Q: I started my homebased graphic design business about six months ago. My problem is, I'm spending so much time working on projects for my existing clients and managing my business that I can't seem to find the time to market to new prospects. I'm worried that I won't have enough work in the pipeline to keep my business going once I'm done with the projects I'm working on right now. What do I do?
A: You're smart to be thinking about this now before it's too late. The principal issue here is time management. When you're starting a business, you're wearing several hats at once. You must deal with client demands and deadlines, cash-flow issues, personal and family "crises"-and you've still got to go out and market your venture. Here are six tips to help you free up time for marketing, even when you have several "plates" spinning at once.
- Make marketing a priority. You must commit to making time for marketing-whether to attend networking events, put together a brochure and business card, research prospects on the Web, or write a proposal. Without a strong commitment, you'll find yourself consistently putting off your marketing efforts, which could haunt you a month or two from now.
- Plan ahead to diffuse crises. It's hard to market your business when you must spend the bulk of your day dealing with urgent matters. Anticipate potential problems and do what you need to do to diffuse them ahead of time. As you plan your week, ask yourself "What are the worst things that can happen this week?" Then devise a plan of action to deal with those situations before they blow up into time-consuming crises. When you're proactive in managing your time, you reduce the number of unexpected crises that you'll have to face in the next week, freeing you up to devote more time to your marketing initiatives.
- Cut the fat. A common mistake new entrepreneurs make is not focusing on their most important tasks. As a result, they're spending hours upon hours working but aren't really getting anything done. So, create time for marketing by evaluating your schedule to see where you can "cut the fat." Which activities are most crucial to you achieving your goals? Which tasks can you effectively delegate?
- Consolidate your activities when possible. Plan ahead to accomplish tasks in a single trip. Bulk group-related activities together. If you have client and prospect meetings outside the home office, try to cluster them within the same vicinity. Do this with your errands as well. Decide which ones you can complete while you're on appointment. Why take extra trips when you don't have to?
- Avoid telephone interruptions. Break the habit of answering the phone every time it rings. This means giving yourself enough respect to say "That call needs to go to voice mail so I can focus on the person in front of me right now," or "That should go to voice mail because I'm on a roll with this project and it's most efficient for me to finish right now." Schedule time for answering and making phone calls and checking your voice mail. This way, you can get more done without the stress created from the phone ringing off the hook.
- Cultivate positive thinking. Negative emotions like worry, frustration and anxiety waste time and cause you to panic. And it's hard to market your products or services when you're stuck in panic mode. When things don't go according to plan, ask yourself "What can I learn from this situation that will push me closer to my goals? What can I do now to make today more successful, despite the setbacks? Say no to anxiety and "rescript" worries into proactive and positive thoughts.
Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.