Lately I've had a series of conversations about the difference between having a practice and having a business. Yes, there's a great deal of overlap. However one can have a practice, doing their "work", without making a business of it. It's all about mindset.
Think of a massage therapist who has studied a variety of healing techniques to expand her services. She practices out of her home as well as a healing center, and has a good client base. Is this a business? No, not necessarily.
If this practitioner has a marketing plan, client management and retention systems, a budget, plans and visions for where the work is going, then yes, she has a business. She is in "business mindset," working both ON and IN her practice.
Moderate success can be obtained if she chooses to simply "do her work." However true satisfaction for the entrepreneur comes with a business mindset, with measurable goals and visions.
Is the "just want to be a practitioner" wrong? Absolutely not! But she needs to be aware that without the business mindset, she may not be not in control of the practice - she's merely drifting. The focus on the work as a business provides a firm foundation for growth, and that growth allows her to be of better service to more people. And that's what we're all about, isn't it!
At LONG last it's spring here in Northeast Ohio, the time when many of us automatically think of spring cleaning: a thorough "turning out" and cleaning of our homes. But there's more to tidy up than that! Don't panic, it's easy! I'll help you!
When you're an entrepreneur, especially one working from home as I do, we often find that organization or messes slip from our work area into our home, and vice versa. We can take some easy steps to get organized now, in the traditional spring cleaning, to save us time later!
Work area: If you do not have a dedicated office, do you at least have a dedicated work area or do you spread all over the house? It's important not just psychologically, but also for efficiency, to set one spot as your work area. It could be the kitchen table, a small table in the living room or a guest room, or even in the basement - just be sure it contains what you need to do your work. Discipline yourself to work there, and ONLY there!
Storage: Get the storage and filing equipment you need so that your work areas remain orderly - and USE them! It's a very simple matter to take 5 minutes to put away what you are not working on. At the end of each work day, take a moment to put everything away so that you start your work day fresh every morning. Think of your work area as if you were in a restaurant: every evening, their work areas are clean and ready for the next day!
Email: I've spoken and written about this before. It's critical to periodically purge your deleted emails, and those sent long ago. Create an entry into your daily calendar that reminds you to attend to your emails at least once a day for a period of time. If you know that every afternoon at 4:00 you must spend half an hour reading, responding to, and cleaning up email, it won't seem like such a chore.
Schedule: Do you have a daily plan or do you wing it? I used to wing it ... stressed me out until I changed! I know some people who do well with scheduling each activity each day. Some schedule part of their day but allow some time for the usual surprise activities that arise. Either extreme is inefficient.
And related to this .... Calendar: Do you know what appointments you have or are you always running late or forgetting? Not only is this rude, it's a great way to lose business! Use either an online calendar like Google's or a paper one. (I like both - Google's calendar sends me daily email reminders, and paper on the wall means I can see appointments at a glance.)
Take a close look at your daily life (work or home) and see what else needs spring cleaning!
Working on a major book launch recently, I was reminded how important it is to share resources with like-minded folks. Every time you have an event of major impact to your business, it's important to recruit as many partners as you can to share the load!
Think about emails or social media posts you've seen, where a group of people come together to share their gifts if you take some sort of action: buy a book, join a workshop or teleseminar. Not only is this incredibly valuable to you as a reader or guest to the event, it's incredibly valuable to the joint venture partners as well!
Let's say you have an important new product launch...for example, a series of online workshops. Whether you have a large or a small mailing list, you know you want to attract more people to the series than you can reach alone. This is prime real estate for joint partners!
In exchange for the opportunity to market their "bonus gifts" on your workshop website and to share the workshop announcements with their followers (and thus increase their marketing reach), you will be including their gifts in your own marketing for the series, and the gifts add greatly to the perceived value of your workshop series (simultaneously increasing your marketing reach). There are many ways to structure such a joint venture - read more about it online. But remember, you don't have to do it alone! Reach out to appropriate partners and share the rewards!
At first pass, this seems obvious, but when you first start working with any sort of helper, you may rush to delegate tasks without proper planning: “Here, do this.” If “this” is something you love to do that supports you, then that is not the best task to delegate. Assign the tasks that support your work, that you either can’t or don’t want to do well, and that take time you choose to spend elsewhere. Another way to look at this is to "play to your strengths."
Let's say you ROCK at writing and stink at disciplining yourself to post blogs or social media content, or get your newsletter out to an adoring public. Then write, and delegate the "git er done" to someone else!
Maybe you have so many client appointments that you spend more time scheduling than working with them. Delegate! Either hire someone to schedule for you, or use one of the many online schedulers to plug into your website.
Or what if you are an expert networker and love connecting people. Then YOU should be the one attending events and making connections, while someone else does the data entry to record those connections.
You get the idea. Make a list of what in your work you love to do, you do well, and that serves your business. Do that! And delegate the rest to a willing helper.
Don't think you have anyone to delegate to? WRONG! My friend Lisa Crilley Mallis of SystemSavvy Consulting will prove otherwise...here.
