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Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business (Contribution from Keith Coppersmith)

The following post comes to us from Keith Coppersmith, an experienced business consultant who servers small businesses and startups.


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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business

Did you know that 51% of customers stop doing business after just one negative experience? Research further shows that businesses lose over $62 billion every year on poor customer service.

Precisely because of that, wise small business owners don’t look at great customer support as a cost. For them, this is a chance to increase sales and boost brand loyalty.

Now, when it comes to providing spotless customer support, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few great tactics that will help you take your customer relationships to the next level.

Don’t Overcomplicate Customer Conversations

Providing customer support is not an opportunity for you to showcase your impressive industry knowledge. When reaching out to you, a customer expects to get a specific answer that solves their problem.

Using overly complex technical jargon may cause miscommunication issues and hurt user experience. It may even seem as if you yourself don’t know the answer to the question. To keep your customers happy, you need to speak their language. Simple and effective explanations will boost their satisfaction and motivate them to buy from you again.

Help your Customers Make Payments Faster

The flexibility of your services can get you a long way. Let’s take an example of invoicing, as this is one of the major problems businesses face. Stats say that 64% of businesses have unpaid invoices that have gone unpaid for at least 60 days.

Sure, in the short term, you need to find the right financing method to boost your bottom line. For example, you can improve cash flow with invoice finance. This financing option brings numerous benefits to small businesses and startups. First, invoice finance firms usually pay businesses about 80% of the total sum within 48 hours, meaning you’ll get your money fast. Second, unlike with bank loans, there are no high-interest rates. Finally, invoicing doesn’t hurt user experience and helps you maintain stronger client relationships.

Sure, these are all short-term solutions. To boost your cash flow in the long run, you need to manage your late payments strategically. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your customer support:

  • Offer multiple payment options to boost their buying experience and encourage them to buy from you.
  • B2B businesses should also have a billing policy, where they would clearly state when and how you want to get paid and how you will handle late payments.
  • Send invoices on time to get customers to take them seriously.
  • Automate your rebilling process. With the help of the right software, your customers will be able to track their payments directly from an app, get informed about any failed payments, and get actionable tips to solve these problems faster.

Answer Customer Questions in Real-Time

The demands of a modern customer have changed. They now use multiple channels to communicate with brands. Unsurprisingly, they expect businesses to use these channels, too. Research says most customers expect to get an answer within 2 hours, while 84% of them don’t want to wait longer than a day.

Precisely because of that, you need to need to provide multichannel customer services. Update your contact information on your site regularly and get listed on all major business directories. You should also provide your email address, links to social media support profiles, and live chats. Multichannel communication increases user satisfaction and helps them resolve the problem faster.

Leverage the Power of Social Networks

Many brands have started seeing the value of social networks in building customer relationships. First, you can use AI-powered software like chatbots to provide customers with timely and relevant answers. Today’s chatbots are smart and they’re constantly learning from customer interactions to understand their intent and give relevant feedback.

You can also use social monitoring tools to track your brand/product mentions on social networks and participate in customers’ conversations instantly. These tools give you a great opportunity to identify customers experiencing problems with your products, help them fix these problems effectively, and turn them into brand advocates.

Collect Customer Feedback Regularly

There are numerous metrics you can track to assess your small business’ performance. And, one of the most important ones is customer satisfaction. You need to understand how your customers feel about your brand, what they like, appreciate, or hate about it.

Collecting customer feedback is one of the most significant aspects of customer support, given that 91% of unhappy customers won’t complain about poor experiences with your brand. They will simply leave you for your competitors.

There are numerous ways to do gather user feedback. I’ve already mentioned the importance of social listening and AI-powered chatbots. These tools let you see what questions your customers usually ask and what problems they experience.

You could also create a dedicated feedback form on your website and even reach out to a customer that abandoned the shopping cart. Live chat support can also be effective. Once a customer support agent helps a customer, they can send them feedback. Finally, you can always call a customer and ask them for their opinions directly.

Over to You

With the rise of sophisticated customer relationship management tools, providing subpar customer services are not acceptable anymore. You need to provide timely customer support, answer customer feedback professionally, and customize your customer services. This way, you will build stronger customer relationships and increase brand loyalty.

