As you become busier with client work, it is often easy to forget to schedule time for the work associated with running your own business. Tasks such as keeping up with your bookkeeping and invoicing, making time for your marketing activities, and networking, often fall by the wayside.
If you let these things get away from you, they can quickly become the downfall of your business. There is no point working your fingers to the bone if you are not invoicing your clients, or if you lose track of whether you are being paid on time. If you stop marketing your business, what happens if you lose your main clients? With marketing, it takes a long time to build the momentum back up again. And, if you have stopped networking, a lot of your old contacts will simply assume you have gone out of business... Not a great impression for them to have of your business!
The following series offers some simple steps that you can schedule into your working week to work effectively on your business, so that it remains healthy and robust.
Schedule your email
Although you may be regularly monitoring and collecting your clients' emails during the day, collect your own business email just twice a day and deal with all enquiries in batches.
Sort your emails
Do you have an inbox with more than 10 emails in it? If you have, it can be a huge waste of time trying to find what you are looking for, and the clutter can be overwhelming. Have files for incoming email, and set up rules for all mail that can be dealt with later, so that it goes directly to those files.
File your emails
Similarly, have a filing system for emails that have been dealt with. When you have replied to or dealt with each email, file it or delete it.
Create email templates
If you answer an email to the same question more than once, create an email template so that the next time you are asked the question, you already have an email ready to send.
Back up everything
If you have ever deleted anything accidentally, or suffered a computer crash, you will probably not need to be told about this. Back everything up at least once a day. I use Carbonite, which automatically backs up my whole system every day at 6pm. So, if I lose something or my system dies, I have a copy of everything easily accessible online.
Bookkeeping and invoicing
I would recommend allowing time, twice a month, about two weeks apart, to pay all your bills, input all your expenses, raise all your invoices and check that payments have been made.
Do your filing
In addition to your client files, have files for everything related to running your business. Then, set aside time each week to file everything you have dealt with that week. I use the last half-hour on a Friday for this.
Have checklists for every process in your business. For example, when you take on a new client, have a checklist which prompts you to check that: you have received the signed contract, you have sent your Welcome Pack, you have set up an appropriate email address, and you have their stationery. This saves time and prevents things being forgotten.
Check and update your website
Check that your website is up-to-date and current. Set aside time, perhaps once a month, to check all the information is current, and add anything new that your clients and prospects might find useful.
Writing your newsletter
If you write a newsletter, be it weekly, monthly or whatever, try to write in blocks. It can be hard to find a quiet time to sit and write, but, when you do, you often feel like you could write for hours. Do it whenever you feel inspired, and then split the content over several newsletters.
Writing your blog
The same advice applies when writing blogs. However, the advantage with blogs is that you can schedule your posts in advance. I am actually writing this on 30th October but you will be reading it weeks later!
If you have a profile on sites such as Ecademy and LinkedIn, it is easy to spend hours each day responding to requests to link. Set aside some time each week for social networking and respond to invitations then. Also, use this time to seek out new connections of your own, join and post to groups, etc.
Review your marketing activities
Set aside time each month to review your marketing activities. How many enquiries have you had in the previous month and from where have they come? Have a look at what is working for you and what could be improved.
Keep on networking
This is often the first thing that gets dropped when you become busy with clients work. I know; I am guilty of it myself. But when you suddenly disappear from groups in you have been a regular, the assumption can be that you are no longer in business. Accept that networking is part of the ongoing development of your business, choose one or two groups in which you will remain a regular, and keep going. Even if you are not looking for more clients, you will still establish relationships from which you will benefit later on.