Or maybe you’re frustrated because it’s taking you so long to see a difference in your business.
What a coincidence. It happens to me too.
And I think it’s an awful feeling. It distracts us and makes us feel like we’re spinning our wheels.
So let me take you through the steps I use now to help me zero-in on what I should be working on when I’m feeling like I’m drowning in work.
Step 1: Identify what deadlines you have. And if you don’t have any deadlines pick some because that’s likely part of the problem. When nothing has weight over anything else it sets you up to be paralyzed.
Most of us – especially former corporate or organizational employees – do better when we have deadlines because our whole professional life was built around deadlines.
Let the deadlines drive your priorities initially; but once you get the initial deadlines met be sure to reflect on whether you’re really doing things that are moving you and your business forward or are you caught doing what Tony Robbins says people do – letting the urgent get in the way of the important.
Step 2: Rank your projects. What will have the biggest impact on your business right now? If you have cash flow problems then you need to follow the money and get it flowing again. If you’ve got a few long term clients then you might want to focus on building a list of interested prospects who you can nurture and build a relationship with so if you have a long term client leave you’ll have people who may be ready to move forward to work with you.
What does your audience – think existing clients first — want most? I’m making changes to my book writing course based on what participants told me they’d like to see added.
If you’re unsure what you should be focusing on, examine your Profit Path (the flow of prospects who discover you, connect with you, get nurtured by you and make a decision to buy from you, and then who become fans). Look for areas where there are gaps and focus on that area.
When you’re in this place you become vulnerable to every bright shiny object that comes your way and promises you more clients, more revenue. It’s more likely that a better use of your time or money would be working on your processes, or working with someone to get clear about your next step. When you’re feeling compelled to buy something, stop and give yourself some time to reflect on whether this is the right move for you.
Step 3: Build relationships with current and past clients. This is critical. When I would do marketing funnel or sales process consulting, the client would always be focused on getting new clients. But the reality is that new client engagements will be projects that have the lowest percentage of profitability.
Profit really lies in retaining clients and in generating referrals from satisfied clients. So when prioritizing work be sure to include time for client relationship building.
According to Emmett C and Mark A. Murphy,“a commitment to customer experience results in up to 25% higher customer retention” which is obviously going to impact sales and revenue. So some of your time has to be spent building relationships with your existing client base and improving their outcomes. You want to have a significant level of clients become raving fans.
Step 4: Manage your calendar and start saying “no”. This is particularly critical when you’re feeling confused, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Building a business is an exercise in juggling. Time is the most important resource we have and it’s non-renewable. Once today is gone, it’s over. We know that. So while being open to new opportunities is important, it’s critical that we ruthlessly protect our calendar and that we manage our time well. That means blocking our time in our schedule to create and distribute content, work on new offerings, follow up with people we’ve met and cultivating relationships with them, including developing referral relationships.
Remember the story of the professor who brings in an empty jar, some rocks, sand, and a cup of coffee to his class? The only way to get everything in the jar is to put the big rocks in first, then the smaller pebbles, then the sand, and finally the coffee.
This story varies based on who tells it but the big lesson is that in order to achieve your biggest goals you need to focus on them first – so block out your calendar and schedule around your “big rocks”.
Stay on top of administrative tasks. With all due respect to Mike Michalowicz author of Profit First, you don’t get to pay yourself first, you need to pay the government first. So admin tasks might be a gigantic drag but they’re important and part of running a business like a business. Send invoices on time, keep your receipts and expenses organized, keep your projects organized and your email inbox cleaned out and organized. And if this isn’t in your “wheel house” as my friend Lisa Roberts would say, then you’ve got to create systems to help you stay on top of things and you need to hire someone to help you.
Once you get over the overwhelm then you want to do your best to stay focused on the RIGHT priorities.
Keep your vision and mission in focus. This might feel trite but it’s important for you to know where you’re going. I have mine written in a notebook with my big goals and I read them every day. It only takes a few minutes and keeps me focused on them. I also write affirmations in the same notebook and this helps me emotionally connect with my vision, mission, and goals.
Are you giving too much time away? I added up the time I was giving away to friends and colleagues and it averaged 8 hours a week. A whole day!! I decided I can’t keep doing that so I had my friends join a Facebook group for a new offering I’m creating. This helped me stay connected to them, share ideas, and it helps me capture their successes that relate to my advice so I can use those as case studies and testimonials.
Understand how long it takes you to get work done and stop over-booking yourself.
This was a huge issue for me. I had to really remind myself how long it takes to create a course or how long it takes me to write anything. Then I had to allow enough time in each week to get all that done.
