With the New Year festivities already a distant memory, you may be looking at your list of resolutions to see which ones you’re likely to keep for the year ahead – and which have already fallen by the wayside.
But if you’ve already failed with your new gym regime or with your attempt to complete dry January, could there be some changes you could be making for your business instead? Here Emily Coltman FCA, chief accountant at FreeAgent – which makes award-winning cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro-businesses and their accountants – offers some ideas for great New Year resolutions to introduce in 2018.
Track your time at work
Even if you think you’re working as efficiently as possible, you may be surprised to discover just where your time is actually being spent once you take a closer look.
By tracking all of your working time (and yes, that includes all your phone calls and coffee breaks) you’ll see where the main interruptions are in your business and be better equipped to deal with them so you can work at full strength. You’ll also see how long you spend doing non-work-related tasks and which parts of your routine are least productive.
Tracking your time can also uncover how profitable each project you work on is, as you’ll be able to see how much “unbillable” time goes into each one, compared to the amount of time you can charge for. That means you see which projects are costing you money and what kind of work you should be focusing on in the future to maximise your profits.
Love your bookkeeping
Doing the books may not be one of the most exciting part of running a business, but it is one of the most important. You need up-to-date accounts to see how much money you’re making and how much tax you need to pay, and your business could suffer if you don’t do it properly.
If you’re not already doing so, try to make bookkeeping an integral – but manageable – part of your work in 2018. Spend an hour a week to review your bank transactions, log your expenses and manage your invoicing and you’ll find it easier to see at a glance how your business is performing. And while you’re at it, you may want to think about whether you could ditch your spreadsheets and upgrade to dedicated accounting software instead. Not only could this save you hours of tedious admin in the short term, but you’ll also make sure you’re prepared in advance for the introduction of digital tax reporting legislation in the coming years.
Freshen up your marketing
The start of the year is a great time to take a look at your marketing strategy, review what has been working and see what you can be doing better in the year ahead. For example, could you start thinking about advertising in local media, or signing up to attend a few trade shows full of potential new customers? Or do you need to tweak your SEO and online presence in order to more effectively target a specific customer base?
Before you get started, take time to make sure you’ve worked out your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and perfected your elevator pitch. That way, you’ll start out on the right foot when it comes to spotting new marketing opportunities. And keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money either. Large corporations may have millions to spend on marketing, but you can achieve some great results on a tighter budget.
Review your customer base
Take a close look at your customer base and calculate the time you spend working for each one – including all of the “unbillable” time like chasing invoices or dealing with extra support requests. You may find that some of your customers take up a great deal more time than others for about the same amount of money. Think hard about whether those more time-consuming clients are ones you love going the extra mile for, or if they aren’t worth the.hassle and you could be spending that time finding and working with amazing, new clients instead.
However, remember not to take the great clients you currently have for granted. Make sure you keep them feeling special and valued because happy customers tend to be more willing to recommend you to their friends – and positive referrals are one of the best ways to grow your business.
About the author
Emily Coltman FCA is Chief Accountant to FreeAgent, which makes award-winning cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro-businesses and their accountants. Try it for free at www.freeagent.com