Top 3 social media channels for your business

top 3 social media channels for your business

So what are  the top 3 social media channels for your business? I mean, is it better to use Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Twitter? How about Pinterest? Or one of the new channels like Webtalk?

You’re told that you should use social media to promote your business, network, and find leads, but that doesn’t answer the question, ‘which is the best social media channel to use?’.

Well, here’s the thing. There really is no easy or definitive answer to that question that suits every business.

That’s a good thing, though, because it means that with a little investigation, trial and error, and feedback, business owners, freelancers and the self employed can find the ideal social network, or networks, to use.

So if you still want to know the top 3 social media channels for your business, read on.

The social media channel your audience and clients use

If social media is all about, well, being social, then it makes sense that one of the best ways to use it is to get your business seen by the people you serve and the people you want to serve, i.e. your customers and your prospective customers.

There’s no sense in plastering your business all over a social media channel that isn’t used by anyone who would be interested in the services or products you offer.

Which social media channels do your customers use? One easy way to find out is to search online for your customers and find out where they appear.  So, for instance, if one or more of your customers are wedding businesses, they may well use social media channels that are visual like Instagram and Pinterest.

Alternatively, ask them which social media channels they use and why.

What about attracting new business? If your prospective clients are businesses themselves, then searching for their online presence may work too.

Where you haven’t identified a specific business that you’d like to work with and only know the type of business, such as a wine merchant or a marketing agency, then find out where that type of business goes online. Again, picking out a handful of those types of business and searching online for them may well point out which their preferred social media channels are.

And what if your customers are the public, rather than another business? Well, this one may come down to:

  • their age (for instance, teenagers are much more likely to use Instagram and Snapchat than Facebook these days),
  • career (LinkedIn is still a top social media channel for business people but those employed in the creative industries may also use Instagram or YouTube),
  • or other life factors (you’ll find a lot of parenting groups on Facebook, for instance).

For a business, social media is all about being seen and heard, so there’s no sense in playing to an empty theatre.

The social media channel that suits your content

What kind of content do you post on social media?

The answer to that question will depend on your business, what you want to accomplish with your posted content, and what you like and feel confident creating.

Visual content

Where your content is visual, you’ll be better suited to using social media channels that are designed specifically for visual posts, such as Instagram and  Pinterest.

When I say visual content, I’m not including video in that, but talking about…

Video

The social media channel that generally springs to mind when thinking about video content is YouTube, but other channels have picked up on the popularity of video and made it easy to share videos and ‘stories’ there too.

Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn all have their own ways to present video content, whether pre-recorded or live.

Written content

This will depend on the form your written content takes – short worded post, lengthy article, list, etc. Many of the social media channels are suitable for written content, but not all of them are a fit for every kind of written content.

Most of the channels have limits on the length of posts:

  • Facebook’s limit is an immense 63,206 characters
  • Twitter allows 280 characters per tweet
  • LinkedIn status character limits vary from 700 to 1300 depending on the type of account

But that’s just for basic posts. Where you have an article or blog post to publicise, you can either link to it from a social media post or use one of the channels which allows you to post the entire article online.

LinkedIn allows users to post an article via their Pulse. Here’s one of mine. On Medium, users can post articles, or blog posts, whichever definition you prefer, and build a following of readers.

The social media channel that you enjoy using

Most people will have a favourite social media channel, one that they feel comfortable interacting on and where they enjoy reading posts. My personal favourite is Twitter, both for my copywriting business and as an author.

Other people will prefer Instagram because of the visual aspect, or Facebook because they like the Facebook Live video element.

Nine times out of ten, you will find it easier to interact on behalf of your business on a social media channel that you like and are confident to use.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t keep up to date with developments across social media in general (I’m still struggling with the fact that I have to post to Instagram via my phone – darn mobile phone keyboard and my big fingers).


Fi’s Tip: You don’t have to limit yourself to one social media channel. One of the best ways to increase your online visibility is to alter the same piece of content to suit more than one channel. I use the three channels below.

Equally, you don’t have to use all of the channels, or even more than one. Do what serves you and your business best.


So there you have it – my answer to ‘which is the best social media channel to use?’.

If you’d like to see exactly how I use social media, you can find me in all the places below:

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn

 

 

How to work from home in (very) hot weather

how to work from home in very hot weather

The summer sun has arrived all of a sudden. The weekend was bliss with its lie-ins,  countryside walks and an excuse to chase the ice cream van. The working week, however, has turned into a sticky, sweaty challenge.