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About the Author: Keith Coppersmith is an Adelaide based business consultant with a degree in Media Management. With experience in numerous small businesses and startups, he enjoys giving advice on all things marketing.

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7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While there are many advantages to being your own boss, there are also certain things you may never experience again (for the most part). Depending upon how you look at it, this could be a win-win scenario. Either way, now six years into running my own business, I’ve realized that there are a few things I will likely never have as a business owner.

A Day Completely Free From Work

The upside to running my own business, I can work from anywhere. The downside, I can work from anywhere. For this reason, my work followers me anywhere I have internet access. And even without internet access, it’s still on my mind. I’m not likely to ever go completely “offline” for more than a day, but that’s because I prefer to stay on top of my work and grow my business. When you’re passionate about what you do, you’re not always craving that next vacation!

Limited Vacation Days

Speaking of vacation, I can time off whenever I feel like it and as often as I want to. It still holds true that my work will be something I carry with me, but I doubt anyone feels too sorry when I’m checking emails from the Bahamas. Being a business owner is about balance. I can take unlimited vacation days, but I’m still responsible for delivering what I promised to my clients. Time management is key.

A Tax Return

I gave up hope a long time ago that I would ever see a tax return. As a business owner, I pay not only at tax time, but I pay quarterly throughout the year leading up to it. It’s important to point out that my clients don’t withhold taxes in their payments, so it’s strictly on me to make sure I am paying the fair and appropriate amount of taxes based on my income. Similar to having unlimited vacation days, I don’t expect anyone to feel bad for my tax situation. After all, if I’m paying more it means I’m earning more. But I have to laugh at the commercials that suggest I use my tax return for this or that. It’s been nearly a decade since the IRS wrote me a check.

Normal Work Hours

For better – and worse – I don’t have set “normal” work hours. It works out for the most part that I’m in front of my computer between 9 and 4, but there will be times I’m taking a 8pm conference call or I’m online at 6am to clean up my inbox. On the upside, I can also go offline for a couple hours in the morning to get in a work out, or in the afternoon to catch a nap. I’m so far removed from the concept of a 9-5 job that I doubt I would last long in that work environment again.

A Fixed Income

As a business owner, my income is anything but fixed. I have a meager paycheck I receive each month from my business for tax purposes, but I also receive distributions throughout the year however I see fit. Every year and every month, my income is up to me. I have to constantly and consistently satisfy my current clients and keep my pipeline full of new clients. In a crazy scenario, every client could decide to discontinue their services and I would be left at square one. On the flip side (and the more common scenario), I take on additional clients each month and grow my income.

It’s not common that many people can increase their monthly “salary” by a couple thousand dollars in a month by providing the same services they’re already providing to others. For this reason and many others, I love owning a business, and owning my income.

Someone Else Controlling My Schedule

Because no single client owns 100% of my time, they do not have control of my schedule. I remember my life prior to entrepreneurship where I would have someone slap a meeting or conference call on my schedule and so long as it was during normal work hours I had no leverage to push back. I had to stop whatever I was doing to be there. Now, when a client requests a meeting, they provide me with several options and I have the ability to select what works best for me. If I can’t make a meeting, my clients don’t know if it’s because of a work conflict or a hair appointment (or more commonly it doesn’t work with my toddler’s nap schedule). I control my own schedule and strategically plan my days to be efficient and convenient.

A Boring Day

As a business owner, there is no such thing as a boring day. Often the excitement comes from exceeding a client’s expectation or receiving a great lead for new business. Other times, “excitement” is the rush of an emergency or crisis that you have to resolve. Even if I carve a free afternoon to go offline from work, I’m not strapped to my office. I can run errands, do something relaxing or spend time with my kids. Every day and every email is different. The hours fly by and I wouldn’t ever want to return to the days of watching the clock!

Are you a business owner? Can you relate to some of the things I’ve mentioned or do you have an idea of your own to add? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 

31 Lessons from a 30-Something Entrepreneur

What I Learned as an Entrepreneur in my 30s

Tomorrow, December 18, I will turn 31 years old. Last year, as I entered this new decade of my life, I wrote about how I anticipated this new chapter to shift my entrepreneurial outlook and possibly my business model.

