Saving Time with Planning and Systems

We recently returned home from a trip to Florida. It was an extended stay and I loved it.  I was there to spend time with family and care for a family member having surgery. Sometimes I get questions about my flexible schedule and how it impacts my business.

The best thing about working for yourself is you are the boss. You set your own hours, you determine where and how you will work. It is also the worst thing about working for yourself. Have you ever have an unorganized boss?  Early in my career, I did. You have your projects to work on and then out of the blue you are given random assignments that need to be completed TODAY! It’s not fun, yet everyday business owners behave like “ the unorganized boss”. By not planning and setting up your day with intention and focus we are not getting the most out of our time.

I was able to travel to another state for 4 months because of planning but mostly because of systems implemented to be efficient and using a work plan daily. We all have those occasional things “pop up”.  Family emergencies, last minute client work and new business opportunities can throw a wrench in any schedule. They can all be accommodated with minimum headaches and drama if you are organized and efficient in your business.

Where do you start with getting organized? How you plan your week is key. What are your goals for the year, the month? This is important when planning your weekly activities. What is the first thing you do in your day? How do you start your work? Your number one task should be to create a work plan.

Did you say you don’t have a work plan?  It is necessary to plan your week to stay on track. Your marketing strategy leads to a plan of action. How do we reach goals without planning? It’s like a budget for your time.

I had a week in February when I decided I was going to work on my business “freestyle”.

I figured I have been doing this a few years, I know what needs to happen.  (Note: This did not include client work.) So on Monday after my client work was done at 11 a.m and was ready to get to work. It took me two hours to decide what I would work on. Yes, it took me two hours, with lots of overthinking and analyzing, finally ending in overwhelm. Full disclosure, I am that person that analyzes almost every decision. Three days later I gave up and created a plan to catch up on the work I missed, :-).

It is intentional planning and organized processes that enable me to work from any location.  Knowing what your goals are for your business will enable you to think strategically about what you will be focused on each day, each week, each year. I know planning and creating systems for your business can be time-consuming and it is not sexy, but it is productive. For the solo entrepreneur, systems can be the difference between working 60 hour weeks and 20 hour weeks.

There’s so much involved in creating a business that the idea of adding one more thing may seem daunting. Start by creating the processes and systems that will save you the most time and keep you organized like the client onboarding or billing/ invoicing and work in the others as you go. You may feel overwhelmed just thinking about it, start with baby steps. Go through one task and write down the steps as you work through it. Documenting a system does not have to be fancy. You can even record short explainer videos from your desktop instead of creating checklists or other word documents. It is up to you how you set up your systems. You can systemize one task at a time.

Before you get started, think about where you would like to save the most time and be more efficient. Is it client care or even lead generation? An efficient system for your business will prepare you for growth as well. As you get more clients you will start to think about getting support or growing the business. This is where systems in your business are key. By implementing systems in your business you will gain a high-level view of the areas of your business where you will benefit from support as well as how to create your strategy for growth.

If you are ready to start creating your systems, signup here for my a free checklist to help you get started.   http://bit.ly/2Wnrl0W

How to Systematize Your Financial Processes from Invoicing to Tax Preparation

Are you working hard as a coach or consultant, getting new clients, serving the current ones yet you still feel like finding the time to take control of your money is impossible.

Invoices don’t get sent on time. Past due balances are ignored. Taxes aren’t done. And maybe worst of all, you have dozens of recurring payments that go out automatically each month, yet you have no idea what they are or if you are using the programs you pay for.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for a lot of “successful” businesses this is reality. When you work at home, and you’re accountable to only yourself, it’s easy to let these little things slide until, like an avalanche, they have a devastating effect on your business.

The good news is, cleaning it up is easy, when you take the time to put some trusted systems in place.

Start with your billing. Sign up for (and use) a system such as FreshBooks or Harvest, which will automate your timekeeping and produce an invoice with a single click of a button. Then put your billing day on your calendar as an unbreakable appointment.

Log into your timekeeping app, generate your invoices, and click send. You’ll be done in a jiffy. Not only that, but most billing systems automatically send follow-up messages for unpaid invoices, so you don’t have to worry about tracking down those slow pays.

