When I first started working from home back in 2007, it was a rough road. Of course, I wanted to have all of this freedom and flexibility people spoke of online, but it wasn’t the life I was leading. I was working day and night to get ahead. I was trying to incorporate every tip and tactic I read and barely moving forward. The problem wasn’t working at home. The problem was how I was running my business.
When you are first starting out, you are scared to look at the numbers. Maybe you aren’t making the money you want. Maybe your website isn’t getting much traffic. Whatever it is, it’s a downer when you have to sit down and look at it. But you have to. If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you are going or how to get there. And that was my first change…
I Have a Goal and a Plan
I have both short-term and long-term goals for almost everything – blog traffic, income, newsletter subscribers, guest posts published. The list goes on and on. But goals are nothing without a plan to accomplish them.
I’m a list-maker to a fault. When I look down at my desk right now, I have five notepads/calendars going. Each has a list of tasks for one thing or another:
- social media tips I just read to check off when I’m scheduling my next posts
- a list of potential blog post ideas to add to my editorial calendar
- a weekly calendar (I love my Commit 30 planner) that has lists of things to do each day this week
- money in/money out – I hate bookkeeping so I just run a tally each week of what’s been deposited and what I’ve spent, then my husband does the checkbooks at the end of the week
- a miscellaneous tablet for tiny tasks that pop up during the day and don’t take but a minute to complete
I also use Todoist which has a Chrome extension and syncs up to my smartphone. This is great for recurring or client tasks, or things I think about when I’m away from my office.
I Have a Routine
I’m a creature of habit. If things get off schedule, you can just forget about productivity. For that reason, I try to keep a routine of some sort.
I check emails and stats over coffee first thing. (In case you were wondering, I’m an early bird. I’m at it by 5:30 am at the latest.)
Next, I’m off to the gym for an hour then hitting the shower. If I need to run some errands, this is the time to do it. Everyone else is on their way to work!
I’m most productive in the morning. I spend the rest of my morning writing blog posts and seeking out opportunities for expert quotes and guest post submissions.
Lunch is early – like 11 or 11:30. I get up at 5, remember. And I eat at my desk. Always.
After lunch things slow to an easy pace. I do my following and sharing. I read posts from others. I check emails again. I like wrapping things up around 2pm. From there on, I can check and delete emails from my smartphone. I usually don’t respond to anything until the next morning.
When I don’t just quit for the day, my time between 2 and supper is spent learning. I buy a lot of courses to help better my business and I can shut everything down, move to another room and my Chromebook and devote my attention during this time.
I Use Great Tools
Social media can easily be one of the biggest time sucks home business owners will face. It’s a necessary evil as it is a great source of targeted traffic, but it can take a lot of time and energy to cultivate an engaged audience. Sprout Social saves me countless hours each month.
As I find interesting things throughout the week, I add them to my Sprout Social queue. On Sunday evenings, while I’m watching television, I drag things around and get them scheduled for the upcoming week. Then, I just need to check Sprout Social once a day for any replies and I can respond to them right there. Done and done.
I Eliminate Distractions
There are a few places that I stalk like crazy for networking and publicity opportunities, but other than that, I shut off notifications for almost everything else – Facebook Groups, forums, most newsletters. If I’m not clicking through on emails from wherever at least 80% of the time, I unsubscribe and either follow by RSS or check manually periodically. Email is another time suck.
I don’t give out my smartphone number unless you are close enough that I’d invite you to my house for dinner. I still have a landline. And I use it! If we’re not related by blood or marriage, you get the landline. Leave a message and I’ll call you back. Maybe.
I Batch Work When I Can
I try to work ahead whenever I can. As an example, someone just sent me a huge list of post ideas. Rather than picking out one or two to write for next week, I did a quick run through the entire list and pulled out a few dozen to get me started. Whenever I need an image for a post, I’ll take a quick look to see what’s new and download a few extra in case I need them social media updates or updating an old post. Why touch the same thing twice if you don’t have to? Cut corners wherever possible.
I also save email drafts, or as Google calls them Canned Responses, for frequently asked questions and frequently sent inquiries. This saves me so much time.
I Occasionally Outsource
Every now and again, I run behind on my publishing schedule. Maybe I just don’t have any motivation or inspiration to write. When that happens, I check out Constant Content for any great articles for sale. The good stuff isn’t cheap here. I usually pay $60 to $100 for an informative, actionable post. I like that I can actually read the post before making a purchase.
I have a love-hate relationship with clothing shopping. I have a hard time finding pants that fit me right. I have a butt and that’s apparently not allowed these days. I can also be hesitant to try new styles. Stitch Fix has eliminated all of my shopping problems. They have always been able to find the perfect jeans. They push me a little outside of my style comfort zone. If I tell them I have a conference or wedding to go, they send me some things to try on. Love this service! And you only pay for what you keep. If you hate everything, just send it back and only pay a $20 styling fee.
I have an accountant and payroll clerk that do my payroll and tax filings. Well worth the $50 per month in my book. I have serious accounting anxiety and it’s better to not get myself in knots about what’s due, when and how much. They can log in, figure it all and send me an email letting me know what’s coming out on what dates.
One thing I haven’t done yet is to get a housecleaner. When we moved last year, my husband told me the first thing he wanted me to do was get a housekeeper. As he says, “Why spend your time off doing stuff you hate?” Agreed. But I’m totally Type A. To me, outsourcing something feels like it means I *can’t* do it myself. I hate that feeling. And it’s not that I can’t clean, I just don’t want to. 😉
I’d love to hear how you run your online business. What’s a day in your life like?