Resources to Grow Your One Person Shop

Every business owner dreams of growing his/her venture into a thriving entity and some even enact plans to make that happen. Once in a while, a business owner has the good fortune to create a venture that takes off like a rocket but usually, building a business is a slow boil. Whatever your circumstances, it will take time and resources to grow and expand your enterprise.

Most business owners and Freelancers think first of investment capital, an additional product or service line, or increasing the client list and billable hours when contemplating what it will take to grow revenues and profit, but the process of building a bigger business almost always requires additional staffing as well. For the typical business, that means deciding whether new staff members will be full or part-time employees. Freelancers face a different picture, however, since most work alone. Still, additional staffing will make it possible for you to more quickly and effectively position your Freelance consultancy for growth.

So what kind of hired help might a Freelancer bring on, once the growth strategy has been determined? Start by considering which of your business functions might be successfully outsourced, perhaps to a fellow Freelancer. Specialized tasks, such as your quarterly tax preparation and filing, can be performed by a Freelance bookkeeper. Your new bookkeeper will also be able to prepare and send 1099 forms to those who bill $600 or more/year to you for professional services rendered. Furthermore, your bookkeeper can ready the information that you’ll deliver to your accountant for the annual tax preparation and filing.

Accounts receivable and accounts payable functions are other tasks that a bookkeeper can take on, since these are financial transactions. Accounts receivable management means invoicing, a task that many Freelancers have difficulty keeping up with. You’ll have to supply information about the project fee, payment schedule, hourly rate and hours worked for each billable client, but the invoices will be prepared and emailed on time. Moreover, a savvy bookkeeper will give you valuable advice about maintaining healthy business cash-flow and other financial management suggestions.

Marketing tasks, including the editing of your blog and/or newsletter (which you may prefer to continue writing yourself), is another business function that might be successfully outsourced to a fellow Freelancer. If LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms play a regular part in your marketing campaigns, then contact a social media marketing expert to discuss how s/he can help your organization.

A talented marketing expert will bring a fresh perspective and innovative ideas that can reinvigorate your overall marketing strategy, refine your approach to social media and also manage social media postings on your preferred platforms. Not only that, your Freelance marketing specialist will read and analyze statistics for each platform and use the info to guide future campaigns.

When you’ve removed a few important, yet time-consuming, tasks from your plate, you can then freely direct a laser focus on finding and creating opportunities that will ensure that you achieve business goals. You’ll design and implement an effective launch strategy for the new products or services you plan to introduce. You’ll have time and energy to network your way into a longer client list or pursue new or niche markets that will enlarge your customer base and pump up your billable hours and sales revenue. You might also explore outside funding sources that will allow you to purchase new equipment or open your first office.

Now that you understand the role that staffing plays in business growth, let’s take a look at the hiring process. Personal referrals are usually a good place to start and no doubt between the contacts you’ve made at business association events that you at least occasionally visit and your list of contacts, potential candidates will surface. You might also try an online resource such as LinkedIn ProFinder or Upwork. The Freelancers on these sites are carefully vetted and closely monitored to ensure that they meet client expectations. As you interview potential hires, keep a few things in mind:

EXPERIENCE—Does the candidate possess the necessary skill set to be an asset to you and your business? Ask to see examples of the kind of work that you’ll request.

RAPPORT—You will discuss matters close to your heart with this person, so it will be important that the two of you communicate well and get along.

AVAILABILITY—Does the candidate have time to take on the projects that you need to get done? If you envision just 4-6 hours of work per month, for example, is the candidate willing to take on such an assignment? Also, if you expect emails and phone calls to be answered on the same business day, make that known. Get agreement on when the business day begins and ends and how each of you expects requests made over the weekend to be handled.

FEE—Shop around and get quotes from three or four service providers, but understand that the lowest fee may not result in the best value for dollars spent.

REFERENCES—Inquire as to the types of clients your candidate has worked with. Ask to speak with two current or former clients, so that you understand the depth of expertise and the type of customer service that your candidate provides.

Thanks for reading,
Kim

Photograph: Nina Leen, 1948. Eileen Ford (1922-2014), co-founder with her husband Jerry Ford (d.2008) of the Ford Modeling Agency, at their New York City office. Ford Modeling Agency represented supermodels through the decades, including Cheryl Tiegs, Lauren Hutton, Naomi Campbell, Suzy Parker and Jeannie Shrimpton.