We're all in business to serve our clients as well as ourselves. But we must keep the balance between the two. I was recently approached by someone seeking my service who, upon first contact, did not feel like a right-fit client. Although there may have been a few things I could do for her, it would not serve me to do so, as the energy did not feel right between us.
Occasionally I am contacted by those who are not fully committed to their work and want to delegate everything, or those who believe they need help but are not willing to let go of control. I've also worked with people who misunderstand my role as an entrepreneur and treat me like an employee.
The ideal match for me is the person who is committed to her own success, knows her own strengths and the areas in which she wants support, and has a plan to achieve her goals.
So, that said, think about your own work. Who do you ideally want to work with? Get a picture of your ideal client and what your ideal work would be. Do you "settle" by contracting with people who don't quite fit? Or do you stand true to your vision and skills, and create boundaries about your work?
The true joy comes in the match, when you attract the right fit client, for whom you are also a perfect fit.
Continuing the theme of author support, let's talk about structure. I've said that the best and easiest way to structure a blog, article or book is to write a simple outline and then fill in details. But how does your brain work? Do you think broad then funnel down to details, or do you start with details and then figure out how they fit together? There's no right or wrong to this.
If you're a detail person, you might find a great way to start is to write the details you want your readers to understand on post-it notes. When you have them all out of your head, stick the notes on the wall. As you review them, you'll see a pattern which you can develop into an outline. Move the notes around until they're in a logical, flowing structure - there's your article!
If you're a framework-first kind of person, a handy way to start is by deciding on the main point you're trying to get across to readers. Consider this your foundation, and start adding walls to it - the sub-points. Fill in the walls and features by fleshing out the details of the writing.
There are loads of articles online to help you with the process, regardless of how you think. The only
Was your last experience with writing in school? Or do you write now? Do you write blog posts, articles or books? Do you write emails? Business letters? No matter the medium, your content not only must have meaning, but be easy to read.
As a frequent editor myself, I have read and edited writing that flows beautifully from one idea to another. I've also experienced the opposite - essentially a collection of disjointed ideas. Which do you think is easier for the reader to comprehend?
Think of it this way. You're following road signs to get to a destination. "Exit 125 1 mile." 1 mile further down the road, a sign says "Exit 316, 50 miles" but no reference to the Exit 125 you were expecting. 2 miles further down the road, you see another sign - "Exit 125 - turn around and go back 3 miles." Confused? So is your reader!
A great way to avoid this, even if you're only writing a blog post, is to write out an outline. First point, second point, third point, in orderly progression. Then you can fill in the details, knowing that you're leading your reader smoothly down the road.
Works every time!
What you say in print represents what you say in person. Whether you're writing a letter, an email, a blog, a newsletter or a book, you MUST read over what you've written very carefully before you print or send. A newsletter or email that's full of typos and grammatical errors represents you as a person who doesn't attend to details, is careless, is ignorant, or is illiterate. And yet, you are none of those things!
Imagine this: You're at a networking event and approach someone with your hand out. He smiles warmly, shakes your hand, and says, "I's glad to meet youse. Where done you come from?" Do you expect him to have half a clue about business? About working with people? Probably not.
No matter the format of your writing, the software you're using to write it has a spell checker. USE IT! But buyer beware...spell checkers are not always correct or thorough. My method is to spell check first, then go back over my document and read it out loud to catch any grammatical or other errors.
And don't get Me started On Capitalizing words that Shouldn't be capitalized. I know two people who do this all the time. Capital letters belong on proper names, the first word of sentences, and titles. That's it. Nothing else.
If you're in doubt about anything you write, simply read someone else's work as a guide. Most reading we do contains very few errors. Don't look like a doofus - spell check, proofread, and present yourself as the intelligent professional you are!
Those of you who know me, personally or through my work, know that I'm all about organization. I've blogged about it, guided clients through it, and practice it in my work. I often take the time during the renewal of spring to re-evaluate my own practices. Am I using time efficiently? Do I balance life and work? What are my priorities for clients?
But sometimes we don't see areas in which we could improve as we're going through our daily work. It can be an interesting exercise to step back from the "DOING" and take a look at HOW you're doing.
Jot down an informal step-by-step listing of how you do what you do. This exercise can help you see more clearly what could change to save you time or effort.
Many years ago I was involved with Total Quality Improvement processes and disaster recovery for an employer. As analytical as I can be, it was one of the most enjoyable tasks I had there. It taught me a great deal about efficiencies and repeated evaluation of systems. I tend to get too bogged down in lists, but I have done this exercise myself to great advantage.
Another way to step back is to engage some outside guidance. I recently "accidentally" (yeah, right!) found a new friend and client who offers just such a service. Lisa Crilley Mallis of System Savvy Consulting offers an objective, expert look at personal and business systems. As a time strategy visionary, Lisa teaches you how to regain control of your life, pick tasks with a purpose, and eliminate distractions.
However you go about it, do a self-review soon!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.