So, how do you cope with hot weather when you work from home?

Drink water – lots of it

Hands up, I admit that I drink far too much coffee and tea for my own well-being. It’s a terrible habit but I don’t think I’m alone in worshipping the hot beverages goddess.

When the weather is sweltering, though, caffeine-rich drinks can quickly dehydrate you, which in turn messes with your capacity to think (or in my case, create and get the words down). When I work from home in hot weather, I limit myself to one mug of coffee or tea in the morning, and drink water for the rest of the day.

I also avoid squash, pop and fruit juice because although they may be tasty, it’s the ‘untasty’ water that’s going to keep you hydrated and healthy.

Find water boring? I get a bit fed up with it sometimes myself, so I’ll swap still water for sparkling, or add a little lemon juice. Another option to alleviate the taste-boredom is to have a piece of juicy fruit in between your drinks of water. Melon is ideal.

Open the windows

I do my best to open as many windows as possible, and doors too, to get the air circulating around the house in an attempt to avoid creating hot spots. You know what I mean, where you walk into a room that has been closed off and the dry heat melts the skin off your face.

The downside to this airy, breezy solution, however, is where you suffer from hayfever, as I do. Take a regular antihistamine or, like me, face the possibility of being gorgeously cool but streaming and sneezing all over the place. I take the tablet form but the nose-spray version works much better for my husband.

What if you can’t open the windows? Maybe the passing traffic is way too noisy or there’s a security issue. Invest in a fan. They don’t have to cost a lot of money. It could be a desk fan, a tall fan that stands on the floor, a USB fan plugged into your computer or a handheld fan.

If you want to spend a little more, you can even buy an individual air conditioning unit these days.

Dress for the weather

I’m going to shatter any images you may have of me, or any other work-from-homer, spending our days in pyjamas. I’ve never done it, and I honestly don’t know any freelancer who has. Having said that, one of the joys of working from home is that I don’t often have to attend meetings so I can wear what I want.

My general working (well, living) uniform is t-shirts and jeans. In hot weather, though, I rediscover my legs. Jeans are put away, and  are replaced with skirts and cropped trousers.

Even where you do have a client-facing element to your job, smart clothes can still be lightweight and cool. Cotton and linen are especially ideal for the summer.

Work in the coolest part of your home

Where do you work at home? Office in the house? Garden pod? Kitchen table? When the weather is beyond hot, is your workplace lovely and chill or a mind-impeding hot-house?

If your usual working space is too hot to operate in, why not move to another location? If your kitchen’s stone floor is a delight to walk on in bare feet in the summer, work there. If your bedroom is cooler than your office, move in. Is there a shady patch in the garden that would be ideal to work from?

You never know, the new location may provide fresh inspiration too.

Work different hours

If you can set your own working hours, and the 9 to 5 slot is hampered by the summer heat, then why not work at a different part of the day or evening?

Could you begin an hour or a couple of hours earlier each day, before it gets too hot? Or maybe working in the evening would suit you more.

Stretching your working slot, to start earlier and finish later, could mean that you can take more breaks during the day.

Get enough sleep

When it’s hot on an evening, getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult but unless you can shift your work hours around, you probably don’t have the luxury of a lie-in or an afternoon siesta to catch up after a sleepless night.

Most people know how badly sleep deprivation can affect our health and exactly how to help ourselves get a decent kip, but these are the basics:

  • a cool room (open windows and a quiet fan – start cooling the room down as early in the day as you can)
  • no caffeine after mid-day
  • don’t eat just before bedtime
  • switch off the TV and all your screen devices at least an hour before bed
  • if you need to relax before you can sleep, read a book (an actual one – no screen devices, remember) or have a cool bath
  • drink a glass of milk.

*

Hot weather doesn’t have to be a torment when you work from home. You just have to prepare and think ahead.

Enjoy the summer.

Image courtesy of Stanley Dai on Unsplash

Freelancers – how you can prepare for the summer break

Preparing for the summer break

That time of year is here again – warmer weather (mostly), longer days and the summer holiday season.

Whether you’re a parent juggling self employment with the demands of kids off school or a freelancer doing their best to keep your business ticking over while your customers are away on holiday, one of the best things you can do, both for your business and your sanity, is to plan ahead for the summer season.

Communicate

First off, whatever your plans over the summer break are, it’s important that your clients, prospective clients and suppliers know when you will be available.