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Step It Up: Taking Your Business Venture To the Next Level


You might be doing fine and dandy with your business revenues and profits, or you might feel the need to generate more of both. Regardless of your particular circumstances, it is a well-known business axiom that like a shark, organizations (for-profit or not-for-profit) must continually move forward. Growth = Survival.

Growth in any aspect of life requires well-considered and attainable goals, objectives, strategies and an action plan. Be mindful that what you set out to do, while perhaps far-reaching, has the best chance of success if things are kept quite simple and not complex at all. Here are some strategies that may help you to achieve your goals, whatever they are.

Save time

Productivity is a key component of success in life and business. Whether you prefer to view productivity as working hard or working smart (I say a bit of both!), nothing happens unless what must be done is actually done.  Plans must be conceived, discussed and implemented and then measured for efficacy and impact.

Assess your technological capabilities and make sure that you are using devices and protocols that are time-saving.  Examine also the way you deliver your products and services. Operational efficiencies save time and money and allow you to direct your creative energies toward  money-generating activities, such as performing market research and competitive analyses, or just plain old resting and refreshing your energy stores.

Making it possible to bring in as many customers as possible as your organization quickly and inexpensively provides their products and services is the ultimate goal of productivity. How can you do what you do faster and Continue reading

Achieving Objectives: Obstacles to Overcome

Whether you are building an architecture, accounting or law firm, financial services, or business consulting practice, going it alone as a Freelance consultant is fraught with challenges for all but the most well-connected. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest obstacles that trip up those of us who’ve founded our own consulting shop.

Obstacle #1: You don’t own a business, you own your job

Eight out of ten consulting businesses never expand beyond the core services provided by the founder/principal. There may be administrative support staff, there may be occasional contract project-specific helpers, but these businesses are limited to the personal sales and production capacity of the founder/principal only. Typically, the founder is convinced that s/he cannot or should not bring in other talent to join in delivering the personally designed, boutique services to clients, a process that would make the operation scalable and capable of generating additional revenue.

Instead, if the founder/principal isn’t working, there are no billable hours, no accounts receivable and no revenue generated. Vacations are difficult to take, because they are financially risky. The founder pays twice: once for the vacation itself and a second time through lost revenue.  When the founder wants to retire, there will be no more money derived from the business. There’ll be no residual income harvested from decades of work done to research the market, decide the most marketable services to offer, identify the most logical clients to pursue, launch the venture, build a client list and develop a good reputation and brand. The doors will close and that is all.

Obstacle #2: Managing cash flow 

Let’s be brutally honest: many Freelance consultants do not have a truly dependable cash-cow revenue generator, regardless of the services provided. More often than any of us want to admit, we can drop a stitch when it comes to invoicing clients and that depresses our cash-flow. Too many accounts receivable may become past due and some will be difficult to collect. As a result, accounts payable may be late and interest charges may be incurred. Building up a capital reserve fund that can be used to help the business grow is therefore difficult.

Obstacle #3: Finding and keeping clients

Most Freelance consultants become founding principals of their own venture because we are respected experts of our core services, but many dislike sales and marketing. Others are too overwhelmed to keep up with the marketing plans they’ve designed.

As noted in Obstacle #1, if the founder/principal isn’t generating business and that means not only working on the in-house projects, but also networking to search for new business; identifying, if not creating, additional revenue streams; working in said revenue streams whenever possible; and trying to maintain good relationships with current clients, then none of it gets done. When new business is not created, slowdowns are likely to occur, along with gaps in income and cash-flow problems.

So what is the solution? Really, searching for a business partner who will join you would be most desirable, but that’s easier said than done. Partnerships are tricky to sustain. Hiring someone outright means that you have to make payroll every week. Is your consultancy generating that kind of reliable revenue?

There is no one answer because every consultancy is different. Founding principals of architecture, accounting, financial services and law firms may have an easier time than some other service providers — interior design or business consulting — because the former services are more “standardized” and less boutique- personal.

The latter typically guard clients jealously, because there are usually fewer of them. Sill, some cautious experimentation may be possible. The next time I hear about a project that is too big for me alone, I will think about who can help me and if I win the contract, evaluate that person for a partnership. Maybe the stars will align?

