When you decided to finally start your own business and work for yourself, surely, one of the things that you’ve imagined yourself having is more flexibility when it comes to your schedule. No need to report to the office at 9 AM sharp or be tied to an office desk and miss important family events. Maybe you can even take that much needed holiday you’ve been saving up for. Freedom at last! But then, just like how the hilarious “Expectation VS Reality” internet memes, you suddenly realize that you’re more slumped in work now compared to when you were a nine-to-fiver.
Being a solo entrepreneur is never easy and it poses different sets of challenges. However, this does not mean that your only option is either to give up or overwork yourself. What you can do is implement techniques that can streamline your business processes, which can also increase your productivity. These methods can save you time, reduce costs, and help you become more efficient.
1. Automate Tasks
If you’re like most solo entrepreneurs, you probably don’t have the luxury of hiring additional employees to answer the phone for you, double-check your invoices, and follow up with potential customers.
These are just some of the time-consuming tasks that you do on a day-to-day basis that may not directly contribute to your company’s bottom line, but they still need to be done in order for your business to run smoothly.
The good news is, you don’t need to employ support staff in order to free up your schedule. One solution is to automate some of your processes with the use of technology so you can focus on more high-value tasks and concentrate on growing your business.
Maintaining your social media pages is one task that you can easily automate. Nowadays, it is very important for any business, whether big or small, to have an active social media presence. You have to regularly post on your newsfeed in order for your followers to see you constantly.
However, not all business owners can realistically log in every day to post an update. To resolve this, you can use automation apps – such as Hootsuite – that allow you to create and schedule your posts in advance.
Other examples of tasks that you can automate include customer support (chat inquiries, instant messaging, FAQs), finance and payments (invoicing, payment reminders, payment of bills), marketing (email marketing, publishing of blog posts) and many more.
2. Shift to the cloud
How many times have you spent countless hours trying to find a specific document in your file cabinets or maybe you almost missed a client presentation because you can’t find the USB flash drive where you saved your sales deck? Since you are a one-man team, you cannot afford such delays. Sometimes, these instances can even make or break your business.
One solution to avoid this is to digitize all of your data and shift them to a cloud storage platform. This will make your data more accessible, portable, and easier to organize. While it’s true that having paper backups might still be useful when it comes to important contracts and legal documents, having digital copies on the cloud will allow you to have this information right at your fingertips, with just a few clicks on your device.
My personal favorite platform is Google Drive as it allows easy access to all my files, as well as easy collaboration with others. More than two people can be working on the same file at the same time meaning workflow isn’t affected, plus Google Drive is a widely used and understood platform.
Of course, digitization of your data does not come without its downsides. One such disadvantage is exposing your data to potential security risks. According to findings, 58% of cybercrime victims are categorized as small businesses and most business owners are unaware that they are vulnerable to such risks.
These statistics show the risks to your laptop or desktop machine are highly possible, even if you are just a solo entrepreneur. This means that it’s important to choose a trustworthy cloud computing provider in order to protect privileged company data such as your financial information and client details.
3. Use productivity apps
Every single day, there is possibly a new piece of technology created that promises to make lives much simpler. Millennials (1980- 1994) usually find it easier to adapt to these innovations compared to Gen Xers (1965-1979) who find new tech somewhat overwhelming. There are also others who, regardless of age, are just reluctant to learn how these apps work.
If you are always finding it difficult to organize your work and you’re constantly facing time management issues, it’s high time to explore how you can improve your efficiency by using productivity applications. There are numerous tech solutions that can help you work smarter and many of these apps are even free to use.
For example, instead of writing your to-do list on a physical sheet of paper, you can use a free app such as Trello or Asana to list the things you need to do. Asana is my go-to for organizing my daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. The great thing about these apps is that you can organise the tasks and shift them around depending on your priorities.
4. Use a digital calendar
Plan your day or week ahead by using a digital calendar that can be synced and accessed using the internet. This is better than using a physical journal because you can easily retrieve your schedule anywhere you are, without the need of carrying a heavy planner with you. You can even enable alerts and notifications so you won’t miss any important meetings or events.
There are free calendar applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar that you can use. In planning your schedule, you can implement the time blocking technique by referring to the tasks on your master-to-do list and plotting them onto your digital calendar. This technique will help you focus on important tasks and maximize your schedule.
5. Take advantage of ready-made templates
The beauty of the internet is that you can find absolutely anything you need with a simple Google search. What many business owners are not aware of is that there are many ready-made templates available for small business owners to use that will not only save time but will also produce more professional-looking results.
Canva (my favorite) and Piktochart are examples of such websites that provide ready-to-use templates for business owners who need to create marketing materials such as presentations, business cards, invitations, logos, brochures, and many more. You don’t need to hire an expensive graphic designer or spend hours painstakingly choosing fonts and colors to come up with a decent end-product. The drag and drop interface makes it easy even for non-creative people to make their own graphics design materials.
Other available templates include website builders, business plans, invoice templates, contract templates, email marketing templates, and even HR and admin templates.
Work smarter, not harder
You’ve always been told that in order to succeed you must work hard. While this may be sound advice, there are now many tools that can help you save time and effort. These will give you more flexibility to focus on doing what’s important and will allow you to have time for yourself as well.