“Early to bed, early to rise makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Ben Franklin
This is the phrase that repeatedly ran through my mind as I scrambled around at 4:45am this morning, getting a toddler ready, and rushing out the door to deliver my husband to the airport. When I pulled back into the driveway of our home at 7:45am, it occurred to me that that phrase is quite true. Wouldn’t it be great to get a head start every day? Surely it would, but I’m definitely not up to 4:45am every day… I just don’t have the stamina!
When I made the transition from corporate-employed to self-employed, there were a lot of things that didn’t readily translate… the need to get up even earlier than I did when heading to a hotel everyday was one of those items. No matter if you’ve been telecommuting for years or you’re just making the transition, I thought it would be good to discuss some key “tools” or “habits” that can make or break you.
- Get up an hour earlier. This gives you extra time to read your LinkedIn posts, The Business Journal or local paper, general e-mails, etc. and still hit the ground running.
- CRM. You need a system in place to record your activities: client calls, notes from appointments, follow-up tasks, billing, etc. Zoho.com offers free CRM for up to 3 users. I use Zoho for managing client databases, but I use MS Outlook and OneNote to handle my business. For MAC or iPad/iPhone users, Evernote is a great tool.
- E-mail system. I use MS Outlook, but Mozilla Thunderbird is free and works just like MS Outlook. I use Thunderbird to manage the e-mail accounts assigned to me by my various clients. With 5 e-mail accounts to manage it’s easy to go into Thunderbird and have access to all of them in one spot.
- Business Phone. Thankfully my mobile phone works just fine for this purpose, but if you’re going to handle phone calls for your clients and want to be able to answer specific to their business, you may want to consider Google Voice which also offers a free application.
- Forms. At the very least you need to have a procedures and policies one-sheet or brochure so that clients know what to expect and how you operate. Developing one will also give you a moment to really think about the nuts and bolts of your business. I would also recommend a contract, especially for project-based work.
- Current software. If you’re still on MS Office 2003, it’s time to upgrade. Check out MS365. For a low monthly fee you can have the latest MS Office Suite on your computer as well as have access to it virtually. Plus, you can share documents and store documents on the MS Cloud.
- Business Expenses. Start tracking business expenses and revenues right away – DON’T WAIT! Quickbooks or Quicken are probably your best bets, but even an excel spreadsheet is better than nothing. Some common tax deductions include: mileage, office supplies, internet services, mobile phone charges, and membership fees. Check with your tax expert for more deductions.
- Payment. You need to have a way to accept payments. I use PayPal. Mostly because the 3% transaction fee is affordable, it allows me to accept credit cards, and I am able to receive monies directly to my account easily. In today’s economy you may or may not want to accept checks for payment unless you know the client or have a history with them. Another item to consider is pre-payment or advance deposits – will you require these or have clients pay after the fact?
This is just a general list and it definitely just begins to skim the tip of the iceberg. When I worked for a company, most of these items were already in place for me as a director/manager; I didn’t have to give much thought to them. However, when I moved into running my own business, it was a completely different ballgame and I wasn’t completely prepared when my first client rolled through the “doors”. As my business grows, I continue to learn and evolve my systems because everything is a work in progress and we can always tweak things and make improvements… much like making the commitment to get up an hour earlier; something I plan to start doing right away!
I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered on your path and hope you will post it to the comments section of this blog. As a community we have a vast well of knowledge to share and I hope you will help me fill the proverbial bucket!