Are you trying to do everything yourself in your small business?
As a small-business owner, especially when you’re first starting out, you might feel as if you need to do “all the things” yourself. It could be a lack of funds or a trust issue … maybe you don’t think anybody else can do it as well as you can, or maybe you don’t know how to go about outsourcing tasks.
Maybe working hard gives you a sense of achievement and makes you feel as if you’re making progress. The more you work, the more you feel things are moving in the right direction … right? But when you’re making every decision, handling every request and doing everything yourself, there’s a distinct possibility you’ll miss things like deadlines, “me” time, your family and friends … and sleep!
So, how can you avoid this when you’re a one (wo)man band?
1. Get organised
The heart of productivity is organisation. If you’re not organised your productivity is going to suffer. And when you’re working in and on your business, that’s going to increase the number of hours you need to spend working each day/week/month.
“Use your time wisely by outsourcing tasks to the right people so you can focus on what’s really important.”
Start with your physical space. Try to make your work area somewhere you’ll feel comfortable and make sure you’ve got lots of natural light – this makes such a difference to your overall wellbeing and productivity. Keep it clutter-free, use drawers to store things you’ll need rather than your desktop, and make sure it’s been set up for you by doing an ergonomic assessment. Add some items that you love, like art or decorator items in your brand colours; and last but not least, add some plants … not only do they look great, they clean the air and make for a better work environment.
Now that your physical space is sorted, let’s move on…
2. Set up processes and systems
Set up systems that allow you to easily duplicate your processes. I’m talking about things like a project management system, email templates, document templates, electronic filing systems, etc. You’ll be amazed how much time you’ll save by having processes for repetitive tasks and knowing where everything is!
I think it’s so important to have a master to-do list. It’s so easy to end up with bits of paper everywhere with lists on them. I have my master to-do list in Asana; but if you prefer pen and paper, grab a notebook and at least keep everything in one place.
I use Asana as my project management system (PMS) and have set up canned responses in Gmail along with a comprehensive folder structure in OneDrive, my document management system (DMS). These three things keep my business information structured and easy to find and action.
As well as a PMS and a DMS, get yourself some good accounting software and keep it up to date. I have a recurring task in Asana that makes sure I do it. It’s also worth choosing software that allows you to link your bank account so that your bank transactions are automatically imported, as this saves so much time every month. It’s important to have your money in order!
3. Put some boundaries in place
It’s so easy to spend every waking hour in your business, but you’ll probably end up burning out. You are your business so if you’re not firing on all cylinders, then neither is it.
Some things to think about:
Have a closing time – Turn off your business phone, close your email and write your to-do list for the next day.
Establish boundaries with your clients – Let your clients know your business hours and stick to them. If you are working outside those hours, schedule any emails to send the next morning so that your clients don’t get mixed messages.
Make time to exercise – Nothing more to say on this one really!
Plan and eat well – Do meal planning and prepping on the weekend.
Get enough sleep – Try to establish a schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day; this will help you get regular, consistent sleep.
Find a hobby – It’s healthy to have hobbies and interests outside of your business. Whether that’s reading, yoga, gardening or something completely different, spending some time doing the things you love outside of work is a great way to avoid burnout and establish work–life boundaries.
4. Outsource the important stuff
Yes, there are lots of things we can do ourselves, but the question is, should we?
I’m talking about things like:
The legal stuff – There are so many reasons you shouldn’t do this yourself; but number one is that both you and your clients need to be covered in the event of an issue, so make sure you have a lawyer create (or at least review) your contracts and policies.
Tax – Use a registered tax accountant. By all means do your bookkeeping yourself to begin with but get a professional to sort it all out for you at the end of the tax year.
Graphic design and website – These guys are wizards and unicorns … they can do things so much better and faster than we can! Period.
Google/Facebook ads – Online advertising can be a great way to grow your business. However, it tends to be very expensive and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be money poured straight down the drain. If you’re intent on doing it yourself, do some training before trying it. Otherwise, outsource it for the best results.
5. Outsource the stuff that doesn’t need your expertise
At the other end of the scale is the outsourcing of tasks that don’t require your expertise. Use your time wisely by outsourcing tasks to the right people so you can focus on what’s really important for your business.
The types of tasks you could consider outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant (VA) are:
email and calendar management
setting up landing pages/email automations
file and database management
creating documents/reports/slide packs
setting up/managing your socials
managing your blog
creating graphics in Canva – socials, freebies, newsletters, etc.
6. Find your people
Running a business by yourself can be lonely. And sometimes our family and friends just don’t get the issues we face. So, find yourself a group of business friends who know what you’re dealing with. You can also connect with other business owners in relevant Facebook groups, your local Chamber of Commerce or groups specific to your industry. Try Googling “business networking [your city]” and find your people!
You really can’t do everything yourself when running your own business, so I would encourage you to think about implementing some of these tips to ensure the longevity of your business and your mental health.
This article first appeared in issue 33 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine