I Suck at Doing 'The Things'
Updated: May 28, 2020
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a small business in lockdown will boss their social media game. Without the daily distraction of doing y'know, work, there are about 90 hours a day to finally do what every business coach emphatically tells us to do - work ON your business, rather than IN it. Fab. *Rolls up sleeves* Let's Do This!!!! Except, I didn't. I haven't. I probably won't. As a business in the business of actively telling people to be more visible, I SUCK at doing it for myself. So first, I'm going to tell you why I suck and then I'm going to tell you what would could/should try doing. And I'll tell you it's ok if you don't. Ready?
Why Don't I DO THE THINGS? This is pretty much the question that rolls around my head at 2 am. While other people are banging out vlogs, blogs, posts and helpful graphics, I'm mostly figuring out what day it is. Why though? I'm perfectly capable of penning something readable (exhibit A, Your Honour). I'd say it's a whole cake mix of reasons. Kids There's the guilt of leaving my furloughed husband to manage two unruly mini-beasts, and while it's nonsensical, it's still very real. Also, they're not sleeping, so I'm not sleeping. They pick up on the disruption and it comes out in their behaviour, and that's hard to manage alongside planning my next grand idea. Fatigue I'm just so over being peppy and positive, so no doubt you are too. Can't we just wallow in the feeling of meh that being in suspended animation brings? Not-good-enough-itis Ah, that old bedfellow. The little (or loud) voice that tells you that you're a fraud, a fake and that you have no place doing what you do. And let me tell you, it's worse when the sole focus seems to be telling the world how great you are.
Effort And here's the slightly embarrassing reason. I can't be jeffed. Having an active social presence is like having another full-time job. Post on Facebook twice a day, post something beautiful on Insta, Pin at least three times a day, do a live, have a poll, a conversation, make a group - ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE. It feels forced and unnatural like I have to hide the reality of my life and live this poised, prepared one online. And when this all ends, I have to keep it up. I can't be the only one looking around thinking that I'm failing myself and my business. I can't be the only one feeling like post-lockdown me is going to kick my ass for not making the most of this time. So here's a shout out to all of you - it's ok.
It's ok not to paint a fake picture of how this time has given you a journey of self-discovery. It's ok if you're not planning how to take your business 'online'. It's ok if all of this is so overwhelming that all you want to do is ignore it. We will be ok.
For those that want a kick up the bum, here's my list of 5 things you can do for your business that doesn't take too much time and will help you feel a sense of achievement. Find your keywords The term 'keywords' are bandied with regards to websites and social media, but what are they and why should you pin them down? A keyword is a word that someone would use to find your business, and having them included in your website copy and images enhances the chances of you coming up in a search. There will be loads, obvious ones like what you do 'photography', 'cake', logo design' but as you can imagine, these will have EVERYONE vying for the top spot. That's where having a niche or drilling down your services will really help, so including your location, descriptors (romantic wedding photography, female logo design, unique venue) will narrow the competition. You can even outsource this to friends and family by getting them to write down how they'd look up a business like yours. There might be some surprising results! Find your identity It sounds stupidly basic, right? You are who you are. But when it comes to your business' ID, is it consistent? Is it strong? What does it say? The way you portray your business both visually and through your language will affect how clients relate and engage with you. In copywriting terms, we call this 'Tone of Voice'. Finding your tone will help you with everything, from website copy to social posts. Nowadays lots of companies prefer a natural, relaxed approach so their communication represents that. Slang terms, current trends and informal wording helps to make your business seem more human - but it's not always the right direction. Perhaps you want an elevated brand or an air of authority. Think about how you phrase things and aim to stick to the same style for everything. Do The Maths Sigh. Yeah, I'm going there. Time to grab a calculator (and a spreadsheet) and start getting the numbers right. So many of us small businesses arbitrarily price up a job without really costing out our overheads. So start by listing EVERYTHING your business needs to operate - things like insurance, banking fees, accountancy fees, subscriptions, rent, utilities, office consumables, fuel. Break these expenses down to annual, monthly, weekly and daily costs. You then have an idea of what you need to make to cover just your overheads. It's usually more than you think! You then need to add on what you want to earn from your business. And here's the important bit - add a percentage on for profit. Now you have an idea of what you need to be making, you can look at your pricing with an educated eye. Be a Banker Carrying on from the above, now is the time to get money-savvy. I'm not one for touting schemes, but if you've not read Profit First, I suggest you do. This way of accounting encourages you to take the profit from your business BEFORE anything else. Now, I follow it loosely, but even this has enabled me to squirrel away some rainy day funds. The basic principle is that you section out your income as it arrives into 'pots' covering operating expenses, tax, profit and pay. For me, I just set up a profit account (I used Fintech bank Starling as it's quick, free and easy to manage) and transfer 1% of every invoice into that account. It's a good feeling to have a stash tucked away, especially in uncertain times. Spring Clean your PC While we're locked in our houses, I'm certain many of you have had a chance to do those DIY jobs that have been on your list for an eternity. You've probably had a clear-out and a good old tidy too. But what about your digital life? Your PC, Mac or phone will have a vast amount of stored files just waiting to be organised. Here's your chance! Chuck on something inane on Netflix for background entertainment and start filing. Photos can be sorted into projects or type so you have an easy-access portfolio, contracts can be saved by date, receipts can be photographed and saved and you can clear your desktop of all those unused icons. If you're not saving things to cloud storage, then start doing that. Dropbox, OneDrive and iCloud all allow you to see your documents on the go AND protect them if you have a hardware failure. Ok, so there you have it. Permission to not do the things but also some easy (ish) things you can do if you want a sense of achievement. Don't forget, as self-employed people we rarely have a break (I was answering enquiries while on honeymoon) so this time is not wasted, even if it is just downtime. Believe me, you'll be working crazy hard later on, so leave the guilt at the door. Stay safe friends and I'll see you soon. Eleanor