It might be that you’re working your normal hours through the entire summer break. On the other hand, you may close your business to jet off to warmer climes for a holiday. It might simply be that you need to move your working hours around to accommodate the added childcare demands of the summer break from school.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, make it clear to those who need to know.

Often a simple, friendly email or phone call will be enough. A client can always look back at an email to check your summer opening hours, rather than having to remember your phone conversation, so personally I’d always go with that.

You might want to post any change in hours on your website and social media too.

On the flipside, what are your clients doing over the summer break? Are they taking time off? Where you work on a retainer and/or receive regular work from them, will that workload ease off over the summer?

What about your suppliers? Are they closing down over the break? Will staff holidays affect their delivery schedules?

For some businesses, summer is a quiet period, but not all. Never assume. Always ask.

Be realistic

Like the festive break, the summer holiday season is rarely a straightforward time for the self employed. Of course, you are always reliant on the plans of your clients but the summer holidays can throw up extra complications:

  • client holidays
  • supplier holidays
  • your holiday (even a freelancer needs a break)
  • children off school (yours or your client’s)
  • the opportunity to take advantage of the sunny weather

There’s no getting around the fact that the summer break can be a bumpy ride, unless you make a ‘realistic’ plan.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What time do you want to take off?
  • What time can you afford to take off?
  • What is your summer workload like?
  • Are you going away on holiday?
  • If you have children, what are your childcare demands?

The answers to these questions, and any others you want to add to this list, will inform you on how to plan out the summer break.

For instance, you want to take a week’s holiday in August with the family. Brilliant! Who do you need to tell and what do you need to get done before you go?

You need £x,xxx amount of money to cover bills for July and August, so you need to work xx number of hours or days.

You know your main client is taking time off in July. Would this be a good time to take time off yourself?

One last thing – realistic always works best when combined with a level of flexibility. This is the summer holidays after all.

Prepare, prepare, prepare (or in other words, get the admin done)

If you can clear the decks, or even just clear half the decks and give them a polish, then you’ll be better prepared not only for taking a break but also for when you return to ‘normality’ after the summer season.

What ‘admin’ means to you will vary depending on your business and your personal situation, but it could include:

  • Your tax return – is it done yet? Have you paid, or worked out how you are going to pay, your tax bill?
  • Blog posts and social media content – could you schedule this ahead of the summer break? There are plenty of scheduling tools out there like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.
  • Do you have any unpaid invoices? If so, get in touch with the relevant client before the summer break begins because once it’s underway, they may not be available until the autumn.
  • Filing – ok, this may not be at the top of your to-do-list but wouldn’t it be so much nicer to start the post-summer season with all your filing out of the way, rather than it loitering in a corner of your office?

Do you have work lined up for after the summer?

If your books are full for September and onwards, brilliant. If you’ve gaps though, or you’re likely to return from the summer break with no workload at all, then starting the search before your prospective clients head off on holidays is a must.

I’m not about to even start to tell you how to find work because there is already so much helpful advice out there, but why stress yourself out in a frantic search for work in the autumn when you could secure it now?

Whether you speak to current clients, make your autumn availability known in your networking groups, or contact prospective clients, securing your autumn workload before the summer means that you can relax over the holidays.

Finally…

However you spend it, be that working normal hours, days out with your children, or heading off for a holiday jaunt, don’t forget to enjoy the summer.

Happy holidays.

How to keep learning as a business owner

When you’re head down in the daily business routine, the idea of learning can seem unmanageable, expensive and sometimes scary.

Perhaps the thought of fitting learning into your already hectic schedule seems impossible, or you feel that you just couldn’t afford to pay for a course.

Learning, however, isn’t simply arrived at by attending courses, although that is one option.

There are so many other ways to learn that will benefit both you and your business, and best of all, a lot of them are free.

Assess for knowledge gaps

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Well, that seems a tad obvious. Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know.

But what if you ‘could’ know what you don’t know? Wouldn’t that be useful?

This assessment could be of you, your business team as a whole, or just a section of your employees, but I’m going to write this from the perspective of a one-person assessment.

What do you know? That’s a great place to start. You could include:

  • skills
  • knowledge
  • experience
  • qualifications
  • tasks

Get down to the detail of what you can do. You might want to include skills that you don’t use in your day to day work. For instance, I used to write murder mystery plays for a living. That isn’t a skill I use in my copywriting business, but it’s definitely helped to develop both my writing and business experience.

When you have a complete picture of what you know, take a minute to pat yourself on the back for having achieved all of this.

