didn’t have a CEO?

  • How would the marketing manager know what to market?

  • How would the social media manager know who to engage?

  • How would the finance manager know if you’re on target?

Without a CEO, without strategy, everyone else’s jobs feel a bit directionless.


Examples of working in your business

What exactly am I talking about when I say “working in your business?”

If you wrote me a list of all the things you do on a weekly basis I bet it looks like things like this:

  • Working with clients – sending notes, preparing for sessions, delivering sessions and classes

  • Sending invoices and paying bills

  • Engaging on social media

  • Creating content – blogs, social posts, podcasts episodes

  • Doing CPD courses

  • Scheduling your time

  • Conducting discovery calls

The list, I’m sure, goes on.

These are all examples of working in your business. They’re keeping things going, it’s the core work of what you do. It’s how you get customers in the door and help them.

But it’s not strategic.


Examples of working on your business

If however instead you stepped on a regular basis into the CEO role in your business, things that would be hugely beneficial to your work, your income, your happiness and fulfilment and the satisfaction of your customers are things like:

  • Setting goals, and tracking if you hit them (and reviewing what you learned along the way)

  • Working with a mentor to trouble-shoot or get advice on a problem

  • Automating and streamlining systems that are taking too much time

  • Realigning what you’re doing if it’s starting to feel unenjoyable

  • Coming up with new ideas and products that better serve you and your clients (and creating a plan to make them happen)

  • Letting go of tasks and delegating things that don’t allow you to stay in your zone of genius

These are things that I know you crave time to do.

It might be that the desire is deep down and you haven’t admitted this is stuff you really wish you were prioritising because you’re busy telling yourself all the ‘in your business’ stuff is more important.

Or perhaps it’s with a bubbling frustration every single week that drifts by when you don’t get to these sort of tasks and  struggle to just keep up with the day-to-day.

But being the CEO? It’s absolutely essential to the long-term success and sustainability of your business.

What’s wrong with just working in my business, and never on it?

Now I have worked with a few people over the years that do not want to step into the CEO shoes.

Despite me showing them and facilitating for them ways to work on their business a little and often, they stay firmly taking each day as it comes, working on whatever draws them, with whoever rocks up at the door, taking the next opportunity or making the next investment that pops up.

If that’s you, the “I’ll just see how things work out naturally” person, I see you.

And I do love you dear, holistic practitioner.

Please believe me when I say I know we could all do with a bit more trust, tapping into the ol’ intuition and working seasonally, rather than a full-on hustle culture that modern society tells us is necessary to be successful. I’m actually taking myself away this very weekend on a retreat specifically designed to get back in touch with my feminine energy (drop me a message if you want to know how I got on!).

But going with the flow and not ever making plans is going to leave you feeling:

  • Unfulfilled and always wanting more, never quite feeling that sense of accomplishment you’re searching for

  • potentially burned out if you don’t put some structure and boundaries on what you do and just work with anyone, with the same packages and prices ad infinitum

  • Lacking work and customers when you aren’t clear what you’re working towards or meant to be focusing on every day when you show up to the desk, leading to a whole world of frustration

I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to feel aimless, unfulfilled, burned-out or under appreciated. And all of those feels comes from not stepping on a regular basis into the CEO role in your business.


How do I make time to work in my business?

Now I’ve explained the value of working on your business, you might be realising why it’s so crucial. But perhaps you’re yelling “but I just don’t know when I’d do it!”

When it comes down to time, there’s only one piece of advice I give:

Replace “I don’t have time” with “that’s not a priority right now.”

And if up-levelling your business, making more money, feeling more fulfilled, helping more people and being confident in the actions you take every day is not a priority, what is more important?

The tough love answer to this is: you have to make these things a priority. You don’t have to spend hours, days and weeks on this stuff. But a regular check-in on a monthly basis it’s crucial.

You have to get the diary out and block out a day each month to do this sort of work. Can you do that right now? Look ahead to the end of this month and block out a day where you’re going to look at goals, finances and plans for the future, uninterrupted?

And if stories are popping up when I suggest you do that, like “but I have clients to see!” and “there’s never a free day!” then I want you to go back to my question, what is your priority?

Your clients of course are important, but no-one is going to die if you take one day off each month to get strategic in your business.

And hey, your clients may well get an even better service from you if you just prioritised more strategic and expansive thinking in your work. Imagine that. Even better results for customers.


Can you make it easier for me Vicky?

I’m always looking for ways to make this sort of work easier for you. I know it’s hard to earmark time and also know what to do even if you did have a day to yourself. You’ll too easily get distracted back into filing, responding to emails and doing the day-to-day stuff unless you really step away.

So I’ve designed a CEO Day.

If you want to get away from working in your wellness business and spend a day working on your business to make the second half of 2022 your best 6 months yet then these are for you.

Check out all the details of your nearest one where you can connect and plan with a small group of wellness business owners here:

Just as an aside, I would never actually call myself a CEO. I think it’s a bit unnecessary for a solo business owner. I am technically the director of Vicky Shilling Ltd. I could call myself a CEO if I wanted to, I see people at networking events with the title on their badges! But I’m really just me, someone who occasionally has part of her role as a founder business owner occasionally wears the CEO hat. People buy from people. Not fancy titles.

I’d love to know what you think! Do you spend time working on as well as in your business?

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