It’s that time of year again … well, yes, it’s Christmas time, and who doesn’t love that, but seriously we need to focus on work for a minute!
It’s time to clear the decks and get ready for the new year.
Will you grow your business this year?
Stay the same?
Close your business?
Whatever your goals were at the beginning of the year may not be where you’re headed now. December is a great time to take stock, put away old ideas, and get prepped for what comes next.
Whether you’re a one-person show or on your way to empire status, streamlining your workflow as much as possible is a critical factor in success. These tips will help you close out 2020 and start the new year strong.
Get Clarity On Your Specialty
Chances are you have some competition. As much as we like to believe we’re all special snowflakes, the fact is, it’s rare to be that “one of a kind” business.
So how do you set yourself apart from all the rest?
The best way for you to stand out amongst your competitors is to get dialed in on what makes you unique.
For example, I’m the best workflow automation person on the planet but a total train wreck when it comes to consistent social media posting. Surprised I put that in writing? Don’t be. It’s a good thing.
Let me explain …
While both fall into the marketing space, you’re never going to see me advertising social media services. I got smart a long time ago and subcontract that work out to people who love doing it and are great at it.
This works for me in many ways:
- I’m not struggling to do stuff I loathe and focus my time doing the work that makes me shine.
- My clients are better served when I provide subcontractors who specialize. It saves my time and their money, again making me shine!
- I’m able to employ people and help lift up and mentor another small business trying to make it in their field. Making me … you guessed it … shine! #sparkles ya’ll
Take a look back at this year; can you pick out the things you loved working on most? Where did you feel like you genuinely excelled? Where did you shine?
Now look ahead and come up with a plan to attract more clients in need of those specific skills that made those projects not only enjoyable but gave you that boost of confidence to call yourself best in class.
Let’s not forget, though, the tasks you never want to do again. It’s a good idea to have a plan for those too.
Can you effectively subcontract that out or hire a cost-effective intern to take those off your plate?
Or do you simply need to avoid taking on clients who are not ideal?
Remember, it’s ok to decline to work with someone who isn’t a good fit. In the end, it will be better for both of you if you’re strong enough to say no.
Now you might be thinking, “but I don’t know what I specialize in yet.” That’s ok. Growth isn’t a one and done process.
My recommendations throughout this article are meant to be done annually. Or even semi-annually if the need arises.
You might not know today, so keep finding work opportunities, and eventually, you’ll begin to see the pattern of what makes you happy and what you feel good doing.
And hey, if you like something, but you’re not sure you’re good at it, be intentional in your effort. Keep doing it with an eye on improving.
I wasn’t good at crocheting until I’d made at least 20 ugly scarves!
Analyze your efforts, set clear goals, and you’ll become a pro in no time.
Review your Client List
By now, you’ve probably figured out that the work doesn’t just come to you. You have to go out and find clients and projects. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that having clients isn’t a given. Businesses close unexpectedly, lost sales cause cutbacks, and your best client today may be gone tomorrow.
This isn’t exclusive to 2020, however. Over time your client list will have its rises and falls. Revisiting past clients and checking in on current ones is an excellent way to make sure you stay busy.
Referrals are great, but you can’t just assume your clients will refer you. You need to be actively asking for referrals and rewarding clients whose referrals become clients. Giving even a low-value reward will build brand loyalty.
It’s also true that not every client is a perfect fit. Reviewing your list will make the bad apples stand out. This is the time to decide if the relationship is salvageable or if it’s time to cut ties.
Dropping a client isn’t taboo. In fact, it’s a healthy and wise decision for both parties. If you’re not happy, you’re probably not giving it your all, and you’re both suffering. Dropping a bad client can improve your business’s overall health and make room for the ideal clients you’re seeking.
If there’s a person or team that you love working with, approach them about collaborating more. They might not realize you’re open to the idea, so making the first move could prove invaluable in the new year. Your virtual team is as essential to your mental health as any real “office” team. Collaborating can lead to more significant, better-paying projects, so seek co-workers that make you happy and can help you bring in the big bucks.
Engage in Networking
I know I know you hate networking. It feels like work! it’s even right there in the name networking. You’ve got to get dressed and smile and actually talk to people, meh.
However, the reality is you won’t always have a line to your front door of ideal clients begging to work with you, so you need a network of people who can set up opportunities for you.
The good news is that networking is a whole lot easier now than it was before.
Virtual meet-ups, social media groups, and the big daddy of networking, Linkedin, have made it a lot less workish.
But here’s the trick … you need to network with people that are NOT in your industry. If you’re a functional health coach, networking with other functional health coaches isn’t going to land you an inbox full of referrals.
You’ll never know what opportunities are out there if you don’t put in the effort to find them. Join a community for yoga instructors or chiropractors. Get to know them and ease into showing them how your services can complement theirs.
Once you’ve found some good networks, keep in touch with them and make sure you overdeliver on any referrals to ensure you get more referrals over time.
