1. Tips and Tricks

How do I run my online business with less stress and more success?

Is your home business a hot mess?  Find out how I structure my days for less stress and more success. When I first started working from home in 2007, it was a rough road. Sure, I wanted to have all this freedom and flexibility that people talked about online, but that wasn’t the life I was leading. I was working day and night to move forward. I was trying to incorporate every tip and trick I read and just kept going. The problem was not working at home. The problem was how I was running my business.

When you’re first starting out, you’re afraid to look at the numbers. Maybe you’re not making the money you want. Maybe your website is not getting much traffic. Whatever it is, it’s a downer when you have to sit and watch it. But you have to. If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. And that was my first change…

I have a goal and a plan

I have short-term and long-term goals for almost everything – blog traffic, income, newsletter subscribers, guest posts published. The list goes on and on. But goals are nothing without a plan to achieve them.

I made a list of mistakes. When I look at my desk now, I have five notepads/calendars running. Each has a list for one thing or another:

  • Social media tips I read to check off when scheduling my next post
  • A list of potential blog post ideas to add to my editorial calendar
  • A weekly calendar (I love my Promise 30 planner) that lists what needs to be done each day this week
  • Money In/Money Out – I hate bookkeeping so I do a weekly tally of what’s been deposited and what I’ve spent, then my husband does the checkbooks at the end of the week.
  • A versatile tablet for small tasks that pop up during the day and take less than a minute to complete

I also use Todoist Which has a Chrome extension and syncs up to my smartphone. It’s great for repetitive or client tasks, or whatever I think about when I’m away from my office.

I have a routine

I am a creature of habit. If things go off schedule, you can just forget about productivity. For that reason, I try to keep some sort of routine.

First thing I do is check emails and stats over coffee. (In case you’re wondering, I’m an early bird. I’m on it by 5:30am at the latest.)

Next, I go to the gym for an hour and then take a shower. If I need to run some errands, it’s time to do it. Everyone else is on the way to work!

I am most productive in the morning. I spend the rest of my mornings writing blog posts and looking for opportunities to submit expert quotes and guest posts.

Lunch is early – like 11 or 11:30. I get up at 5, remember. And I eat at my desk. Always.

After lunch things slow down to an easy pace. I follow and share mine. I read posts from others. I checked the email again. I like to pack up around 2pm. From there, I can check and delete emails from my smartphone. I usually don’t respond to anything until the next morning.

When I don’t just leave for the day, I spend the time between 2 and dinner studying. I buy a lot of courses to help grow my business and I can turn everything off, go to another room and my Chromebook and focus on this.

I use great tools

Social media can easily be the biggest moment that home business owners will face. This is a necessary evil because it’s a great source of targeted traffic, but it can take a lot of time and energy to build an engaged audience. Sprout Social saves me countless hours every month.

As I find interesting things throughout the week, I add them to my Sprout social queue On Sunday evenings, while I watch television, I pull things out and schedule them for the coming week Then, I have to check Sprout Social once a day for any replies and I can respond to them there. Done and done.

I remove confusion

There are a few places I hit like crazy for networking and promotion opportunities, but other than that, I’ve turned off notifications for almost everything – Facebook groups, forums, most newsletters. If I don’t click on emails at least 80% of the time, I unsubscribe and either follow the RSS or check manually periodically. Email sucks another time.

I don’t give out my smartphone number unless you’re close enough that I invite you to my house for dinner. I still have a landline. And I use it! If we are not related by blood or marriage, you get a landline. Leave a message and I’ll call you back. May be.

I do batch work when I can

I try to work ahead whenever I can. As an example, someone sent me a huge list of post ideas. Instead of picking one or two to write about for the next week, I quickly ran through the entire list and pulled out a few dozen to get me started. Whenever I need an image for a post, I’ll take a quick look to see what’s new and download a few extra if I need a social media update or an old post. Why not touch the same thing twice? Cut corners wherever possible.

I save email drafts for frequently asked questions and frequently sent inquiries, or as Google calls them canned responses. This saves me a lot of time.

I sometimes outsource

Every now and then, I fall behind on my publishing schedule. Maybe I have no inspiration or motivation to write. When this happens, I check the constant content for any great articles for sale. Good things are not cheap here. I typically pay $60 to $100 for an informative, actionable post. I like that I can actually read the post before I make a purchase.

I have a love-hate relationship with shopping for clothes. I have a hard time finding pants that fit me. I have a hip and that’s apparently not allowed these days. I may be hesitant to try new styles. Stitch Fix solved all my shopping problems. They have always been able to find the perfect jeans. They push me a little outside my style comfort zone. If I tell them I have a conference or wedding, they send me some things to try. Love this service! And you only pay for what you keep. If you hate everything, send it back and pay only the $20 styling fee.

I have an accountant and payroll clerk who do my payroll and tax filings. Well worth $50 a month in my book. I have serious accounting concerns and it’s best not to drag myself up about what, when and how much is due. They can log in, understand everything, and send me an email that tells me what’s coming on what date.

One thing I haven’t done yet is get a housecleaner. When we moved last year, my husband told me he wanted me to get a housekeeper first. As he says, “Why waste your time on something you hate?” agreed But I am totally type A. To me, outsourcing something seems to mean I can’t do it myself. I hate that feeling. And it’s not that I can’t clean, I just don’t want to.

I’d love to hear how you run your online business. How is a day in your life?

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