Next, look at your role. Write up a job description, the kind of thing you would come across if your job was advertised. Try to be as cold and detached as you can. What are the tasks and responsibilities involved? Who do you communicate with in this role? What experience and qualifications are required?

When you’ve finished, compare the job description with your list of what you know. Are there any gaps? Don’t be down on yourself if there are. You’ve simply found a way to improve your business skills.

Where there are no gaps, take the assessment a step further. Future proof your skillset.

There are three approaches you can take to this:

Who is your dream customer?

You have the skills and knowledge to do your job and serve your current customers. What about the customers you want to work with?

I’m not suggesting that you don’t want to work with your current customers. What I’m getting at here is your dream customer.

For instance, a florist provides wedding flowers as part of their regular trade but it’s on an individual basis and mainly reliant on local visibility.

Their dream client is a nearby country hotel, which as a wedding venue includes flowers in its wedding package.

The florist dreams of being the key supplier to the hotel, with regular (seeing as the hotel is fully booked for weddings months in advance) and extensive (the wedding package includes floral displays, bouquets, buttonholes and more) orders.

To land their dream customer, the florist might have to develop their floristry skills to meet the ever changing trends in wedding fashion and flowers.

What skills do you need to learn to serve your dream customer?

Developments that affect your industry

Are there any current changes taking place that will have implications for the industry you work in or the job you do? This could be an update in existing technology or the introduction of a new law.

One excellent example of a cross-industry development is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which was introduced in 2018, stating how data is handled and processed and safeguarding the related rights of individuals.

Do you need to learn a new skill to make sure that your business continues to be both competitive and compliant with the law?

Where do you want to take your business?

You may well know everything you need to know for your business as it exists in its current form but what if you decide to specialise in some way?

Maybe you want to focus in on the type of clients you serve, or drop certain services so you can concentrate on the ones you’re really good at.

For instance, a virtual assistant realises that the clients whom they enjoy working with the most are coaches, and decides to offer their service to that sector only. They investigate exactly what a coach needs from and values in a virtual assistant, assess any gaps in their knowledge, and learn any missing skills.

Using any, or all, of the above approaches can flag up a potential area of learning that may help develop your business.

Decide how you will learn

You’ve identified your knowledge gaps and know what you need to learn. The next step is to decide how that learning will take place.

As I said before, this doesn’t have to cost any, or a lot, of money. It will take time and effort though.

Exactly how you bridge your knowledge gap will depend on you, your business, your resources and what you need to learn. There’s no one answer for everyone.

Look to your competition

I don’t see my competitors as combatants to be defeated. I see them as another source of learning.

This is where the value of networking comes into play. That could be physical networking – attending events or, yes, even using the phone – or it could be online networking in the form of LinkedIn or Twitter, for instance.

Keep an eye/ear on your competitors. What developments are they seeing in your industry and what changes are they making? Could you learn from their advice and experience? What are they saying about their own customers?

Listening to your competition can be a learning experience in itself, or it can point to areas of learning that you need to consider.

Keep up to date with the legal stuff by finding the experts

I know, this isn’t the most exciting of topics but as a business owner you are required to keep up to date with the legal aspects of your business, including tax and other HMRC dealings.

One way to do this is to find the experts out there, people like Suzanne Dibble for GDPR, Savvy Woman for financial tips for women, or a small business accountant like Ruth Prins. HMRC’s website is generally kept up to date and worth using as a starting point but equally useful are:

Read

Ok, so this will cost a few pennies, but books (physical or e-book) are still an excellent way to brush up your skills or learn new ones.

I’m currently reading The Art of the Click by Glenn Fisher and Copywriting Made Simple by Tom Albrighton. This isn’t because I don’t know how to write copy. I do. That’s what you’re reading now. I am, however, keen to learn from those further along the copywriting path. Both Glenn and Tom have much more experience in the word trade than me and I’m happy to be guided by them.

Plus, I like to read. And I like real books to put on my overloaded bookshelves.

Beyond learning from a book in the initial read-through, it’s also a great reference to return to, and the author is a new face in your industry too. While they may not always be available to network with, they may be someone to follow online and keep track of their blog posts and future books.

It’s not just books though. There are all kind of trade magazines out there, depending on your job, magazines like Cow Management Magazine, Earthmovers and Caring Times.

Remember the experts I mentioned above? There are sure to be experts for your job and industry too. Seek them out. Read their blogs and articles.

