Being Efficient and Effective

When it comes to small business, the goal is to have a system that is both efficient and effective. We want things to work well and work fast. If they are not, we need to figure out a way to do them differently.

Making your systems both efficient and effective helps to keep your business stay afloat, even when it is hectic. Whether you do landscape or you are a doctor, we all need the time savers that help us get things done. It can be a challenge, though, to commit to making a system that is efficient and effective, but the time you spend building it will be well spent. Yes, there is effort that must be put in on the front end, but there will be many rewards in the end. Besides, you owe it to yourself to make your business exceptional.

There are a few things you will want to do to make your business effective. Some of them include:

  •  They are replicable. When you go in to edit something, be sure to follow the same process again and again meaning that, every time you edit, you become faster and better at your edit.
  •  Your system is scalable. In our business, we have a client management system that we have used for years. In the beginning, it could support a few clients and, now, it can support fifty or more. If you use a good system, it will have the ability to grow with you over the years so you will not need to reinvent the wheel each time your business grows or somehow changes.

  • Make what you do teachable. The best systems out there are the ones that you can teach to others. For instance, if you hire a studio manager, you want to be able to easily teach them how to design your albums or do your edits so they can do them well.

After your system that is effective is in place, you can begin the process of automation. There are many tasks each day that you do repeatedly. Perhaps you must answer the same questions again and again for your clients, follow up with client emails, design albums, post something to social media, sent out invoices and contracts, or even import and export your images in the same way. A lot of these tasks can be automated, saving you time. It is almost like magically adding more time to your day. Those minutes can quickly add up to hours and days that you can use doing other things that you enjoy.

Maybe you want more time with your family. Well, go for it! Automate more of your work so you can have more time living. Making your business more efficient and effective will help you to get the most from it. It is the smart way to grow and become better.

Tips for Hiring a Designer

Many small businesses use the term “full branding” when they are looking to brand their products or services. What does that term mean, though? It will often mean different things to different people. Each designer will offer their own full branding package that may include different things.

To me, full branding in its most basic form includes a logo, a website that also includes a blog, and your basic stationery. Creating these visuals is just one piece of the branding puzzle, though. The biggest part is how a client feels after they meet with you and the impact you leave with them. It is about how you make them feel while they read an email sent by you. These things are what truly makes your brand, not just the visual designs.

There are some things to keep in mind, though, when you are looking to hire a designer for the visual part of your branding:

  • What is their background? You will likely prefer to hire a designer with a background in business. This will give them a better understanding of what you will need to make your business successful in marketing to clients.
  • Will they help you define your ideal niche and clientele? You must know who you are marketing to so you can build your visuals to draw them in. Having a pretty design isn’t enough. The designer will need to build all your visuals around the ideal clients to attract them to your business.
  • Does the designer offer all you need to use for consistency in your business? Having the necessities like a logo, website, blog, and stationery is a great start, but you will many times need a lot more than that. To keep your business consistent, you will want a Facebook cover, Instagram templates, an email signature, and more. If you can create them yourself, then great. If not, you will want to choose a designer that can provide them for you. You will want all your visuals to be consistent.

Hiring a designer is one of the most important first steps of getting your business recognized by potential clients. Do your due diligence and ensure you are getting the best designer for your money and your needs. You will be glad you did!

Tips for Running a Business While Working Full-time

Are you trying to run a successful side business while working a full-time job? Below are some of the tips I learned to help me with this:

  1. Work on quality over quantity. Obviously, you can’t devote a full day of work to your business throughout the week. Because of this, it is important to figure out how much time you can dedicate to your business without getting burned out. You need to also consider how much time you need to invest to produce work that is top quality. Don’t worry about how much others in your line of business are doing but, rather, focus on what’s on your plate and how to manage it realistically. Do the best you can with what you have.
  2. Schedule for yourself. Figure out how much time you can give to your business and plan what you will do in that time. Set up blocks of time to work on each aspect of your business instead of always just trying to play catch up. Be honest with your clients in regards to your business hours and let them know what they can expect from you. Find the routine that works best for you and follow that with your clients and with your workload.
  3. Make a system for you to follow. We have all heard that we need to work smarter, not harder. This can be a hard balance for your business. Put systems or apps into place to help with your workflow, social media management, bookkeeping, contracts, and all other parts of your business that help you be successful. You time is your most valuable commodity so it must be used wisely. If you find something that will help you streamline or automate your work, it will help you to be more productive and save you time.

