November 30th, 2012
(This is the first blog post for my new partnership with PGi, the creators of iMeet. This post originally appeared on the PGi blog. Here’s an early review of iMeet I did for Web Worker Daily. In a word: Elegant.)
Fire Up Your Business!
Anyone with a business or bottom line to manage knows that the end of the year can be challenging in more ways than one. If your business isn’t reliant on the holiday shopping season for your biggest income of the year, it is hard to stay productive and generate revenues during the holiday breaks.
You probably also know that with the New Year comes a business lull that can be the kiss of death for cash flow. So how can you keep your business running smoothly through the next month and ready to go gangbusters in the New Year?
Here are 12 steps to take to add fuel to your business fire.
1. Don’t miss an opportunity.
You do your best to stay away from your email during the holidays. That’s commendable. But sometimes, important business takes place while you’re away. Don’t watch your email like a hawk when you should be decking the halls. Set up services to get text notifications for just the most important messages. Use a service like Awayfind.com on your website to specify what messages trigger a text so you can service a top client or a new prospect, even while you’re away.
2. Invoice early.
Get your invoices out before the holiday breaks. Even if you don’t get paid immediately, the clock starts ticking immediately instead of a few weeks later so your invoices rise to the top to get paid right after the break.
3. Get paid now.
Now is the time to pull out all the stops to collect on all those outstanding invoices. No matter how you look at it, collections can be brutal. Soften the blow with well wishes for the holiday season and keep your fingers crossed.
4. Stretch some deadlines.
While it is important to get all the money for work you’ve done this year into your bank account, you have to anticipate the January lull. If you can do it, arrange for certain projects to have deadlines after the first of the year do you can invoice in January instead of December. This will help keep the cash flow flowing during that typical business lull.
5. Stockpile your content.
Remember all those blog posts you’ve thought of writing or those half-written drafts in your blog publishing tool? Get on those, STAT. Schedule posts to publish during the holidays, a time when people are still online with a lot fewer distractions so you’re bound to get more attention. Roll out content throughout your down times and also the beginning of the year when you’re just getting back up to speed. You’ll be relieved you did.
6. Pare down auto-payments.
Check your bank and credit card statements for automatic payments to all the online services you subscribe. Are you still using all of them? Are you paying for some that you haven’t used since the free trial expired? Are you paying for the Enterprise level when you only need Pro? For 2013, pay only for the tools you really use so you aren’t depleting your cash with unnecessary expenses.
You may not be able to go entirely paperless, however, there are a few places where you can cut out the need for printing things out. A good place to start: if you’re still printing and signing contracts and agreements and mailing them, try electronic signatures through a service like EchoSign. And yes, e-signatures have been legally binding since President Clinton signed the E-Signature Bill in 2000.
8. Embrace the cloud.
Look at the systems you are using for file storage (like Dropbox), file backup (like SugarSync), online collaboration (like Google Docs, now called Google Drive) and other business processes that can benefit from the cloud. Even a virtual conferencing system (like iMeet) can help things run more smoothly in the coming year. Make technology work for you.
9. Keep better track of tasks.
Part of embracing the cloud could include adopting a project or task management system. Look for one that lets you assign and monitor task progress as well as receive email and even text notifications of deadlines. Apps like RememberTheMilk.com for tasks and Do.com for projects and task assignment can help you ring in the new year with more things under control.
10. Keep marketing.
In the same way you want to bulk up on content now and schedule it to publish during down times, schedule some of your key marketing messages to go out to your social networks periodically during the same period. Apps like Buffer and Hootsuite can do the trick.
11. Buy that new device.
Think about that computer upgrade or the mobile device that will help power your work in 2013, and buy it now. Double check with your accountant on this, but chances are making that bigger dollar purchase this holiday season isn’t only a feel-good personal treat. It might also be very helpful during tax time when you need some additional expenses to offset your earnings.
To heck with New Year’s resolutions you probably won’t keep. Make a firm commitment toward self-improvement. Build some new skills that will help your business really buzz in 2013. Try an online course through a site like Ruzuku.com. (If you’re interested in new ways to market online, sign up for my 4-week course on Rocking your Business with Pinterest happening this January.)
Even if you only do a handful of these 12 steps, you’ll be that much closer to relieving some of the stresses of the holiday season and will hit January running with an eye toward your business success.