How to kick-start your business in 2020!
The start of a new year often brings about changes and planning for the year ahead; especially when you are a small business owner. I am busy planning content, blogs and marketing for the year ahead, and thought I’d share my top tips for kick-starting your business this 2020.
What are your goals for 2020?
Do you have a business plan or 5-year plan that you can revisit to make sure you are focused this year?
Not only is it important to remind yourself of your goals, but also to formulate a plan of action when it comes to how you will achieve them.
Work / Life Balance
Do you allocate time for yourself and your life away from work when planning your work schedule?
It Is so important to operate a healthy work/life balance to avoid burnout and losing the motivation that is essential when you are running your own business. It is often too tempting to see “free time” in our calendars and immediately plan out what parts of your to-do list that you can fit in.
But have you saved space for family time? A relaxing bath? Time to read that book that has started collecting dust on the shelf? If not, 2020 is the year!
Try Something New
“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease, and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Make 2020 the year you step out of your comfort zone. Trying something new can be the simplest yet scariest of steps to making big changes.
Attend an event that you never got around to last year.
Try a new technique you didn’t get a chance to try out.
Build on your business connections- try co-working or networking groups, or online forums.
Whatever you choose, be brave and take a leap.
Do you have a marketing strategy?
Do you have a presence on social media?
Are you showing up where you should be?
Being seen is hard! Competition is rife and social media algorithms are constantly changing. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying.
Get a plan together. Change things up when you need to adapt. Have processes in place to help you be seen the whole year through.
As a Virtual Assistant planning is my best friend. I plan the bigger things; from year goals to what events I am looking to attend throughout the year; to the smaller but just as essential bits, like remembering to plan a lunch break in a day!
Find a method that works for you.
Do you prefer handwritten to-do lists when planning your workload?
Or perhaps online calendars are your saving grace?
Do you plan the big and the small, or leave some things to chance?
However you do it, planning and preparation are key to a successful business.
It’s tough! With work demands, family responsibilities and personal wants, staying motivated can be tricky. It’s just so important though.
I stay motivated by remembering why I do what I do:
- I literally love admin and supporting small businesses.
I have extensive experience in this area throughout my career history, and a degree in Business Management. Doing what I love and utilising my knowledge and skills is a great motivation.
- I have a 5 year old son who looks up to me.
It’s really important for me that not only can I bring in an income for my family, but that I lead by example, showing my son that when life sends curveballs, you learn how to roll with it.
- For me.
A big, rather selfish reason, I became self-employed was for my own self-esteem. After becoming a mum I lost a huge part of my identity, and so tried to do as many things as possible to help keep a part of me that didn’t revolve around being a mum; without impacting on my ability to be there for my son. I continued my degree with The Open University, I participated in community events, and I launched my own business venture as a Virtual Assistant.
Knowing why you are doing what you are doing is key to staying motivated. I keep my “whys” on a post-it note in my office.
How do you stay motivated?
It’s a grave misunderstanding that being self-employed means you can work alone. It’s just impossible. Say you are the first human that has been able to develop and grow a business single-handedly, how on Earth will you cope mentally alone?
Networking is one of the most rewarding elements of being a business owner for me. From the pride of being able to introduce my business and concept to others, to meeting and learning from others, to developing long-lasting and worthwhile friendships within business networking environments.
Do you network? Should you?
School may have ended a long time ago for many of us, but learning never finishes. I love learning. Ridiculously so, actually. I love finding out new things I never knew before. Be that a fun fact; something about a person that expands my understanding of a culture, condition or lifestyle; or a new technique that completely radicalises my existing ways of working.
I’m constantly on the lookout for exhibitions, talks and courses that will help develop my learning and understanding.
Are there any courses you would recommend?
What would you like to learn in 2020?
Know Your Worth
Easy to say, but so hard to do!
When I started as a Virtual Assistant I found pricing myself exceptionally difficult. I’m confident in my ability, my enthusiasm and my intentions, but putting a price on that seemed very un-British. However, once I established a fair and worthy pricing structure for what I can offer, work flooded in! Your quality is judged on your pricing. Some things are too good to be true, and cheap pricing rarely means a bargain and often means a lack of understanding.
Know your worth in 2020. Price yourself appropriately. Conduct market research and be confident that you are worth the price you are advertising. Don’t be haggled down, and don’t accept anything less than you would tell a close friend to accept.