Compared to 12 months ago, I would say things feel pretty similar. I was given some unique opportunities to expand my business through new partnerships and into new markets in 2018. However, my core services remain the same, my passion and gratitude for what I do is ever-present and I plan to spend 2019 enjoying the fulfillment – and sometimes luxuries – of my career.

But what I can tell you has changed is the wisdom I carry with me into each client meeting, each presentation and with each email I send. By no means do I have it all figured out, but I have learned some pretty important lessons in the last 7+ years of running my public relations business.

So for my birthday this year, I spent some time reflecting on the advice I received along the way that continues to guide my choices to this day. In honor of turning 31, I’m going to share with you 31 pearls of wisdom that I hope you find as useful and thought-provoking as I have.

1. You have to want it. People can give you the what and the how, but you must be the who and you need to figure out your why.

2. Just because you can outsource something, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re more efficient at completing the task on your own, or it’s a critical part of your business strategy, it’s important to remain hands-on.

3. You will come across clients who aren’t a good fit for your product or services, and vice versa. Don’t chase after them and don’t force it. Listen to your instincts.

4. Your reputation will be the single best branding tool you will ever have. Don’t risk it for anything!

5. No matter your industry or business model, you will have competitors. Get to know them; befriend them. If you do this successfully, you’ll gain a valuable lead generator. There’s more than enough business to go around!

6. You can never overemphasize your thanks and appreciation for your vendors and subcontractors. They make you look good. Make sure they know this.

7. Always know what problem your business is solving. If you can’t easily identify what this is, it’s time to immediately rethink your model.

8. Don’t mourn the loss of a business relationship too hard. Time and time again life will prove that this space will be filled ten-fold, and with better opportunities.

9. Give everyone a second chance. Those who doubted your skills and talents previously, just might become a valuable client or lead generator for you.

10. The reward for good work is more work. To grow your business do good work. Yes, it’s that simple.

11. Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. Don’t chase every new marketing trend or fad. You’ll waste a lot of time and money doing so. Carefully weigh the right strategies for your business.

12. Keep in mind that your target audience may not be your actual audience. If you’re aiming for one group, but attracting another, it’s time to rethink who you really want to reach.

13. Know how to say no. This world will stretch you way too thin if you’re not strategic about where you choose to invest your time and talent. Even if you know when you say no, knowing how can be a much larger challenge.

14. Find a reason to laugh daily. Even if this means you have to keep a file of memes, photos and funny memories. If life doesn’t get you a reason to laugh that day, create your own.

15. Ask for advice. Try as you might, you will never have all the answers, nor will the internet. Look to your peers for their collective knowledge on topics they know and you do not.

16. Anchor yourself with principles, values and beliefs that feed your soul. As a business owner or entrepreneur, it’s easy to get tossed in the waves of uncertainty without a strong core to keep you anchored.

17. Each of us has a point of diminishing returns when it comes to work and profit. Know when more money means, well…more problems. Don’t let greed or pressure push you beyond this point.

18. For most of us, technology is a necessary evil to do our jobs. However, we must, must be intentional about unplugging on a regular basis – for the sake of our relationships and health.

19. Have someone with whom you can share your failures and struggles. It’s hard to talk about these things and be vulnerable, but this is when we most need support. Have a few key people in your life who will always meet you where you are, and simply listen.

20. Consistency is half the battle with running a successful business. Don’t give up before you’ve barely left the shoreline. If I’m being honest, you need to buckle up and stick with this for at least 5 years before you can make any sort of educated decision about the viability of running your own business.

21. Reliability is the other half of the battle with running a successful business. So many people are simply unreliable. If you can show employers or clients that you are reliable, you already have a leg up on most.

22. Be present. It’s simply not possible for the human mind to truly multi-task. With work tasks, focus on one and see it through to completion, then move on. At home, be present with your family. Work will always be there, but those family moments are fleeting.

23. You might get some projects that are slightly outside the scope of your core services. So long as you’re being compensated for this time, do it anyway! You’re never above licking some envelopes or running to the printer to make copies for a client. And this good will goes a long way.