If you find networking exhausting, utilizing a robust CRM can help you automate the process and make it easier!
Tune-up Your Website by Adding Social Proof
It’s one thing to claim you’re the best in the business and quite another to prove it. And thanks to a particular online shopping dynasty, we’re all pretty much programmed to look for online reviews. I mean, when was the last time you purchased something that had less than four stars?
Attract more clients by showcasing your best work online using social media and a website.
Think about the last time you hired someone. What was the first thing you did? It was probably some light internet stalking to see what other people had to say! The same is true for your potential clients, so you may as well make it easy for them to stalk you by putting your client’s comments front and center.
Whenever sending an email, provide links to your testimonials and social media handles. But remember, providing the links only works if you’re updating your website and posts regularly. No one will be convinced to hire you if the last time you posted a testimonial was in 2012!
You may be thinking you need a marketing budget to look professional online, but that’s simply not true. With a great CRM, you can easily create dynamic landing pages to impress any potential client.
Don’t forget to put those stalking skills to good use; get out there and see what your competitors are doing. You may find inspiration for your next post or product offering. Like and follow your peers and ask them to do the same. People are more likely to notice your posts if you have engagement, and it’s ok to ask friends and peers to help. Just make sure you’re doing the same for them!
Resolutions are for Quitters
Oh, come on, you know it’s true. Resolutions are like wishes; without goals to put them into action, they simply float away by the end of January.
This year decide instead to make those resolutions attainable. Approach your resolutions like they are projects, then project manage the heck out of them! Set short term goals – with deadlines -that will help you implement your resolutions in manageable pieces.
Know Your Worth
When was the last time you raised your rates? That long, huh. Well now is an excellent time to take stock and remind yourself of what you are worth.
You’re probably thinking, “but there’s a pandemic, and people can’t afford much right now,” and that’s true. But that doesn’t lessen the fact that YOU ARE WORTH MORE.
Don’t go crazy or anything. Raising your rates 50% would be business suicide, however raising 1%-5% is not only reasonable, but it’s also justifiable.
As a business owner, it’s up to you to adjust your rates according to your expertise. Remember that stalking we were doing a few minutes ago? Well, you can also look into what your competitors are charging while you’re at it. You don’t have to be the highest priced person in your niche, but you definitely don’t want to be the lowest either. Take into account your experience along with what the market will bear and adjust accordingly.
Save For That Rainy Day
This is likely the hardest one to do. As a small business, the only person putting money in your retirement fund is you. There’s no company matched 401(k) to rely on. It’s time to take control of your future. Here’s a list of rainy day funds to consider setting up:
- Put three months of rent/mortgage payment in the bank.
- If you have employees put six months of payroll away to avoid layoffs as long as possible.
- Look into a health savings account.
- Have an emergency fund.
- Open an IRA.
I know it seems impossible, but you don’t have to fund them all at once. It might take you seven years to have enough stocked away to feel secure, but you can do it. Try this; every time a client pays you, put some of that money away. Even if it’s literally only one dollar, with enough one dollars you’ll make it happen.
Preparing for Taxes Makes them less Taxing
It’s time to close up this year and prepare for the next. You can start by ensuring that all your clients have a current w9 for your business or you personally if you’re freelancing. Having a great CRM makes this an easy process.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you’ve gathered up all your receipts, 1099’s, interest statements, and anything else your CPA may ask for. If you’re doing your own taxes, go with God my friend!
After ten years of DIY taxes, I finally bit the bullet and got a CPA. As you grow, your taxes may become more challenging to complete, and having a CPA definitely takes some of the pressure off.
Freelancers typically need to pay quarterly taxes, so keep in mind the date to pay is just around the corner.
If you haven’t already, make 2021 the year you separate your personal and business expenses. It will make preparing your taxes much more manageable.
Having not only separate bank accounts but different banks makes it simpler. Blue is for business, and red is for personal. Even I can remember that!
Take a look at how many tools and services you have on auto-pay and update the billing to withdraw from the proper business or personal account.
Bonus, by taking stock of your auto pays, you’ll probably find a few you don’t need anymore and can cancel.
Extra bonus, set up an automatic transfer to savings for the same amount as the canceled items, and you’ll be on your way to filling your rainy-day funds!
If you feel like you need the power of Infusionsoft to grow your business but feel a bit overwhelmed by it, feel free to schedule a Creative Solutions call with me, and we can come up with a plan to get you up and running quickly so you can do what you do best.
About the Author,
Michelle Bell is a Marketing Automation Expert and Keap Certified Partner with a passion for creative solutions. She excels at identifying needs and resolving them, creative and genuine communication, understanding business process efficiency, simplifying the complicated, facilitating relationships, and being herself in all things. She began her career in finance, later moving into regulatory affairs for the local public utilities, before finding her passion for working with small businesses and coaches. Michelle is all about family and believes you build work around your life, not vice versa!