Hopefully, these three tips will help you to run your business more efficiently and give you more balance while you also work a full-time job. Remember, you can create your own rules when you own your own business.

Taking Care of Yourself in Business

Having a small business is a lot of hard work. If you own your own business, I am sure you understand how hard it can be to avoid burnout. There are always so many things you need to manage with work and with home and family. How can you manage it all without losing your mind? Well, here is what I have learned:

  1. Put some boundaries in place. When I first started my business, this was a hard thing to do. I wanted for my business to be a success so I offered more to my clients than they paid for. My clients were happy, but I was quickly worn out. It became important for me to learn when to say no and not feel guilty about it. It is important to take care of yourself and set healthy boundaries. One way to do that is by providing a welcome package to your clients that includes your rules. Never take phone calls or emails when you are vacationing. Stick with the rules that you have set.
  2. Give yourself a break. Make sure to always plan time for yourself. It may mean leaving the office a little early to go to the spa or taking a lunch break with a friend. It is important to step away from work and recharge yourself.
  3. Delegate your work. Yes, it is a hard thing to give up some of the control you have in your business, but it is a good thing to get help at times. Using a team will not only help you personally, but will usually improve your customer satisfaction as well. If you are not able to hire help, try to automate more of your work.

Remember, it is very important to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you will not be able to give your business what it needs to thrive. You need to be able to keep going and not give in to burnout. Be sure to set up boundaries for yourself, take regular breaks, and delegate work whenever you can to keep yourself at the top of your game and help your business to thrive.

Using Time Blocking in Your Business

Those of us in a creative business must learn to manage our time effectively to be successful. We often feel that responding to emails or answering client questions bog us down. We always seem to have a never-ending list of tasks to get done. I have found that time blocking is necessary for me to fit everything into my life. Here are some guidelines to help you time block and see your productivity soar.

  1. Set aside time for your emails. It can be easy to spend hours answering inquiries. Instead, time block thirty minutes to an hour to answer emails when you first get to work. At lunch and just before ending your day, check again briefly to make sure there are no immediate responses needed in your inbox.
  2. Give your days a theme. There are so many things to accomplish in a day. When you give your day a theme, you tend to organize your work better and switch from left brain to right brain less frequently. Some of the themes I use are finances, prospecting, marketing, and others. On my finances day, I will send out invoices and check on my bank accounts, as an example. Having an entire day set aside for a particular task helps me to focus in and get a lot more done.
  3. Make a “bite size” task list. When you set aside a period of time for a task, make sure it is something you can finish. Don’t give yourself an hour to hire a new staff member, for instance. Instead, make a list more along the lines of “post job listing online” or “put job in newspaper.” These now become tasks you can check off your list and move on from.

Once you learn to time block, you will be able to better eliminate the distractions that come up throughout the day. It can be a hard habit to get into, but try time blocking in your business and see how much easier your work days can get.

Rebranding Your Business

Being able to create a good design is a wonderful gift to have. It can give your business a level or market interest, credibility, and beauty unlike anything else. It is not a fix-all, though. If you have issues that are unsolved in your business, it cannot cover them up. Instead, it is merely a surface change when the business needs something much deeper.

There are a few things that branding will not fix for your business. You will need to be aware of these to build a solid business and know when to hire a designer, rather than merely putting up new designs to cover over a problem.

  • Rebranding will not fix a product that is bad. It can be easy for a small business to have their entire identity wrapped up in a particular service or product. Yes, we should believe in what we have been called to do, but we also need to listen to the market and what it is telling us. What you have may not be a good fit for the market. If you spend the time and money to brand a product that the market has no interest in, that is a huge mistake. You will need to find a place where your passion meets a need within the market.
  • Rebranding cannot cover over your customer experience or organization. Yes, people will be looking at your visual branding as their first impression. If they want to invest money, though,
    they will look beyond your branding, especially if what you have comes with a hefty price tag. They will read reviews and talk with their friends. They will read up on as much information as they can find about your business. Your business can be “beautiful” but, if it doesn’t wow the client because of your history of client experiences, it will not draw them in to hiring you.
  • Your lack of direction or business strategy cannot be fixed with rebranding. Your branding is a way to bring in a specific type of person to your product. If you don’t know how to bring them in and, instead, try to appeal to everyone, you will end up with a brand that is too generic to really work. To put it simply, the more you know about your target audience, the better you can target your branding.

Make sure to check your motives when you start looking to rebrand. If you try to rebrand your products while dealing with these issues, it will make things much harder for your business to be successful. It will not make your designer very happy with you either.