Stop telling yourself you work best under pressure. You work best under pressure because you’ve conditioned yourself to constantly work under pressure. This is unhealthy and causes unneeded stress.
You’re in charge of your schedule so if your schedule is overwhelming then be the leader you are and start controlling it.
Keep focused. When you’re working, work. Log out of everything else except the tools you need to do the work. Keep a notepad by your side and when you feel an impulse to go off task, write down the thought that came into your head so you don’t lose the thought.
Take small steps but keep moving.
Schedule everything.I Just like “what gets measured gets improved’, “what gets scheduled gets done”.
I had to create an elaborate weekly calendar tool and a daily time management tool to manage my schedule and maximize my time.
Being a solopreneur and managing a growing business is hectic to say the least and it requires applying your best management and leadership strategies while staying focused on what’s really important to you, your clients, and your business.
If you’re ready to commit to achieving your goals, check out the Entrepreneur Achievers Club. It will help you zero in on your core priorities and stay focused so you’re getting more done with less stress.
Sure you got some things done; did some good work; but are you sure you’re going to end things on a high note or will it be something off-key?
It’s easy to allow ourselves to get distracted by the holiday season ahead and use the excuse that “nothing much gets done at this time of year” to just limp to the finish line.
You might have used a variation of that excuse at different times of the year…spring…summer….the World Series….football…this list is really endless when it comes to excuse-making opportunities.
Whether your business is off-track or you’ve had a successful year, my guess is there’s still something that needs to be done that would wrap this year up powerfully and set you up for a great start to the new one just ahead.
Set a timer for 3 minutes and then write or type everything you can think of. Don’t judge. Don’t edit. Don’t even correct your spelling. Just do a massive brain dump.
Make sure you don’t wuss out and pick things that just keep you feeling busy but really wouldn’t make much of an impact. For example, “Learning how to use Twitter” is not going to help you and your business make a big leap unless you’re a giant retailer with a big list and you haven’t started using Twitter yet.
3. Cut down to the single most important thing – it’s likely the thing you’ve been procrastinating about most – and it should be something that only you can do. And yes, I realize this is when you start getting nervous and looking for reasons to not take action. You’ll tell yourself, “I have to…” or “I don’t know how to…”and think up something that will distract you from the big thing.
This is the voice of the gremlin I call “Mini-Me”.
This little creature believes that making progress is scary and wants to keep you right where you are.
Your objective at this point is to recognize Mini-Me’s antics and then start making small movements forward. This will help her / him realize you’re in control and are going to be ok.
Funny how resistance rears its head as you start making more and more progress.
One of the biggest reasons we struggle to achieve our goals is that we don’t have a crystal clear picture of exactly what we want.
“More” isn’t crystal clear. A penny is more. A sucky client is more.
If it’s easier to think about what you don’t want then focus on that first. The point is that you should be able to give such a clear description of what you want that an artist could draw a picture of it.
Your brain needs to know what it’s working towards and what it’s supposed to focus on.
Without that sort of clarity it’s left jumping from idea to idea because it’s wondering “Is this it?!”, “Is this it?”
Help your brain focus by giving it extremely clear direction.
Remember Mini-Me? Well as we begin to move closer to our goal Mini-Me suddenly starts realizing what’s going on and s/he’ll raise a big stink. It’s easy to revert back to your old behavior of getting distracted, creating drama, over-scheduling yourself, or whatever other unhelpful behaviors you normally start embracing.
The key to making lasting change and to really achieving your goals is to keep moving.
Whether you call it persistence, stick-to-it-iveness, determination, or something else, the critical element of achievement is in maintaining momentum, recognizing resistance, and remaining aware so you can course correct to get refocused on the goal.
By doing those things, you continue to take action and ultimately achieve your goal.
So stop reading this and get going.
Remember, it takes clarity and consistent action to achieve your goals, finish the year strong, and set yourself up for success; so start with being as clear as possible.
The tendency I used to have was to look at my accomplishments and beat myself up for not achieving more.
I’m done with that.
I know that type of thinking helped chain me in self-abuse mode and kept me focusing on negative things which only got me more negative stuff.
Part of being detached from the outcome is looking at your results and not judging them. Just compare them to what you wanted.
I thought you might benefit from doing a mid-year assessment too so I thought I’d share what I did.
Revenue. I used to hate looking at my numbers. They were always inconsistent at best and not good at worse. But you can’t measure what you’re not tracking so take a look at your revenue from the first half of the year month by month. Is it going up or down? Were some months better than others? If so, why? Are you bringing in at least the amount you need to run your business, market your offerings, and have a great life without scraping to get by? Do you know the number you want each month? If not, get clear and then assess what’s going on here. Set a target for the second half of the year.
