As a small business owner, managing your business will inevitably take up the bulk of your time, at least when starting out. After all, whether your business makes it or not largely depends on you. However, the number of hours you put in does not directly correspond to how successful your business will be. The key is quality, not quantity.
Think back to why you decided to go into business for yourself. Perhaps you were tired of working for someone else. Perhaps you wanted to make your own money. Perhaps you decided to follow your passion. Perhaps you dreamed of more freedom and flexibility at work. Whatever it was, it was not to spend all hours of the day working.
If you’re hiring, make sure you pick people to whom you can delegate real work. Don’t pay someone to help you with menial tasks that don’t ultimately contribute to the success of your business. If your assistant can’t do much more than answer the phone and take messages for calls you have to spend valuable time returning, they are likely not doing much for the business. Hire an assistant who can inform the client of your services and products, who can talk up the business with as much passion as you do, and whom you trust to impress your clients.
If you're on a budget and can't hire someone with experience, a capable individual with initiative and a willingness to learn can be worth their weight in gold. Have them shadow you for a couple of weeks and train them up to help you with the ins and outs of the business. They’ll often appreciate the experience and responsibility you’re giving them.
Yes, really! There are numerous apps out there designed to save you time and money – often available for free or for the price of a cup of Joe. Investigate the apps on the market which will lessen your workload. There are apps available for accounting, project management, travel itinerary coordination, expensing, invoicing, conference calling and much more.
Don’t stay glued to your inbox. Give yourself three timed windows per day for emailing – 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes just after lunch and 45 minutes before going home. Stick to them. Once you've mastered this, start giving yourself timed windows to complete other tasks.
Make sure you create a separation between your personal life and your working world. Even if you work from home, have a dedicated space that is, for all intents and purposes your office. This should not be the kitchen table, nor your bedroom. This should be a place where work can be left at work and which you leave to go and relax at ‘home’.
If working from home isn’t really an option, but you can’t afford to rent an office, consider sharing an office and office space with other independent business owners or freelancers. If money really is tight, look into renting office space by the hour, or use co-working spaces (usually a café or library-style place offering free wifi, coffee and sometimes food, for an hourly rate).
Above all, take care of yourself and avoid burnout. A good way to manage your time and to get things done is if you have appointments to keep. Set up weekly dinner dates, tennis matches or golf games with friends. Better yet, make plans with other small business owners, to bounce ideas off, share advice and vent. It's the equivalent of a water cooler moment between office employees and you deserve it!