Over the past few weeks, I’ve been honing in on my true passions and how to integrate them all into a well-oiled machine that will allow me to be more efficient in how I manage my clients, generate content, automate where possible, and still reach out to the audiences I hope to one day work with. In all this, I want to still be left with time to do the things that I enjoy without the guilt of stepping away from my desk or out of my car because let’s face it – as women, our checklists are truly endless. What has emerged during this process, has been the realisation that there was some scattering – the token “so many ideas with so much that needs doing to bring them to life,” and I needed to do some realigning to ensure progressively efficient growth.
I love blogging and in a perfect world where I’m not juggling a million responsibilities and the mental warfare of prioritising tasks for my life and growing business, I would be seated on a beach in Mayorca or taking photos of the historic architecture in Stone Town, Zanzibar, writing para upon para about how we should all take a moment to slow down and absorb life’s beauty. Which led me to my post today, on what we should all be doing to open up more time for us to be able to do the things that we enjoy, while keeping all the wheels turning.
So, do allow me to share my top tips for streamlining your small business – and everything else you have going on. Points are commonplace but do work and will work for you if you commit to adopting them for yourself:
1. Identify online support tools to help you with admin. So I was one of those women that would spend hours on excel trying to design fancy templates for invoicing or quotations – (I’m not the best with excel, I wish there was an auto-design button for a spreadsheet). But then I discovered great tools online that let you embed your logo and do all the calculations for you, convert to PDF and email in a matter of minutes. Some of these like Invoicehome.com even tell you which invoices are outstanding and when to schedule your follow ups with the client. Get on these tools – they come free or at a very low cost to help you get on track with chasing your money.
2. Online presence. As I navigate the world of helping entrepreneurs start their businesses or raise their profile, you’ll be amazed at the number of small business owners that do not value the importance of a website. In today’s digital age, your website is the number one point of call for potential clients ahead of them picking up their phones to call your or sending you a message on your social media networks. You do not need a website with a million pages – a simple webpage outlining who you are, what you do and where your customers can find you will suffice. A webpage also helps identify whether your services are truly what you need before approaching you – again, saving you time.
3. Pay small bills in advance. “I love paying my bills” - said nobody. And every small business owner’s biggest challenge is balancing between outgoing payments and incoming remittances. If you can manage direct debit for small bills or pay them upfront – do. It saves you unnecessary disconnections, failed deliveries due to non-payment of a tiny amount or the run around if you work in a cash only environment.
4. Commit to your schedule by shortening your to-do list. I’m still old school in my scheduling I tend to revert to checklists and pieces of paper in my handbag – simply because for me, writing versus typing what I need to do gives me ownership of the task at hand. Don’t write down endless lists that you won’t even touch the surface of completion as this will set you on track to feeling like you didn’t achieve anything when you have two ticks on a 10-point check list. Rather be realistic in what you believe you will achieve, including personal errands like grocery shopping or taking the kids for a play-date. Those tasks still take time and you want to be accountable for your time spent doing anything. With consistency and practicing scheduling, you will be able to carefully plan, knowing full well it will take you 60 minutes to draft a press release or 90 to go for a car wash or salon run. Time is money, and you can’t account for either if you don’t schedule tasks appropriately.
5. Outsource your services. I always maintain that in your network you will know people that have a solution to any one of your entrepreneurial needs. I can build websites, having worked to build our first Quintessentialf.com website alongside my partner on the project. However, that experience taught us that if a budget is available to get someone else do it – do that instead. It took us months to achieve, characterised by an abundance of sleepless nights. On our website upgrade we paid someone else to do it who was able to share valuable tools and insights that led to an awesome unveiling. It also took him way less time to do, giving us an opportunity to focus on other things while also helping him as a small business owner. Similarly for accounting and HR resourcing – if you can outsource, do it.
6. Automate your tasks. Because it’s a grueling task to move from one social media platform to another, multiple times a day, posting your messaging. Automation goes a long way in getting a lot of the behind the scenes work done while you focus on other things, with tools like Later and Hootsuite working wonders in cross platform promotion. Make your life easier by paying for these type of services. Again, time is money.
7. Unplug from your gadgets. Phones, tablets, smart watches and so on. If you have a bunch of work to do that requires concentration, try to unplug for one or two hours. Sometimes a phone call or that exciting debate on your social media timeline can quite literally throw your day to the dogs, leaving you with a longer checklist for tomorrow. Choose moments throughout the day to disconnect and reconnect with your thoughts, emotions and objectives for the day and off course, follow through with execution!
8. Set boundaries. As women, the requests for us to show up and solve problems are unending. Working in the fabulous world of PR has shown me that PR is anything but glamourous as clients expect you to like Jesus, turn water into wine. So set clear boundaries. Know when to say no if there are no spoils to the toil. Be intentional about regrouping or doing something you love to keep the inspiration coming. Also, your loved ones will thank you.
9. Partnerships are life! Word of mouth (WOM) marketing is one of the most impactful methods by which to get the messaging about your products and services into your market. You can further leverage WOM through cementing partnerships with your clients or other small businesses as you embark on cross-marketing exercises or sponsorships. Your social (and business) capital is everything, use it to your advantage! If you manage your relationships effectively, you will be able to tap into their customer base and they into yours, making it one big happy and hopefully, prosperous family!
Yvonne C. Mtengwa is the author of Reinvented: Challenging insecurity to live authentically through faith, a book encouraging women to confront their issues with relationships, insecurities and self-fulfilling prophesies, in an effort to truly discover who they were created to be.
A marketing and communications strategist, she is also the Co-founder of Quintessentialf.com, a Christian lifestyle movement for women, and Founder of Narratives Inc., a boutique communications agency specializing in entrepreneurial design, working with lifestyle and social development enterprises across sub-Saharan Africa.
To read more about Yvonne, visit her website on www.ReinventedToday.com