Are you working in or on your business?

by Lisa Lloyd

Let me get this off my chest…This whole stay-at-home-mummy-business-woman thing is HARD! It’s not that I was expecting it to be easy and yes compared to some I have it a little easier since our toddler still has two two hour sleeps a day (bliss!!) but it’s still hard especially when you are trying your best to make the business side of things work but more importantly you’re trying to make sure that you’re giving your child what they need and deserve.

This week I was having a conversation with a friend about business, babies and everything in between and it dawned on me just how little I was working ON my business, instead spending a lot of time working IN my business. While business is doing well I’m certainly no Martha or Oprah and it all comes down to the fact that I’m not spending enough time working on this business.

I certainly spend a bit of time on social media, I make sure invoices are up to date, projects are all being managed well but there hasn’t been much else going on in the business promotion area.

While there isn’t one foolproof system for managing and promoting your business, there are some things that I could be doing a lot better.

1. Goals & Plans
This one is important! You might be starting your first blog, or taking the step into the freelance world and you’re thinking ‘What on earth do I need a business plan for?’ you know what I used to think that too. I always thought business plans are for medium to large corporate businesses but I got to tell you, it is essential for ALL businesses. Here’s the trick, you don’t need a huge stuffy document overflowing with details that will change and just aren’t you. Our business plan is a bullet point list on a single A4 sheet. This works perfectly for us because it keeps us focused on where we are, and where we want to be. It means that we can quickly see the goals we’re trying to get to and actually get there without having to worry about pages and pages of information that we’ll never want to read once we’ve written the first draft. Keep  it clear and concise, it will lead to kicking goals.

Along with the bullet list business plan, I also keep a list for myself of how to reach those goals. For instance, one of our goals is to have our prints stocked in actual stores, providing a wholesale program to our business. For months I either was too busy to do anything about it or didn’t really know where to start (doesn’t help that I’m incredibly shy), this is where my secondary list comes in. I sat one afternoon and put together a small plan of how to achieve this particular goal. Now I know where to start and how to get there. Sure it might not be an overnight success (any interested stockists feel free to contact me) but at least I have a plan now.

2. Block It
Time blocking is a bit of a saviour for me at times. I can often get so completely taken with a project that it can consume my every waking hour; pre-baby I would even forget to get up and eat or move my eyes away from the screen. Thanks to the little man I’m certainly better at moving away from the screen but this now becomes a huge distraction, albeit a cute one, but a distraction nonetheless that means once I’m back in front of the screen I can lose focus on what it was I was trying to achieve.

Time blocking, may not specifically help me work ON the business, but it does allow me to set certain tasks for certain times of the day including those business and promotion related tasks that always seem to get put on the backburner. For instance, I’m a morning person and find it much easier to write a post, reply to emails, balance the books and do all the admin types jobs in the morning. Once they’re out of the way, I get on with a bit of social media and our weekly newsletter on Thursdays, leaving the rest of the day for the fun creative work that I can’t get enough of. I also now schedule in time each day to work on Quirk Design. Sometimes this means contacting potential stockists, other times its spending the afternoon taking product images.

Sure some days aren’t as clear cut, like when you’re little man stacks it and you’re off to spend the day in hospital with him, but most days follow this rough plan.

3. Get Social
It’s the easiest yet often the most time consuming way to work on your own business and get it out into the world. My problem though is that I was brought up in the pre-social media world, so I’m still adjusting to the social inconveniences. Yes I know I sound really old and very fuddy-duddy! Don’t get me wrong, I love that social media allows me to connect with people I never would have had the chance to connect to if things were still the old fashion pre-social media way. Plus, I love the inspiration, especially from Instagram that I get on a daily basis. But I still find it difficult having a conversation with someone or sitting down for a meal with someone and spending time on my phone when I know I should be conversing and giving them my full attention.

To keep my sanity and not spend hours and hours on social media (Instragam I’m looking at you!!) I set aside time in the morning and the afternoon to update our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds, then after the little Mr has gone to sleep at night, I do my social media surfing to like, follow, tweet and converse with others.

4. New In Town
Have you been in business for a while? Do you remember what it was like to start a business? Do you remember what you needed to get you started? These are all the questions I’ve been asking myself to see if there is something I can offer others who are starting out. By doing this, I could work out how my own business could grow and move into other areas. To be honest, I kept sticking to the same path and not pushing my own boundaries even though I would encourage my clients to do so.

[pullquote-left]Stay tuned for more on this one, especially if you’re a new blogger or business starting up, we’ve got some fantastic things in the pipeline for you. To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up to our weekly email.

This was definitely a big one for me, so each month I’ve set aside a time to explore new ideas to not only keep myself inspired but also to hopefully build this business of ours and provide something that’s unique to people.

This list I’m sure will evolve and some days will be harder than others but I think sometimes even if all you do is start the list, at least you’re giving it a start which at the end of the day is always the first step, as they say ‘You have to start somewhere’.

I think it’s really easy to get stuck in a rut especially when you’re working for yourself and trying to keep the household in order and often we forget to take a step back and see how we can improve or make things more efficient.

We’d love to hear from you, do you have any tips or hints for working on your business?