24. Don’t get paranoid about success. You worked hard. You deserve this. Don’t feel like it can’t last or it will be taken away from you. Enjoy it for what it is, and pay it forward.

25. Don’t get paranoid about failure. You worked hard. This is not a punishment. Don’t feel like it will last forever and can never be overcome. Appreciate it for what it’s teaching you and move forward.

26. Be a person who gives more than they consume – of time, money, material things and especially love and attention.

27. You don’t have to have it all figured out to still run a good business. I made the leap when I had very little experience both as an entrepreneur and in the field of PR. But I’m so glad I started when it did instead of waiting until I felt ready – or I would still be waiting.

28. Everyone will go through stressful or unfulfilling seasons of life. Give yourself grace, but do keep track of damaging patterns. If you’re stuck in a cycle, something has to change in order for you to move forward.

29. Never undervalue networking with your peers. Building the right amount of quality networking into your business development plan will open doors to connections and potential clients you would never meet otherwise. You have to put yourself out there!

30. There is no magic number of years in business or any particular age that determines a successful or established entrepreneur. It’s all relative to your industry, business model and how you define success.

31. The number one thing people want to feel is heard. Even more than liked or respected, if you can make someone feel heard, you will lay the foundation for effective communication.

And one to grow own…

Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique. You will never be able to compare two people’s situations apples-to-apples, so don’t let someone else’s story make you feel self-conscious or insecure. Most importantly, don’t let anyone else’s experience stop you from creating your own!

 

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Stop Making Project Management Complicated

Stop Making Project Management Complicated

As a business owner, project management is right at the top of the list of core services I provide to my clients. I ensure the deadlines we set any myriad of communication projects, are met and that at any given moment, I know the status of the project and who holds the ball to move things forward.

This might seem like a complicated process. When you consider I handle 30-50 different projects for clients any given month, you might assume I have a long list of sophisticated (and expensive) project management tools at my disposal that help me keep my head on straight.

But you would be quite wrong.

I’m not living under a rock. I’m well aware that technology has provided us with some great tools, especially those that aim to streamline and simplify project management. In fact, I’ve tried out many of these tools before. However, time and time again I’ve been disappointment to find that although they boast some pretty “cool” features, cool didn’t equate to simplicity. Rather, I found myself losing efficiency (and patience) as I tried to learn the ins and outs of these tools – all in an effort to complete tasks that were pretty simple to complete without this technology in the first place.

Maybe you’re found some tools that have become absolute lifesavers to your work organization and efficiency. That’s great – keep using it! But in this article, I want to examine how sometimes we can fall victim to using new technology just for the sake of using new technology.

In which case I say, let’s stop and be smart for a second.

If a boss or a client is asking you to use a special platform or task management system that is, well…whack, don’t be afraid to push back. Take a closer look at my own experience with project management tools and why I continue to use some of the simplest (as well as most cost-effective) tools out there – and how they work just fine when it comes to keeping a bustling business functioning with ease.

What I Don’t Use

Tools that take up more of my time. The first time I test out a new project management tool, it has to feel intuitive to me. I’m a quick judge of character (or in this case quality). If it feels clunky and complicated, or causes redundancy in my process, there’s no way I will continue to use it long-term.

Tools that charge more than a reasonable fee. With so many low-cost and no-cost tools available, a project management tool must really offer some cool features I can’t find elsewhere, if they expect me to pay for them. Only in rare instances has this occurred, and usually only when I know the efficiency I’ll gain will offset this expense exponentially.

Tools that clients don’t want to use. If I expect clients to use a project management tool, it better feel effortless. In the past, I have worked with a few contractors who tried to impose their project management tool on me and my clients. The result? We wouldn’t use the tool and would just email them. I know…I’m part of the problem. But really, the tools were clunky and sending an email was SO much easier…for everyone. The solution was obvious.

Tools that take more effort to explain than use. The last thing I need to add to my inbox is an influx of emails from clients who can’t figure out how to use a tool or technology I’m asking them to use for a project. I’d rather just have them email me their question or piece of the work – it would be a lot more seamless that way. If a tool adds extra steps or induces more questions, I can certainly do without it.

