Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Your Business Forward

Photo by tdlucas5000/Creative Commons
Sunday is the start of spring.  It's time to come out of your winter cocoon and there's no better time to take a look at your business, schedule some cleanup, review your processes and give everything a pick-me-up.

The last two months of the year can be tough for small businesses and freelancers, especially those not in the retail industry.  Your clients are involved in holiday planning and getting ready for the end of the year.  Staff is taking time off to use up their vacation time.  Projects that need to be done before the end of the year are in high gear, while almost everything else seems to get shoved onto the back burner because of the holiday festivities.

After the first of the year, everyone is eager to get things moving again, so you feel like you're either jammed with work or you're struggling to pick up new work, now that everyone is back to work.  By spring, you're ready to hit your stride.

How can you boost your business in the spring?  What are some processes you can put in place that'll bring in new business and make your business run more smoothly?  Here are some of my top tips:

  • Schedule a day of spring cleaning.  Whether you're a one-person shop or you have employees, use the day to go through your files, the piles of mail and paper on your desk, your computer's desktop and your email.  Throw out anything you haven't used in the last three months or that is not needed for legal purposes; some businesses are required to keep their client's records for several years after the service is provided.  Use the One-Touch Rule; touch each item once, then either deal with it, file it or throw it away.  If you feel you might need it later, scan it, file it or put it away.  If you work out of an office or storefront, take the time on this day to really clean your area.  Dust, mop, buy new trash cans, pick up some desk supplies and just generally spruce things up.
  • Schedule a day away from work for everyone.  Just take a day to spend away from work with your team.  If you're working by yourself, go somewhere you wouldn't normally go, like a museum or a different area of town you haven't spent time in before.  If you work with a team - employees, subcontractors or other freelancers you work with often - schedule some time to play together, preferably outside.  Go on a picnic, go out to dinner, hike or buy tickets for entertainment in town.  You'll be surprised at how much closer your team feels afterward and how refreshed you'll be.
  • Plan the next three months.  At the beginning of the year, you did your annual planning, but now's the time to do your seasonal planning.  Take calendars for the next three months and schedule time for building your business each day, with the goal that at the end of those three months, you'll have made so much money or have grown by x-number of clients.  Then, break those three-month goals into monthly goals, then weekly goals, then daily goals.  In a sense, reverse-engineer your Spring goals to set yourself up for the best chance of success.
  • Set up a client-management system (CRM).  If you don't already have a way to keep track of current clients, past clients and potential clients, now's the time to get that started.  In surveying freelancers and small business owners, I found most use paper to manage those relationships.  The problem with paper is that as you grow, the paper grows, often out of control.  In order to grow your business beyond where you are now, it's time to set up a system using a computer program or app that allows you to track each time you make contact with a client and control the projects you're working on.  It might sound daunting, but in the end, it's better to set it up now, while you're still able to manage it the old way, than it is to try to catch up months or years later, when you can't find something because of all the paper.  I'll have an article on choosing and setting up a CRM in the next week.
  • Mark your calendar for two hours each day to spend calling old clients, calling those who decided against hiring you and those you've met in the last few months who may become clients.  Every day, spend those two hours contacting at least five of those people.  Mark them down on your calendar, the same two hours every day, along with the names of the five people you're working on for that day.  Once you get through that list, then it's time to start with prospects, people you've never spoken to about your business before.  You'll find you can double your business taking just those two hours every day and just getting it done.
  • Get in the habit of manually writing out a to-do list every day.  You may feel as if you have no time for a to-do list because you're just too busy.  In reality, you're not too busy; you're just not doing the most important things.  By making up a to-do list, you'll keep yourself focused and less likely to let distractions get in the way of getting the most important things accomplished.  I'm working on an article on to-do lists, so keep an eye out for that.
If you do these six things with every change of season, you'll be surprised at how much your business will grow and how much stress is taken off your shoulders.

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