When starting out, most freelancers do it all by themselves and that’s totally fine. But the mistake many make as they grow is overlooking how setting up business systems can make their lives and their work more efficient, easier and certainly less stressful. That’s a shame.
If you continue to do it solo as your business grows, you will simply find yourself putting in longer hours and not realising the enjoyment and the increased revenue you should. That’s not a path you want to tread.
This is where creating a business system becomes critical. Business systems are the practices, policies and procedures that entrepreneurs put in place so that their businesses can run smoothly and they can focus on the “meat” of their work, not the details or the “hired help.”
Freelancers who have grown their businesses and who seem to have time for themselves, their families and an increasing number of clients have understood seven things about setting up a business system. Take a look at these seven and begin to incorporate them now.
Work on your mindset
There are people who are self-employed and there are people who are entrepreneurs. It’s a mindset really. If you continue to think of yourself as self-employed, then you will have the mindset that you are the business, not that you own a business.
If you own a business, then that business is a separate entity from you as a person, and you will do those things that will streamline operations so that you have some freedom.
Identify your key business tasks
The best way to do this is to take inventory of all that you do within a week. How much time do you spend actually creating work product for clients? And how much time do you spend doing chores like marketing, creating e-mails/newsletters, maintaining your blog and taking care of all of the accounting tasks – invoicing, recording payments, sending out payment reminders, keeping tax records, etc.?
List the steps of each task that relate to your business
Let’s start with a simple example – how often do you post on your blog or social media? What is entailed in creating a post?
The steps you probably take are:
- Finding a good topic
- Doing the research
- Finding or creating the visuals/media to include
- Writing and then publishing the post.
- Responding to comments/feedback
- Create the same “outlines” for all your business chores.
- Identify what portions of tasks can be automated or delegated
Take a look at the steps of each task process and see what you can automate. Maybe you can spend one day a month creating your blog posts. Then you can automatically schedule their publication. The same with e-mail services. And, as for looking for topics? Use sites like Buzzsumo.com to get topic ideas in your niche. You can also set up an automatic feed from news sites or Google Alerts based upon keywords related to your niche.
Accounting tasks go without saying. Getting a software system that send out invoices, tracks payments, sends out reminders and even categorises everything for tax purposes is just a no-brainer. Many will even complete your taxes for you, based upon the figures that have been gathered each quarter.
Consider outsourcing or hiring
As your business grows, it makes sense to see how you can “staff up” to get tasks completed by others. You might want to outsource some of your marketing or the maintenance of your blog. You could also hire a professional to handle your tax bills.
Think about those tasks that you don’t love and that seem to eat up time. These are the ones to delegate out. And using remote contractors or employees keeps your office expenses down.
As you implement the business systems you have selected, make sure they are really working for you. Take time to evaluate if they are doing what you want them to do. If not, revise your plans and processes until they do. There are a huge number of resources out there – digital and human.
Schedule the down time – it’s all about freedom
With systems in place, a freelancer can relax. But that relaxation also takes a mindset change. It is easy to get into the mode of work above all else, all of the time. If you find it hard to “leave the baby” with automated tools or other people, you will have to work into this gradually. Take an entire afternoon and evening off. At first, you will worry if all is going well, but over time, you will realise that the baby is in good care. Gradually, you can increase that down time and, for instance, go backpacking through Southeast Asia without having to deal with the hassles of currency conversion. This is how to gain the freedom you envisioned when you first started your business.
The whole point of business systems really is to provide more freedom to entrepreneurs – freedom to grow their businesses; freedom to focus on the tasks they really love; and freedom have a “life.” Take these steps and you’ll get control of your work life.