By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Being self-employed is tough. With no one but yourself to answer to, it can be surprisingly easy to fall into bad habits that, if left unchecked, can destroy your business. Spring is a time of new beginnings, which makes it the perfect time to break your bad business habits and learn new ones. Here are five bad habits every self-employed entrepreneur should leave behind.
Maybe you became your own boss because you were sick of a boss looking over your shoulder. But if you find yourself getting less and less done every day, you may have become your own worst enemy.
Solution: Start by finding out exactly how much time you’re wasting and how little you’re getting done. Use time tracking software to monitor how you’re spending your time on a daily basis. Do this for at least one week and then add it all up. You’ll probably be shocked to see how much you’re getting distracted and how little you’re getting done.
Then set realistic goals for each day, such as finishing three important tasks. Continue to track your time so you’re aware of what you’re doing. If necessary, restrict yourself from social media and other distractions, but reward yourself for accomplishments with something you enjoy.
2. Isolating yourself
When you work for yourself, it’s easy to start spending way too much time by yourself. Unfortunately, being isolated from other business owners can make you lose perspective. Without the stimulation of human contact, you may find yourself less motivated or even depressed.
Solution: Force yourself to get out of your office and engage with others on a daily basis, even if it’s just a run to the office supply store. Plan lunch dates with your contacts, attend networking meetings, or rent a desk in a co-working space where you can rub shoulders with other freelancers.
3. Not managing your money
Few of us start our own businesses because we love working with spreadsheets. For many self-employed entrepreneurs, adding up the numbers is something they prefer to avoid. However, if you don’t pay attention to your cash flow, it’s eventually going to stop flowing.
Solution: If you don’t understand accounting, get help from a resource like your local SBA district office or SCORE office to learn the basics.* Use accounting and invoicing software that connects to your business bank account. This will make it easier to see where your finances stand at any given moment. Simplify things further by using a time tracker that integrates with your accounting and invoicing tools, so you can always be sure you’re charging accurately for your time. And don’t delay invoicing. The sooner you bill your customers, the faster you’ll get paid.
4. Relying on current customers
When you’ve got a few big customers that take up most of your time (and pay most of your bills), it’s easy to get complacent and focus solely on serving them. But what happens if one of those big customers takes their business elsewhere?
Solution: No matter how busy you are with the demands of existing customers, you must make time to market your business to new prospects on a regular basis. Set aside an hour a day or one day a week — whatever works best for your schedule — to focus on marketing. Social media marketing, online advertising, and content marketing are easy and low-cost tools that even a one-person business can implement.
5. Letting your skills lag
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but if you don’t get out of your comfort zone, your business will stagnate. Are your skills keeping pace with changes in your industry, or are they becoming obsolete?
Solution: Make it a point to maintain your current skills and learn new ones on a regular basis. With everything from online degrees and courses to webinars available at the click of a mouse, there’s no excuse for letting your skills atrophy. Join industry associations and take advantage of their educational events and materials, too. And use your time tracker to identify extra hours in your day and put them to good use learning new skills.
Devote yourself to breaking these five bad habits,
and watch your good habits pay off in new sales and business growth.
*SCORE is a client of my company.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.