As with cars, your freelance business needs regular tune-ups to ensure smooth performance and prevent breakdowns.
If you’re the owner of an independent creative services business, you’re the driver of and solely responsible for how it’s going. No one else will pull you over and remind you. If you don’t stop for regular maintenance, you could end up running into trouble that you aren’t prepared for. That can cost you.
How far have you “driven” your business since you last had a tune up? If it’s been awhile, or if you’ve never done one, today is probably a good time to take care of it.
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What is a business tune-up?
So what is a business tune up anyway?
It’s a point-by-point assessment of how your business is running. It covers a variety of areas, including money matters and marketing.
Your tune-up can be as basic or detailed as you desire.
You should do a tune up on your business several times a year. It helps you stay on track with goals and objectives, and reveals what you need to adjust.
My business tuneup has five points takes less than two hours:
1] Creative Services
About a year ago I decided to shift into brand strategy and put less focus on my al la cart design services. One reason for this decision was to position myself as more of a consultant and less as an order-taker. This decision meant I needed to reframe my ideal clients and how I work with them.
A result of this decision is that I work with fewer clients, but with larger budgets and more complex project.
This was a big shift for me but it’s appropriate at this time in my career. If I hadn’t paused and done a tune up on my business, it’s unlikely that I would have made the shift.
So take a look at your service offerings and ask yourself these questions:
What kind of work do you enjoy the most and what do you make the most money from?
Are your creative services still relevant to your ideal clients?
What services you need to stop doing or sub out to someone else?
What would you like to start doing that they’re you’re not yet?
Are you working with the types of clients that pay you what you’re worth?
Services are one way to position yourself in the marketplace, and if you up your game you’ll most likely also raise the caliber of your clientele.
It’s easy to get into a rut with marketing. But the thing is that what’s worked in the past 12 months is not necessarily going to work in the next 12 months. You’re going to have to do some tweaking.
Social media algorithms change all the time. As a result, if you’re relying heavily on social media channels to reach out to prospective clients, you’re going to have to change your strategy simply because of the technology.
And while some social media channels don’t work well for you, others may provide a constant stream of new business. You should nurture the channels that work best for you.
Focus on the social media channels that’ll actually make you money in the long run. Take a good hard look at your current results. What should you tweak?
What else are you doing for outreach? Are you using email? What about direct mail? Are you doing any content marketing and if not, should you?
What systems do you have in place that run automatically? Automation means you set things up once and the system continues to perform.
Do you have a system for onboarding so you don’t have to rethink it for every new client?
Do you have an automated marketing funnel and email nurture sequence for new subscribers?
Have you automated your social media posts? There’s software for that.
If you create content — whether it’s a podcast, blog, videos, or e-books — are you batching the work? Batching allows you to group a variety of similar tasks together into one block of time. These sessions can last an hour or several days. For example, write multiple blog posts in one session, and schedule publication dates in advance. Generate invoices, pay bills and reconcile your accounts in the same time block.
Think how free you’d feel if you created all your content for the next year in a single week!
Is your invoicing and follow up process automated? If not, you should seriously consider the time-saving benefits of using software services for accounting and invoicing.
Look at all aspects of your business and consider what you can automate to so that you can spend more time focusing on the creative work.
One of the biggest hangups creative freelancers have is a lack of steady revenue. Because of the ebb and flow of your revenue stream, you should consider other ways you can generate income to fill in the gaps.
What types of products, digital or actual, can you create and sell? Have you considered affiliate marketing to earn commissions by promoting products and services offered by others?
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When you diversify your income, you no longer have to rely entirely on client work.
Do you have a spending plan? Quite a number freelancers don’t think that they can plan their spending because of fluctuating income. Are you one of them?
Good business owners plan where their money goes. This plan’s called a budget. Budgets are simply a way to assign every dollar a specific purpose. Budgets are simple to set up and maintain, and there are many software programs and services you can choose from.
ROAD TRIP TIP: Budget every month for the upcoming month based on your revenue for the previous month. If you don’t have regular income, you can’t guarantee that you’re going to make a certain amount of money in the next month. So instead of budgeting based on revenue projections, budget based on what you’ve earned in the previous month.
Look at how you’re spending your money, where you’re making the most money, and how you can increase your revenue. Do you need to increase your prices or change to a new pricing model?
The last area you should tune up is yourself. Your business will function only as well as you do.
So how are you doing?
Are you keeping yourself healthy and active?
Are you getting enough rest?
Do you have enough margin in your schedule that you can take time to relax, reflect and recuperate — consistently?
What skills and knowledge do you need to acquire? Staying current with the latest software, algorithms and industry trends is absolutely necessary if you expect to remain viable. If there’s a skill or topic you need to learn, check with college and art school extension programs, log onto lynda.com or skillshare.com, or prowl on YouTube to learn what you need to know. There’s no excuse for not having necessary skills.
Be a self-motivated learner.
Perhaps you need to offload some responsibilities. A part-time virtual assistant or intern can take on necessary, non-creative tasks.
Do you need accountability partners? For mutual support and accountability in your business, join the Freelance Road Trip mastermind. This virtual group convenes for a 90-day session in the summer.
Should you become involved in professional organizations, or expand your business networking territory?
If you don’t expand your knowledge and professional relationships, you will have a harder time growing your business.
Business tune ups keep you agile
In conclusion, if you take time a few times a year to tune up your business, you’ll be able to spot trouble areas, shift gears and correct your course quickly. If you do a business tuneup only once a year — or not at all — you may not be able to respond to problem areas quickly because you won’t notice them. The Freelance Business Tune Up keeps you honest objective in your business.
FREEBIE: Business tune-up cheat sheet.