You are the creative mind behind your business. The entrepreneur. The genius. Certainly, you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of energy on mundane organizational tasks, right?
Or perhaps you think that since you’re just starting out, and can count all of your clients on your right hand, there really isn’t a need for any sort of detailed organizational system. You can easily keep track of each client in your mind.
But for how long?
Unless you can hire a staff of employees to help you organize your contact database, finances and sales tools, you’ll need to set up a system that works for you as a first priority. Test your tools early to make sure they work.
If you’re well organized from the start, you can expand easily and effortlessly. This will translate directly into increased income.
On the flipside, if you aren’t organized, clients will slip through your fingers as you try to juggle all the facts and figures mentally. Inevitably, you’ll forget to follow up with a client or two, you’ll miss key marketing opportunities, and you’ll bleed money without knowing what happened.
Avoid all that and get organized now!
Your physical and virtual space
Whether you’re working from your home or have leased an office, you need to set up your physical and virtual space for production.
Working from your home can be challenging as there can be many distractions. Make sure to designate a spot that is set up specifically for your work, ideally with a door that closes, and perhaps with a lock if you have children.
Even if you’re running a small business, you’ll need a few basics, such as a:
- Filing cabinet
In addition, you may need a scanner, fax machine, or other specific tools depending on your trade. You’ll also need software to help you run your business. And don’t forget to create a backup system for all your important files. Some small businesses need additional storage space for inventory or archived documents.
Although some businesses require a dedicated land line, many do not. It is best not to accumulate unnecessary monthly expenses, so if you can do without the extra line, do so. You can use a cell phone for personal and business calls.
Some experts will say that it doesn’t look professional to use your home phone line for business. While that can be true, some consumers actually seek out mom and pop businesses to support. The fact is you’re not a big corporation and don’t have to pretend to be one.
If possible, avoid spending money on office furniture. Many years ago, when I started up a new business, I made the mistake of investing a thousand dollars in décor for my small office. I had the faulty logic that people might be impressed with my desk and hire me on the spot.
It’s likely that I’m not the only one to make that mistake. Try looking for good deals on used office furniture through consignment shops and Craigslist.
Depending on your business needs, you may need to set up a good relationship with a company that can help you ship products to your clients. Andrea Poe, a writer for Entrepreneur.com, describes shipping as “the roughage in an entrepreneur's diet.” She goes on to say that no one wants to think about it, but that everyone must deal with it.
There are many choices these days and no matter what size your business is, you can often negotiate with shipping vendors and get a good deal. You may want to inquire about pick-up choices, package tracking availabilities, as well as pricing.
Your sales and marketing tools
A well organized list of contracts is any salesperson’s goldmine. It’s a good idea to set up your customer relationship manager (CRM) software early on. There are many out there, some are free, some cost a little each month. Choose one that works for you and meets your needs, preferably one that is cloud based, so you can access it from the internet anytime.
Once you decide on the software, start importing all your contacts from your address books, business card files, sticky notes or wherever you’ve been storing them. It takes time, but it’s worth it. You want your customers, vendors, and prospect base all in one place. Most CRM programs come with a lot of organizational tools. Now is the right time to set up all those fields the way you like them.
If your website will be a primary marketing tool for you, make sure it’s set up correctly so that potential clients (a) can find you, (b) will stay interested in your site, and (c) will want to reach out to hire you. Find a good webmaster to help you.
If you plan to use social media, collect friends and followers as soon as possible. Post messages that will attract potential clients and mesh with your niche market. Social media takes a while to build, so it’s never too early to start creating your various accounts.
Once you have your social media profiles, link them to your website. Your social media pages will also promote your website. They should all say the same thing, attracting new clients to your business. Every now and then, I see someone in a conservative line of work with a Facebook page displaying wild pictures. It’s not a good plan. You can always set up multiple accounts if you want to express yourself in various ways.
When your website and social media campaign are in place, create a blog and newsletter, so that you cultivate a readership right from the beginning. Through your articles, people might bond with you. Plus, search engines will guide prospective clients to your site based on the key words you use in the articles.
Analyze the numbers
Once you have regular visitors coming to your website, you will want to track where they are coming from, what pages they like best, what path they travel, etc. Study all the important statistics regularly.
I pour over these figures daily. When someone emails or calls me, I can often trace which pages they’ve read, how long they’ve spent on each one and which website they came from or which key words they used. This information helps me understand their needs better.
You’ll also want to consider purchasing accounting software. This will allow you to invoice clients, track sales and expenses, and manage the finances of your business. Analyzing this data will help you repeat the rip-roaring successes, while avoiding the things that didn’t work.