We start the year with the best intentions.
Get fit, get organized, start a new project. Then life gets in the way and we fall into old habits and routines. Chances are we don’t achieve our new goals because we fail to plan. We fail because we do not hold ourselves accountable, we make excuses and just don’t know where to start. Now, there are some people who are just organized.
Whether it was by some lucky chance they got the organization gene or they were blessed by the organization fairy, they just are. I am not one of these people. I, on the other hand, previously had to make a sticky note, a list, put a reminder in my phone and ask a friend to prompt me to do the most trivial of tasks.
Point is, I had to work at it. How then have I managed to run and grow my own home business? I made a plan and I wrote it down. Then I used that plan to hold myself accountable and to measure my success.
I created tools (that I now share with you) to keep me organized and allow me to still have a personal life. It wasn’t easy and I learned a great deal from my failures. Over the years I have learned there are 5 essential things I have to do to run my business and be successful.
Make space just for your business.
Whether it a card table in a closet or an entire home office, you need to make a space that is dedicated for business only. This will help you feel like you are going to work and not just working from home.
Also you will keep everything in one place it will be easier to keep organized. This space should include a spot just for your gear. Whether you keep it in cubby holes or in a traveling case, it is part of your business and should have its own organized spot.
When you get ready to go on a shoot you don’t want to be searching through the house for equipment. Make a place for it and put it in back when you are done.
Don’t forget to take picture of your gear and scan receipts to save in a cloud or email to your insurance agent. Included in this a place for everything system you should have all of your packaging and marketing supplies in one spot as well.
Think of it as a tiny factory; if you are going to put together client packaging it should all be in one place like an assembly line. You will save time not having to search for the stickers or whatever if it is all in one place ready to go.
Receipts and finance records can be your worst nightmare when running your own business. If you do not stay on top of this aspect of your professional life it can get away from you fast. Create a system that works for you.
You can use a ledger or spread sheet to track your data or you can buy an already built workbook like the one from Colorvale®. Keeping track of this from the start will only make things easier for you in the long run. You should probably get in the habit of updating these records at least once a week.
That way you are not only keeping your information up to date you are keeping it relevant in your mind. Out of sight out of mind is not an approach you want to take with your accounting. We also recommend making scanned copies of receipts.
You could even take a picture of them with your phone and then file the paper copy safely away in a single envelope. Electronic copies stored on a cloud based system like Dropbox are safe and secure in the event of unforeseen circumstances (i.e. Fire, etc.)
Once a month I take an entire day to schedule everything I need to post on social media.
I do not do this haphazardly. It is very structured.
You see, to engage your audience you need to balance tips, questions, ads, humor, inspiration and the real you each day. So many times we think of social media as a place to market ourselves but we fail to see the most effective way to do that.
Marketing isn’t about an ad. It’s about becoming a resource and place for your target audience to want to be. Because then you are visible and when you are visible you have a platform.
There are so many great solutions for social media automation. So many!
I have tried them all. I quickly find when testing out a site that I love the easy to use and sensible options. Some platforms provide extensive information and ability to not only schedule posts but also communicate or comment back and forth with your audience. These tend to become difficult to use and understand.
I like a basic solution that is just for automating and found that Bufferapp.com is my favorite. It allows you to schedule you posts with the many social media accounts you may have such as Facebook, Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, Twitter, G+, etc. So again, once a month I start my scheduling for the following month.
I layout a social media calendar and pencil in what types of posts are going to go where and at what time. This makes going to my Buffer account and scheduling easy because I know that every Tuesday at 5pm I will post an engagement post.
Then I move on to inspirational posts which get their own day and time slot. This process takes about 6 hours for me because we have about 200 posts that go out across all our platforms a month.
It’s very well-organized and allows me the freedom to be at school functions or even vacations all while still being in front of my audience. One of my favorite new things to automate is Instagram! Imagine being able to schedule client sneak peeks in advance! I just made you drool right?!
Client Information and Workflow
There are many methods of keeping all this straight. You want to keep pertinent information where you can find it easily. Names, phones numbers, etc. But also client communication.
Did you offer a discount? Was the client referred by someone? There is a lot to keep track of. Same goes for workflow. After you have taken the beautiful pictures what’s your next step? Did you back them up? Did you create a signature edit you want to use again in the future?
Create a list of each step that you take and check them off when they are done. Keeping your client information and workflow doesn’t have to be difficult.
Plans, Goals and Day-to-Day
Somewhere you should have written/typed out your business plan and within that a marketing plan.
Your business plan should include things like a description of your company, an analysis of market (who else is doing what you are doing?), what type of services or products you will provide, etc. (Check out the Small Business Administration’s Guide).
Your marketing plan should be part of your business plan and help you develop systems to build your reputation in your market. This should include more than just advertising campaigns.
Other ways to market yourself include social media, referral programs and customer loyalty programs. Knowing how you want to run your business and what you want to give your client will help you to be intentional in your actions and create a guide for you to follow. We suggest you set realistic goals you want to meet and give yourself specific deadlines to meet them.
If you do not know what your definition of successful is you will never have success. Keeping yourself on track means knowing what you have coming up and being ready for it. Knowing what you want to accomplish and what you have to do to get it done.