Resolution #1: Write a List of Goals for the Year
If you haven’t already done so, write down your list of goals for your business for 2015. Develop a plan of action for the coming months. This may seem daunting so set a date on your calendar to get it done by (e.g., Jan. 15th) and commit by circling the date on a calendar. In the meantime, look around at what others are doing and see where your business is lacking. Refer to the recent article I wrote (bit.ly/1tek6mr) to help get you started. Figure out what it is that you really need to accomplish this year. Write down your goals. Post them where you can see them, and start the year off with a clear and detailed plan in place!
Resolution #2: Join LinkedIn or Enhance My Profile
If you haven’t already done so, join LinkedIn. Simply put, LinkedIn is the best professional network out there. Every small business owner should have a complete and professional profile on LinkedIn. Not only does LinkedIn give you a place to connect with potential customers and clients, it is a place where you can connect with other professionals and network online. If you already have a LinkedIn profile, good for you! Now resolve to make sure it’s complete. Set a date on a calendar and circle it. For tips on creating a killer profile, refer to the articlehttp://www.onlinesuperninja.com/7-steps-to-linkedin-success/.
Resolution #3: Join a Local Chamber of Commerce
Local chambers of commerce may seem outdated in this era of social media, but these business organizations remain one of the best ways to network with other entrepreneurs in virtually any community. Some benefits of joining a chamber include giving members the opportunity to partner with other members to help you solve business problems (e.g., your client needs help with something that you can’t provide). Another benefit is they sometimes offer free information seminars where you can learn something new, or act as an expert by leading one. Many times, other members will offer discounts to one another that you can benefit from, or just having that connection with another business owner may result in financial benefits for your business. Finally, being an active member of a chamber can raise your profile as you meet with area leaders and other professionals on a regular basis.
Resolution #4: Figure Out an Amount I Can Afford to Spend on Social Media Marketing
They may say “The best things in life are free” but that’s not the case when it comes to social media marketing. Facebook has taken steps time and again to push small business owners toward paying for their marketing efforts on the network. We are no longer able to ignore this as FB rolls out a new policy later this month that will remove most (if not all) posts from business pages on news feeds unless they are boosted. While this is a major setback for many pages, it’s not the end of the world. There are other options out there. One of those is committing a part of your marketing budget to social media marketing. Read my recent article to learn more about the changes coming to Facebook, the reasoning behind it, and what you can do as a small business owner to come out on top by clicking the link:http://bit.ly/1Df7O6j
Resolution #5: Improve My Time Management Skills
If there’s one thing that can make a huge difference in your daily productivity level, it’s having great time management skills. This is probably the most important resolution for my business goals this year. Typically, I juggle anywhere from 8 to 10 projects on a daily basis. Strong time management skills are key when there is so much going on (obviously this carries over into the daily routines of being a parent as well). To improve my productivity, I’m trying something new beginning today. Instead of the daily checklist of projects that I intend to work on today, I’ve created an actual schedule. For example, from 9:30-11 I will work on Project A, then from 11-1:30 I will work on Project B, and so on. I’m hoping this will allow me to focus better throughout the day, and therefore increase my productivity. If anyone has any other tips for improving their time management skills, let me know!
Resolution #6: Keep Learning
Never stop learning. Improve yourself and your small business by resolving to attend conferences and workshops, explore online classes, and watch tutorials and instructional videos throughout the year. A good way to commit to this is to work it into your schedule. Take a Friday morning off to attend a workshop or participate in an online class. Over the weekend, research upcoming opportunities in your area or online, write them down, then register and put it into your schedule.
Resolution #7: Make Sure My Online Presence is Professional
These days, it’s not enough to just have a website. To be taken seriously as a business owner, you need to have a professional-looking site. Your website may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer or client. Even if your product is the best out there, first impressions can make or break your ability to get new business. You only have one shot at making a first impression. Make it good.
