8 Agency Founders Share Their Top Tips on Achieving (Some) Work-Life Balance

Work Life Balance: 2016

Do you work to live, or live to work?

Tough question, I know.

In this community of freelance web/app developers, designers, and agency heads, chances are you love what you do for a living.

And while that line might be blurry, there is a difference between a willingness to work hard, and being a full-blown workaholic.

When we’re in the process of building something great, we can sometimes forget to consider ourselves. You know the schedule; you’re crushing 60-hour weeks, almost blind from staring at your computer screen for hours on end, and you consider gas station sandwiches dinner because you haven’t grocery shopped in weeks.

And while you think you’re sacrificing it all for the sake of this amazing work you’re putting out into the world, the truth is that your best work will come when you’re not only at your professional best, but also at your personal best (do I sound like your mom/life coach yet?).

This does not mean you need to clock 10 hours of sleep every night, and eat non-gluten, non-dairy, non-yumminess. But, it does mean that making time for yourself, your mental and physical health, and the ones you love will actually push you to create, imagine, and manage better.

If you don’t believe me, listen to your peers.Work Life Balance: Partners

Work Life Balance: PartnersToday, we’re talking to eight Shopify Partners, who founded their own businesses, on how they attain work-life balance….well, I’ll level with you, how they strive for work-life balance.

When you run your own empire, sometimes sacrifices are part of the deal. But these entrepreneurs make seriously good arguments on why trying to keep some semblance of work-life balance is vital. Their tips on how to make room for it in your life will help you nail that balancing act.

You might also like: 10 Successful Web Designers Share Their Best Advice for Aspiring Freelancers.

Why work-life balance is important

Work Life Balance: 1Before we can give you tips on how to achieve work-life balance, you have to believe it’s worth your while. These business founders come from vastly different walks of life, yet they all believe work-life balance is important.

The question should really be, ‘how could it not be?'

- Sara Bacon, Command C

“The question should really be, ‘how could it not be?’ First and foremost, Command C is committed to doing expert-level work. Great work can't happen in a vacuum and great work can't happen if a key player isn't taking care of themselves. I know this first hand. The work we do involves empathy and patience. These things aren't achievable when you're moving at the speed of light or lacking perspective (a byproduct of not taking care of yourself).”

-Sara Bacon, Founder of Command C

“For me, work is the means to an end. It allows me certain luxuries in life and my professional choices mean that I can spend lots of time with friends and family. So, even though I can typically find myself working long and unsociable hours, I always find myself coming back to my broad aims. Like most, when I am happy and healthy I find I’m much more productive in my working life, too.”

-Matthew Palfrey, Founder and Head of Shopify Startup

“While work is important, it is only part of life. There is so much I try to stay involved with outside of work. This includes everything from time with friends and family, to exercising. Being successful in life is being able to find this work-life balance.”

-Omri Bojko, Agency Head and Co-Founder at TVP NYC

“As an entrepreneur, agency owner, wife, and mother, work-life balance is extremely important to me. The reason I even started my business was to achieve work-life balance, spend more time with my family, and be there for them. It can sometimes mean working 16 hour days, which is never easy – but it also means that I can take a day off, take my two-year-old to the aquarium, and watch his eyes light up when he sees the dolphins.”

-Maya Page, Creative Director and Founder of SocialMediately

“I have three children, and since my first daughter was born, I have strived to only work reasonable hours during the week. As creatives, we are extremely fortunate to do what we love for a living — and get paid for it! The risk, though, is that we start to see it as our lifestyle, rather than work, and if we’re not careful, it can occupy our time and headspace full-time — in fact, it’s often the most unrelated times doing the most mundane things that the inspiration comes.”

-Galen King, Founder and Creative Director of Lucid

How they strive for work-life balance

Work Life Balance: 2It’s all well and good to say it’s important, but how do you actually achieve work-life balance and successfully grow your business? These business owners chimed in on how they tackled work-life balance and fit it into their jam-packed schedules.

“Communicating boundaries that allow us to live our lives is probably the biggest way in which we set ourselves up for a healthy work-life balance. We have standard office hours of 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday. These hours are included in our email signatures as a polite reminder of our availability. This isn't to say we don't occasionally work during the evening or on weekends (because we do). However, it's definitely the exception, and not the norm.”

