As much as we may look like Wonder Woman, or so as not to be sexist, Superman, and feel like them too, we cannot be a one person band and expect that the everything will just fall into place. It’ll fall alright, down, into bed, if you make it that far, from exhaustion.
A smart and successful small biz owner has back up, and I’d love to share my back up tricks honed from trial and error throughout the years that have saved me countless hours of unproductive work.
One of the best tips I’ve gotten to be constantly reminding ourselves of what is a time waster and what is a productive money making action for our day is from the wonderful business coach Jane Pollak, that goes like this: when creating your day to day tasks, use a green marker and mark which daily tasks are your business growth, money making tasks, and which are not. I usually make my list and then mark the moneymaking tasks with a green dot. If nothing else this will be a wake up call. Are you wasting way too much time on your proposals? There’s a system for that! Are you crunching all your numbers yourself for an hour a day? No need for that! Invoicing taking too long? There are a number of great programs for that.
Here’s my top 5 time saving and either free or really inexpensive systems, as I am a tightwad when it comes to these things… all designed to free you up so you can spend your day tackling the big stuff:
1) A really intuitive invoicing system: I use Freshbooks. Not only does it invoice really easily, but it sends them either by snail mail or email, does all kinds of cool numbers crunching, runs reports, allows you to send estimates that can convert to an invoice, and so much more. Bookkeeping — which I personally can’t stand to do so this forces me to do it in a fun and quick way — made easy, and quick. A nominal cost well worth the expense. Allows for customization as well
2) A proposal/Contract system — which used to take me half a day to do — try Quotegine. It allows you to create, save, customize and re-use templates in a library, sends it out with a click of a button and allows for an e signature on your clients end so that they don’t even have to print out, excepting for themselves or mail, attach, or fax back. Just pressing a button lands it back in your hands within a fraction of the time it would take otherwise, allowing you to get going on your next project. Free up until a certain amount of clients, and again, allows you to white label it.
3) A CRM system, otherwise known as a Contact Relationship Management System. Other wise known as a database. If you’re not already on Outlook, look no further than cloud based Highrise, run by the same cool, uber smart folks who created Freshbooks. If you are using your email contacts list as your database I might have to come over there and smack you. Highrise has all the bells and whistles you could ask for to allow you to keep on top of all of your prospects, clients and important business affiliates and contacts in an organized manner, create and schedule tasks and have them appear in your inbox when they come due, as a reminder to ‘get on that!’ It can also be synced with Freshbooks so that your whole client profile, jobs as well as the payments and invoicing are under one heading.
4) Housecleaning! I know that this involves money, but again, if you are trying to be all things to all people including a family of 4 back home, something is going to cave if you’re working hard all day and then expected to come home and clean the house as well. Even if you bring someone in just once per month to do the heavy cleaning, or pay your kids to do it. A scary thought I know. The money you spend here will make itself up to you in ROI if you’re taking the time where you would have been under the bed cleaning dust bunnies to instead contact 3 more warm leads to invite them to lunch. Time much better spent. I’d give you the name of mine as a referral but am afraid she’d be spread too thin and not have time for me. Selfish, I know, but some things are more precious than others. I do know that the team at The Maids are great though. Ask for Melissa.
5) Social Media tools. I have a confession. Social media is not my biggest strength. Other than LinkedIn, I do it because I have to, not because I want to, and I make no bones about it to my clients, as they need to do it as well. What has made it tolerable for me has been a little tool called Onlywire, which allows me to share what you’re reading right here with a load of social media and bookmarking sites instead of spending oodles of time uploading things separately when I could be interacting with folks online and off. Great for the SEO.
Hope these help you be more efficient and use your time more effectively. Now run to that networking meeting!
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