Happy New Year!
One of my goals for the New Year is to cook dinner more frequently for my family. My sister-in-law Sue has given me several simple recipes to get me started. Sue’s an excellent cook, and I love to watch her in the kitchen. She’s so at ease as she handles every task. And I realized part of that comfort is because she’s organized.
When Sue starts to prepare a meal, she cleans off all the kitchen counters, she lines up her ingredients, and she keeps her utensils, bowls, and pans all within reach. She has her work area set up efficiently for the task at hand.
I realized what works in the kitchen works in the office too.
The start of the New Year is an ideal time to get organized in your business so you’re ready to go when the holidays are over.
When you’re organized, you can focus on your most important tasks for any year — getting new clients and retaining existing ones. These setup tasks will help make that easier all year long.
Let’s get started …
- Clean up your work area.
Just like the clean kitchen counters, this is a great time to clean out your work space. Get rid of the remnants of 2014. Toss what you can and organize, file, and clearly mark any important documents you must keep for client projects. Gather and file any documentation you need for business purposes, like tax records, receipts, and bank statements. (Tip: If you noticed your records seemed jumbled, now’s a good time to create files for this year’s papers and receipts.)
- Set up your office space.
Is your office arrangement ideal for the work you do? Are you happy to spend your time in there, or do you have a sense it could be better? Just like the kitchen “work triangle” for optimal efficiency, how you have your work space set up impacts your output. Maybe this is a great time to just tackle whatever’s been bothering you. Do you need another shelf? Is the printer in an inconvenient spot? Do you need more elbow room on your desk? Use this short break as your chance to prepare your space so you want to spend your time there.
- Gather samples for your Portfolio.
If you’ve got Word docs or PDFs of projects which are solid portfolio pieces, save them in one easy-to-find location. Convert any online links you’ve been using to show prospects your work to screenshots or PDFs. Things change, and the links may not remain active or the same in the future. With a backup copy, you’ll always have an example to share. At the same time, set up a folder for 2015 Portfolio Samples, and add projects you’re proud of as the year progresses. When prospects ask for samples of your work, you’ll have something current ready to go.
- Build a schedule.
Take some time to build or adjust a schedule for your days, weeks, and months. You can use a system like the Unschedule to figure out what your obligations are and when you can work. Ideally, you should have time allocated for: marketing your business, doing project work, studying/improving your skills, business chores, and your own “dream” projects you want to be developing. Take time to map out what that looks like on a daily or weekly basis, so it will be easier to make it all happen.
- Create templates.
Make your workday easier with templates! If you have templates for client intake questionnaires, answering prospects who reach out to you, creative briefs, proposals, formal Agreements, invoices, and so on, you will be more efficient. The Essential Business Templates for Your Copywriting Business program might be the best investment to start the year. In one program, you’ll get everything you need to save time, streamline your business processes, and make you look like a competent professional. It’s like having a handy cookbook full of your best recipes.
- Develop your Fee Schedule.
A Fee Schedule simplifies both completing proposals and billing, so this is the time to create one if you haven’t been using one yet. (The Essential Business Templates program also includes a suggested Fee Schedule.) If you have a Fee Schedule already, review whether the pricing works for you, or if you need to make any adjustments. Have you added new services? Are you busy enough to raise some of your rates? Are the fees you charge covering all of your expenses for equipment, insurance, and investing in your ongoing education?
- Update your website.
Have you updated your site lately? Even if you don’t have time right now to add new samples, freshen up the copy, or add new blog posts, include time to take those actions in the schedule you are building for the month! At least plan to do a little at a time to keep your website up-to-date. The search engines will be happy with you.
- Enhance your online profiles.
Along those same lines, have you updated your social media profiles recently? Do you have a new photo you can use across all networks (maybe it’s time to take one)? Refreshing your profiles with new skills and achievements is an ingredient for success. Did you plan time on your schedule to keep up with social media? If not, dedicate a mix of time for LinkedIn groups, posting updates on Facebook and Twitter, and visiting other channels where your prospects hang out.
- Create an Idea Catcher.
Prolific freelance writers often say part of their success is always pitching new ideas to clients and prospects. Today, create a method to capture new ideas as they come to mind. Make a “note” page on your smartphone, create a place in Evernote, or dedicate a folder, container, or specific notebook for ideas. If you have a place where you always save ideas, you’ll be able to access them whenever you want something to pitch.
So, there’s your recipe to start the year off right. What can you do today to get organized for your best year yet? Let us know in the comments what you’re going to do differently this year. A public commitment is one of the best ways to make it happen — and we want to cheer you on.
Happy 2015. I hope this is the year your business really “cooks”!