Tools that could potentially backfire or cause more harm than good. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t blindly trust technology. You can ask nearly any business owner and they will have a horror story of how some type of technology they were using either broke, malfunctioned or exposed sensitive data to the world. For this reason alone, I like my simple tools that really can’t mess things up, even for clients who you might swear are trying very, very hard to do so. I like resilient technology, and yes, sometimes this equates to the more simple technology.

What I Do Use

  • Google Docs – For collaboration and sharing.
  • Google VoiceGoogle Voice – For free phone lines in different area codes, and customized voicemails all from one cell phone.
  • Gmail – For email that is clean, simple and intuitive.
  • Boomerang – For scheduling emails to go out at a later date, so I don’t have to remember everything.
  • Doodle – For scheduling a meeting with multiple people – and busy schedules.
  • Microsoft Sticky Notes – For easy and accessible list making that doesn’t require yet one more login, or internet access.
  • QuickBooks – For the sanity of my tax attorney. But really QB makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • DropBox – For file keeping and sharing. I’ve been using it since day 1 of starting my business.
  • Hootsuite – For the most reasonably priced social media scheduling and monitoring platform that allows me to post on behalf of all my clients, even when I’m on vacation.
  • FreeConferenceCall.com – For a free, dedicated conference call line that makes me look like a boss….even when I’m calling in from my couch.

Yes…that’s really it. And I pay about $250 per year for everything.

The bottom line is that you need to find out what works for you. There’s no harm in exploring new technology and other options that might offer you something additional that you need beyond these free or low-cost resources. However, when it comes to the type of tools you use for project management, don’t be a sheep. Just because someone else suggested it or another company is using it, doesn’t mean it will be of equal help to you. Always do your own research and come to your own conclusion.

What type of tools have you found most useful for organization and project management? Are they fancy and sophisticated or simple and low-cost?

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2018 in Business, Entrepreneurship, Life

 

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7 Tips to Help College Seniors Prepare for the Real World

7 Tips to Help College Seniors Prepare for the Real World

Though it may seem far off for college seniors, life in the real world is coming at you fast. Sure, you may be thinking about your next steps to become gainfully employed, but are you really taking action to prepare yourself? Right now is the best time to put the effort into doing everything you can to make yourself as employable as possible.

Here are seven tips to help college seniors prepare for the real world:

1. Brand yourself.

Your senior year in college is the prime time to create your own professional brand that you can carry with you into the real world. Students often stop at creating a resume and cover letter and maybe doing a little job searching each day. There’s a lot more you can be doing!

For example, create a personal website, polish up your Linkedin profile, create personal business cards (which you can often get for free!) and start a blog. As you make a name for yourself, employers who will be doing their research on you will be impressed by what they find online.

2. Clean up your social media.

Let’s talk a little more about what potential employers may find online. If you’ve really been enjoying your college experience, chances are you have a little social media housekeeping to do. Be your own private investigator and dig deep into your archives of photos and posts. This is everything your employer could find as well. Clean it up!

Though you may never be fully able to dust up every last crumb, let’s make sure you’re not leaving heaping dirt piles lying around. Put some serious effort into scouring your social media profiles and get them ready to be spot-checked by employers.

3. Control your online presence. 

Beyond social media, you also need to be thinking about other photos and content that may appear online that include your name or image. These can be both good and bad for an employer to find. I highly recommend every college senior preparing for the real world to utilize www.brandyourself.com. This allows you to see the highest ranking search results for your name online, and choose the ones that you want to remain associated with you, and work to bury the others. For example, you’ll want to raise the rankings of articles that mention your awards and accomplishments, and remove the ones that shine a negative light or aren’t associated with you at all.

4. Leverage your adult networks.

By now you’ve likely gotten pretty good at socializing with your peers. Now it’s time to shift gears and get comfortable socializing with your adult networks (i.e. past employers, family friends and your friends’ parents). As you approach graduation, it’s smart to issue your own “press release” – which is a more professional take on the standard graduation announcement. It doesn’t need to be formatted like a typical press release, rather think of it as an intelligent message that communicates your education, accomplishments, talents and ambitions. Then, share it by mail and email with your adult networks.

