Starting a new business means introducing a whole new set of tasks to your plate, and the crazy part is, you don’t even know what half of them are yet.
The first few days will be busy as you set things up, such as your domain and social media accounts. Maybe you’ll write a business plan. Then comes the hard part, as you settle into a routine.
As a new business owner, you either have very little time on your hands, or too much.
The first happens if your business is your #sidehustle. The second is if you have just quit your day job (!) to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams.
Either way, productivity should be your central focus as you settle into life as an entrepreneur.
If you’re working on your side hustle, this goes without saying. But if this is your full-time job, falling into an unproductive slump is even easier and even more dangerous.
Why is this?
Think back to your school days. When you had a week to work on an assignment, you would take all week to get it done. But when the deadline crept up on you and it was suddenly due the next day, you would magically get it done in one night.
The same thing can happen with you business.
I’m guessing you didn’t start a business to be stuck working 9 to 5 again, or spending all your free time outside of your day job slaving away on it (because let’s face it - as much as you love your business, you need time away from work too).
So, how can you be productive in your new business and get as much things done in as little time as possible? FYI, I’m not talking about choosing quantity over quality; I’m talking about optimizing your time to produce the best results.
Create systems that work
Set up a control center
This will be where everything goes: your big business ideas, resources you’d like to keep handy, information about your business (like your brand pitch), editorial calendar, and daily tasks. Creating a system now is easier than ever, and you have so many options! Bonus: they’re free.
My favorite is Trello, and you know Abagail and Emylee have a Trello course, right? Another great option is Asana.
Don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit. Everyone is different, and considering you will use this every day, it’s crucial you actually like it.
PS. There’s nothing wrong if you decide to go on paper! Just make sure you complement it with something you can easily update.
Watch your email inbox
Emails can take up a lot of time you don’t have if you’re not careful, so prune your inbox. When you first start your business, you’ll be tempted to sign up to every other newsletter that promises you business hacks or free social media tips. That’s fine (I did this too!). What’s important is that you create a system to sort your email.
Use labels and filters if you’re using Gmail or GSuite so all your newsletters go to one place, and every time you see an email from a website you can’t quite remember, unsubscribe straight away. Your inbox (and your brain!) will thank you for it.
Keep track of everything
The first thing you need to keep track of is all of your accounts. Yes, this means usernames and passwords too. Write them down somewhere safe, or use an app like 1Password.
Once you’re settling into a routine, it’s really important that the routine you create maximises your time and enables you to be productive. Remember, you are in control. Before you have actually settled into your routine, think about your ideal routine, and write it down. Plan out your next day as closely as possible to that.
If you start feeling unproductive, write down everything you’ve done at the end of the day. You will either (a) discover you have actually done a ton of things (yay!), or (b) see where your productivity is lacking. If it’s the second one, you can now make a plan to cut down on tasks you’re spending too much time on, or outsource it.
Use lots of templates
As you refine your business, you’ll find you need to use certain things repeatedly. Save them as templates or canned responses for your emails.
The most basic things are your business elevator pitch (i.e., a few sentences on your business purpose and what you sell), and a short bio about yourself.
Take mine for example:
Business pitch: Alicia Grace Co designs printable planners that enable women to achieve their goals with productivity, planning, and time management tools.
My bio: Alicia is the founder of Alicia Grace Co, where she enables women to achieve their goals with productivity, planning, and time management tools. She has a Law degree from the University of Cambridge and enjoys engaging with goal-getters, especially creative entrepreneurs. In her free time, she food hunts and plays with her puppy.
Templates like these should be kept somewhere handy. I have mine in my Trello ‘Control Center’’ board that I keep open all the time. These templates are things I refer to ALL THE TIME.
Other ideas for templates: business pitch to influencers, links to your social media accounts, and a pitch for your newest product.
Bonus tip: if you have a blog, save short summaries and links to your latest posts so you can share them at any time.
Make use of resources
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you have resources at your fingertips.
Use stock photography
Unless you’re a photography business, things such as stock images can be outsourced. People like Shay Cochrane (SC Stock Shop), Rachel Rouhana (Haute Chocolate), and Alicia Powell (Pixi Stock) create beautiful stock images that will save you massive amounts of time and help you stay on brand.
Spend some $$$ to save time and get results
Every business has some start-up costs, even if you’re running an online one. This is something so many new online entrepreneurs forget. You may not be paying rental for a brick-and-mortar store, but there are still costs involved. There are so many resources out there that will help you save time. Remember: time = MONEY.
You don’t have to spend a week learning how to run a successful ad campaign when you can join a tried and tested course showing you exactly what you need to do. The time you save is so valuable when you can put it to good use, like booking more clients, or doing what you love to do most.
Some of these things cost you money, but when you see the returns coming in, they’ll be well worth it.
Ask for help
You can spend 2 hours figuring out how to upload a file into Squarespace, orrr you could ask someone who knows.
If you already have friends with experience, reach out to them. If not, Facebook groups can be a great resource. I’ve gotten so much help and advice over the past few months, and love contributing my know-how too.
Outsource, outsource, outsource
Again, time = money. The hour you spend manually resizing images could be spent on something much more productive.
Consider hiring a Virtual Assistant to take care of certain aspects of your business.
Focus on quality, not quantity
Your business is not all things for all people
You can’t please everyone, but if you narrow down your target market properly, you can make the people in your niche very, very happy. If you tried to make your logo look appealing to everyone, you’re going to end up with a hot mess. The same goes for your business. If you want to have a productive business, really focus your efforts to target your niche, not every person who might be interested.
Focus your social media efforts
Presence is crucial especially if you’re running an online business, but you really don’t need to have a Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter YouTube, Snapchat, and a Facebook group, at least not all at the same time.
Pick one or two you feel your target market will use most, and focus on those. Mine hang out most on Instagram, and now that I have a stable following there, I’m growing my Facebook and Pinterest communities.
The key is to focus your efforts. Sure, presence is everything, but would you rather have five half-hearted social media accounts, or one focused, targeted strategy that brings in constant leads?
Bonus Tip: The same goes for your product offerings. In same cases, like if you’re a jewellry store on Etsy, the more products the merrier. But if you want to provide high-value products and services, seriously think about what you’re offering, and focus your efforts on a few products before you expand.
Remember: quality > quantity.
Find your 20%
80% of results come from 20% of work. Find out what that 20% is, focus on it, and cut down on everything else. It doesn’t matter what everyone else says. If newsletters don’t work for your business, stop stressing out about them. If you feel Facebook is a waste of your time, it probably is.
Analyse what you’re doing to see what exactly brings in the most results for your business and do that.
Here’s the TL;DR
- Create systems that work: set up a control system, and prune your email constantly
- Keep track of everything
- Use lots of templates
- Make use of resources: use stock photography, join courses, ask for help, and outsource
- Quality is better than quantity: narrow your niche, and focus your efforts
- Find out gives you the most results and work on that most
Are you ready to be a productive entrepreneur?
Take these tips and kick them into action. Entrepreneurship is such an exciting adventure, and I hope this post helps you create a productive business!