Finally, what about newspapers? Whether you read your news online or buy your copy from the newsstand, newspapers can be a great way to learn new things:

  • News – that’s an obvious one but knowing what’s going on in the world can flag up any implications for your business
  • What’s happening with your current clients and their industries?
  • New potential clients and business opportunities
  • Changes in the law
  • Developing trends

Courses

This was going to have to be mentioned eventually. Courses don’t have to be bum-on-seat classes though. Many courses can be accessed online.

Your exact requirements will be individual to you. For more official learning, the professional bodies such as HSE are always a good place to start when searching for course providers. Equally, those experts I talked about may provide courses too.

Although there are free courses available online, the majority of courses will require some level of investment.

Why should you keep learning?

You know how to run your business and you’re tootling along nicely, thank you very much. Why should you go to all the bother of continuing to learn?

Here’s the thing. Business success is a moving target.

Or to put it another way, nothing stays the same. Laws change. Markets disappear. Customers come and go.

You can protect your business by keeping up to date with your competitors and all the developments that affect your business. The easiest way to do that is to keep learning.

Learning increases your value. With each new thing you learn, you grow as a business person.

Finally, learning opens your eyes, whether that’s to new opportunities, a new direction for your business, or simply how to do your job better.

 

 

 

What to do when ‘real life’ gets in the way of your small business

What do you do when your non business life puts up a brick wall that stops your business in its tracks? That’s the problem I was faced with a couple of weeks ago.

I had the beginning of 2019 all planned out, returning to work on 7th January, ready for a full, uninterrupted first week, knowing that the following week would be difficult but manageable as work was carried out on our house.

Well, that was the plan.

First, we had a call from the company carrying out the work to ask if they could bring the job forward a few days. Eager to improve our home and having been told that the renovations wouldn’t get in the way of my work, we said yes.

Next, we received a visit from the man in charge of the team and it quickly became clear that the full implications of renovating our home hadn’t been explained to us. Every room in the house was going to be affected and mostly all at the same time. There was no chance to unplug and move to a different spot, short of relocating to a cafe or McDonalds.

When it was all finished, and the house was liveable again, I settled back down at my desk with a coffee and the dog at my feet. Now, I could get on with some work.

The phone rang. It was my daughter at school. “Can you come get me? I’m sick.”

So, what do you do when this kind of thing happens, when ‘real life’ says, “Oi! You! Don’t think you can ignore me. I’m putting my size 12 loafer down. Pay attention to meeeeeee”.

Swearing is one option but that only offers relief for a while, so what else can you do?

Assess the battleground

Firstly, how long will the interruption last? Are you forced to down tools for just an afternoon, a week or longer? Is the interruption ongoing, occasional or just a one-off?

Who will it affect? What client work will this get in the way of? Can you reschedule any appointments or meetings?

Can you delegate or outsource any of your workload?

Is it possible to work around the interruption, even partially?

Will re-locating to work somewhere else help? Yes, there’s always the cafe scenario but what about a co-working space? Do you have a fellow business owner who could lend you desk space at their office or home for a while?

Is there anything that cannot, under any circumstances, be cancelled or moved?

Communicate

Once I knew that I wouldn’t be able to work during the renovation, I got in touch with my clients to let them know.

You might also need to tell your suppliers, your staff members, freelancers and contractors that you work with, and anyone else who’ll be affected.

Make sure you have ready prepared answers, like how long you’ll be unavailable, reassessed deadlines and what communication there’ll be during the interruption.

Prepare for future ‘real life’

With all the best will and forward planning in the world, real life still manages to trip us up on occasion.

However, if you can put together a process, even a vague process, on how to cope in the case of illness, no electricity supply, or any other business interruption, then you’re halfway towards handling the situation.

Closing down for the festive break

The time has come to shut up shop so that I can spend some quality time with my family.

I close the work shutters at the end of today,  Friday, 21st December 2018, and won’t be back at my desk until Monday, 7th January 2019.

During that time, I won’t be responding to emails but if you’re happy to wait until the new year to hear back from me, then please do drop me a line.

Now, mince pies, the final Christmas present wrapping, and a couple of glasses of festive spirit await so all that’s left to do is wish you a wonderful holiday. May it bring you all you need.

See you in 2019.

Looking back over 2018

December is here and the end of the year is on the horizon. I’ve plans afoot for 2019 but first, I thought I’d look back over what has been a busy, productive and generally incredible year for me.

January, February & March

My career as a freelance copy and content writer began back in 2017, but this year I made it official, launching my business website in January.