For your expenses, use a single system. That might be PayPal or a dedicated credit card or even your business checking account. Whatever it is, be sure it has a reporting feature that will allow you to send monthly statements to your accountant. At the end of every month, bundle that up with your sales report and your receipts, and send it off. When tax time rolls around, you’ll be sitting back with your feet up while everyone else scrambles to find documents and update their accounting system.

If you do your own taxes (kudos to you!) then look for tools that will integrate easily. For example, you can download a QuickBooks file right from PayPal for super-fast reconciliation at the end of every month. That alone will save you hours of “doing the books.”

Just putting these two simple systems in place can easily save you 10+ hours per month, but the even larger benefit is that the money work will get done. And what that will do for your cash flow is priceless.

Automation in your Business- Email Marketing

Every solo business owner wants efficient and productive ways to manage their business. There are many ways to save time in your business and one of the best ways is to use automation. From booking appointments to managing your schedule to sending invoices, automation will not only save you time, but can help you make money while you sleep. Basically, automation tools allow systems and processes that you have put in place to run smoothly and will ensure that important steps are not missed; automation can save time and can increase your business’ productivity.

Another area where you can automate your business is your email marketing. You are probably familiar with email marketing on the consumer side of things. You have probably signed up for a variety of email lists. Whether it’s a store in your local neighborhood, or an online business, if you get emails from a business, you’re on their list.

So, let’s view it from the business side of things. You have most likely heard of the saying “the money is in the list,” and this is true. You need a list to build your online business and this is one way to constantly build your relationships with your clients and prospects.

Email Marketing can be your number one marketing tool. It is one of the foundations of online marketing, and it’s rooted in direct marketing. Email marketing is very cost-effective, and it’s easy to do!  Plus, Email Marketing helps you build a relationship with your customers and potential customers, as well as helping you create passive income.

You would set up an autoresponder communicating with your prospects and by delivering valuable content over time you have a very effective way to build trust with your prospects and make money while you sleep.  Sometimes, all you need to do is just remind people that you exist and how you can help them.

Success Secrets for 2018

In the next few weeks I will be posting secrets to success in 2018. The secrets are a compilation of tips and tricks from successful business people all over the world.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” -Alexander Graham Bell

Secret 1: Figure out What You Want to Do and Why

You must know what you want to do, be and have before you can be successful.  So many people want success but feel lost. They know they want to earn more money and they try a variety of business models, but they don’t have the clarity to move forward.

The world’s most successful people know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going. These individuals have a clear plan of action and will stop at nothing to make success happen. If you want to be successful, you must do the same. You must plan, stay on track, and adjust course where necessary to do even better.

In addition to knowing what you want to do, you need to know why you’re doing it.  A strong why is a foundation for success.  Without a why, the things that derail us, the bad days when nothing is going right, will leave us overwhelmed and discouraged. A strong why will keep you going when you’re tired, when you’re frustrated, when you’re wondering if it’s all worth it, because the answer is always the reason for moving forward.

What are you doing in your business right now? Maybe you feel like you’re stuck in a slump and you’re ready for some major changes. Maybe you have no idea— you buy various products or work with coaches that are supposed to help you to become successful with the “latest” fad or trend in business, but it hasn’t happened for you yet.

It’s probably because what you’re doing right now isn’t truly in alignment with who you are. You’re dabbling in things; desperately clinging to the idea that one of the “things” is going to help you become successful. But the difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is that they aren’t waiting for a product or a method to make them successful.

They have the mindset that they are the ones who hold the success. They turn the method into a success, not the other way around.

Do you have that mindset? If not a switch in mindset can have amazing results for you.

Consider Your Values

I strongly believe that you’ll be a more successful if you align your business with your value system. You must believe in what you’re doing. Yes, you can be successful even if you don’t follow your passions and even if it’s not exactly in line with who you are as a person, but if everything is in alignment, it will be much easier, enjoyable and much more satisfying.

So, what are your values? Do you feel lost if you aren’t in an area of business that helps people? Do you value creativity and innovation? Are you an artist at heart? These things are closely related to your value systems and what you’re naturally drawn to. Consider this when you plan and shift your business in 2018.

Hello Tech Support?

