“Man, I accomplished everything I needed today and I have extra time for myself!” said no solopreneur, ever.
Business owners, especially those with fewer than five employees, are notorious for working around the clock. In fact, according to small business financier Fundera, 81 percent of business owners work nights, and 89 percent work weekends. These solo business owners have to work so much because there is literally more to do to keep their business running than there are hours in the day. There are bills that need to be paid, meetings that need to be scheduled, contractors who need to be hired, customer inquiries that need to be addressed, and so on. Where’s Hermione’s time-turner when you need one?
Strapped for time and human resources, disorganization quickly ensues. And when a solopreneur is disorganized, they’re more likely to drop the ball, resulting in poor service, missed opportunities, and lost sales.
To help keep your business organized and avoid these pitfalls, here are some ways you can stay organized, save some time, and accomplish your goals:
1. Cut clutter in your work space
It may sound simple, but starting with your work space is an important first step in getting organized. Don’t take our word for it: researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information. Think about it—when you see a collection of coffee cups that need washing, or receipts to be filed, you’re more likely to get distracted by these other, less important tasks, rather than the tasks you should be focusing on.
Try starting with eliminating paper. Check out products like Genius Scan by The Grizzly Labs, which lets you scan and export documents from your phone, or Evernote, a cloud-based, cross-platform app that allows you to write, organize and archive your notes wherever you have access to internet.
Next, take some time to organize your digital life. Start with the documents that are most important to you. Place them in a designated file with sub-files correlated to all your content. Make sure the apps, systems, files and documents you use most are easily accessible whenever you log on. On your phone, the idea is similar, although your documents are typically filed within your apps. USA Today has some handy tips to help you figure out the best way for you.
2. Automate your accountant
Solopreneurs are generally most concerned with just a couple of things: driving sales and growing their business. That can be hard to do if you have to worry about administrative tasks like billing and invoicing. Consider automating your financial processes to strike these items off your to do list. Hiveage, an online invoicing software, claims it can save business owners an average of two days per month “by reducing the costly, time-consuming administrative tasks associated with invoicing and billing.” Not only does Hiveage mainstream your invoicing, it can also provide estimates, monitor payments, and track things like time, expenses, and mileage.
3. Virtualize your customer service
In our post, How AI is Helping Small Businesses Beat the Competition, we delved into the use of chatbots for customer service. If you’re a solo business owner on a shoestring budget, a chatbot may seem like an unobtainable asset, but don’t let that intimidate you. Services like Chatfuel, Botsify and OnSequel help you build your own chatbot (using the Facebook Messenger platform) without needing to know an ounce of code. Once deployed, chatbots can help eliminate some of the more mundane customer interactions on your end. They can answer frequently asked questions and other customer inquiries, accept payment, and provide an unintimidating place for customers to give feedback 24/7, letting you get some rest, or at least set your focus elsewhere.
4. Centralize your follow-ups
The biggest culprit for why most of your deals result in a “no” rather than a “yes” is a failure to follow up. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, businesses that contacted potential customers within an hour of their query were seven times more likely to qualify their leads than those that waited an hour or more, and 60 times more likely than companies that waited longer than 24 hours.
To keep leads and opportunities from slipping through your fingers, centralize your contacts in one place. Infusionsoft’s new app can identify all your contact interactions through the apps you use, like Gmail and QuickBooks, and organize them into one location. It can alert you when a sales follow up email is needed, and can recognize when there are overdue invoices, quotes or customer questions that need answering.
Now that your life is organized and streamlined, you can focus on the important stuff: taking your business to the next level (no time-turner needed)!