I introduced myself in Who is Fi Phillips? featuring probably the only photo you’ll ever see of me on here.  I told you a little bit more about me and my business in How and why I chose my logo.

As a content writer, I’m never happier than when I’m writing blog posts for my clients so my second post in March was 7 reasons to have a business blog.

April, May & June

In April, I explained Why I price by the job (not the hour) and why I was terrible at selling make-up in How to be authentic in business. Finally that month, I asked GDPR – are you ready?

In I’m a business – just like you, I explained why I was the ideal person to offer a copy and content writing service to small and medium businesses, what I had learnt so far in 2018 and exactly which experts I turn to for advice.

July, August & September

I started July with Release the Kraken: Content marketing with a dash of Monster (I still love that title), explaining why I was impressed by the content marketing of my favourite tipple.

In Stock Photos: Where I find mine, I shared the stock photo websites I go back to time and time again for beautiful images.

Heading off to warmer climes in August, I left you with Even a freelancer needs a break – the importance of taking a holiday.

When the summer holidays came to an end, my teens returned to school, and I was left with a relatively quiet home again, I shared How to ease back into work after the summer break.

October, November & December

In October, I was featured in 28 women share their top business tips by the wonderful Talented Ladies Club.

With Halloween days away, I posted My 5 fears of going freelance (and how I handled them).

On a rare quiet day for me, I shared 5 things to do on a client quiet day.

With Christmas galloping ever nearer, I wrote about How to prepare your business for the Christmas break.

I also received a glowing client testimonial which you can find on my home page.

Looking back

It has been a year of growth, of productivity, and of eye-opening learning.  What more can I say? I love 2018!

Looking forward

I don’t want to rest on my lovely laurels so in 2019, I want to stretch myself even further – more learning, more variety and more clients.

If you feel you could work with me in 2019, then get in touch. Let’s face the new year together.

How to prepare your business for the Christmas break

December begins at the weekend – the month for opening advent calendars, unconsciously humming Christmas songs (I keep finding myself falling into ‘Let it snow’ – no really, don’t let it snow), and filling up on mince pies.

This year, one of my friends set up her Christmas tree and festooned her house in festive sparkle as soon as Halloween had ended and another super-efficiently finished her present shopping in September.  Everyone seems to have donned their blinkers intent on the finishing line that is Christmas Day.  I’m still in denial (apart from the mince pies).

But what about your business? Have you thought about Christmas preparations for that? How will your business handle the festive break?

Whether you’re a sole freelancer like me or run a medium sized business with staff, there are a number of common preparations that can help us all in the run up to Christmas.

Christmas closing times

When are you closed over the festive break? Personally, I’ll be closing up shop at the end of Friday, 21st December and not opening again until Monday, 7th January.

Every business is different and you’ll have many things to factor in when deciding on your closing times such as the industry you work in, your clients, your working practices and even your staff.

Will you split the festive break with open days between Christmas and new year’s day?

How are you going to make it clear when you’re shut? Is it sufficient for you to announce your closing times on your website or social media?

Do you need to contact your customers and mailing list to tell them when you won’t be working and responding?

Don’t forget your staff and suppliers.

How about new customers contacting you over the festive break? How will they know you’re closed?

You may even wish to set up an ‘out of the office’ autoresponder on your emails.

Making it clear when your business is closed removes any chance of a disgruntled customer or a missed order.

Schedule blog posts and social media

If you want to continue to publish blog articles on your website and posts to your social media accounts over the festive break, take advantage of scheduling.

Whether you use WordPress like I do, Squarespace, Wix or another provider for your website, there will be a way to schedule your blog posts for a future date.

So for instance, if you want to blog ‘Merry Christmas’ on 25th December, you can set that post up in advance to appear on the big day.

There’s a whole host of scheduling software for social media out there too, for instance:

I also use IFTTT to connect my social media accounts (e.g. Facebook to Twitter).

You can schedule posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter themselves too.

Of course, if you need help scheduling posts to your social media accounts, I’m always happy to take that workload off your hands. Just get in touch.

Re-assess your workload

What I mean by this is:

  • What jobs and projects need to be finished before the Christmas break?
  • What can be left until the new year?
  • Do you need to make any preparations for work left until the new year?

A good way to approach this task is to divide your workload into work for customers, non customer work related to your business, and anything else.

What deadlines have you and your customer set? Do these need to be revisited?

