Organize Your Business Systems For The New Year
This is a lengthy post intended for the first of December but missed its deadline. It didn’t feel “perfect” enough. I’m going to stop trying to be perfect in 2017. And so, before 2016 ends, I’m pushing this one out as is, imperfections and all. Hope you enjoy it and find new things to help with your business in 2017.
Are your freelancing business systems organized for 2017?
Have you tamed your inbox or organized your swipe files yet? Do you have a standardized way of managing your business systems?
While most people like to clean things out and organize stuff in the spring, I love doing it in the winter. Just before Christmas and New Years. It’s a slow time for freelancers anyway.
Plus, I like starting the New Year with a clean slate and solid goals. I’m going to share with you, some of the systems I organized this winter.
You’re bound to find something in this list that could use a touch up in your business systems.
Streamline Your Business Processes
Get your favorite business tools ready for the New Year.
The calendar is to a freelancer like fuel is to your car. You go nowhere without one.
My top picks for flexible calendars are Asana and Google Calendar. Both have multi-calendar features and play nicely with other online and mobile tools.
Clean out old reminders and create new calendars pertinent to your goals in 2017. Use your calendar to pre-plan your year.
Schedule batch work (such as researching, writing, and editing). And create new reminders and creative prompts.
Here are some ideas:
Set up your 2017 appointments and reminders.
Pre-plan your blog post topics for next year – or at least until June.
Start your editorial calendar for blog posts and guest posts
Set reminders for paying your quarterly taxes
Pre-plan your travels and vacation time (hello FinCon 2017)
And some points to think about:
You can play with work scenarios to see where you may be underspending or overspending your time.
Use the calendar to dry-run your business schedule to make sure you’re not planning yourself on a one-way train ride to Crazyville.
And be careful not to let your calendar become a digital mess. Schedule time each month to keep it updated.
When I played around with my 2017 blogging schedule, I saw that my personal schedule could only accommodate 2 blog post slots, 1 guest post slot, and 3 client work slots a month. Any more than that and I would be over-tasking myself. This is the first year I did this, and now I see why 2016 seemed so overwhelming for me on the freelancing front.
Here’s what I did with my Asana calendar:
Whatever your business plans are for the New Year, now’s the time to pre-plan and run scenarios based on those goals.
I don’t know about you but this past year has left me with a mess of documents. I had many copies of the same articles in various levels of editing and saved on different platforms.
Have you done this too?
Might as well take this time to get rid of your duplicates and create a system that prevents this mess in 2017.
I like to use Google Docs during the draft phase of my writing. I can work on it anywhere, and I don’t have to remember to save every minute. I then save my final draft to MS Word finalize the editing process there. After that, I save it as a .doc in my Google Drive folder labeled for blog posts or client work. I also delete the old Google Doc draft at the same time.
Everyone is different, and there is a myriad of ways to handle documents.
I know freelancers who like to work in Evernote and those using Apple products swear by Pages. No matter which way you choose to manage your work, be sure to create a system that eliminates, multiple copies on different platforms.
This will ensure your hard drives and cloud storages won’t be swarming with dastardly duplicates.
Your Online Presence
Have you updated your social media profiles recently?
When prospective clients find you online, will they see updated contact information or your newest projects and services?
Now’s the time to go through every profile you have online and update it. And don’t forget the profiles that you rarely visit.
Job site profiles (Contena, Contently, or Clearvoice)
Other comment/participation aggregator
Old guest posts & author profiles
I forgot to update my author profiles on sites like Flipboard, Triberr, and G+ since I don’t participate in those often.
As a freelancer you’re always improving your skills and products, make sure your online persona reflects that. Now is a great time to ensure your profiles are consistent across all channels. And while you’re at it, start a spreads a spreadsheet to track all the places that you have a profile.
Is it time to freshen up your website or blog?
If you need ideas for a new theme (free and paid), check out this list.
Make sure your theme is mobile responsive, has good support and integrated features. Then look into upgrading your plugins for security, ease of use and SEO optimization.
Check out this article from my friend Adam Connell on what you can do to ready your blog for the New Year.
My personal favorite is the Thrive Themes suite of products and lightweight plugins. For social media sharing, I use Social Warfare. No coding skills needed to make a website look professional and attractive.
Declutter, Delete, Decommission
Just like any space in your home, clutter finds its way into the nooks and crannies of your freelancing business systems and online tools. We tend to make a digital mess of our apps, folders, and hard drives.
Take this time to do some digital cleaning. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better.
Go spend some time in your inbox.
Go ahead, don’t be scared. Time block this if you have to. Dedicate at least an hour to cleaning it out.
Here are some steps that will help:
Delete folders you no longer use or ones you haven’t referenced in over 6 months.
- Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe to subscription emails and newsletters that don’t bring you joy or detracts you from doing your best work.
- Use a tool like Unroll.me (non-affilliate link). This email aggregation manager will gather all your subscriptions and roll it up into one email that you can review when you’re ready. That’s so much better than having subscription emails cluttering up your inbox and causing you to miss important emails.
- Delete old folders and create new ones that you’ll actually use.
Now is the best time to get your inbox ready for 2017 by deleting old stuff and restructuring it to make it work for your business.
Your Digital Spaces
Do you use Pocket, Diigo, Evernote or other note-taking, webpage-grabbing app?
Any chance that app has articles that you don’t even remember why you saved in the first place?
In the past, I have abandoned online accounts because I just collected too much digital crap. Today, I won’t allow more than 40 references in my Evernote swipe file, and I refuse to use Pocket because I can’t trust myself to not be a digital hoarder.
Go through your catch-all apps and throw things out. Things you meant to read but never did, and stuff you intended to keep as a reference but never used.
And don’t forget to clean out your browser bookmarks -yet another dirty, sneaky digital hoarding tool.
Instead of bookmarks, use Start.me (non-affillate and unrelated to Unroll.me). Start lets you design your own browser homepage where you can access your most-used apps and favorite web pages. I love this because it’s not attached to any one browser.
This is what Start can do for you:
- Keeps your browser bookmark folder clean.
- Keeps everything up front so you don’t forget you have a folder for that.
- It’s free.
If the internet were a swimming pool, your Start.me page would be the diving board.
Take this time to declutter and manage the way you capture web resources. Keep your swipe files clean and organized so you’ll be able to find references quicker.
Your Physical Space
Declutter your physical workspace. Throw out any papers or printouts that you haven’t referenced in the last 6-12 months.
Paper takes up space and doesn’t bring any joy to your business. Yet, if you need to have some paper around, use a small container to keep your most loved papers. Once the tub is full, collect no more papers unless you throw some papers out first.
Clear your immediate workspace from papers, folders, or knickknacks, from your work area that don’t immediately pertain to what you’re doing. Organize your book and supplies shelves so things are within easy reach when you need them.
Create Better Business Systems
The number one job requirement as a freelancer is creativity. Do you have a business process that inspires ideas and helps you manage them?
2017 will be YOUR year. Create a system that helps you keep track of your progress and help you gather more ideas for your business.
Create a Yearly Editorial Calendar
Blog posts ideas can get out of hand. You’ll start out with focused intentions until outside influences spark new ideas and you end up writing unrelated articles. Sometimes you may venture outside of your niche.
(No? Am I the only one with this problem? Just in case I’m not, I’ll share it.)
This is why making a yearly editorial calendar is crucial. Think of your annual calendar as your shopping list.
What subject do you want to write about for each month in 2017? Lay that out this month, so you’re not searching for things to write about when that month comes.
And don’t forget, this is not set in stone, you have the right to change your monthly topics throughout the year whenever you see fit.
Start a Business Journal
When you’re a solopreneur, it’s easy to forget stuff when you’re always busy juggling a thousand different things.
How can you measure what is working for your business and what isn’t if you’re not keeping track?
’m talking about keeping a daily and monthly business journal.
Every day, at the end of your day, or before you take your break, jot down the things you accomplished in your business. Things you didn’t get to finish, who you talked to, invoices you sent, or people you’re waiting on. Even things that piss you off about the job.
You don’t have to write a lengthy synopsis, just enough to capture the important things that happened in your business that day.
At the end of the month, compile all your daily journals into one monthly summary. You’ll be surprised how much you forgot happened in that month.
Keeping a business journal will help you to organize upcoming events or procedures. At best, it can help you recognize patterns in your work which you can then use to develop new systems or habits.
At worst, it’s just another thing to add to your daily chores.
Try it for a month and see how you like it. I’m sure it’s not for everyone. But I’ve found it helpful for my business.
Create Standard Operating Procedures
If you haven’t done something like this already, start creating a Standard Operating Procedures file for all your business tasks. An SOP is a fancy military way of saying checklist, outline, or step-by-step instructions.
Create one for everything you do. Things like how you write blog posts, articles, create images, set social media schedules, or client workflows.
Having checklists will help keep your work focused and consistent and is a real lifesaver when you’re just not feeling up to doing work.
How is this you ask? Well, my friend, following a blog post outline is much easier than trying to create one from a blank page when you’re strapped for time, or your brain isn’t functioning.
And having a checklist for your virtual assistant to follow makes work easier for both of you.
Now it’s Your Turn
Of course, there’s always more you can do to ready your business processes, and there are a million apps you can use to do it but this list a great start.
Tell me, what are you planning on for your business in 2017?