January 2016 – Small Business Tips
Welcome to the first in a year long series on small business tips. Each month of 2016, I will be sharing a new topic in regards to running a small creative business. Here are the topics we will be discussing for 2016:
January: Make a Plan
February: Say Thank You
March: Know Your Numbers
April: Inspiration Files
May: Social Media Tips
June: Board of Directors (AKA Business Mentors)
July: Finding Your Tribe (AKA Circle of Influence)
August: Back to School/Back to Business
September: Ramping Up for the Holidays
October: Branding Basics
November: Business Resources
December: Looking Back/Planning for the Future
As a small business owner and creative entrepreneur that’s been in business for (6) years I have many tools and tips that can help you grow your own business and a wealth of project management skills from years as an interior designer that are equally as useful as a business owner.
As it’s the beginning of the year, what better way to start than with a PLAN. I first began mapping out my projects way back in the days of being a project manager for Fortune 500 clients in Chicago. Back then I used Microsoft Project – a project management tool that integrated dates, tasks, and resources into one very big calendar. I have now simplified and use Basecamp to map out everything for my business from blogging calendars, marketing efforts and collaborations.
Tweet: mapping out everything for business from blogging calendars, marketing efforts and collaborations is an important step to business success
Here is a step by step of what I do to prepare for the year ahead.
Plan a business retreat for yourself: it can be as simple as blocking off 1-3 days on your calendar and making your business a priority or as extravagant as a weekend away for focused planning.
Gather supplies: computer, notebook, 3-ring binder, calendar, fun office supplies such as markers, highlighters, pens etc.; I have a moleskine notebook that travels everywhere with me – it houses notes, addresses of cool places I have visited, sketches, ideas and plans. I use a 3-ring binder as an overall inspiration binder and ideas I have for my business – I also use Pinterest for the same purpose and find that it is easier for me as its portable. I have two calendars: a large planning calendar on the wall in my studio and a spiral calendar for more notes and ideas. I LOVE office supplies and probably have way too many but its nice to have good pens, markers and highlighters for planning purposes.
Prior Year Review: Once you have gathered all your supplies its time to sit down and take stock of the last year. You may want a notebook or paper to note what worked and what didn’t and how you might like to move forward. This is a working document and as the business owner, you can come back to this at a later time and make changes or adjustments according to how your business might change throughout the year. An easy way to do this is to divide the year into business quarters: January-April; May-August; September-December.
New Year Plan: After you have reviewed the prior year you should be able to make a rough layout of the year ahead. On a large planning calendar write in the items that worked for you in the past and that you know you want to include in the planning of the coming year. My friend and business coach Jen Lee uses post-it notes to plan on her calendar and color coordinates them to her specific business tasks.
Add New Tasks: Once all the existing items are included you’ll be able to see where you have space in your calendar and can begin to add other important tasks to fill out the year. When you are looking at each month, make sure you include vacation as a task as time to rejuvenate is extremely important.
Moving to a Digital Format: Once my calendar is mapped out on paper and I am happy with all parts of it, I also add it to my digital calendar as this is what I use to create my daily and weekly schedule. As I mentioned above I use Basecamp to plan my business and it connects directly to the calendar on my computer and phone, so I always have an up to date overview of my business. There are many digital programs for managing your business; this is what I use and have found it works well for the type of business I have.
Next month we will be discussing how important it is to say THANK YOU to your clients, customers and the people that help your business THRIVE. Until then…Happy Planning!
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