Let this be the year. Whether you simply want to increase your profits, finally see your name in print or make a career change — do it.
I left my last brick-and-mortar traditional print media job just over five years ago. I spent my days writing feature articles, covering school board meetings and photographing high school sports.
It was a great gig, but several factors made me yearn for something different. The hours were long and unpredictable. The pay was average. The prospect of moving up the ladder was minimal. I wanted to spend more time with family. Does any of this sound familiar?
So, I jumped off and started freelance writing full-time. I do mostly journalism and marketing work. Year by year, my end-of-year financial statements have been improving. But for some reason, 2014 was a great year.
I grew my client list. My profits increased 35 percent over 2013. And, I’m happier.
So, I decided to make a list of what I did differently in 2014, so I can replicate those actions (and improve upon them!) to make 2015 an incredible year.
And of course I thought it might be nice to share these insider tips and tricks. So, here we go.
15 Ways I Boosted My Bottom Line and Career Happiness
1. Work Less
I used to think working six or seven days each week made me more productive. In the short-term, it does. But working week after week, month after month, without taking a restorative mental break from your work tasks is a recipe for burn out. Take regular days off — without regret — to boost your energy. Sometimes I mix a few half days into my schedule to stay on top of deadlines and enjoy an afternoon off.
2. Exercise More
In 2014 I started doing water aerobics, lap swimming, stretching in the pool and taking yoga classes. Find something that gets your heart rate up and do it. If you hate the treadmill, like I do, explore group sports or classes to motivate you to attend. I look forward to the workouts and the camaraderie of my classmates. A healthy me equals a healthy business.
3. Get Organized
I’ve always been a list maker. But in 2014 I decided to elevate my organization and really plan out each block of time in my day. I use Google Calendar to schedule everything from interviews and writing time, to fitness classes and grocery shopping. It’s interesting to actually see how you spend your time.
4. Be Social
I’ve increased my writing client base simply by being more active on social media. I don’t suggest tossing out links and generic quotes every few hours. Actually converse with people on social media. Join Twitter chats. Reply to Facebook posts. Ask questions on Google+. Interact with your social media followers because you never know who might want to hire you or need what you have to offer!
5. Strategize Communications
Along with being organized and being “real” on social media, I do it with a plan. If you’ve never heard of social media strategies or social media marketing, Google it. You’ll thank me later. In a nutshell, it makes sense to be social when more people are in the room, or online, right? So, planning your social media communications makes sense.
6. Take Risks
This week, make a list of your career-related dreams. Now make a list of goals and tasks that help you reach your dreams. Sound silly? Why? If you don’t take risks and put yourself out there, you will never attain those dreams. At worst, you will learn from your mistakes and move forward.
7. Make Progress
My friends and family always tell me things don’t have to be perfect. And, they’re right. My mantra for 2014 was ‘Progress, not perfection’. Sometimes you have to say the 23rd draft is good enough. Or, the presentation looks fine. Don’t let a perfectionist attitude keep you from completing projects.
8. Get Focused
Many small businesses start as side projects. Evaluate where you are with your progress and decide if 2015 is the year to make your passion your full-time career. It’s a scary transition, but if you have a plan, income from other sources (a nest egg, spouse, loan), I say go for it! I held a part-time job for a year and loved what I did, but not the missed writing opportunities that I came home to after my shifts. I made the tough decision to let that job go, but was rewarded with more success in my full-time career.
9. Be Healthier
In 2014 I decided to get healthier. In addition to exercising regularly, I’ve focused on eating responsible portions and limiting overly processed foods. I feel much better day-to-day and am more mentally focused, which had a hand in my success last year. My business can’t be healthy if I’m not healthy.
10. Get Professional
If you haven’t done it yet, create separate social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for your professional entity. And, get a website. Last summer I celebrated one year with Web Writing Advice — which has become my online business card. If you’re hesitant to start a website to showcase your services, just do it. I am an HTML novice and this site looks good enough, right? (Make progress, not perfection!)
11. Budget Yourself
It can be easy to transfer all those individual payments from your business bank account to your personal account without much thought. But if you want to get ahead, set a reasonable budget. Pay yourself the same amount each pay period and let the excess build-up so you can put some away for PTO days and vacation time.
12. Work Hard
As I said above, I try not to work six or seven-day weeks. But, when it’s necessary, you have to put in extra hours to meet deadlines. I’m typing this on a Saturday evening, after polishing and submitting a magazine article with a Monday deadline. Be willing to work odd hours to meet goals.
13. Engage More
It’s common for me to pick up a magazine and read an article about a topic I don’t care one ounce about. Why? I look at the structure, word usage, formatting and how the writer sourced her experts. I’m looking at how another writer does her craft, because there’s always more to learn about writing. No matter what your business is, delve deeper into the competition and what your colleagues are doing.
14. Know Your Numbers
If you’re just starting out as a small business, it’s not uncommon to simply hope for more and more sales. But do you know where your numbers are and how much growth you can expect? Although I’m not a numbers gal, I pull reports each month to see where I’m sitting compared to previous years and what my projected earnings will be for the year. This has helped me set realistic (and higher!) goals, which have attributed to a successful 2014.
15. Be Yourself
Last but not least, just be you. I spent way too many years trying to emulate what others are doing or hoping to be like someone else. Once I found my groove and talents, and simply did what I felt was best, I became more comfortable at networking and growing *my* business — not what anyone else thinks I should be doing. And for me, it’s working!
Now go make 2015 your best year yet!
Do you write online? I share 18 ways to increase your online writing productivity and earnings in my free e-book. Download the PDF now and get focused. 2015 is here!