Resolution #8: Improve My Work-Life Balance
Most everyone can relate to this one. We all face demands, both professionally and in our personal lives, that make finding a happy medium very difficult. With an increase in people working from home, or the ease of joining in on work conversations and meetings via smartphones, developing a good balance is complicated. This article from WebMD offers 5 great tips for improving your work-life balance. It’s all about scheduling, focusing, and allowing yourself some downtime. I’m trying out these tips starting today! http://bit.ly/1cCXuco
Resolution #9: Reconnect with Past Clients Throughout the Year
For any business owner, customer loyalty is key to continued growth. Sometimes though, we lose touch over time with past clients/customers. It’s important to work at continuing that relationship. One of the best ways to engage a past customer is give them a new reason to engage with you. Offering them a free item, a discount, or reduced rate to bring them back is one way. Remember oftentimes a past client can become one of your biggest sources for product feedback and brand advocacy. My focus will be on developing a method for reconnecting on a regular basis with clients I have worked with, either with the intention of renewing a working relationship, or as a seasoned referral source.
Resolution #10: Seek Opportunities Where I Step Outside of My Comfort Zone
We all love our comfort zone. It’s safe and secure. It’s our happy place. But, choosing to not leave that zone means never challenging yourself. I resolve this year to seek out opportunities where I’m forced to step outside of my comfort zone. I want to face challenges that will help me grow, and potentially make me better at what I do, both professionally and in my personal life. Here’s a great article listing 6 reasons why you should step outside of your comfort zone. http://huff.to/Zg4g2G
Resolution #11: Check Out the Competition
There are many reasons why you should be keeping an eye on your competition. The main reason is so that you can learn from them. Their successes and their failures can help you better craft your own business. Subscribe to their newsletters to see what they are doing. Follow them on social media to see how their marketing tactics are working. Keeping a close eye on the competition is a great way to improve your own business. This article explains 3 reasons why it’s important to know your competition (minus the sales pitch at the end) http://bit.ly/1wdgX6E
Resolution #12: Take Breaks Now and Then to Stay Productive
There’s a science behind why we need to take breaks at work. Like a lot of people, I tend to stay at my desk throughout the day. Taking breaks from work means not getting work done. I’ve heard time and again how important it is to incorporate breaks in a work day to be more productive and focus better. I resolve this year to finally begin incorporating breaks into my day. It’s amazing how much a break can stimulate your mind. Here’s a great article on why we should be taking breaks, as well as helpful tips on how to schedule breaks throughout the day: http://bit.ly/1q6GpfI
Resolution #13: Establish Milestones to Track Success
Now that we’ve written down our goals for 2015, what’s the best way to achieve those goals? Establish milestones. A year is a long time to stay focused. Create a schedule with monthly (or weekly) milestones. Make those milestones measurable so you can track your success. Note any roadblocks that come into play as you’re working toward your monthly goals, then make changes accordingly as you move forward to the next month.
Resolution #14: Blog More
If you have a blog, you need to update it regularly. Period. Why? Well, there are many reasons. In regards to SEO, writing separate blog posts targeting different keywords will get you more SEO benefits. More blog posts = more keywords you can target. Plus, there are SMO benefits. The more blog posts you write, the more they can be shared on social media channels, retweeted, liked, etc. Not to mention regular posts will present you as an expert in your industry, and give you more opportunities to present the different aspects of your business. Finally, Google loves fresh content. In fact, Google has a term called “QDF” or Query Deserves Freshness. If you are publishing content regularly, your content has a better chance of getting picked up in some of the searches, as compared to old content. Need help fitting it into your schedule? Check out this great articlehttp://www.shoutmeloud.com/how-to-maintain-blog-posts-frequency.html and get writing!
