Weekly Work Diary #1 – On Creating Business Systems

Last week was my first back after Christmas and as I mentioned in this post, I knew I wanted to spend a bit of time getting reacquainted with strategies for the year and what were going to be the key areas of focus for my clients. Side note – to get my fingers writing more frequently for this blog (and not just everyone else’s!) I’ve decided to do weekly roundup posts that are going to document learnings from the week. It’s far too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of working without reflection so hopefully this will help – hope that’s cool with you guys.

So week one! What did I do and what did I learn?

Creating business systems

Something that was on my list of focuses for 2017 was to get my business more systemised. As a freelancer (rather than entrepreneur) your business is never going to have the ‘McDonalds’ setup where, with the right systems in place, things can run themselves. However, I know I could get my systems and processes more streamlined in order to help myself from having to duplicate the same work over and over again. So I spent the best part of a day last week researching to do list tools, time-tracking systems, costs, pros and cons and testing out free trials.

The aim was to find one tool to track my time spent on client projects, sub projects within those projects and tasks completed each day. I also wanted to be able to convert what I’d done each week/month into a report that could be the jumping point for the client reporting I do for every client at the end of each month.

Asking too much? Possibly, but I managed to find a way.

Previously I was using:

  • Timely (free version) to track my work which I inputted manually at the end of each task/day
  • A Google doc as my to-do list, which I reshuffled each day as a kind of weekly calendar
  • My iPhone calendar to set meetings and reminders
  • Powerpoint, Google Slides or Google Sheets for end of month reporting, dependent on client
  • Trello for editorial calendars and roadmap boards

After testing all of the time-tracking tools in this post (which was super useful – thanks guys) I settled on Todist Premium (£21.99 / year) integrated with Timely’s free account. This allows me to setup to-dos, manage them by day, add appointments, set reoccurring reminders for monthly tasks like invoicing and report writing and once ticked off, add them to Timely with the click of a button. This has the added benefit of ensuring I can’t forget what I did. Before, I’d have to work back through my Google Doc changes and even then it could be confusing!

At the end of the month, I can pull a csv of the tasks for each client and easily convert this into report format, by category (social media, content, PR etc.).

So in short, I now have one system that tracks all of my tasks and leads to much easier reporting. It sounds simple but the more processes you can get working like this, the easier it will make your everyday life. For me, the less time spent on tracking and the more time spent on doing the work or analysing can only be a good thing!

Doing the work

Last year I spent a lot of time honing my skills and trying to grow my knowledge in certain areas. I took a Programming for Non-Programmers Bootcamp, booked six-months with a business coaching, went to weekly drawing classes, paid to have some help developing my website, took an online Instagram course, read countless business books and listened to countless industry podcasts.

While I will always, always, be committed to learning each and every day this year I feel more confident in myself and my own knowledge and ability to do what I’m best at. I’ve realised that I’m never going to be the world’s most natural coder and I’m never going to have solid graphic design skills but actually? I’m okay with that.

I know the areas I’m strongest in and I don’t feel afraid to refer work to other agencies/freelancers if I feel like they can do it better, or to collaborate with some of the great designers/developers/advertising experts who I’ve built relationships with when I, or my clients, need it.

So this year’s focus is to do great work, still learn but stop trying to plug each and every skillset I don’t have with a course or workshop. Because actually? I kind of already have a few skillsets of my own.

Working on the right projects

Last week I turned down two incoming projects. This is not because I’m not taking on new projects right now, it’s simply because I knew we weren’t the right fit for each other. A skill I think comes quickly as a freelancer is knowing when you and a project or client are going to be able to do the very best work together.

When I look back, I actually always knew when a project or client wasn’t going to be a great fit. I always do a consultation meeting (or occasionally call) and I know in the past I’ve moved forward with a client when I probably shouldn’t have. When I knew they wouldn’t respect my boundaries or time, that we weren’t aligned with what they were actually trying to achieve or because they were focused on vanity metrics, or superficial ‘quick wins’ only when I knew in the long-term that wouldn’t be enough.

This year I am 100% committed to only working on the right projects, for the right people. And I know that some new leads I speak to won’t be happy with that answer, but at least I can be confident that we’ll both be better for it in the long run.

Week two – let’s go!

Last week I actively decided to have a softer entry into the new year. I wanted to work on systems and processes and really consider the strategies of my clients for the next few months. It felt great to be able to do that.

But it does mean that this week I have a full-to-the-rafters five days of working, meetings, client catch ups, calls, interviews and workshops. It’s going to be a whirlwind but part of me’s kind of excited for it.

Hope you all have a great week! If there’s any questions/discussions you’d love to have around marketing/freelance life/business then please do tweet me @bethgladstone – I’m all ears.