By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Whether you call yourself a gig economy worker, a self-employed entrepreneur, or a freelancer, all three have one thing in common: Business is either feast or famine. Sometimes it seems you’re staring down at an empty calendar; other times, you’re overwhelmed with work.
Of course, if we have to choose, self-employed entrepreneurs always prefer too much work over too little. But when you’re running a one-person business, how can you handle an influx of work while still maintaining your standards for high quality and timeliness?
Don’t wait until you’re facing 12 deadlines on the same day to find out. Instead, make like a Boy Scout and be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. Here are three tips to help you prepare for a sudden surge in business.
1. Have backup available
Build a network of trusted workers you can pull in to assist you at a moment’s notice, and you’ll always be ready for new assignments. Start by deciding what you can delegate and what skills are needed to handle those tasks. Focus on delegating easier tasks, projects for less important clients, admin-type work that eats up valuable time, or things you aren’t good at. For example, my business specializes in custom content creation, and since we’re writers and editors, we delegate much of our graphic design needs to freelance designers.
Where can you find these backup workers? Start by tapping into your existing networks of other business owners, former colleagues, friends, and family. You can also use social media or in-person networking organizations to find people who may be interested in freelance work. Build relationships ahead of time, and make yourself available to help them with their projects, too. Who knows? You might find not just assistance but a new source of income.
You can also search for freelancers on online employment marketplaces like Upwork, Guru, and Freelancer. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of each site, including fees, how freelancers are paid, and what recourse you have if their work doesn’t meet your standards.
Finally, temporary help agencies can be a source of last-minute workers. (After all, finding employees fast is their reason for being.) For best results, though, don’t wait until the last minute to contact a temp agency. Talk to a couple of agencies ahead of time to find out what they offer, how the arrangement works, and what the costs are. If you set up an account with an agency before you need it, it will be easier to get help fast. (If you’re hiring temporary employees, as opposed to freelancers or independent contractors, ask them to track their time to ensure they’re paid accurately and you stay on the IRS’s good side. A mobile time tracking app, for example, is great for remote employees.)
2. Keep your tools in order
In order to be ready for anything, you need to keep your business equipment in good working order. No matter how busy you get, don’t delay crucial maintenance tasks like updating mission-critical software or upgrading ancient hardware.
If you buy new software or equipment, learn how to use it right away so you can get the most value from your purchase. Otherwise, you could land a plum assignment, only to waste time struggling to learn the software you need to handle it.
3. Manage your time wisely
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly my empty calendar fills up. Leaving some “white space” in your schedule every day will ensure you have time to accept any last-minute projects that pop up. Whenever possible, negotiate for later deadlines or deliverables. This not only gives you more time to complete a project, but it also gives you time to accept new assignments.
Finally, don’t procrastinate. You know that saying, “work expands to fill the time available”? When you only have a few items on your calendar, it can be tempting to dawdle. Take a few hours of downtime if you need to, but don’t start wasting time on a daily basis. The faster you complete the projects you’re already working on, the more time you’ll have for new clients.
Being the company that can step in at the last minute to save a client is a good place to be. By following the steps above, even a one-person business can be ready to come to the rescue.
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.