They may not be hiring, and maybe they’re not even someone you’d want to work for; however, combined they know A LOT of other people who could be the perfect connection or you. Don’t overlook this!

5. Be accountable and consistent.

One of the most simplest, yet most often overlooked things that college seniors need to be doing to prepare for the real world is to exemplify their “employ-ability” by demonstrating they are accountable and consistent in their actions. When you meet someone at a networking function or job fair, be sure to follow-up. So many students I have met and spoken with at similar events are so excited to be connected, yet only a fraction use the information on the business card I gave them to follow-up with me. The ones that do really stand out. It’s so important to demonstrate early and often that you are a mature professional who is ready for the real world.

6. Let go of your idea of a “dream job.”

This is an important one, so listen close. You need to let go of whatever idea you have spent the last fours developing as your “dream job.” Foremost, it likely doesn’t exist. I’m sorry to serve up the truth like this, but it’s better that you hear it early.

Refocus this energy on doing your research of what an entry job in your field really entails – both in pay and in responsibilities. Now readjust your expectations. If you begin your job search with unrealistic expectations, you are going to turn off employers and potentially walk away from a really great opportunity just because the pay is less than what you want and the responsibilities are more.

7. Unemployment is not an excuse to be unproductive. 

Until you land your first job out of college, there is always, always something you can be doing with your time to put you one step closer. Unemployment is not an excuse to be unproductive. Aside from scouring job postings, you can be investing your time into creating a blog or digital portfolio to house your work. You can freelance your skills to gain experience. You can also volunteer your time on projects that align with your education and career aspirations. I’ll say it again, there is always something productive you can be doing while unemployed until you find your next opportunity.

Are you or someone you know approaching college graduation this semester or next year? What tip do you find to be most helpful or do you have a different idea to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Be sure to share this advice with fellow graduates, too!

 

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How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

As a sole proprietor, you can feel like a “one man band” in your business. While there are certainly perks of running a lean operation where you answer only to yourself,  when it comes to growth, it can be hard to figure out the right way to scale your business.

After all, many people would suggest the solution is simply taking on more employees or infrastructure. But that isn’t your only option to grow. Learn from my tips for growing a business without growing your overhead.

Know Your Target Market

As a business owner, we often look at our target market in the broadest possible sense. But when you feel like you’re just about at maximum capacity for workload, you need to get smarter about knowing who your true target market really is. Quite literally, you need to raise your standards. This means focusing on people or businesses who are most likely to engage with you at a higher level, sign you in to larger, longer contracts and allow you to become efficient in the work you do from them because it’s predictable or residual.

When marketing to new clients, or when prospective clients approach you, it’s important to walk away from something that isn’t a good fit and risks pulling your attention away from clients who are.

Keep Your Bandwidth Clear

I’ve written about bandwidth before and I’ll say it again here. The most common way I see people waste time, and as a result turn away new jobs, is because they allow tasks, that can and should be completely quickly, consume their whole day or week. Every day I outline the core tasks that “must” get accomplished that day in order for everything else to stay on track. Usually this is no more than two or three items – very doable. But I stick to it! I don’t let these tasks slide into the next day just because they technically can. I wrap them up and clear my bandwidth for the next day because, more often than not, a new project comes across my desk and I’m then ready to capitalize on the extra income.

Raise Your Rates

It can make business owners uncomfortable to be faced with the decision to raise rates in order to increase income. In fact, I see most business owners try to do anything else but raise their prices, even if it means using more of their time or decreasing their margins. That doesn’t really make sense!

As I’ve found out from experience, if your project workload is so full that you don’t think you can take on one more client, you need to raise your rates. Why? Because you’re priced almost too competitively if every business around town is knocking down your door. It means you’re a steal of a deal. In most cases this isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But if you want to make more money without taking on more overhead or employees, you need to get comfortable with raising your rates to naturally eliminate your lower paying clientele.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know that these are the clients that eat up most of your time anyways. By raising your rates, you put yourself on a new playing field where you can charge more for your time and do more of the work you love for you the clients you’re passionate about serving.