How to Tame Those Technical Demons That Hold You Back

No one can know—and do—it all. And if you’re in business, then you know there are a lot of moving parts that all have to be managed. Websites, shopping carts, email managers, video editing, social media and file storage…the list goes on.

And here’s where many new (and even some established) business owners fall down. They try to bootstrap everything. Need a new website? They build it. Starting an affiliate program? They install it. Creating a webinar training series? They buy Camtasia; spend weeks learning it, and more weeks planning, recording and editing video.

While there’s much to be said for self-sufficiency, there comes a point where you simply have to decide which tasks are giving you the best ROI, and let go of the rest.

As Nicole Dean says, “If you’re a fish, stop trying to fly. Do what you’re good at, and let others handle the rest.”

And here’s why. You’re wasting valuable time and energy trying to do it all yourself. Take a quick look at this calculator to find out what your time is really worth, and you’ll very quickly discover that paying someone to edit your videos or update your website is a worthwhile investment.

Now that’s not to say that you shouldn’t know anything about the techy stuff that runs your business. You absolutely should. It’s nearly impossible to outsource work if you don’t have some idea of the work that needs to be done.

What that means is, you need to have an overview. You need to know where you’re going and have a basic idea of the steps that will get you there. You need to know that these things are possible, but you don’t necessarily need to know how to do them. For example, if you’re using GoToWebinar, and you want to record to create a replay to send to registrants later, then all you need to know is that it can be done. You don’t have to understand the mechanics behind it or be able to set it up yourself.

That’s what your VA is for.

And if you’re really thinking ahead (and I know you are) then you’ll also have your VA document the steps she’s using to complete the task. As part of her job, she should be helping to build your operations manual. That will make it easier for everyone on the team to get more done in less time, which in turn will save you money.

So stop fighting with technology. Learn only what you must know to do your job, and hand the rest over to someone who can do it faster and better. Then you can spend your time bringing in the money.

VPP Voice

It is April and most businesses are starting the second quarter of the year. One of the most important goals for a business is to become more productive. Achieving goals starts with productivity and that requires time management strategies. There are several tools we use to assist us in being productive. Because I am a fan of processes and procedures, I started with reading books on increasing my productivity. My two favorites so far are “Getting Things Done” (GTD) by David Allen and “12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. GTD was very helpful for me in developing methods to organize myself and my business. 12 week year by Brian Moran is a recent read that was recommended as a way to jumpstart productivity. Both of the books offer a processes to follow, but the software is used to implement the ideas I have learned with not only my clients but with my teams.

My top picks for productivity and/or time management are: Asana, Google calendar, Toggl, Evernote, and my paper planner, Productivity Planner.  Asana is one of the first tools I started using. There are so many uses for it; you can store notes, articles as well as any other research all in one place. Asana has been one of my favorites. I use it individually as well as for collaboration with my team. It is a simple way to set up projects and assign tasks.

The google products are well known and very helpful in getting organized and staying on task. We use google calendar with clients and the team. As a team we use the Google Docs and Sheets to create and edit documents in real time. As a virtual assistant I manage calendars. Google makes it a simple process to share and create calendars. You can organize appointments and activities using simple methods such as color coding. You can also share permissions, update appointments and a host of other tasks.

Toggle is an online time tracking tool we use for our team. The tool is simple and you can create projects and tasks even add clients. I can track time for my team as well as monitor how long activity and tasks take me to complete.  If you are a freelancer or work by the hour with clients it can be a very helpful time tracking tool.

Evernote is another tool that can be used in both personal and business. I have used Evernote as an electronic “post-it-note” system for myself. Because we do a lot of internet research, we keep the articles, websites and other reference materials in Evernote and share them in a team folder. We store research for clients and other documents here and it works well our team. All of these tools are user friendly and simple to use.

Last but not least is my paper planner. I am pretty old school about planning and journaling. I have always loved using paper planners and writing in paper journals and I suppose I always will. This year I chose the Productivity Planner because it incorporates many of the time management principles I am using. There are tips and space for lists and incorporates one of my favorite tools the “Pomodoro” technique.

Choosing time management and productivity tools can be an individual choice. Whether electronic or paper, what matters the most is that the tools are used consistently.