5 Completely Underrated Small Biz Systems
Working from home is a relished opportunity when your job is otherwise tied to a desk. There are some serious perks: home-brewed coffee (or tea, if you're not into the heavy stuff), lunch from your own fridge, a cat nap when the workload is too slow or too heavy. You can sleep in a little more, get started on your afternoon plans faster, and the very best perk of telework: there's no commute.
When you work for yourself as a small business or freelancer, those perks don't change. In fact, you grow more accustomed to the change in pace and self-reliance that self-employment offers. But your accountability shifts. Your deadlines are yours and yours alone. Additional support during tight deadlines costs you time and/or money; there's no one at the ready to back you up when you're in a bind. Mistakes in time management eat into your profit and your sanity, if you let it.
That's where systems come into play.
Your work as a small biz or freelancer requires a "special set of skills" - a set of systems to help you maintain a sustainable pace each week and to encourage the overall growth of your business. After all, how can you grow if you're fighting for every minute of the day?
Here are 5 completely underrated systems that I recently put into place for my own business:
1. Time yourself
Approach your freelancing work like you would a brand new job. Accept that there will be a learning curve. After all, not all jobs are created equal. There's no magic formula for exactly how long certain tasks should take, and you won't know YOUR magic formula until you get the timer out.
*Worth noting that this is something I now do every time I'm approaching a task for the first time. Often, the timing will change as I become more practiced in the routine of it, but if I overestimate how much time it takes for me to get things done...you can see where I'm going with that one.
2. Block your time
When you know how long your tasks are going to take, it's time to get out your planner, your spreadsheet, your Google calendar, and schedule blocks of time during your day. Not everyone is visual in this way. As for me - if I see that I've got my day booked from 8-5, I can not only adjust my schedule as I need to when the unexpected unexpectedly happens, but I can also assess whether or not I can take on additional work.
3. Write it down
The brain has a funny way of committing things to memory if we write them down. Neuroscience, #amiright?
I don't care how pretty my color coded Google Calendar is - if I don't take five minutes to write down the highlights of my day, I'll always feel rushed when the alert windows pop up with my upcoming task. I always jot down the time-sensitive appointments - Skype meetings, Twitter chats, errands - and use a great one-pager to set intentions for my day's workload. The habit has added both calm and structure to my morning routines.
4. Set realistic start and stop times
Freelancers and small business owners are notorious for working 25/8. We hustle hard, and when we aren't hustling, we're promoting our hustle so we can keep hustling harder. When you love what you do, you don't mind the cycle, but you risk burning yourself out. Again, if you find yourself fighting for every minute of the day, the added stress will start to drag you down.
Blocking your time will help with this, of course. I like to try and give myself about an hour before my blocked times to settle in at my desk; get my coffee, FaceTime with my family, catch my East Coast clients on Skype at the end of their work day. If I sleep in a little late or spend too much time on the phone, I've only lost the buffer to my day, I haven't wasted the whole morning.
Although I personally like to dip into the freelance honeypot off hours (ahem, as I've done here), I like to set a daily "clocking out" time. This gives me both a deadline for my daily tasks and a gauge to measure the success of my output for the day. Sure, I may continue to work on a task later than this timeframe, but it's the mindset that's the most crucial here.
5. Make time for your business
It took me almost three months of full-time freelancing to truly grasp the importance of this one. How can you expect to grow your business and cultivate your network if you don't make time in your day for it?
It's one hell of an adjustment, trust me. As you open yourself up to this concept and include blocks of time in your day to read up on a relevant topic, connect with members of your network, join a tweetchat, make edits to your website, you'll find that the time is well worth the investment. People start responding to what you're putting out there. Ideas begin to bubble. Collaborations form. Your business grows.
What are your favorite, completely underrated small business systems? Share them in the comments below or hop over to Facebook and post them there!