When you are a one-person operation, fostering the growth of your business and making sure everything is running smoothly - on top of completing projects for your clients - can seem like a daunting task. You may have started out small as a freelancer for a couple of clients, but before you knew it you were a solopreneur running your own business, working with a variety of clients and having to make sure you were maintaining your website, doing our taxes and being business savvy. Soon, you’re just coasting along, trying to keep your head above water without much time to spend checking on the health of your business. This is when a few simple routines can come into play and help you keep track of how you and your business are doing. These routines can help you make any necessary adjustments before little problems snowball into big ones. In the first part of the SageGroupy series on routines, we offer a simple yearly routine to help you keep your business on track and thriving.
The beginning of the year: Time to set business goals and make a few New Year’s resolutions
- are you getting enough business to sustain your lifestyle?
- is it time to increase your rates?
- is it time to drop any clients?
- are there any networking events that you should attend?
- is your business going according to plan? Are you on schedule to reach your long-term goals for your business? Is there anything that needs to be tweaked in order to get it back on track?
- what are your business goals for this year? What do you need to do to achieve them?
- how am I going to get feedback from clients to identify strengths and weaknesses?
- how can I incorporate last year’s feedback from clients into my business strategy?
Organize your Calendar for the Year:
- plan when you need to finish any on going projects
- check if you need to take any holidays for certain events
- schedule any networking events
- set deadlines for achieving your business goals and schedule any necessary work that needs to be completed towards achieving those goals
- decide how much you need to promote yourself this year in order to gain new clients and plan how much time you need to spend on promotional activities each month
- schedule any large scale promotions you plan to do throughout the year - for example: a summer sale or holiday marketing campaign
Check your Budget:
- make sure you are getting enough money to keep your business and lifestyle going - if you’re not, decide how you are going to fix that problem.
- estimate how much money to set aside for taxes each month
- check for any big expenses coming up - businesswise or personal
- make a monthly budget
- if it is the beginning of the calendar year, look at what you need to do to prepare for tax season - do you need to budget for an account?
- if it is the beginning of the fiscal year, review your tax return to see if you need to adjust anything this year tax-wise and file your return away for safekeeping
Mid-Year: Time to take stock and make sure you’re on track
- am I hitting my goals?
- what do I need to do to catch-up so I can hit my yearly goals?
- is my current promotion strategy working?
- have I lost any clients? Why?
- am I getting my projects done on time? Am I getting them done early? Do I need to improve my time management?
- am I receiving payments from all my clients on time?
- am I having any communication problems with clients that need to be remedied?
- is the feedback I am getting from clients showing anything I need to improve on?
Review your Calendar:
- check for any upcoming networking and see what you need to prepare for them
- see if you have any holidays scheduled and when you plan to make up for lost work time
- confirm any dates for events that had been tentatively scheduled at the beginning of the year
- review your timeline for upcoming promotions and see if you need to start preparing for them
Review your Budget:
- make sure your business is on track and supporting your lifestyle
- decide if you have to make any fiscal adjustments - Need to add clients? Need to spend less? Need to stash away more cash for taxes?
- if you have a surplus, think about how you want to deal with it- Should you invest back in your business/buy new equipment? Can you hire someone to work on a piece of your business that is not in your area of expertise, - for example: an accountant, a social media manager, a web page designer etc.?
End-of-the-Year: Time to celebrate your success and learn from your failures
- did I achieve my business goals?
- what areas can I improve in next year?
- did I have any major successes this year? Any fails?
- is there something about my business that I need to change?
- what did I accomplish am I most proud of?
- what kind of feedback did I get from clients? Are there any negative trends that i need to work on? Do I have any strengths that I should promote more?
- is my work fulfilling? Are there any parts of it that I hate spending my time on? Can I outsource some of the drudgery? Can I try to focus more on the areas that I find most fulfilling - is that financially feasible?
Take a look back at your Calendar:
- check that you completed all projects on time and if not, examine what went wrong in order to take preventative measures in the future
- review the time you spent networking and see what you gained from it - do you think that next year you should spend more time networking or not
- see how your larger promotions worked out - were they worth the time and effort or do you need to change your strategy
- take a look at how your business strategy fit into your calendar and if there are any ways that you can spend your time more wisely next year
Assess your Financial Situation:
- if it is the end of the fiscal year - file your taxes
- check your net profits
- check your savings - make sure business is going well enough that you are financially comfortable now and it is allowing you to build a safety-net and save to finance your retirement - or anything else you dream of for your future
- review whether or not you achieved your financial goals - if not, why not?
- make sure your current business strategy is financially sustainable and if it is not, make a new plan
- figure out where you are earning the most money and think about how you can spend more time working on those projects
- review how your business weathered any unexpected expenses - was your business healthy enough to handle them or do you need to fix something?
- decide whether there are any types of projects/work/clients that are not financially lucrative enough to keep
By spending 3 days out of your year to do a check-up on the overall health of your business you can assess whether or not your business is thriving or barely surviving. Taking the time to review how our business strategy is playing out can save us from a big surprise down the road - for example: you might think things are going along fine, you are meeting your deadlines, paying your bills and you clients seem to be happy, but suddenly an unexpected event takes place- maybe a client drops you or a big expense pops up - and you realize that you do not have anyway to deal with it because you are just getting by. As a solopreneur, it is dangerous to be in the position of ‘just getting by’, so take time to review your business and see what areas you can work on to make it more successful. Even when your business is doing well, it is still important to check-in once in a while to see if there are ways to build upon your success and make your business model even better. Check out our next post to see what you can do on a monthly basis to keep your business operating smoothly.