Are you making the best use of your time?

I’ve been running my own business as a sole trader for just over three years now, since leaving the world of corporate employment. I’ve learnt a lot in that time about motivation, self-discipline and how to get the most value out of the time I have to work on my business. I wanted to share what I’ve learnt with all the sole traders out there who might feel like they simply don’t have enough time to get things done, or who might wonder how other people seemingly manage to accomplish so much.

1.    Concentrate on what you do, not on what others do. It’s very easy in today’s world to see what everyone else is up to; how much they’re getting done, how successful they are, how many likes or shares or mentions they get. While it’s a good idea to know what your main competitors are up to, your attention and time is much better spent on your business than theirs.

2.    Don’t get distracted by social media. It’s so easy to get distracted by or spend too long on social media, scrolling randomly through Facebook and Twitter (or even Linkedin!) instead of cracking on with work – I know I’m sometimes guilty of it. It can be a massive time sponge, and one that mostly doesn’t provide much value. It’s also easy to forget that a lot of it isn’t true to real life. If I find myself reaching for my phone, it’s sometimes a sign that I need a break. It’s also a good idea to give yourself a social media time limit!

3.    This is a scary one! Delete work-related social media and email from your phone. I don’t have either - I spend so much of my time on my laptop that if I pop out for the day or go out for lunch, I want a break from work. I use my out of office to manage people’s expectations of when I’ll be in touch. Take a deep breath and go for it – I promise the world won’t end.

4.    Invest your time in the things that will give you and your business the best return. It’s important to figure out where your leads and enquiries come from. It could be your website, events, networking, Linkedin, direct mail, social media or a combination of different things. But if you’re not getting anything from a channel you’re putting a lot of time and effort into…maybe it’s time to consider closing that channel. I find it really helpful to track where my enquiries are coming from (and which of those convert into customers), so I know where to concentrate my marketing efforts.

5.    Time management tips. There are a few practical things you can do to make sure you’re managing your time effectively in both the short and long terms:

·      Find an online task list, calendar or project software that works for you, and stick to using it. I use Tick Tick for my personal admin. It’s also great for working with clients as I can share ‘lists’ with them. These lists allow me to track and show tasks, assign them to others and track time spent on each one...amongst other things!

·      Keep on top of admin. Invoicing, expenses, insurance, accounts, and tax are easy to deprioritise over customer deadlines, for example, but it’s really important to stay up to date, especially if you want to avoid financial penalties.

·      Schedule free time and go on proper holidays – rest is just as important as work, and you need to be able to take time out without feeling guilty.

6.    Discover the benefits of outsourcing. I’m a marketer, designer and web developer with years of experience. That’s my skill set, and those are also the services I provide to my customers. As sole traders, however, we have to make sure that all aspects of our business are running smoothly, including things like admin and finances. Accounts is the part that I outsource; I could do my tax returns myself but it would take a long time, and even then I wouldn’t be sure that I had done it properly. For me, having an accountant is a worthwhile investment as it saves me time and worry. For you, it might well be something different. Maybe the admin side gets on top of you, and you need a PA for a few hours a week. Perhaps you don’t have any marketing experience, and need someone to support you with that aspect of your business.

If you need a little more marketing support, that’s where I can help. I can give you a hands-on, creative review of your marketing channels and your marketing materials, working with you to provide an experienced, fresh pair of eyes.

Lucy RavenspointComment