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Staying Alive: Business Management Technology That Works

Business ventures new and old can fail for many reasons and small businesses are especially vulnerable to all manner of threats.  Even outrageous good fortune can kill a business,  when customer demand far outpaces the ability to effectively fulfill the demand. Fortunately, some challenges can be overcome through sound business practices that are aided by technology hardware or software that are not terribly costly.  Here are areas where technology can help Freelancers and small business owners get arms around common business stumbling blocks. There are also sales forecasting and business analysis tools available, typically by contract through a business services company. Are you ready to trade-up from your Excel spreadsheet?

1.  Operational efficiencies Efforts to deliver core products or services can fall short in under-staffed, under-capitalized organizations, especially when the CEO is inexperienced and overwhelmed.  Orders can be incomplete, late or lost altogether.  Payments to suppliers or sub-contractors could be late.  Invoices may not be sent at the agreed-upon time and as a result cash flow will be diminished,  which leads to all manner of problems, including the inability to make payroll, purchase inventory and other vital supplies, or meet work space rent or utilities payments.  There can be quality control issues with the products and services.  Customer service can be tone-deaf or unresponsive.  Employee skills and time may be inappropriately utilized, resulting in burn-out or wasted time.  Fear not, for there are readily available and typically affordable solutions.  Billing software can generate professional looking invoices quickly and accurately as well as manage common bookkeeping functions easily. Other business management tools can help the CEO to analyze key performance indicators that identify seasonal peaks and valleys that can be used to plan staffing needs, inventory and supplies purchases, or other necessities to meet increased or decreased demand.

2.  Mobile workforce Mobility is a must in today’s business world.  Not having access to client information while you’re on the road, perhaps while meeting with the client, is inexcusable and makes it impossible to uphold the quality of your brand. Invest in a tablet computer or  notebook computer that along with your smart phone will be loaded with apps and software that allow you to demonstrate that you are able to service client needs and answer questions wherever and whenever.  Mobile friendly business management tools allow you and your team to be equally effective in or out of the office.  Also, make sure that your website is converted to a responsive design format, so that it can be easily viewed from a smart phone or tablet.

3.  Manage growth Growth is always the goal, but it’s sometimes like drinking from the fire hose for a Freelancer or small business owner.  Serendipitous growth sounds like the answer to our prayers,  when the orders just fall into our laps,  but the concomitant follow-through can trip us up and burn us out as it rolls through like a tsunami.  Resource utilization— time, talent, staffing, money— all change as the business grows. The best growth is planned, which allows for budgeting and incorporation of the right technological tools, staffing, product or service delivery systems, quality control measures and customer service procedures that make us look like a pro and live up to the brand promise.

If you choose a business management platform that will allow you to perform forecasting and analysis,  be careful of the organization that you choose to work with.  Avoid long-term contracts and look for flexibility that allows you to get into and out of management platforms relatively quickly and inexpensively.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Industry Growth Trends 2015 – 2017

Growth  is always on the minds of entrepreneurs,  business owners and Freelance consultants.  Growth is essential for the survival of a business and it can take many forms,  from an increase in current and potential customers,  to a greater number of employees,  higher profits,  or the number of products or services available for sale.  Here are projected industry trends and B2B small business growth projections through 2017 that are based on expected demand,  meaning that there will likely be more current and potential customers ready to spend money in these industries.   The list was compiled by Jackie Nagel,  author of the blog “Oh, The Places Where Your Small Business Can Grow”.

Industries expected to outpace the overall growth of the US economy are:

Technology    42% growth projected

Health care    28% growth projected

Finance          14% growth projected

Retail              14% growth projected

HR Services

Human Resources is an exceptionally broad field and all aspects are expected to show growth over the next 12 – 36 months.  Executive search,  benefits management,  payroll management,  training/ professional development/ executive coaching and compensation specialists can all expect many opportunities to expand their client lists and generate more billable hours.

Internet Security

Freelancers and small business owners do not always pay attention to the many occurrences of internet data security breaches that hackers have visited upon several large corporations.  Be advised that recently,  I was one of many who received a phishing attack email that a hacker sent illegally from the address of a colleague.  The email address lists of all recipients were at risk.  No one wants the embarrassment of a hacked email bearing our business name sent to our client list.  Internet security risks are a real concern and the need for protection is growing.  It’s time to call in a professional and set up a firewall.

Marketing Services

Small business owners often have ambitious marketing plans,  but execution can be a sticking point.  Freelancers who specialize in helping small businesses to launch their marketing strategies will be needed to bridge the time,  talent and strategy development gaps faced by many small organizations,  for-profit and not-for-profit.  The demand for social media strategies,  videography and podcast development,  website development and content marketing expertise will likewise remain strong.

