Note: This is a guest post from LeeAnn Eddins of LA Eddins Design and it's a companion to the presentation she gave in the May Office Hours group coaching session, which you are invited to attend when you buy the Simplest Marketing Plan.
Could you use a structure to help you manage the ongoing tasks of running your business?
There’s a lot to do and if you’re going it alone as a freelancer or consultant it can hard to stay on track. It’s all too easy to put off marketing your own business because other urgent and important things command our attention. We work hard on everything for everyone else and neglect some foundational business functions in the process. It’s partly due to the natural juggle all of us face, and partly priority issue.
Working this way is exhausting. It results in sprints of intense activity for client projects and leaves us in a feast-or-famine business mode. When the job is done, our marketing has lapsed, and the pipeline is barely a dribble. So, we double down on networking, reinvigorate our social media, work on outreach, and build up our marketing efforts… again. The work comes in, and we get busy, and our marketing lapses… again.
I’ve been in this cycle a time or two. I know regular marketing activities pay off. I simply struggle getting them done. Like the cobbler who never gets around to making his own shoes, I work on everything thing else for everyone else. Urgent things pop up, and add to the fun, but they often get done just because they are urgent.
For my own business development and marketing, I need help with two things: structure and expectations.
My dependence on external structures
All my life I’ve been something of a people pleaser. I enjoy delivering my products and services to my clients and will go to great lengths to ensure their satisfaction. It’s important to me that my promises to my clients are kept. That deadlines are met, and they are happy with the outcome. This structure is an external one, imposed by the needs of the project at hand. And it motivates me.
But when it comes to my own projects and goals, be it regular social media engagement, blogging and content development, or web maintenance and updates, they just don’t garner the same sense of urgency or importance. Since they don’t bring in revenue directly, as project work does, the value is deferred and hard to measure. Funny thing is, if you don’t do it, you can’t measure it. Duh.
Same with business development projects and bookkeeping. Keeping up with routine tasks often generate dread in my heart. Okay, maybe not dread exactly, but definite dislike. Because I don’t like it, I don’t use the tools very often, and whenever I do, I have to familiarize myself with them all over again. It seems to take twice as long as it should.
Accounting and banking chores are not something I want to rush and squeeze into my schedule. If I feel low on mental energy, it’s really easy to put this one off. Not to mention other more palatable things that I need to do, so I don’t have to shirk. Of course, this avoidance makes it harder next time. More stressful. It takes even more energy, and probably more time with more to do, making it even easier to avoid.
It’s a vicious cycle. I needed a system.
I took the advice of Ilise Benun who, in her “Simplest Marketing Plan” suggests spending at least 30-minutes a day doing your marketing work. Following her lead, I thought about the goals I have for my business and what tasks I need to do consistently to move the needle on those goals. I customized the plan, so each day has a category of items to attend to. Like making dinner on Taco Tuesday, I don’t have to think about it very hard on a given day. My tasks are already determined.
Setting up a structure led me to make consistent good decisions about what I do every day. My tasks make a difference and move me steadily toward my goals. I now have something to measure. At the end of every month, I can actually track my progress in each area.
And that helps with my expectations. By doing a little every day, I learn how long things actually take. And I learn to do them better, too. Which allows me to do more as time goes on. This leads to greater competency in these areas and realistic expectations for the time I spend. Goal setting is easier, too, when you have realistic expectations.
You can do it, too.
With your business goals in mind, break it down: define the tasks that move those goals forward.
If you’re a freelancer doing it all on your own, you can’t neglect the business side of your business. Including things like business development, networking, and outreach. Or maybe you’re the type who neglects your professional self-care and you need a day for “sharpening your saw.”
It can be anything at all that if applied or completed consistently would make a difference in some area of concern in your business. Sometimes it’s a numbers game—a matter of frequency. Or it could ease a pain or cause a gain. You decide.
Next, assign a day to devote time to completing those tasks. Commit to work on these tasks for at least 30 minutes. Every day.
My current list goes like this:
• Social Media Monday (Platform building & engagement)
• Teachable Tuesday (Prof. Dev., Class/Course Planning, Lessons, etc.)
• Website Wednesday (Portfolio, blogs, updates)
• Thinking Thursday (Contracts, analysis, plans, legal, research, etc.)
• Financial Friday (Billing, bookkeeping, organization, tracking, etc.)
And this is how I break it down:
Social Media Monday
This day I devote at least an hour to social media. I post on my favorite channels; LinkedIn and Facebook. I add connections and comment on others’ posts. From week to week I create new content, curate content, blog, and draft my newsletter.
Since I’m an adjunct graphic design instructor, Tuesdays are for teaching and learning. Sometimes learning about teaching. And also, for personal professional development.
During the fall & spring semesters it’s all about teaching, grading, lesson plans and students. But come summer, my focus turns to learning new skills and honing established ones, watching instructional videos, and reading helpful books and blogs, this day’s business effort is to study and improve my teaching, knowledge, and professional skills.
As you can guess, this day is about maintaining and updating my website. Weekly updates keep content fresh and relevant. Tasks can also involve analytics and tracking. Last but not least I can use this day to create content for my blog.
Much like Teachable Tuesday, this day requires brainwork. This day is for the high-level activities of strategic planning, creating campaigns, products, and proposals, doing research and market studies. This is also a good day to read trade pubs and seek industry news. I also save any legal chores for this day.
This is where I stay fiscally fit and up to date. Regular habits make accounting chores easier. On this day I follow a set of procedures. I review accounts, update my accounting app, do invoices, banking, insurance… anything that deals with money happens this day.
The cool thing about doing a task a day is that it’s completely doable. Anyone can spend 30 minutes doing a routine task. The next cool thing is that It’s completely customizable to your goals. Apply this method to a personal project or side hustle if you like. It’s adaptable.
It grows with you. As you achieve a goal or are able to offload a chore—like Website Wednesday delegated to another--you simply pick something else for that day. Like Writing Wednesday, instead. Or what the heck, give yourself a break, you don’t have to do all five days even though you should. There’s magic in in keeping a streak.
If setting aside a half hour every day is a bit much, especially if you’ve not been doing anything, you might just pick Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Or if you have a particular concern… but everything else is okay, just pick that day. Whatever you do, make a commitment to doing it regularly.
For me that means every day. But you do you. And here’s some more ideas to help you do it:
Mindful Monday, Money Monday, Mastery Monday
Tame it Tuesday, Training Tuesday, Tracking Tuesday
Watchful Wednesday, Workshop Wednesday, Network Wednesday
Thankful Thursday, Theoretical Thursday
Fungible Friday, Friendly Friday, Future Friday
I think you get the picture.
What would be on your list?