-Natasha Murphy, Founder and Principal Developer, Nicely Built

“I have to be careful, because this job is a lot of sitting and staring at a screen. I try to take breaks, walk the dog, get in long rides, visit my grandpa – get in some solid no-screen time. I try to schedule blocks of work throughout the day, which is really scheduling breaks. Otherwise, I can look up and it's four hours later, and I haven't been blinking!”

-Zak Hardage, Co-Founder of Hardage + Hardage

“I try to live in the moment – when I am working, I am fully working. When I am off, I try to be completely and entirely ‘off’ – that means no cell phone, no computer, no checking emails at dinner, no distractions (and no sneaking in work on vacation!). I try and immerse myself in each moment – no matter what I am doing.”

-Maya Page, Creative Director and Founder of SocialMediately

I don’t believe anyone ever wakes up one day and thinks, ‘Hey, I did it, I’ve achieved work-life balance!’ Instead, we all find ourselves making adjustments along the way.

- Matthew Palfrey, Shopify Startup

“I don’t believe anyone ever wakes up one day and thinks, ‘Hey, I did it, I’ve achieved work-life balance!’ Instead, we all find ourselves making adjustments along the way. For many remote working employees or freelancers, myself included, we often spend time working from home, so it can be harder to have the luxury of a disconnect at the end of the working day. The only surefire way to work towards achieving your own work-life balance is to view it as an ongoing concern. Not something that needs to be done, but something that can reward you greatly when you make the effort.”

-Matthew Palfrey, Founder and Head of Shopify Startup

“I try to keep as regular a schedule as possible so that every day feels full and fulfilling! I know what days I work out, I have specific days that I set aside for friends, and I have days that are specifically for me (catching up on five weeks of TV shows, or reading for five hours straight!) I have some work to do for sure, but this schedule and balance is very important to me.”

-Daria Rose, Ecommerce Wizard at TVP NYC

Find some balance in your own life

Work Life Balance: 3Now that you’ve read their pearls of wisdom, and learned how they achieved some balance, it’s time for some actionable takeaways. These entrepreneurs shared their top tips on how to start balancing work and life in your own ecommerce universe.

“Honestly, meditation. Meditation is huge. The pace of our industry is FAST. Having a practice that is the exact antidote to FAST has been key for me in terms of slowing down, gaining clarity, having the ability to prioritize, and maintaining perspective. Meditation has also strengthened my ability to sit with discomfort and confront my fears, things that definitely come up when running a business.”

-Sara Bacon, Founder of Command C

“Go offline for real every single night. For me, this means leaving my phone outside the bedroom door each and every evening. At first, this stressed me out because I'm a big list maker. So I carry around a notebook that I use to jot down small tasks. Once the task is written down, I promptly forget about it until I'm back online the next morning.”

-Natasha Murphy, Founder and Principal Developer, Nicely Built

“Don’t ever (I’m serious — ever!) answer work-related calls outside work hours. And same goes for work emails. If you respond at 10pm, your clients start to expect you to work ridiculous, unsustainable hours. Turn off all unnecessary notifications — especially mobile push notifications. Only enable notifications for @-mentions and DMs. Unsubscribe from all newsletters you don’t absolutely need.”

-Galen King, Founder and Creative Director of Lucid

Balance doesn't come from scheduling, or pricing, or being a ninja/guru/rockstar/10x-er. Because once you get those things right, you're still chasing balance. So, it's all you, it's all inside. 

- Zak Hardage, Hardage + Hardage

“Marry someone that complements your skill set, and then adopt a dog. Ha! I'm only half kidding. Here are my serious tips: balance doesn't come from scheduling, or pricing, or being a ninja/guru/rockstar/10x-er. Because once you get those things right, you're still chasing balance. So, it's all you, it's all inside. Do what you think is right; wait for clients that are kind, and also do good work. Draw a line when you have to, but don't sweat going over on hours/scope. Making friends with other designers and developers and keeping your clients happy is 1000x more important than any blogging or social media publishing schedule. Be kind to cyclists. If you're designing for Shopify, get a partner account and talk to your partner rep – they know a lot.”

-Zak Hardage, Co-Founder of boutique web studio Hardage + Hardage


Even a wee bit of dedicated you-time is better than none at all. And as many of the professionals above can attest, your brain and body are essentially your business. Treat them well with activities that make you feel fulfilled, happy, and relaxed, and you’ll help yourself reach new levels of success.

What do you do to create some work-life balance? Tell us in the comments section below.

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