Kiss My A.R.S
The limiting factor of all solopreneurs is time. There is only you, and you have a constant amount of time.
If like me you don’t want to take on staff to create more available time in your business you have to use the constant of time in more efficient ways. I’m not talking about some anal time management, getting things done system, I’m talking about using your time in a smarter fashion by Automating Removing andSystemising.
Stage One: Audit Your Business
The first step is to audit how your business currently works. I’m going to give a demo of how to do this to Solopreneurians members, but in short what I do is create a flowchart of the processes and interactions I have with my clients.
In the case of the process I did for ibraininc.com this was two pages long. I’ve scanned them in for you to get a feel, it’s hand written.
Then you need to attack your business process using my three step A.R.S. formula. Go through your process and see what can be automated, removed and systemised.
A is For Automation
Can you remove yourself and your time from any stage of the process by automation. Can you bring in technology to do some of the manual work. Automation give back time, removes any errors (computers rarely forget or add typos) and helps to stream line the process.
In my example I have highlighted a couple of areas where I did automate the process
Capturing potential customer details and adding them into my quotation and invoicing system Freshbooks was a pain, so I looked to automate this process I bought a developers copy of Gravity Forms, a plugin for WordPress that allows me to display a form and capture user details. The beauty of this is I can capture their details, and receive an email of their request but it also creates a new client in Freshbooks, and a blank quotation ready for me to fill in and send off, no copying and pasting no mistype just what the client sent in. I reckon this has saved me 5 minutes per quote and as I write this I have sent out 1508 quotes; 125 hours is my guesstimate of time saved. Three forty hour weeks. Gravity forms also captures the clients email details and adds them to my mailing list if they want to be another great automation and time saving.
Invoice chase up is anther pain in my neck, Freshbooks has a late payment chase up email system. It can be configured to send out a reminder email after x days to remind your client to pay. I offer payment upon completion terms so I send out an email 7 days, 14 days 30 and 60 days automatically. The language I use in each of the emails gets stronger each time, and when it gets to 60 days, I’m handing the problem over to Vinney and Paulie my fixers. I don’t do anything but I have seen my invoices get paid 99% of the time through these emails.
If you are getting the same emails with queries automate the answering of them via a FAQ or point the issue out in your sales page. Automating the answering of common questions is a simple way to free up time.
R is For Removal
This is probably the first thing you should do, but RAS is not as cool an acronym as ARS. Before you automate or systemise any part of your process look deeply at it and ask yourself if it can be removed. Do an 80/20 analysis of there your time is being spent, where most of your clients come from what are the most important parts of your business.
If you are doing something just because it is de rigueur but it is not bringing you results, before you try to automate or systemise it, simply dump it.
Shh don’t tell the social media consultants, but getting clients for WordPress technical support work via social media does not work, rather it does not work for me. I get much better results from SEO and blogging, client referrals, marketing to my email list and PPC. As a result I don’t market ibraininc.com on twitter, I’ve dropped my wpdude Facebook account and Linkedin is nothing to me. I’m looking at Google+ for my new project here at neil-matthews.com but social media is not a big deal for me when I have my ibraininc.com hat on.
Social media is a huge time suck for little return so it has been removed.
I’ve got an evergreen catalog of WordPress blog posts that bring in a large number of people each day, I don’t need to be blogging each and every day, I publish very rarely on ibraininc.com and I could if I wanted start recycling older posts to the front page of my blog to keep the content fresher.
I really work hard on my blog posts they take me hours to research and write so I’m doing less and less for ibraininc.com, but more and more here at neil-matthews.com but that is the beauty of removal, it frees up time to do the things that matter.
S Is For Systems
If you can systemise your process and do it the same way each and everytime you can work faster, stop mistakes and make sure your product or service is delivered to your clients perfectly each time. Less time spent fixing mistakes or omissions means more time on your core money making activities.
The audit process may be the first stage in setting up that system, you can see the flow of your client interactions, you can start to create your own service or product delivery system.
On the flow chart above you will see little email boxes where I interact with clients, at each of these stages I have canned responses in Gmail that I send out to them requesting login details, asking if I can sign off the project etc, these all came out of building a system to deliver WordPress technical support.
I don’t believe I’m about to say this but if you want to bring people such as VAs or full time staff a well documented system allows you to hand off part of your work much more easily.
I did not include your business model in my A.R.S. process, this is a topic for a later date, but 90% of the time I spend in the above flow chart is in service delivery. If I had a different business model that was not selling my time one to one I would free up a truck load of time to do other things such as marketing and business development.
But more about that in future posts, if you want to be kept up to date with my latest posts about building a one person business, why not join my mailing list.
If you want to scale your solo-businesss and bring in more income, I recommend that you step back and look at your A.R.S.
Checking your ARS for sticky patches on a regular basis helps to keep your business moving smoothly and more efficiently. Don’t be scared to experiment and remove processes that are not working for you.
If you are wondering about the schoolboy sniggering at the title and post is about, A.R.S. sounds like arse the British term for ass, note to self, if you have to explain your jokes it’s probably not very funny.