Look After Yourself
Looking after you means different things to different people. Here are 5 key things I feel are needed as a business owner:
1. Mental health awareness
Mental health issues are becoming an epidemic health hazard in modern day society. Your business is obviously important to you. But don’t make it of more importance than you! If you are feeling overwhelmed, overloaded or unheard – reach out!
Keep an eye on your mental health.
Being stressed is part of being a business owner, but there is a difference to being stressed and being on the brink of something more serious.
Know yourself, let others support you and speak out if things get too much.
So, I am the first to admit that I am not an exercise person. But this year I am taking a proactive approach to getting fitter. This doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing me running around in a size 6 any decade soon, but I am definitely applying a new outlook to fitness this year. We’ve always made a conscious effort in the Eastop-Scopes household to avoid driving where possible; especially with my son. The school run is actually one of my favourite parts of the day, as me and my boy have a bug trail on the way to his school where we keep an eye out for new and wonderful animals and bugs we may see along the way.
How do you include fitness into your daily life?
Do you allocate specific time for it, or involve it in your day as part of day-to-day life, like the school run?
Is it just me, or when running your own business are you either constantly snacking or forgetting to eat at all! Not good – for the brain or body! This year I’ll be making a conscious effort to schedule in a lunch break and to make sure I kick-start my day with a breakfast; however small.
How about you?
Are your eating habits influenced by your working habits?
Kick-start your body and mind by fuelling correctly this 2020.
Ok, so this doesn’t mean that I recommend going on a pub crawl every day to kick start your business. But I do recommend setting aside some time for you and your friends/ family to get together and have fun. I am guilty of allocating time to network, and forgetting time to socialise! There is a difference, and it can be key to looking after you.
So in 2020, keep motivation for your business high, by making sure you have fun things planned with the ones you care about.
5. Alternative therapies
The market is flooded with medicine, and often it can be a person’s go-to for all number of things. There are so many alternative ways to treat ailments. Looking after you can mean getting medical support where needed, but it can also mean looking into differing ways of supporting your mental and physical health.
Are there any alternative therapies you would recommend? Let me know.
It can be hard to listen to other people’s opinions when you’ve got your heart set on your next promotion or venture, and the opinions you are hearing aren’t the best. When hearing a not-so-fab bit of feedback I always ask myself 3 questions:
1. What are the intentions of the person giving me the feedback?
It is important to determine genuine constructive criticism from unnecessary commentary.
2. Do they have a point?
If you objectively deconstruct what has been said to you, is there a point to what they are saying? Can you understand why they are thinking the way they are?
3. Is it constructive?
It’s all good and well someone saying ”it won’t work” but have they given you any reasoning behind their opinion to help you improve? Can you reflect and learn from what is being said? Is there a suggestion you could trial to see if the opinion is valid?
In no way am I saying to give weight to everything you hear. As they say, opinions are like bum holes- everyone has one (a slightly more polite version of the well known phrase). Your job is only to listen. Only then can you determine if action is required or if a simple “thank you, next” is needed.
And it’s not just feedback we should be listening to. When attending training or networking be sure to really listen. You’ll be surprised by how much you learn when you take a step back and actively listen to what and who are around you.
Also, another little nod to the importance of mental health. If someone comes to you with a gripe or problem of their own, be sure to lend a listening ear. From personal experience, someone taking 2 minutes out of their day to hear you wobble, is sometimes enough to get you back on track.
I often hear small business owners complain about being unseen and unheard of. When you look closer at their work patterns and networking a common theme is they often do not engage with or support others.
Supporting others is the best way to gain support yourself; and even better- you feel great by doing so. From changing a common ‘like’ on a Facebook post to a heart; to sharing a post; or recommending a small business you have used. It’s all free and it all adds up.
“Strong people don't put others down... They lift them up.”― Michael P. Watson
Know Your Audience
Who do you tailor your marketing to?
Cindy perhaps- a well travelled, 30 year old woman looking for her next holiday adventure. Bags full of cash and an appetite to explore.
Or maybe Martin’s more your thing? A hard-working dad who works a 9-5 job in London. 42 years old, with 2 children aged under 5. He’s tired – a lot!
Or maybe it’s Wendy. Newly retired but not ready to slow down. Wendy wants to get involved in her community. She has 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren, loves to cook and garden and likes to be known as the “cool nan”.