Expenses. These were on track for me but then my websites were infected with malware and it cost me more than $1000 to get the problem fixed. I now have an unexpected monthly payment for continued protection and I’ve got to figure out how to recover that money. That tells me I need to up my revenue number and take into consideration building a business rainy-day fund over the 2nd half of the year and beyond. Are you spending money where you should be? Are you paying for things you haven’t seen a return on? Are you paying for things you don’t really need at this point? Estimate expenses for the rest of the year and begin looking at expense estimates for 2017.
Profit. Do a quick calculation of the difference between your gross revenue and your expenses? By the way, did you take money for taxes out of your revenue? If not, make sure you do that and put it somewhere you won’t touch it. In spite of what Mike Michalowitz says in his book Profit First, you don’t pay yourself first. You always pay the government first. Remember, it took the US Treasury Department to bring down Al Capone.
Now, take a look at that profit number. Naturally you’d like it to be higher. Resist the temptation to beat yourself up if you think it’s too low. If it’s higher than you thought, then yay you. Make some notes about this number and give some more thought to revenue and expenses for the remainder of the year. As my mentor Mike Koenigs once said, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.”
OK, those are the very basics of business right? No surprise there. So here are the other things I looked at that I encourage you to review as well.
Referral Partners. If you’re an introverted entrepreneur like me and you hate selling, one of the secrets to NOT selling is to get more referrals. Word of mouth is important for any business but it’s really critical if you hate to sell. You’ve got to work extra hard at being truly remarkable. You’ve also got to work at cultivating relationships with key referral groups. So think about what types of businesses compliment but don’t compete with you? Who serves your ideal audience? Two segments that serve my ideal audience are Online Business Managers and Virtual Assistants. I’m actively cultivating relationships with great performers in these segments to spread the word about my show, Let’s Talk Tech, and for the tech events I have coming up. Who would be natural referral partners for you and your offerings? Are you cultivating strong relationships with those partners you already have? What more can you do for your existing partners in the 2nd half of the year and how will that impact your expenses? Will you buy gifts, send cards, etc.?
Web Presence Optimization. This can sometimes feel like trying to herd cats but what I’m talking about here is your overall ability to rank in the search engines for key terms, and the development of a consistent brand on the web? Is your website looking good or does it need to be updated (like mine does)? This doesn’t mean you need to be on every single platform out there but it does mean you want to do a good job on those platforms you are on and that you present a unified image and message. Keep in mind the old adage “A confused mind never buys” and evaluate your web presence with a critical eye. One of my goals is to dominate page one of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for several key terms. Do you have a goal for your web presence? If not, then add that to the list of things to think about for the second half of the year. And be sure to keep in mind any expenses related to growing your presence and your brand.
Product Creation. We create an awful lot of content each month. As people who hate selling, one of the things to make sure we’re doing is to repurpose that content into products people can purchase as a way to check out our philosophy, process, and effectiveness. These low and mid-priced range products can be reasonable investments for someone who is evaluating whether or not to work with you privately and they’re also a way to get paid for all that content you’ve created. This can be a relatively painless way to begin to grow your revenue and maximize your earning power. Reflect on everything you’ve created – blog posts, webinars, white papers and reports, etc. – and then think about the needs and wants of your audience. How can you put together at least one small product to begin to sell before the end of the year?
The first half of 2016 was crazy for me. I…
Le…successfully launched my podcast, t’s Talk Tech (on New & Noteworthy within an hour of its official launch and was in N&N in three categories every day for 8 weeks!),
...laid out a sales funnel
…planned and hosted my first big virtual event
…got featured in two commercials for hosting company Hostgator
…created and sold a course on developing and launching a unique podcast
…and survived the malware infection of my three web properties.
But I paid a big price.
I missed a couple of important family events and spent only minimal time with my husband.
What about you? Were the sacrifices you made worth it? What are you unwilling to do as you move into the second half of the year?
For me, this is an additional incentive to grow my revenue since I need to outsource more work to stay in my genius zone, maximize my impact, and minimize time spent away from those I love.
You know how fast time flies by. Take control of where you and your business are going so you don’t wind up on December 31st kicking yourself for another year of not becoming the person and not building the business you were meant to.
Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand at mid-year….how do you feel about your accomplishments and what are your big goals for the rest of the year.
(This post was first published in May of 2016. I made a few edits to make it more evergreen. — wha)