Work Smarter

My final piece of advice, and it’s something you’ve likely heard before, is to work smarter, not harder. If you want to create more time in your day, you need to carefully examine your current processes and work style in order to identify the things that are sucking up time without producing results.

Maybe you’re putting way too much time into creating client proposals. Make this more efficient and streamlined! Maybe you’re giving away hours of your day at coffee meetings and networking events. Learn the art of saying no and focus on only the activities that stand to bring in direct income. When you make a conscious effort to clean up your business’s processes, you’ll be surprised by how hard you’ve been working, without really being smart about it.

Are you a sole proprietor or simply a business owner looking to maintain a lean operation? Share the ways you plan to strategically grow your business without taking on more employees or overhead!

 

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How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

It’s becoming more and more common for people to work from home, either full-time or even just a few days per week. If your career allows you to work virtually, it’s likely you’ve found yourself trying to be productive at home only to be derailed by a myriad of different distractions.

For the last seven years, I’ve grown my public relations business while working exclusively from home. During different periods of time, that included juggling work with infant babies at home and trying to schedule conference calls around nap times. The good news is, I survived! And throughout my experience working from home, I’ve developed quite a few tips and tricks to that have helped me to stay focused and productive.

Here are my go-to tips for staying focused and making the most of your time when working from home. Take a look!

Make a Mental Commute

When you work from home you don’t have the benefit of a commute. Maybe you’ve never viewed a commute as a benefit, but think about it for a moment. Physically moving from one place to another gives you the mental separation of work and home. During your commute you can get yourself in a “work” mindset. When you work from home, however, you have to make a conscious effort to change from your “home” mindset to your work one.

One tip I highly recommend is having a dedicated office space that feels separate from the rest of your house. This allows you to “commute” to your office and on that commute you can clear your mental space and walk into your office ready to work.

Stick to a Routine

Sure, working from home gives you extreme flexibility in your schedule, but this can also be a trap. To be effective when working from home, it’s so important to stick to a routine. There will certainly be days where this routine will be disrupted, but for the most part you must establish a core routine and stick to whenever you can.

Pick a routine that fits your personality and workload. Are you more effective in the early morning or do you thrive in the afternoons? Unlike a traditional office environment with a strict 9-5 schedule, you get to set your own schedule. However, once you set one, let it give your day structure and stability.

Set Your Work Hours

Along with setting a routine, you also need to establish your work hours. When working from home, it’s easy for work and personal life to blend together. If you’re not careful, you’ll find that you’re never fully present in either space, because you can’t separate the two. By setting work hours, you’ll know that from 7am until 3pm (or whatever you choose) is the time to focus exclusively on work-related tasks. Outside of that time, you must train yourself to put work aside, stop checking emails and shift your focus to friends, family and yourself.

Resist Chores and Errands

During your set work hours, resist any and all temptations to dive into tasks that are not directly related to work. I’ll admit that when working from home, I’ll throw in a load of laundry, put away dishes and tidy up some rooms as I walk through. These are small and necessary tasks that shouldn’t divert you from more than a few minutes of work time. The tasks I’m addressing here are the ones that can sabotage your work productivity for hours. Tasks like sorting out your closet, reorganizing a room or running personal errands can steal hours away from your day and can reasonably wait until the evening or weekend.

Give Yourself Small Breaks

Although you want to squeeze the most you can out of every work day, you can only accomplish this by giving yourself small breaks. Why? Because no one can be productive 100% of the work day. We all need mental and physical breaks in order to return back to a task and be even more productive than we would be otherwise. Trust me on this one. Allow yourself short, timed breaks where you can get some fresh air, stretch your legs, get a snack or cup of coffee and then return to your desk ready to work again.

Close Up Shop!

Finally and most importantly, when you’re done for the day – be done! Don’t linger around refreshing your inbox and fishing around for people to ask you for something. Disconnect, go offline and enjoy your time off. After all, you’ve earned it! The best part of having a productive work day is that you can close up shop knowing the most important tasks are taken care of and everything else can wait until tomorrow.

Do you work from a home office? How do you stay focused throughout the day? Share your tips and best practices by leaving a comment below!

 

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