Technology Services

Small business owners and Freelancers continue to explore the benefits of cloud computing for data storage,  real-time document and secure data sharing and videoconferencing.  Entrepreneurs are in search of technologies that will help them to quickly scale-up a business.  Which apps will help entrepreneurs to efficiently grow and manage their enterprise and can it all be mobile?  Demand for technological advances such as 3 D printing and online eyeglasses and contact lenses that let customers virtually try on lens ware are big new entries to the scene and the trend will be upward.  Video game and app development continues to lure talented techies into entrepreneurship as does television and home theater installation.

Green and sustainable building construction

Architects,  structural engineers,  general contractors,  electricians and manufacturers of solar panels are expected to have lots of business through 2017.  Saving money on heating and electricity with energy-efficient buildings are big priorities that real estate developers,  current homeowners and prospective buyers are willing to pay for.  Even landscapers get into the act when they design attractive alternatives to water-sucking lawns.

Boutique mind/ body fitness studios

Overweight and over-stressed Americans are ever optimistic about a new regimen to cure what ails us.  Boutique cycling,  personal training, Pilates,  yoga and meditation studios will continue to proliferate in metro areas.  These studios are less expensive to operate than traditional fitness centers primarily because participants do not perform aerobic routines in big,  mirrored studios,  nor are lines of treadmills and ellipticals needed.  Rather,  participants are confined to a mat,  stationary bike or compact training studio that is stocked with  a well-curated choice of exercise equipment.  Boutique fitness studios even use proportionately less water than traditional fitness centers because participants typically shower at home.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

SMART Goals For the New Year

Happy 2015!  Once again,  we’re at the top of the calendar and the entire year is ready to unfold before us.  Traditionally,  January is the time for making resolutions.  Unfortunately,  most are not kept and some are not acted upon at all.  I encourage you to think about the kind of year that will make you proud and resolve to bring as many successes as possible into your life.  I respectively recommend that you should be optimistic,  realistic and proactive in that process.  Plant seeds for success as you develop SMART  goals — Specific,  Measurable, Attainable,  Relevant and Timely — that will serve as your road map this year.

1.  Be specific

Telling yourself that you want to “grow the business” or “make more money” is entirely too vague.  How much and what kind of  “growth” or “money” will be meaningful and achievable for your business over the next 12 months?  Are you looking to increase the amount of your monthly or quarterly billable hours?  Is your goal to expand your client list?  Are you in search of perhaps fewer,  but more lucrative assignments?  Would you like to add more prestigious clients to your roster?  All of those factors have the potential to stimulate business growth and bring in more money.

Specify and quantify the type of growth that you seek for your business and how much you aim to attain.  Would you like to increase your client list by 10%?  Increase gross sales by 20%?   Add one Fortune 500 client to your roster?  Increase prices for existing clients by 5% and new clients by 8%? Assess your top line (gross sales),  bottom line (net profit) and client list and consider what will be beneficial for the business; what is possible for you to impact; and determine which criteria will be used as the barometer of success.

2.  Take action

Cutting costs,  creating operational efficiencies,  clarifying your marketing message,  stepping up your networking efforts,  pursuing referrals,  raising prices and revitalizing social media activities are among the strategies that you will evaluate,  prioritize and perhaps pursue as you develop action plans and move forward on your goals.  For every goal that you set,  create an action plan with time table.

3.  Shoot for the stars

Aim high and set ambitious goals,  but be reasonable.   Setting unattainable goals is not helpful.  It is unlikely that you will add 30 clients to your roster in a year,  but if your business is one with a long sales cycle,  adding three new clients would be a real victory.

4.  Review quarterly

Reality will impact your goals along the way,  so it will make sense to periodically evaluate your progress to plan and make any necessary adjustments.  Monitor your measuring sticks and find out what is working and what may not produce the desired results.  Are there any goals that have not shown progress at the 3 month mark?  Do you know why that is so?  Pay attention to your progress,  or lack thereof,  throughout the year,  to help keep yourself focused on achieving what you set out to do.  Reward yourself when milestones are reached,  to maintain your motivation and enthusiasm.  Maybe there is a conference that you’ve wanted to attend previously,  but were unable to budget?  Increased sales may fund that item on your wish list and your business will benefit even more that you planned.

Start now and draft your business goals and do all that you can to make 2015 a rewarding year.

Thanks for reading,

Kim