You’re stuck in traffic, spending more hours running around town returning things you can’t pay for than you are working on your business. You think to yourself, “what am I DOING?” It feels like if you could just catch that one big break, you’d be fine forever, free to speak at your dream conferences and workshops, with all the likes on Instagram and hundreds of positive blog comments pouring in, all from readers eager to buy from you. Barf. At least this is what I thought, and if you share my ‘barf’ sentiment, at least you’re not as naive as I was.
As Adrienne Dorison says, growing your business isn’t hard, but it is a lot of work. And, it doesn't happen overnight. You'll likely feel every emotion from terrified and wanting to give up, to waking up at 1am to furiously work through sunrise on a project that you may or may not ever launch... It doesn’t have to be all work and no play, or even all work — that sucks. It can be a lot of playful work so long as you figure out these five key portions of your business first.
1. Nail down your workflow.
You want to be able to increase your volume without piling up more tasks and “To-Dos.” If it takes you 2 hours to get through your email, then you have to deal with all of your client tasks, and finally to send out brochures or proposals to new clients each morning, well friends, that’s a LOT of time spent on admin stuff that could have been automated. This is time you don't have because you're also hustling to create new offerings, blog all day, and ‘network’ (psshh, yeah, whatever…) If it feels like you have 0 margin in your life when it comes to time, you probably don’t, but that doesn’t mean you should just go cry in a corner (<<only sometimes helpful).
Instead of breaking out the Bota Box by 10am, invest in improving your productivity and workflows before you ramp up your marketing. Start small by batching your tasks and when you feel ready, try something bigger, like setting up automations with IFTTT or Zapier.
2. Have a solid client management system.
When you were starting out, you could probably rattle off your entire prospective client list… but once you start scaling up, there is SO MUCH happening that you’re going to forget to respond to a referral or lose track of that email you were supposed to follow-up on. Before you take on more clients, be sure you can handle more. I adore HoneyBook because I can track proposals, send canned emails, schedule alerts, and receive payments, all in one system. Plus, the “Pipeline” as they call it is a life-saver. I’m able to quickly glance down the list and see exactly where everyone is in their project with me.
3. Create a system for your content.
Producing engaging and valuable content is the most effective way to build a loyal audience. It's also really hard to stick to consistent content creation without a plan. Before I outsourced my content (don’t worry guys, it still gets my eyes), I liked to block off a “creative day” on my calendar where I did nothing but work on my social media and blog content in one big chunk. (I still do this with Creative Empire, btw.) I don’t take any calls, I don’t respond to emails, and I definitely don’t binge on Instagram stories (guilty!). It’s a biznatch of a day, but it helps me breathe easier knowing everything is done. Just try it once and you’ll see what I mean.
Create a goal for yourself and stick to it: write a month’s worth of Instagram captions, schedule out your Tailwind account for a few weeks, or fill up your Twitter queue. You'll feel ah-ma-zing after!
4. Have a stable + dependable source of revenue.
You're probably not ready to grow in big ways if you still have a fluctuating stream of revenue. Scaling to the next level often requires some upfront capital ($$) for new systems, contractors (more on that next), and advertising. You don't want to be paying these expenses from your personal savings (you do have a business savings account, right? If not, put that on today's “To-Do” list!). And as my favorite money gals say, “money is just numbers, once you figure the numbers out, it’s nothing.”
5. Hire a team. Hire a team. Hire a team.
You CAN’T do it alone. Before I had my team in place, I felt the panic seeping in... how on earth could I make my business bigger and reach my dream goals? I already felt close to my max, but I still had a ways to go to meet my financial goals. Now? I can freely go to conferences like The Savvy Experience without worrying that my business is going to come tumbling down. There’s nothing like getting an email asking me to do something and just hitting “forward” to a team member who will take care of it for me.
If you're serious about scaling, you will need a team, and it's best to start looking for them before you're ready. Start small… a few hours here and there. (I didn't even max out my virtual assistant’s hours during the first two months!) It takes time to find the right person and get into a groove with each other, so start your search early.
Are you struggling to grow your creative business?
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