Abigail Baldwin makes up one half of the creative studio, Buttercrumble, which she founded alongside her twin sister, Chloe. She shares her thoughts on running a business and managing burnout.
What was your eureka moment?
We both started sharing our designs and illustrations online in 2008. We did this through separate user accounts. After two years, we started receiving more commissions. Naturally, as twins, our style is very similar, so we thought “two heads are better than one”. We joined forces to become Buttercrumble and have been working under the name ever since.
What was the turning point?
When establishing a new business, it is an obsession. To get the business running, we had to work other jobs to make some income. This meant we were working on Buttercrumble at weekends and evenings. All hours of the day involved work! Yet, we loved it and knew this was a sacrifice we’d have to make. Eventually, this paid off, and we had enough savings and landed a large commission to enable us to go full time on Buttercrumble.
However, we were still stuck in the mindset that we needed to work as many hours as possible. If we didn’t, the business would fail! We couldn’t let our clients (or ourselves) down. Two years into running the business, full-time, we were still burning the candle at both ends.
I had a string of sickness bugs and Chloe was feeling the strain too. We were stressed, and I dreaded opening my inbox. We couldn’t cope much longer.
After receiving business mentorship from our local council, we learnt it was time to set those clear boundaries. It helped to have an external viewpoint and supporter who forced us to step back and look at the bigger picture.
How did you overcome it?
To prevent burnout, I recommend seeking a peer support group or mentorship. This helped Chloe and I gain a clearer, unbiased perspective. We also meet regularly with our friend (who’s also a business owner). We can rant about any difficulties and let off steam together.
Boundaries are also important. Ideally, the weekend should be a sacred time for family and friends. Admittedly, sometimes I feel bored on weekends and evenings. However, we both try to resist the temptation to pick up my laptop! Boredom is a privilege. It means you’re getting some well-earned rest.
How will you manage work-life balance from now on? Have you made any long-term changes to how you run the business?
We now have set office hours during which we communicate with our clients. We also set up an office phone line, so we can avoid distributing our mobile phone numbers. This means we’re only taking calls during those office hours. At the beginning of every new relationship, we issue our ‘Welcome Document’ which helps to manage their expectations. Transparency about boundaries is key!