On Growing a Business: April 2016

On Growing a Business: April 2016featured

Towards the end of March, I was checking my invoice reports and upcoming work and realized, Shit, we’re already done with Q1. I need to get on this. I was on track for my highest-earning month of the year, but that was largely because of some unexpected one-off assignments and I was looking at stagnating or slumping income.

Plus, I was in a slump when it came to creativity and motivation. Too many days were blurring together. I was fighting too often to stay focused and disciplined. I wasn’t feeling any of my personal projects (this blog being one of them) and everything just felt blah.

So I decided to do something about it.

On Growing a Business: April 2016 {the ponytail diaries}

I sat down and free-wrote a list of all the goals I had, big and small — strictly for my business — for the upcoming months/years. Concrete (mostly) stuff I can actually see myself doing: “send pitch to X magazine,” not “get published in the New Yorker.” Everything from updating the header on my blog to fleshing out a (doable!) editorial calendar for the next few months to documenting certain business systems to attending certain networking events to sending out 15 article/guest post pitches to various publications.

Then I looked it over and picked what I would focus on in April. I picked too many items, and I knew that, but I wanted to really give myself a kick in the ass.

I decided to try a(nother) new morning routine that involved getting up at 6:00 and working out/taking Onyx out (sometimes those would happen simultaneously), eating breakfast, and taking some time for personal projects or non-business tasks before starting work at 10:00. I planned to spend a few minutes at the end of each work day creating the next day’s to-do list (something virtually every productivity expert recommends) so I could dive in at 10:00 each day and work until 5:30 or so (taking a break for lunch). I thought if I was able to stay focused and disciplined, thanks to these new goals and to-do list planning, there was no need for me to grind myself down working from 8:00 to 6:00 “non-stop” but with lots of distractions and breaks here and there.

I also started having what I very un-creatively called “Monday Morning Meetings,” where I’d spend 20-30 minutes each Monday reviewing the highs and lows of the previous week (to give myself pats on the back when deserved and look for more chances to improve), looking ahead to the upcoming week (reviewing deadlines, scheduled meetings or phone calls, and long-term assignments so I could make sure I was always on top of stuff), and deciding what monthly goals I would focus on. Oh, and reviewing my time logs (I use Harvest to track my time when I’m working <– affiliate link there, btw) from last week to see where I might try working more efficiently.

I made some progress, but mostly just made some really scattered baby steps. I made up a little questionnaire for myself for those Monday meetings but couldn’t decide if I wanted to print it out and write out answers by hand, or type it and then print it or not print. I tried printing a couple out and taping them in my Get to Work Book so I could fold them off the page and still see my to-do lists, but that was awkward. I tweaked the questionnaire throughout the month. By the last week of April, I realized that as much as I like leisurely mornings, that’s when I have the most energy and focus, so I had to shift that morning routine so I could get started — and get started on the harder or more creative stuff — early, and spend the afternoon on the tasks that require less brainpower (again, said every productivity expert ever). Overall, I made more progress on certain goals than I would have without this deliberate approach, but I still resisted doing anything on others.

And now I’m writing about it, and planning on doing so monthly for some accountability and to talk about what it’s like in “real-time” to build and grow and maintain a freelance business. I hope this is something that interests you.

I won’t be sharing “income reports” or specific details about clients or assignments, but I will outline my goals for each month and then share what I accomplished and where I fell short and the different things I tried to make things happen.

This is super scary shit, by the way. I’ve learned I am not one who responds well to the kind of anonymous accountability the Internet provides. I used to share weekly goals here and gave up in part because after sitting down Sunday, trying to think of goals for the next week, and typing them up in a post, I would often kinda forget about them and go through my week until the next Sunday, when I’d pull up last week’s post and go, Damn, I didn’t manage any of this. Whoops. I am nervous about the possibility of putting up goals and stuff each month and then coming back here and saying “Well, this didn’t happen, and I sort of tried this but it didn’t work out, and something else came up, so…” I’m really, really hoping that doesn’t become my monthly refrain.

Next month will have some more nitty-gritty details about what exactly I did and didn’t get done. But for now, here’s what I’m shooting for in May:

  • Continue with Monday AM Meetings and refine recording process
  • Fine-tune/develop better client onboarding systems (proposals, contracts, questionnaires)
  • Send at least 20 article/guest post pitches or responses to freelance writer job posts
  • Revise blog editorial calendar (again)
  • Publish 4 posts on Medium (revise/republish old blog posts)
  • Change Instagram handle and update links on blog, etc.
  • Redo blog About page
  • Update blog navigation bar

(There are a few others, but they’re client-specific so I need to keep them under wraps.)

So that’s where I’m at right now.