When you write social media content, blogs or any marketing material you should have your audience in mind. More specifically, you should write to one person alone. Your mascot. They will help determine marketing decisions, campaign proposals and more.
Do you know your audience? Who do you write to?
Be it with branding, business or development- be proactive. The saying “Good things come to those who wait” is flawed- dangerously so! Patience is needed yes, but sitting idly by whilst the things you dreamed of disappear or end in ruin is wasteful.
This year, take a proactive approach to developing and growing your business.
Follow the tips in this guide and see what you can achieve.
So, you have your plan.
Client 1’s work on Monday, Client 2’s work on Tuesday and Client 3’s work on Wednesday. But then an unexpected emergency from Client 2 means their work needs to happen on Monday instead, and then a new Client 4 pops up, and then Client 3 is going on holiday so needs the first draft today! Arrgghh! We’ve all been there.
Prioritising in a world where things change on a daily basis is tricky, but essential.
I used an urgent/ important matrix (given the more fancy name of Eisenhower Matrix, but one I never remember if I’m honest). It consists of making your to-do list prioritised; separating the tasks that are Urgent and Important, Urgent but Not Important, Not Urgent and Important, and Not Urgent or Important. This helps determine what needs to be worked on straight away, what can be worked on a little each day, what should probably be forgotten about and what can be delegated. I was first introduced to the Urgent/ Important Matrix in 2011 when I worked for a College. My mentor, Cat, at the time showed me this beautifully colour-coded grid to-do list and I was in awe. Moments later I had created my own and haven’t looked back since. There are lots of different way you can change the format and make the set up suit you, but it is definitely a great way to help prioritise your workload.
Click here to download my Urgent/ Important Matrix template FREE.
Utilise Social Media
I often hear small businesses talk about business slowing down or that they often hear feedback like “I didn’t know you existed!” You don’t say! Facebook alone has billions of visitors a day, and yet many do not use it and if they do, they don’t use it properly.
Make sure you know about the platforms you use. Utilise their features. The people behind social media work tirelessly creating new functions and features, and will reward those who use them.
Make sure you target your audience effectively and remember – Content is King, Engagement is Queen.
Are you on social media?
What channels do you find more useful for you and your business?
What do you least like about social media?
Shout About You!
You need to be your biggest fan! Your loudest cheerleader! Your most loyal ambassador!
There are lots of people who can judge, and with social media making it all too easy to anonymously slate someone’s hard work, you have to be your biggest supporter. Shout about loving what you do, why you do it and how you do it!
If you don’t know your worth from the outset, negative comments will be all too damaging – so get that confidence, worth and then go shouting about it. There is a lot to be proud of!
You know you have that to do list somewhere right? You quickly noted down a few key work things to do on that scrap bit of paper, and then the phone rang, and then your son called from the other room and before you know it those essential to-dos are possibly in the rubbish bin. Doh!
Organisation is not just practical but good for your mental health. A tidy room, a tidy mind!
A big top tip for 2020 is to get organised. Organise your work space, how you manage your to-do lists, system management and your day-to-day work processes. Trust me, your mind (and your work practice) will thank you for it.
Your content is great – lots of engagement and comments and then haystacks in the wind! Why aren’t you replying!?! There is no point creating an olive branch to your audience if you won’t connect.
A great way to connect is face-to-face. Networking, co-working, meetings – they are all fab. But there are other ways to connect in person. IGTV, stories on Instagram and Facebook, Skype/ Zoom meetings rather than endless email streams – the possibilities are endless.
Making a connection with your audience and client base is essential for developing loyalty. And if you can’t quite do face-to-face, then make sure emails and all correspondents are personal. It’s important they know a bit of you by the tone you use, the way you word things, and the impression you leave.
Brand loyalty is all in the connection.
Why do you run your own business? If it doesn’t derive from the want to do something you love then it’s never going to work.
I literally love being a Virtual Assistant and working with small businesses on their administration, social media and marketing. That’s not to say that I don’t get stressed, feel the pressure with deadlines or wish there were 7 of me sometimes, but it’s the love of what I do that helps motivate me in the stressful times.
Make sure, that whatever you are doing, you have a love for it and make it as fun as humanly possible.
Do you love what you do?
Are you having fun?
So that’s my run down of hints, tips and tricks to making 2020 the year you kick start your business. And if you need a helping hand along the way, feel free to contact me to find out how I can support small businesses like yours.