This year, it’s time for an ORGANIZATION overhaul. Being organized lays the foundation for everything else and this year I’m going to get behind a better organizational system in order to manage my time more effectively. Care to join me?
Last year, I started building an ORGANIZATION system so I have some of the bones in place. This year I want to take it to the next level, and really commit.
I can start to break down the areas that I need to maintain an effective organizational system:
- Client Information
- Project Documents
- Finances and Spending (Taxes too)
If you’ve been in business a while, you probably have at least the beginnings of a system that works for you. But maybe you are thinking about an overhaul. Or maybe you are just starting out and need some ideas. I’m going to discuss a few things that I have found to work fairly well and also give some other resources or tools that you can look into.
This one is fairly easy, but if you have multiple e-mails like I do, it can take diligence to be organized. I like using google contacts to keep all of my contacts organized because not only does it coordinate with my e-mail (which is powered by Google Apps) it also coordinates with my Blackberry. I used to keep everything on my Mac in the address book, but I actually found that I can sync that as well!
This works ok for me right now because my contact list is somewhat small. However, as I grow, I may need to look into something more robust. If you are already working with a large number of clients, you may need something more robust right away.
Salesforce for Small Businesses is one software solution that is cloud based, meaning you can access your contacts and information from any device connected to the internet. Depending on what level you purchase, you can use it to create campaigns for sales and marketing and track interactions, send mass e-mails, keep track of website leads, integrate with Google Apps, and integrate with Google Adwords. It also generates real-time reports for you and can show you accounts that have been neglected or where you are running into problems closing deals. As I grow, I am going to seriously consider getting something like this.
I think I have a system that works pretty well for me, as long as I follow through. Every time I get a new client, I make a folder for them on my computer, and one for my file cabinet. Then I create subfolders for each of my main folders that look like this:
It is also important to have a back-up system for all of your computer files in case anything ever happened to your hard-drive. I have a couple of external hard-drives that are rather large which I used to back up working and finished files. I try to do this once a week or more, but I am setting a goal to be even more consistent with that this year. In addition, every time I finish a project, I burn the files to a DVD for storage.
I also like the idea of a cloud based back-up system because if anything ever happened to your belongings your documents would be backed up in another location. I did a bit of researching today and found a site called SugarSync that looks like it has a lot of great perks. I signed up for a trial to test it out. The two things that tempted me into a trial is that it automatically updates your files on the cloud server for you AND you can share files of any size. If you are interested in it too, here is a referral link that will get you 500MB of of bonus space.
Finances and Spending
Obviously, this is an important topic! After all, the more organized you are with your finances, the more money you will probably end up making. At the very least it is going to save you some headaches! I’m not the best as staying organized with this because I find myself focusing my efforts more on the creation, production, and marketing side of my business. But, I know that taking care of my finances is something I NEED to do. Plus it’s going to make things easier come tax time, for you and your accountant.
I could go into a great amount of detail here, but instead I will tell you about a book to you that I HIGHLY recommend you get. If you are an artist, designer, crafter, freelancer, or any other creative type I cannot emphasize enough how great The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs is. I’ve never been one for understanding financial lingo, but this book is really easy to understand and even makes it kind of fun. It’s full of great tips and is geared specifically toward self-employed peeps. I’ve been using this system for about a year now and I’m so glad I am!
When I started to really get flying with customers, I looked into a bunch of different options for billing clients. The one I chose was Billings for Mac. There are a few things I wish it did better, like keeping my time logs under the project instead of moving them after I create an invoice or allowing me to use more than one logo since I have two businesses. On the flip side, I really like the interface and the simplicity of it and the time tracker function is great! Plus, it was in my budget at $40.
Some other software I looked into were Freshbooks, Paymo, and Harvest. In the end, I went with billings because I liked that I didn’t have to be connected to the internet to use it and it was a flat price rather than a monthly fee. However, the perks of some of these other programs look nice and you may want to test them all out before you buy. All of them offer trials.
Juggling your schedule when you own your own business can sometimes leave you feeling like you are balancing in a high-wire act. We all have different ways of managing our time. When you own your own business, time is just as important as money. I’d like to share a few of my time management skills with you, but I’m also hoping you will share some of your best tips with us!
Here are a few of mine:
- Show up to “the office” (my desk) on time every day. For me, that is 7am.
- Schedule times during the day for different activities instead of leaving my schedule vague.
- Focus on each project for a minimum of 50 minutes at a time. When I have worked for 50 minutes straight, I have the option of taking a break. (I got this tip from The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle. You can actually set a timer for this. It helps!
- Limit the amount of time I spend on social media. It’s a bit more right now because I’m in need of great marketing efforts now than I will be once my business becomes more established.
- Get out of the house and interact with people at least twice a week during business hours. This may sound like it would be easy for some of you, but I live 30 minutes from the nearest town and most of my work is done behind a computer!
- Take breaks for lunch and limit work during weekends. I find I am much more productive when I allow myself breaks. Many of my best ideas come during my breaks, especially in the shower! Amazing how that works.
- Repsond to e-mails and phone calls at scheduled times and try to keep it to work hours only.
- Keep small pieces of paper with tasks and projects written on them on a bulletin board next to my desk. When I complete a task or project, I recycle that paper. I keep the papers organized by how soon they need to be done. Urgent tasks start on the left and the less urgent are on the right.
- I am somewhat anal about deadlines, so I like to make sure that I have a project scheduled to be done at least a few days before it is actually due.
What is your best time management secret?
To join in on this as a twitter discussion click here and add your suggestion to the tweet.
I think that’s it for today! See you tomorrow 🙂