By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
If you’re not focussed on growth, you’re bound to stagnate. Whether you’re running a small business or you’re self-employed, here are six ways to develop with growth in mind.
1. Systematize processes to save time and energy
If you’re working alone or with a small team, you may think you don’t need to create systems for the business. But systematizing the way you work will save you time and effort. Creating a system for generating and sending invoices, for example, means you won’t have to start from scratch every time.
You can develop systems for everything from naming your files and arranging new client meetings to creating estimates and shipping products. Systems also help you deliver a consistent product or service, which boosts your business’s reputation. And as you scale your operation, having systems in place can give your growing business an edge.
2. Invest in technology and equipment that scales with you
I used to gravitate toward the least expensive version of a technology solution, in a misguided attempt to maximize my business budget. Then a colleague advised me to buy the latest versions because they would have room to grow with my business.
Are you making do with a five-year-old laptop or trying to squeak by with the free version of some mission-critical software? There are plenty of places to cut costs in a business, but your technology isn’t one of them. Tech tools can level the playing field and give you the power to compete with bigger businesses. That makes them a worthy investment, not a wasteful expense.
3. Learn from and network with other experts
Do you decline projects or not pursue certain clients because you don’t have the expertise to handle the work? Don’t say no to the business! Instead, find a partner to help. Aligning with other freelancers or vendors who have the expertise you lack can open new doors.
Suppose you’re a copywriter and want to get more business writing web copy for businesses in a specific niche. You might network with, and offer to partner with, graphic or web designers who can recommend your services to clients in need of a copywriter. You, your partner, and their clients can all benefit. And who knows? You could pick up a few things about web design along the way.
4. Make time for your marketing efforts
Tearing yourself away from urgent projects and deadlines to focus on marketing is hard, but it’s essential if you want your business to keep going — and growing. Chances are you’re wasting plenty of time that could be used for marketing activities.
If you want to find that time, try tracking the time you spend on different tasks for at least a week. Once you have a better idea of how much time you’re putting in each day, you’ll see where you have time to spare to promote your business and launch new marketing campaigns.
5. Keep your records organized
Sloppy record-keeping practices like throwing receipts into a shoebox or not keeping track of mileage will come back to haunt you at tax time. When it comes to time tracking, especially, poor record-keeping can cost you money.
If you bill on an hourly basis, don’t play guessing games with your timesheets and invoices. The TSheets time tracking app lets you specify what you’re spending time on so you can invoice your clients accurately and get paid for the full value of your time. No more trying to remember what project you were working on last Monday at 4 p.m.
6. Learn how to manage your business finances
Even if you hire an accountant at tax time, every entrepreneur or self-employed worker should understand the basics of bookkeeping and accounting. To get up to speed in this area, you might take an accounting course online or at your local community college. You might also see if your chosen accounting solution offers learning materials or tutorials.
If you’re still tracking your income and expenses on Excel spreadsheets, consider upgrading to an accounting solution like QuickBooks Online or Sage 50. These tools are built for small businesses, and many integrate with TSheets, so you can track time and save it.
Even if you have no dreams of being the next Mark Zuckerberg, focussing on growth can keep your passion for your business intact — and energize you for success.
Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.