Resolution #15: Get an Early Start Every Day
Did you know many of the most successful people out there are early risers? There’s a reason for that. Getting things done such as a workout, mapping out the day ahead, running through emails, etc. before you ever sit down at your desk to begin your workday really makes a big difference. Nothing will damage your productivity for the day more than wasting the first hour or so trying to get organized. It’s a fact that morning people have been found to be more proactive and productive than non-morning people. So set the alarm, pull yourself out of bed, and start the day off right. Everyday. The article “5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8am” will help motivate you: http://onforb.es/1eQ5nIh
Resolution #16: Ask for Help
Many small business owners try to do it all. Now is the time to realize that you can’t. Sometimes you need to ask for help. How do you do that? Outsource. Find other professionals who can do what you don’t want to do, or aren’t necessarily skilled to do. Not only will outsourcing build professional relationships, it will help your business grow. Read this article on How to Build a Better Business with Outsourcing:http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/204652. It’s not just for big business anymore.
Resolution #17: Evaluate My Pricing and Make It Reflective of My Service
Any freelancer will admit they have a hard time figuring out what to charge for their services. It’s a fine line. You want to be paid what you’re worth, but you don’t want to scare away any potential business. In the end, many freelancers end up charging less than they should. Here’s a great guide explaining how to figure out fees, calculate a rate, compare pros and cons of how to charge for a project, and much more: http://bit.ly/1lSNIGr
Resolution #18: Ask for Testimonials and Referrals
It’s natural to feel nervous about asking for testimonials and referrals, but doing so is an excellent way to grow your business. Both are great selling tools. It’s a fact that people would rather do business with people they know (or know of). Personal recommendations go a long way. After all, a positive endorsement from someone you know and trust is very reassuring. In addition, having a testimonials page on your website will give potential clients a chance to learn more about you. Check out this article from HubSpot that not only offers advice on how to ask for referrals, but includes an email template as well: http://bit.ly/1xYaher
Resolution #19: Support My Community by Donating My Time and Services
There are many reasons why small businesses should be giving back to their community, either by donating their time or services. For starters, helping others is always a good thing to do, both for yourself and for your recipient. As a small business, it’s also a great way to expose your company to the community, and it may introduce you to people you wouldn’t normally meet. If you’re a business that has employees, it’s a way to boost morale and promote team building through community service activities.
Resolution #20: Use Contracts
I’ve been using contracts with projects for the majority of time that I’ve been freelancing. Early on, though, the contracts basically listed out the price for the job, what that cost entailed, and the project objective. It wasn’t until years later when I realized I needed to include specific information in the contract to protect myself. After learning that lesson the hard way, I now include detailed information in every contract. Check out this fun article from WikiHow on how to create a freelancing contract before moving forward on your next project. http://bit.ly/1yxIhxf
Resolution #21: Evaluate Clients and Projects from the Past Year and Note What Worked
One of the best ways to measure success is to note the number of clients that come back year after year. As my business grows, that number grows as well. What brings clients back time and again? Consider conducting a customer survey. A survey will show clients that you care about their needs, as well as allow you to gain valuable data on processes that aren’t easily quantified. Ask clients what they like about your business, changes they’d like to see, and other services that might interest them. Take special notice of any problem areas and resolve to fix them this coming year. Analyzing the data will give you a better idea of how you’ve gained (and maintained) client relationships, and better prepare you as you begin new relationships in 2015.
Resolution #22: Remember, Running a Small Business is like Running a Marathon
Becoming a successful small business owner is like running a marathon. Building a successful business takes time. We all go at our own pace. It’s important to stick to a pace that you’re comfortable with, one you can manage, to get to your end goal. Trying to keep up with others who are moving faster may not be in your best interest. Do what you can do in the time that you have available. It’s very important to not burn out. Any business owner knows how easy it can be to burn out. There is always something that needs your attention. Taking a break may make you feel like you’re not committed to your business, but the opposite is true. Allowing yourself some downtime, a chance to “refuel”, will help your business grow. Growing a business is a journey. Similar to running a marathon, it takes endurance, dedication, and plenty of hard work along the way. So stay focused on that finish line. You’ll get there eventually!