Every week I get emails from aspiring start up business owners, wanting tips and tricks of the trade. If these girls and guys are brave enough to reach out and email, I figured there must be others out there pondering the same.
Thanks to Emily for the awesome new name for the series!
3. Organising Your Time
Those first few weeks of being self employed is a funny old turn of events. You've walked into this whole new world, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and you're not quite certain you belong here yet. Suddenly, you can work in your pyjamas if you want, do your accounts from bed, and spend days on end procrastinating with the housework when you know you should really be doing your admin. The concept of 9-5 is demolished; no frantic phone calls when you're not at your desk by 930. Your friends will start calling you during the day, and more often than not, get miffed when you don't pick up - "but you're self employed, you spend your time how you want to!"
Wrong. Whilst yes, you do get to make your own rules, it can take a bit of adjustment when it seems you're the only person accountable to them. That's probably the first thing to get straight in your head - the person you're now accountable to, is not just you, but your customers. Your customers are now the boss, and without a clearly defined structure in place, your boss can get peed off pretty quick.
You need to quickly ascertain a structure that is going to work both for you, and in the time constraints that your customers expect. For a brand, this is simple - my customers need their orders in the timescale they were told they'd receive them in. For a graphic designer, you've given your client a an estimate at how long their branding audit is going to take. For a blogger, your readers want to stop by and read 'Things I Love Thursday', on, you guessed it, Thursday.
For example, the lead time on my orders is 3-5 working days. This is a timescale that has reduced over the years, after I went full time and my production line became more organised. However, it still gives me time for breathing room to order in components, or often orders have small adjustments. If my customers' wanted to pick something off the shelf, they'd hit Accessorize, but when I say that Crown and Glory pieces are made to order, they really are! Whilst I'm sure this puts off some people from purchasing (though, there is the 'Fast Track' option if something is urgent) and I do get the occasional email from people who don't understand the concept of 'working days', this is an expectation that is clearly stated across the site.
Therefore, I use the concept of a GAANT chart to organise my time - my daily tasks are determined in order of importance and urgency. For example, all of my orders are important, but those placed 3 days ago are more urgent than those placed yesterday, and so they come first. Whilst keeping my accounts up to date is important, in the beginning of February there's no real urgency so if I have to push that task back to tomorrow then I'm not going to beat myself up about it. If you're looking at your To Do list and seeing a significant amount of tasks that you'd deem 'Not Important but Urgent' then you're probably giving up too much free time to others and what they consider important. 'Not Important' and 'Not Urgent'? If time is tight, today is probably not going to be the day you're gonna tackle it. Schedule it to another time and forget about it! Physically moving it from one page in my diary to another (I use post it notes) really seems to take the weight off.
A lot of skill with time management also includes dealing with guilt. Not getting to the end of your To Do list every day does not make you a failure! In fact, if you did do this every single day, I'd suggest you're probably not working/dreaming to your full ability. You don't always want to be working in the 'Important/Urgent' segment of your to do list because that's usually conducive to high stress so if this is you, it's time to outsource, babe! Asking for some help in the tasks you're not great at or when your time would be more valuable elsewhere doesn't make you a failure. This year it's a goal of mine to get an accountant, because quite frankly I detest preparing my accounts. I've also just taken on a production assistant so that my orders don't reach 'Urgent/Important' in terms of lead time.
- Organise each day. Perhaps over your morning coffee, look at the tasks you've got on for that day and number them with the method above.
- Work in increments of half hour - eg, half hour for emails, 2 hour for ordering processing, half hour on social media. It's amazing what you'll get done when you've given yourself time constraints.
- See something on that To Do list that keeps cropping up again and again? Maybe it's time to 'eat a frog'. The burden of making an awkward phone call/ chasing up invoices/filing your tax return can be huge so starting your day by just manning up and doing it can be hugely invigorating! Eat that frog and move on.
- Time to get organised! This is a whole other post in itself but keeping a tidy studio, making email templates and a supplier spreadsheet can save hours and hours of time in a week. This weekend, I spent time organising my computer because it was in a total mess - I made the above desktop organiser so my files are within easy reach and my blog schedule right in front of my eyes. For just 99p you can download a fully customisable version, including changing the colour theme, text and include your own logos, from here. (Please note! You must have a version of Photoshop to download the file and although instructions are included, a knowledge of Photoshop is required)
- Plan in time off. If you want to go wild on a Wednesday night, then be my guest, but angry emails from clients on the Thursday morning if you haven't delivered will only add to your hangover.
If you've got a burning question about Crown and Glory or business as a whole, either email email@example.com or if you'd prefer to stay anonymous, you can ask us anything via Formspring http://www.formspring.me/crownandglory