What work do you need to complete on and for your business itself? Who else is involved in this work?

If you are leaving work until the new year, do you need to notify any involved parties about this?

Re-assessing your workload now gives you the chance to write up a plan for when you return to your ‘desk’ in the new year.

Chase unpaid invoices

Yes, I know, in the run up to Christmas you want it to be all mirth, and gin (hang on, maybe that’s just me), and joy to all, but you still have to pay the bills.

If you have any unpaid invoices that are past their payment terms (14 days, 1 month, etc), then chase them.

Once your customer is closed/on holiday for Christmas, you won’t be able to contact them about the money they owe. You’ll simply have to wait until the new year.

Contact them now, in a polite but firm manner, so you won’t spend the festive break worrying about your cashflow.

Look at your to-do list for the year

Remember that sparkling plan you put together at the beginning of the year with all those tasks? How many of those tasks have you actually completed?

If there are still outstanding tasks that you haven’t got round to, try to figure out why:

  • Were they completely unrealistic from the outset?
  • Have they, for some unforeseen reason, become impossible or difficult to complete?
  • Has the task been delayed or remained incomplete due to the involvement of another person?
  • Is the task a nitty-gritty job that you just don’t want to do?

The first three reasons for not ticking tasks off your to-do list are incredibly useful and will inform your plan for the new year.

However, if the final reason is true, decide whether the task is necessary and if it is, then do it.

It might be your tax return, backing up your computer, filing, or networking. Whatever it is, especially if you’re a sole self employed worker, get on with it.

The Christmas break will feel so much better knowing that you have a clean slate for the new year.

Switch off

I don’t just mean the computer and the office lights. When you finally finish for Christmas, however many or few days you take off work, toss away your business hat and ‘be’ on holiday.

You’ve worked hard this year. You deserve a break. As much as you’ve committed to your work for the last twelve months, commit now to replenishing your batteries at home or wherever you spend the festive break.

If you can do that, you’ll return to your work rested, refreshed and still smiling from all that festive goodwill.

5 things to do on a client quiet day

Today, I have what I call a ‘client quiet day’.  I have a little client work, but not enough to fill a working day.  Is that worrying? Am I distraught? No and no. I’ll tell you why.

For me, a client quiet day is a rare opportunity to step back and take stock. Yes, I’ll still keep an eye on my emails and an ear out for my phone (just in case some new client work comes in) but I can set my own deadlines and plans for the day.

Here’s what I do on a client quiet day.

Figure out why I’m having a client quiet day

So I’ve told you that today is a client quiet day and that for me, that means a little client work.  For other people, a client quiet day might mean no client work at all, or it might be a client quiet week or longer.

When I have a client quiet day, the first thing I do is ask myself why I’m having a client quiet day.

  • Has all my work dried up, with nothing on the horizon? If so, then I need to  find more work. How am I going to do that?
  • If one project or job has come to an end but there’s another one about to start, how can I make sure that everything is wrapped up for the finished project in readiness to begin the new project?
  • Am I mid project but waiting for information or a decision from a client? If I’m having a client enforced quiet day, then is there anything I can do on that project in readiness for when I hear back from my client? Can I speed up the client’s decision in any way? Do they have all the information they need to make that decision?

Knowing why I’m having a client quiet day means I know exactly what I have to do next.

Re-assess

Having the time to remove myself from my client workload allows me to step back and re-assess my business.

  • Do I need to find more work and possibly new clients? How am I going to do that?
  • Am I happy with how my current client work is going, including all the processes involved in that work?
  • Is my client happy with the work I’ve done for them and our working relationship?
  • How is my work-life balance?
  • Is my pricing structure up to date?
  • Am I underestimating the scope of the jobs I take on (all those extra hours spent on emails to and from my clients, for instance) or do my working practices need to be slim-lined?

A client quiet day allows me to take a step back from my business and see exactly what is, and isn’t, working.

Blitz the admin

Not having client work to do means that I can work ‘on’ my business, rather than in it.

So today’s admin blitzing includes tearing through my email inbox (delete, save or action), updating my financial spreadsheet with income and outgoings, checking that my online presence is consistent and up-to-date, writing this blog post and backing up my computer.

It doesn’t make my heart skip a joyful beat, but blitzing the admin does carry a level of satisfaction. Spit spot.

Catch up with my networking

Now, yes, I know, we should be networking all the time like the social business butterflies we are but personally, I find that real life (especially the real life that pays the mortgage) can often get in the way.

