You’ve done it. You had a dream, made plans, launched a business and, now, you’re rockin’ and rollin’ as an entrepreneur. Welcome to the club. The paychecks are rolling in, your customers are happy and your schedule is full. Are you ready for the next stage of this journey? Do you have any freelancer growth strategies in place?
As your business moves forward, don’t get complacent. Think about the future and how you’ll handle exponential growth. Getting too much work can feel overwhelming and, for some small business owners, crippling enough to cause the whole operation to close, if not managed well.
Last year, I turned down a writing project. Then two, then three. I started working later into the evenings and scheduling myself to work weekends to tackle it all. It was a recipe for disaster. I hit maximum exhaustion levels, neglecting other areas of my life and not doing my best on any of my projects. There was just too much to juggle.
My business was growing fast, so I decided to take a few months to analyze my freelancer growth strategies and figure out how to add more dollars to my bottom line without adding more hours to my workweek. Here are my top strategies:
1. Conduct a Business Audit
If you don’t want to work 24/7, take a step back and look at the whole picture. Figure out what tasks, products and services give you the best return on your time, energy, supplies and investments. When you started out, you did a bit of everything to move forward. Now, it’s time to refine your services. Start by conducting a business audit.
I looked closely at the laundry list of services I offered and slashed several. For example, I no longer offer one-on-one consulting, because I can make more money and better build my audience if I use that same slot of time to write for my clients.
2. Prioritize Work Tasks
Once you know which tasks make you the most money or push your business forward, give them the prime slots in your workday schedule. Initially, it can prove tough to follow a strict routine, but tackling money-making activities before other tasks gives you a motivating mental and financial boost.
For me, I’m most focused and productive in the morning and just after lunch, so I schedule my paid writing tasks early in the day. The later afternoon is for revisions, edits and tedious tasks, like invoicing, replying to emails, updating social media and scheduling projects.
3. Learn to Say No
The hardest part of growing my business has been saying no to potential partnerships and projects. In the beginning, you dig into every opportunity, but once things get busy, you need to be selective or you’ll be stuck working extremely long hours trying to do everything.
I evaluate each work task by how much time it will take, how much money it will earn and how it will impact the reputation of my business. Sometimes, I politely decline low-paying offers or tasks that kill my productivity, so the rest of my responsibilities receive the attention they deserve. If you find yourself saying no too often, you might want to consider hiring an assistant or a few staff members.
4. Take Some Time Off
From day one, you’ve been thinking, developing and producing for your business. It’s time to stop and take a breath. You should take some days off. You need vacation time. Getting away from the day-to-day operations will rejuvenate you, so you can work efficiently and enjoy every moment of it.
I love my career, and I frequently work on projects ahead of time, because I’m excited to get started. But, that doesn’t mean I skip holidays or activities with friends. I’m actually working a short day today to visit with a girlfriend. I’m good at taking partial days off and know I need to make more of an effort to get away from my keyboard for a few days at a time, so guess what I did? I penciled in a week off next month and a business trip (with an extra day for fun!) the following month. If it’s on my calendar, I’ll stick to it.
As an entrepreneur, it’s difficult to realize that growth sometimes means taking a step back, evaluating every process and seeing where you can tighten up your operations. Then, use that extra time for yourself. It’s possible to make more money, grow a business and not work 24/7. Now, go put that business audit and vacation time on your schedule.