The spring streamline process doesn’t have to be restricted to your home and waistline – freelancers of all shapes and sizes are seizing this seasonal opportunity to pump new life into the way they do business.
1. Declutter your way to fabulous
Once your workspace is clear it’s easy to forget about all the virtual clutter that piles up over the year, yet it is equally as important to organise your computer as it is your physical space. Being organised is an integral factor in customer service and timekeeping and will undoubtedly improve the way you do business.
Start by shoving any downloaded files you don’t use on a weekly or monthly basis onto an external hard drive – this is a brilliant alternative to the painstaking detachment process of cleaning out your attic, no need to throw files away in the 21st century. Now turn your attention to your online filing system. Google is our favourite but it is easily muddled with emails, files and work-related wonder, so use this opportunity to shove all large files in Dropbox, make folders for each client, organise documents by date and relevance and get labelling your emails. Gmail also allows you to filter on specific labels, moving away from the days of frantically scrawling through to find the exact correspondence you’re looking for.
2. Evaluate your business processes
A wise marketing man once said, ‘If it’s not speeding the boat up, it’s slowing it down’ – assess which of your business processes and activities are not adding value and either restructure them so that they are or say ‘ta ra’.
Think about what you want to achieve this year. Perhaps you want more clients, to learn extra marketable skills or increase your rates. By putting your objectives into a manageable format such as a chart or spreadsheet, you will be able to effectively measure your progress. You will also need to think about what needs to be done in order to achieve your aim, how much this will cost and set realistic timelines. Gantt charts will help you make a timeline of activities and will push you to hold yourself accountable. By following this more structured method, you will be constantly aware of exactly what you are doing and why, you can then evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
3. Examine cost effectiveness
A good way to visualise the cost effectiveness of your work is to create a graph using Google Charts and enter how much each job costs, the time it takes to complete and the profit you then make – you will quickly see what type of jobs pay off and what don’t and can then focus on building more cost-effective projects with clients that pay.
4. Upgrade your systems
It is common for products and services to become quickly outdated – use this declutter time to focus on what is likely to be on-trend in the coming months and get rid of any applications that may be slowing you down. There is a plethora of free online tools to help make your freelancing business more successful. Some of our favourites include Google, used for pretty much everything, Hootsuite for social media management and Survey Monkey for client engagement and satisfaction.
Time management apps such as Toggl will also help you to evaluate what you spend your time on and how much time you spend procrastinating, which will in turn give you the kick up the bum you may need to ensure you effectively optimise your working hours.
5. Review suppliers
Every year there are more and more cheap options for stationery and supplies available online. Regular paper, printer ink and stationery costs can be trimmed at sites such as Staples and Viking Direct, while Moo does great deals for printing and business cards.
Web hosting also needs to be evaluated. Is it the most cost-effective option available? Although it is tempting to just renew contracts each year, by taking a few minutes to research your alternatives, you could save a fair bit of cash overall.
6. Rethink your client-base
You may find you still have a few clients from the beginning of your career who pay much less than others and, in some cases, require more time and attention. This is a good opportunity to assess which clients are holding you back and practice the “first-in, first-out” method, where you get rid of the clients that pay less and replace them with ones that pay more, thereby increasing your daily income and managing your time cost effectively.
7. Don’t ignore your taxes
Hooray, Self Assessment has been and gone and we very probably don’t have to think about it ever again until…the next big headache. Start good habits now and keep on top of your finances every month as you progress through the year. Once you get the momentum, you will find it takes hardly any time and removes a large chunk of the stress and anguish felt in January.
8. Update your portfolio
Hopefully, you’ve had a darn skippy year and as such have many more projects to add to your portfolio. Take this opportunity to ensure your portfolio is up-to-date and has the pieces you are most proud of displayed clearly. This will be important when you come to look for new, better-paying clients.
9. Sort out your bookmark bar
We all waste time browsing the internet and it is easy to get distracted by web links and pretty infographics – if you’re like me, you’ll have a massive build-up of articles in different bookmark folders that you just haven’t quite got round to reading. Delete the ones you don’t want, read the ones you do and then start afresh with Pocket, a wonderful new app that allows you to save webpages for later and view them all in one place. Furthermore, you don’t need the internet connection to view the items and you can share articles amongst your friends. This fab app is available free on iOS and Android and will revolutionise your internet flitting habits.
Do you have any useful tips for sprucing up your business for the summer months? Leave your suggestions in the comments box below.
Photo by Garry Knight