Work Smart: Your New Year’s Resolution

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.

Set boundaries

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!

Kim

Image: Hauling Nets on Skagens North Beach, 1883 by Peder Severin Kroyer (Denmark, 1851 – 1909) courtesy of Skagens Museum in Skagen, Denmark

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Before You Make New Year’s Resolutions…

This week,  we’ll  continue the quest of getting you ready for the New Year. Regular readers will recall that last week’s post gave an overview of the benefits of physical exercise.  Those readers are now completely convinced that working out on a regular basis will not only improve their health, strength and endurance,  but will also make them smarter,  more disciplined,  more resourceful and creative and  (most importantly!) better looking.  You’ll perhaps need to know how to kick-start your work out routine and so we will take a look at that old cliche, New Year’s resolutions.

In a study by John Norcross, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton (PA) and author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions  (2012),  45 % of Americans usually make resolutions to put themselves on the right track in the New Year and 38 % never make such resolutions.

Norcross discovered that of those who make at least one New Year’s resolution,  8 % achieve their goal and 46 % continue with their resolution for six months or more.  He concluded that people who make New Year’s resolutions (or other types) are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who do not explicitly make resolutions.

So how do you get yourself into the victorious 8 %? Basically,  you need to pick the right resolutions to pursue and give yourself the tools to achieve them.  The question to ask yourself is,  why do I want to do this?

Change brings one outside of the comfort zone,  so strive to make only those changes that seem to be right for you and do not aim to make changes based on what others feel you should do.  Unless you’ve been failing to meet obligations,  the expectations of others cannot rule your resolutions.  They must be meaningful to you and that will motivate you to work hard and attain them.

Second,  put yourself on the road to success by making SMART resolutions: Specific,  Measurable,  Attainable,  Relevant and Time-bound.  SMART resolutions will be easy and gratifying to track.  Establish target date milestones,  that is interim victories,  and give yourself a small yet meaningful reward each time you reach one.  Milestones are motivators.

Before you jump into taking on your resolutions,  it will be useful to devise an action plan.  How will you bring about these changes? What will be the processes and steps involved?  Map it out and include projected interim victory dates and decide the rewards that you’ll attach to each.

To enact an especially ambitious resolution,  or series of resolutions,  may require a support system,  if for no other reason than to make  you accountable for achieving them.  You may want to enlist a mentor or friend to act as a coach and motivator to give you encouragement and/or advice along the way.

If working out is your resolution and you can afford to hire a personal trainer for individual or (less expensive) small group training,  that will effectively keep you on track,  provide an exercise regimen that will serve as the heart of your action plan and make it easy to identify reasonable milestones.

Whatever you decide to do,  or not do,  about potential New Year’s resolutions,  the upcoming New Year is the traditional time (along with your birthday) to hit the re-set button on life by making some beneficial changes.  Why not review the past year and decide what could be better and what is within your ability to improve? Your resolutions need not be earth-shattering.  The chance of joining the 8% winner’s circle will be greatly improved when you resolve to make small-scale changes that will nevertheless have a noticeable positive impact on your life.

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

Business Resolutions for 2013

Becoming a successful Freelance consultant requires any number of competencies,  in addition to a dose of good fortune.  First,  one must be able to position oneself as an expert in one’s field.   Second,  one must know how to sell that expertise to potential clients.  To create the conditions for success,  it is necessary to maintain expertise in order to maintain credibility;  meet and build relationships with those who will hire or refer you;  promote oneself and the business by being visible in the business community in which one operates;  manage  business finances;  and stay optimistic,  focused and disciplined.

It’s a tall order.  Since we’re at the start of a new year,  I respectfully offer you a few suggestions that you may want to adopt as resolutions that will get you rolling in 2013. 

1.  Make money

Sounds like a no-brainer,  no? Still,  you must get into the no-excuses  mindset and lead your business to profitability.   Review your business model.   Re-evaluate your pricing.   Nurture your referral network.   Keep an eye on expenses.   Figure out which self-promotion activities are most effective in making you visible in the circles that connect you with potential clients and noteworthy peers.  Develop business practices that will encourage clients to give you repeat business and make referrals for you.

2.  Invest in professional development

Education keeps you at your professional peak and introduces you to new and better solutions that you can offer to your clients.  Seek out online courses,  check out the business best-seller lists and select titles that address your business challenges and /or attend a seminar or two.

3.  Connect with influential peers

Get to know other Freelance consultants or other small business owners,  including those who offer products and services that complement your own.   Think about creating an informal advisory board and support network that gives you inspiration and encouragement when you need it (and remember to give as good as you get).  You may find a new referral partner.  You might find partners with whom you can develop mutually beneficial programs for clients or peers,  like a webinar.

4.  Re-evaluate how you promote your business

Social media is here to stay,  so confirm that you’re using what reaches your target audience.  LinkedIn is where you start.  If your clients follow Facebook, Twitter,  Google +, YouTube,  etc.,  then establish your presence and keep the content fresh and relevant.  Budget the time for face-to-face activities such as volunteer boards,  participation in charity events,  speaking at conferences,  mentoring programs and teaching courses.

5.  Value your personal life

Work not only hard,  but also smart.  Establish boundaries and unless you’re on deadline,  give yourself time off.  Take vacations as budget allows.  Stay in contact with friends.  Go to the gym.  Learn how to speak a foreign language or how to arrange flowers,  if that’s something you want to do.  Live your life to the fullest.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading,

Kim