How did you use your time last year?
Do you feel like you got the most out of each day?
OR did it seem like you were spending too much time on things that you hate?
…things that didn’t make you money?
…things that someone else could have done better?
Many freelancers, consultants, and small business owners have a hard time defining the highest-leverage ways to spend their time…and honestly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.
There is plenty of advice out there on how to make more money. As a solo-entrepreneur using your time effectively WILL make you more money, but there is more to it than that.
I believe that you should be spending your time on things that you love AND things that drive revenue - sometimes those things are the same and sometimes they aren’t.
When they aren’t the same, you need to think very carefully about your priorities to decide what you should be focusing on. This is an iterative process because you and your business are constantly evolving, so what works for you today probably won’t be the same thing that works for you next year or even next week.
Ultimately you went out on your own so that you could have more control over your time, work, and life… so you didn’t have to spend all of your time doing what other people wanted you to do, what made THEM money, what helped THEM live the life THEY wanted to live.
Somewhere along the line that goal started slipping away. You’re spending more time than ever trying to meet the needs of your clients and doing everything else you have to do to keep the lights on.
Being a solo-entrepreneur is hard because you have to do all of the things, wear all of the hats, solve all of the problems.
The thing is, there is a formula for using your time effectively and it is not just about making more money (although it does that too) it is also about taking back control….ACTUALLY being the successful entrepreneur who is in charge of your time, work, and life.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to use your time more effectively so you can do more, make more money, AND have time to live your life then take a moment to think intentionally about how you are spending your time so you can build your business around what you love.
Identify ways you are spending your time that fall into the following categories:
Once you’ve identified these things the next step is to figure out how to actually change them.
The beauty of working for yourself is that you can constantly redefine your business to fit who you are and where you are in your life at this moment. Ultimately anything that falls into these categories is getting in the way of you controlling your time, work, and life - that means you either need to rethink your business model or find a different way to get these things done.
Here are four ways to do that:
Let it go
Really think about if it is crucial to your work and business model. Often we spend a lot of time on things that aren’t actually crucial to the way we do our work, bring in clients, or make money. This could be because someone else said you needed to do it, it is a strategy you tried and it just isn’t working, or it is something that used to be crucial to your business but things have shifted.
Can you restructure your work so that you don't have to do it?
For example: You spend a ton of time creating and updating your website but you get most of your clients through referrals who never see your website. Can you let go of your website?
There are things that we all have to do as business owners that take up a ton of time. These things are crucial but might be non-billable work or work that you’re doing in a way that just takes up too much time.
Can you place limits around how you do it so that it takes up less time?
For example: You spend a lot of time here and there throughout the day checking email. Can you limit this to 30 minutes three times a day?
Organization is key to running a solo/small business. You don’t have a million other people to do things so you need to make sure you’re using your time most effectively. Organization doesn’t come naturally to everyone and that’s ok. Process can be taught. You can use tried and true methods to build replicable systems for your work so you can do more in less time. Basically, if you are doing something more than once it should have a replicable structure so it is easier for you to do it AND easier to delegate (see next step).
Can you build a structure so it is replicable and takes less time?
For example: It takes you forever to create proposals. Can you create an intake form for clients so you’re getting the needed info upfront and a proposal template with boilerplate language so you’re just plugging things in?
Find someone else to do it
For those of us who are solo-entrepreneurs, this is especially tricky. You are trying new things (awesome!) and learning as you go, but you can fall into the trap of trying to do everything yourself. Especially when you are just starting out, it is hard to figure out the right things to spend your time and money on. When margins are tight it can feel scary to invest in expertise. The thing is, finding the right experts is crucial to success and making life manageable. Something that may take you hours of Googling, reading, and making mistakes would probably take an expert 15 minutes. And honestly, you might be surprised at how affordable an expert might be.
Can you find someone who can do this better and faster?
For example: You spent an entire week researching how to run Facebook ads, invested a bunch of money, and saw no results. Can you hire an expert who can do a better job in less time?
This is an easy formula you can follow to take a hard look at how you’re spending your time so that you can build your business around what you love. Because…let’s be honest, if you want to spend a bunch of time doing things you hate, you might as well go back and work for someone else.
The last step is to build in a reminder to do this intentional analysis of your time regularly. Life moves fast and things change constantly. If you’re not regularly re-thinking how you are using your time and designing your business model, your work is going to get stale and you’ll be back where you were – focusing on the wrong things, hating your work, and not making the money you deserve.