Now that the New Year’s streamers and party hats have been put away, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do now to make 2018 an awesome year for your business.
I’m going to challenge you to take three specific actions. Together, they can help you:
- Improve your productivity and make informed decisions about how you spend your time.
- Break out of your marketing rut and experiment with a new tactic that fits with your goals and time constraints.
- Self-motivate and enjoy the fruits of your hard work—guilt free.
Sound good? Here’s what you need to do:
1. Track your time for two weeks
One of the great mysteries of freelance work is where all the time goes. Whether we have one project, or twenty projects, we never seem to have enough time.
The only way to find out where all your time goes is to track it. And I mean track all of it—billable hours, non-billable hours and everything in between. (More on how to do that in a minute.)
Just as importantly, you need to analyze your data and make changes based on your findings.
Track how much time you’re spending on billable work, broken down by client, and project, if possible.
After two weeks, you should be able to calculate your internal hourly rate. (This is simply the amount you billed for project work , divided by the number of hours you spent on your billable work.
Once you know your internal hourly rate, you can quote future projects more confidently. You can also use this number to establish some baselines, such as (for example):
- Every project I do has to average $125 or more per hour going forward.
- If I’m going to do another white paper, it’s going to have to yield at least $150 per hour internally.
- I have to earn X every week.
Simultaneously, track how much time you’re spending on non-billable activities. You don’t have get ultra specific in capturing this information, but the more specific you are, the more precise your insights.
After two weeks, you’ll see how much time you’re spending on non-billable tasks, such as prospecting, social media and even housework.
This may allow you to set some baselines here too, such as:
- Based on my internal hourly rate, and the time I spend housecleaning, I can justify bringing in a housecleaner every two weeks.
- If I cut my time on Facebook in half, I can get to the gym one more day a week.
Since you’ll be analyzing your data, tracking your time in a notebook isn’t all that helpful. Instead, look for a tool that will make tracking your time (and performing some light analysis) simple.
You’ll find there are plenty of time tracking tools available. Some of my team members use Toggl, for example. Hubstaff is another popular option. Many of these tools are free (or low cost) for single users. Most have a phone app, so you can track your time easily, wherever you are.
2. Add one new marketing activity to your mix
With so many marketing options available to us, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice. As a result, many of us just stick with what we’re currently doing (or not doing).
This year, give one additional strategy a try to break the inertia.
Which marketing activity should you add to your mix? When deciding, consider:
- Where you are in your business today
- Where you’re trying to go with your business
- What’s worked (and not worked) in the past
- Your time constraints
Then, decide whether you want a light-, medium- or high-intensity marketing activity.
Light-intensity marketing activities could include:
- Reactivate past/dormant clients
- Tap your network
- Actively ask for referrals
- Network in your local area
- Start a newsletter
- Start a blog
- Nurture longer-term leads
- Strategically engage with colleagues, clients and prospects on social media
Medium-intensity marketing activities could include:
- Target and attend conferences
- Network strategically (i.e. join a board or committee; volunteer)
- Write guest articles
- Conduct direct mail campaigns
- Prospect via warm emails
- Make cold calls
- Respond to online job board postings
- Reach out to agencies
- Partner with complementary freelancers
High intensity marketing activities could include:
- Publish a book
- Reach out to high value prospects several times (and in a variety of ways) over the next 12 months
- Speak at public events
Remember, the goal here is to try something new and have fun with it. So be realistic about what you take on.
3. Set aside a fixed percentage of your income for experiences
This action is about rewarding yourself for your hard work—something we sometimes neglect.
Rewarding yourself is important. And one of the best ways to do it is to set aside some of your income every month for experiences.
Why the emphasis on experiences instead of things? When we buy things, they make us happy for a while. But we adapt to them, and they quickly lose their significance.
Experiences stay with us much longer. Their significance endures, and the memories of our experience can stay with us for years and years.
Experiences also have the advantage of anticipation. They give us something to dream about and imagine in a way that things don’t.
Learn more about the benefits of experience rewards in these articles:
- “The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things,” Fast Company
- “Buy Experiences, Not Things,” The Atlantic
You don’t have to plan an expensive trip to get the benefits of experiences. It can be something much simpler. It just has to make you happy and excited.
And you don’t have to save a big percentage of your income either. What matters is that you set it aside consistently! It will add up over time.
Because you’ve put this money aside specifically for this experience—and have planned for it—you won’t feel guilty doing it!
So for this action, you need to do two things:
- Commit to making a plan for a fun experience.
- Commit to saving a percentage of your income for these experiences.
Now start dreaming and planning!
Here’s to a Fun and Prosperous 2018!
It’s hard to believe, but 2019 will be upon us before we know it.
So start 2018 off right by taking these three actions now to make this year the best ever for your business.