However, on a client quiet day, I don’t have an excuse.  I use the time to catch up with online contacts, offline contacts and generally find out what everyone is up to.

LinkedIn is a great place to start but sending out emails and actually talking to people (albeit on the phone) does the job too.

Make time for Fi

One of the benefits of working for myself is that I can choose when to work. If I want to start earlier one day, then it’s ok to finish mid afternoon. If a doctor’s appointment breaks up my morning, I can move those hours to the early evening instead.

When I have a client quiet day, I try to do at least one thing just for me. Not for my business, not for my family, or anyone else.

It might be meeting a friend for coffee, or watching a film on TV, or getting my hair cut. It could be something as simple as reading a couple of chapters with a cup of tea.

When you work for yourself, especially when it’s just you as a freelancer/sole trader, you work hard, donning all the business hats and taking the complete load on your shoulders.

We all deserve a treat now and then.

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So that’s my client quiet day. What does yours look like?

My 5 fears of going freelance (and how I handled them)

When I decided to work as a freelance copy and content writer, it felt like the proverbial penny had slipped into the perfect slot.

I had the skills, I had the experience and I knew how to run my own business. Job done, eh?

But then, the fear began to seep into my enthusiasm – the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule, and finally, the fear of just not being good enough.

And yet here I am, successfully working as a copy and content writer (with a side order of social media) and getting paid for it too.

So how did I get over my fears?

A lack of confidence

This was the first ‘fear’ I had to overcome – the feeling that I wasn’t good enough, in any way possible, to work as a freelance writer.

So I did what I normally do when I have a decision to make. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and break it all down.

  • What are the benefits of starting my own business?
  • What are the disadvantages of working for myself?
  • Do I have the skills to work as a freelance writer?
  • What’s the worst case scenario if I start my own business and fail?
  • Why do I want to do this?

For me, the benefits massively outweighed the disadvantages, and the worst case scenario actually wasn’t life-ending.

Breaking it down in this way can help to remove the brain fog or paralysis that can develop when faced with an important decision. Try it.

Publicising ‘me’

As there’s just me working in my business, I’m not only the person that any clients will deal with but I’m also the face of my business.

What do I say about myself? How do I introduce myself? What if people don’t like the face of my business (me)?

Instead, I flipped that around and concentrated on what I could offer to my customers. On my website, you’ll find my ‘about’ page explains exactly that – how I can help.

And just in case people wanted to know about me personally, I revealed a few details in my first blog post.

Will I be taken seriously?

This one is all about respect:

  • Will customers respect me and my skills sufficiently to hire me, treat me well and ultimately, pay me?
  • Will my work peers respect me enough to network with me, share my social media posts, and refer me to potential clients?
  • Will my family and friends respect that I have the skills to work as a freelance writer and that working freelance from home is a ‘proper job’?

This took a slight change of mind set.

Can I take myself seriously as a freelance writer?

If I can do that, if I can respect my skills, experience and the value I can offer to a client, then the rest – respect from clients, work peers, family  and friends – will follow on.

How will I find customers?

This is the dilemma all self employed people face. Where do we find work leads?

There’s no easy fix here. It’s a case of hard work and perseverance:

  • figuring out who your customer is
  • finding out where your customer is
  • deciding what your customer wants

I work for other businesses so an ideal place for me to find customers is LinkedIn, the business social network.

And yes, you do need to network. And yes, you do need to research what your customers want. And finally, yes, you do need to get involved in marketing your business.

Like I said, it’s hard work but worth it.

The legal stuff

This is the nitty gritty element that many people forget about when starting up in business.

However enthusiastic and excited you are about setting up your new business, the backbone of that business will be issues like tax, customer contracts and data protection.

I worried about this the most. The idea of  drafting contracts and safeguarding customer data terrified me, so l grabbed another piece of paper and my trusty pen and broke it all down.

  • Registering as self employed
  • Accounting
  • Tax, national insurance and tax returns
  • Business insurance
  • Data protection
  • Customer contracts

Then I researched the hell out of all of these subjects. The HMRC provide plenty of useful online guides, and I turned to an accountant friend, the wonderful Ruth Prins who provides accounting services for small business owners, for advice.

Other places that proved invaluable in finding out about the legal stuff were the business groups I joined on Facebook, for instance:

Remember the networking I mentioned above? This is when that comes into play too.

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Sometimes fear is good; it keeps us safe. Often though, it’s a gut reaction to change.

How did you get over your freelancing fears?

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash