Starting a business is a bit like planning a long journey.
If you’re taking a trip somewhere, you’d work out how and when you were going to arrive, how long it would take to get there and what you’d need throughout the journey.
Setting out a similar plan for your business is the right thing to do too. It will give you the same type of results you’d get organising a trip, and enable you to focus, track and reach your goals.
This is where creating a routemap for your business right at the very beginning is really important. (It’s never too late to create one either, even if you’ve been established for a while. That’s what I did.)
Why’s this so important?
Well, just like a journey, if you don’t have a map, how do you know where you’re going? Worse still, if you don’t monitor what you’re doing, how do you know if you’re anywhere near achieving what you set out to do?
By keeping an eye on where you are in relation to your routemap, you can see if you’re still heading in the right direction or going off track. This strategy is brilliant for helping you to identify if something isn’t working either.
If you noticed you were heading in the wrong direction on your travel's, chances are you'd stop, take a breather and plan how to get back on the right track. It's a similar principle for your business, only this time you'd pull out your routemap, do some tweaks, amend your plan, and get back on your way.
So, for example, by having a quarterly review of your business, you may find that you’re undercharging for a service. Because you stopped to make an assessment, you’ll be able to adjust your pricing instead of continuing to be underpaid. Or, maybe you realise you don’t like doing a specific task. In that case, you could find someone else to delegate it to. This means you still get to provide the service to your clients without losing them, or getting frustrated with yourself because, even though you hate doing the job, it's a great payer so you don’t want to turn the work away.
Having a routemap in place will allow you to make informed decisions.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra
For years, I took on more and more work without any extra help and to compensate, I just extended my day. Because I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t review what I was doing. I was so busy that when I did eventually stop to take stock, I found I was working well over 60 hours a week (and wondered why I felt so exhausted all the time). And to be honest, looking back, I wasn’t getting paid for what I was worth either with only myself to blame.
And guess what? No plan also meant that I didn’t arrange time off for holidays (essential for recharging your batteries!). I used to snatch the odd day away here and there and took time off around public holidays when I knew my clients wouldn’t be working either.
That wasn’t running a business, that was the business running me.
The beauty of having your own business is to work the hours you want to work, earning the money you want to earn, within the boundaries you set.
One of the worst things that could happen is that, as a virtual assistant or other freelancer, you end up working like an ‘employee’ for your clients. For example, you work set hours based around their needs, leaving you no flexibility to take time for doing your own business admin. That then gets done late at night or at the weekend when you're supposed to be spending time with family and friends or having down time to recharge tour batteries. Without realising, you’ll become chained to your desk and a slave to your own business.
There's a BIG difference between working with clients, not for them.