Managing the Reputation of Your Business

When you own a small business, your reputation is everything. If you make a mistake or don’t please a customer, your reputation can be destroyed online and within your town. It takes a lot of work to avoid the issues that come along with a bad reputation. Below are a few ways to keep your reputation in good standing and manage your reputation when it gets hurt.

To help your business have a good reputation, consider creating a mailing list. Have people sign up for your list by offering them an incentive such as a coupon or a discount. You can also give a reward for referrals to further increase the names on your mailing list. The reward can be anything from a coupon to a video offering a tutorial that your customers will find useful.

If you have a sale or a promotion that is private, keep it that way. If you are in the process of rectifying a bad situation, this is especially important. Otherwise, people may try to take advantage of your business.

Many times, customers will leave feedback online. When you respond to them, make sure you call them by their name. Your customers want to be treated as an individual by your business rather than just another customer on your long list. Calling them by name helps them to feel like you value them.

Give a survey to your current customers. Many times, the suggestions they give you will help to improve your products or your company overall. There are many ways to give them a survey. The most prominent ways are to send a survey to all the customers that are on your mailing list or to add a suggestion box somewhere accessible at your business.

Though it may be tempting, never post fake comments or reviews just to make your business look good. Most customers can recognize when they are being tricked and they will no longer trust your company or you. This will likely cause you to lose more customers than you gain.

As stated before, your reputation has a lot to do with how successful your business is in the future. The best way to keep your reputation in good standing is to repair any issues as soon as you can to the best of your abilities. Following the tips above will help you to keep your good reputation both online and in your town.

Getting More Personal in Your Blog

Those of us in a creative business will often stop to realize just how saturated the market is with the product or service we offer. What we need to learn, though, is that the only thing that separated us from all the others is ourselves. We all have our own personality, quirks, and vision for what we are doing. Showing those qualities is how we can stand out from the rest of the businesses out there. One of the best ways to show our uniqueness is through a business blog.

The secret, though, is to blog about things that are really close to your heart. Maybe you will blog about your children, trips you have taken, your dog, etc. When you post about those personal things, they tend to draw in more readers who become engaged in what you are saying. I will often find that people who don’t even know me will ask about things in my life because they read about it on my blog!

A personal blog post will connect you to the people that buy your services or products. They will be more likely to invest more into your work, and in you. These days, people love to know the heart and story behind the things they put their money into. They want to believe in the services and products they buy. They can feel that connection through your blog when you get personal with them, and they will tell their friends about you too.

It is one of the easiest ways to build your business. Perhaps you see the need to share more about yourself in your blogs, but don’t know where you should start. Well, how about just start with one personal post and see what happens from there.

Here are some ideas of personal things to blog about:

  • Are you remodeling or purchasing a new home? Let them keep up with the progress with you
  • Dedicate a post to your spouse or family member for their birthday
  • When you go on vacation, blog about your adventures
  • Discuss some of your favorite things in your blog. Maybe some of your favorite places to visit, your favorite foods, or favorite things to do.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to bring your personality, and yourself, into your blog.

When you allow your clients have a peek into your life, they will feel more of a connection with you and what you offer. It increases the chances, as well, of you attracting more ideal clients to your business.

Helping Others to Help Yourself

Most of us start a business with the thought of serving others with our product or service. No business is inherently selfish, otherwise it will fail in today’s economy. People these days are more inclined to look deeper into a business before spending their hard-earned cash.

If you want to grow your business successfully, you must be willing to go out of your way to support others around you. This needs to be done in a way that is selfless without expecting anything in return. Chances are, people are a lot more willing to help you out if you have helped them with something in the past.

There are times in your business life that you will enjoy a lot of growth and see that your work is making in difference in the lives of your customers. These days will typically follow the ones where you have helped someone do something they could not have done without help. This creates a ripple effect that has a huge impact on you and the ones you help.

Many online gurus will say that you need to provide some sort of value to your tribe. There are many ways to do this. Maybe you put messages on social media platforms or teach online classes. I have personally found, though, that directly helping someone has a lot more impact on how they support your efforts later in life.

It is true that you will not be able to get to know each of your clients on a personal level if your business is a decent size, but the connections you do make can happen without much effort. Cherish these connections. Support them and help them out whenever you can.

Through helping others, you inevitably help yourself. It doesn’t make sense how it happens but, trust me, it does. When you have genuine human interactions with others through your business or personal life, it makes your business stronger and people will come to you more.

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