Happy New Year! Thank you for starting the year with Freelance: The Consultant’s Diary. This is the 10th Anniversary Year. I am grateful for your support—subscribers, followers and occasional readers.
Let’s get the year off to a good start and talk about how to maximize the time and effort that you devote to operating your business. Time is our most valuable resource because it’s irreplaceable. Smart people are aware that if the goal is to build and sustain a successful venture, then one must formulate strategies designed to produce the best results ASAP. Working hard is a given, but working smart will get you where you want to go, faster and easier. The following are behaviors anyone can follow to support the competitive advantage of working smart.
Wake up early
Biologist Christoph Randler, Professor of Biology at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, recommends the early to bed, early to rise philosophy attributed to the American statesman Benjamin Franklin for those who want to become high achievers.
Dr. Randler says early risers are “better positioned for career success because they’re more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening.” Randler theorizes that their success stems from the discipline and conscientiousness associated with the preference for an early wake up call and the tendency of those individuals to make plans and to-do lists to ensure that tasks for the day ahead are completed.
Start your day with an early morning workout and give yourself a blast of energy that keeps you going all day long. Numerous credible studies have demonstrated that moderate to vigorous exercise of 30-60 minutes duration performed at least three days each week makes us smarter, more resilient and healthier.
Never stop learning
Read books and other publications that address business topics relevant to your industry. Attend workshops and conferences. Join a professional association and/or your local chamber of commerce or local business association.
The SBA and your local public library and/or adult learning center regularly sponsor workshops designed for independent business professionals. Research the availability of courses that will upgrade your skills in any number of business sectors, from finance to Microsoft Excel, content marketing to selling skills.
In other words, if your goal is to become successful, or to sustain your success, then get some education. Investigate also the dozens of free courses presented by top-ranked universities that are available on-line at sites such as Open Culture/Business and Coursera.
Ask for help
If you wonder how Freelancer colleagues have been able to build successful ventures that leave yours in the dust, the answer is that they most likely have highly marketable capabilities (perhaps only perceived) and relationships that you do not have. When choosing to go into business, the smart thing to do is enter a field in which you have expert-level experience that you’ve earned at a company where you also had a job title that not only conveys leadership and but will also guarantee that you’ll know people who will become your first customers.
Along with skills and connections, your successful colleagues most likely had additional help that they hired. A graphic artist with website building talent may have created the beautiful website that navigates so well. A marketing specialist could have shaped website text to inspire trust and convert visitors into prospects and prospects into customers.
If billable hours are sub par, get creative and consider how you can obtain some free or low-cost help that will guide and support your plan to expand your customer base and grow sales revenue. Inquire at a local adult learning centers and your public library to investigate development programs.
As well, your local SBA will have retired executives happy to share useful marketing advice and even help you develop effective sales talking points. In the process, you may refine your ability to recognize which demographic groups have the most potential to become your customers. Insights into how to price your tangible or intangible services can be another valuable piece of advice you might seek out, since pricing is a cornerstone of a profitable enterprise.
Sometimes it’s necessary to back away from certain people. You know, those who seem to have many creative strategies designed to pull you away from that which you must or would like to do, either with finesse or the blunt force of badgering or guilting. When you’ve made a plan for the day, the last thing you need is some controlling, manipulative person to burst into your life with a mission to upend it.
Pulling away from those who do not respect your boundaries will probably be difficult because boundary bandits are not afraid to make others feel uncomfortable. They have entitlement issues and they are relentless about enforcing their agenda. Some will wheedle and whine. Others will arm-twist and put you up against the wall. All are out to shake you down. None is good for your life or your business.
Be strong, fight back and put them in their place. You alone are authorized to control your time and priorities and not even your parents or siblings have the right to hijack you. Some relationships may need to be significantly curtailed, if not severed. It’s sad, but it’s on them and not you. Your boundaries are nonnegotiable.
Thank you for reading. I wish you the best year ever!
Image: Hauling Nets on Skagens North Beach, 1883 by Peder Severin Kroyer (Denmark, 1851 – 1909) courtesy of Skagens Museum in Skagen, Denmark