The first of the year isn’t just a time to resolve to get organized, go for regular runs, or call grandma once a week; it’s a prime opportunity to take an honest look at your business’s last year and find ways to improve over the next 12 months. The following resolutions up productivity, increase project quality and help grow your business—no gym membership required.
Ramp up your digital and social media presence
When was the last time you gave your website a quick refresh? Still don’t have a business blog? Sporadically posting on social media or avoiding creating accounts on platforms you know would benefit you?
Fix it this year.
If customers and clients don’t see you online, chances are, you aren’t on their mind; and if your online presence is stagnant (i.e., your website is boasting the same design and content it was when it launched two years ago), then you’re hindering your potential for growth.
Some ideas to consider:
- Add yourself to business directories
- Utilize social media management software (think Everypost, Hootsuite or similar platforms)
- Redesign your website and create a mobile version
- Launch an email marketing list
- Start up a blog
- Develop a content marketing plan
Vow to be more productive than ever
Pinpoint where you’re faltering and make a plan to improve your productivity. If you’re having difficulty with this, keep an honest account of your workday for a week. Every time you decide to check your favorite time-wasting website, log it; when you head out for a three-hour lunch, jot it down; if you decide to finish your Netflix binge instead of getting a jump-start on a big project, mercilessly add it to the list.
To make improvements, you can:
- Set dedicated work hours
- Use browser add-ons (like LeechBlock, StayFocusd or Nanny) to limit distractions
- Incorporate software to streamline your accounting or administrative tasks
- Check out these additional tips
Learn to say no, and mean it
You don’t have to accept every single project you’re offered, especially if your plate is already full. And you don’t have to put up with clients or customers who end up requiring more time and thought than their projects pay out. Whether you decide to quote yourself out of a job or tell someone you don’t have time for a task, make this year the year you avoid burnout, focus on work that you’re passionate about and nurture relationships with clients that you love working with, ditching the rest.
Bonus: being more selective with what you work on, and whom you work with, gives you more time to invest in projects you really want to do and to look for clients who are a better fit.
Take time to:
- Re-evaluate relationships with clients who make your stomach knot up or eyes roll every time they show up in your inbox
- Look at last year’s projects, pinpoint those that weren’t worth the time or stress and avoid similar ones this year
- Determine how much you need to make on each enjoyable project to avoid smaller, dead-weight jobs and still come out ahead
When you’re in control of every aspect of your business, it’s hard to give up the reins. But when it comes to administrative and some marketing work, automation frees up a lot of time and mental energy.
Some changes to think about:
- Use MailChimp or a similar product to streamline communications and marketing
- Switch over to an invoicing and payment software that also tracks your finances
- Sign up for a product like Hootsuite or Buffer to get all of your social media posts handled on one platform
- Look into project management software, like Trello, and customer relationship management software, like Zoho, to reduce the number of touchpoints you have over the course of a project
Invest in your network, and yourself
Running your own business and freelancing go hand in hand with the “I’m an island, it’s all on me” mentality, but you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, go at this alone. This year, make it a point to reach out to peers and build relationships. Creating a strong network not only opens up doors, but also provides you a bit of cushion when you need help (provided you’re willing to return the favor).
While you’re investing time in creating this network, make sure that you’re also feeding the passion that brought you to your current business venture in the first place. It’s easy to get bogged down with projects and deadlines and clients, forgetting why you love what you do. Set aside a few hours every week to read up on your industry, take a class that will help you improve your services or attend a seminar or workshop. Not only will you be expanding your knowledge base, you’ll also be smack dab in the middle of a group of likeminded people that might make for excellent additions to your network.
With a bit of honest critique and a lot of perseverance, you can make this year your best year yet.