Mar 27, 2017
Are you spending an exorbitant amount of time working on things to keep your business going, without ever actually touching on your favorite parts of WHY you started your business in the first place?
Yeah, I’ve been there.
Here’s the deal: as your business grows, your systems and “admin hours” will grow too. Ideally, those systems will grow with you and not require any upkeep or modification, but not everything in life turns out ideally ;). Over the last decade of running my own teaching and consulting business, there have been a handful of instances where I’ve caught myself spending way too much time working ON my business instead of IN my business.
How much admin is too much admin? The answer is subjective. For me, when I’m doing too much admin, I get just the slightest bit annoyed with things that shouldn’t annoy me (like a client asking a pertinent question for their first time, but it’s my five-billionth time answering it.)
This step is important. If you’re just flailing about in “Admin Hour Purgatory”, then it’ll be hard to understand how to get yourself out of it. I encourage taking a deep breath and spending a week noticing exactly what isn’t working for you and your business. Don’t try to change anything right away, just observe where you’re spending most of your time and exactly how your minutes are getting eaten up. You could write your day down as it happens or monitor things in your online calendar. I use Google Calendar for this.
Shop for a solution. If writing that email is going to take you 30 minutes to compile a response and you know it shouldn’t, then I encourage you to spend at least that amount shopping around for or brainstorming for a better system. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Yikes, I hate that metaphor.) So, if something isn’t working for you, I guarantee there’s someone else out there who’s thinking the same exact thing and has done something about it. Google will be your BFF for moments like this.
Stick to that solution. The system will only work if you’re using the system. So, if you’ve set up an automated scheduling solution, but you’re still doing client re-schedules via email and text message, then that system isn’t working. Either set up more obvious boundaries with your clients or change your system to work FOR you, not against you.
Find a better system. No really, if all your emailing and admin hassles are really just scheduling questions driving you batty, then there are options… Here’s what I use:
There are a ton of other options too. Again, I encourage you to spend some time shopping around for the system that fits your business best.
Set a personal policy of keeping your responses to five sentences or less. You can even put this link in your email signature to explain why. When I applied this to my business, most of the awkwardness in implementing it came from me. I’ve never had a student or client think it’s weird or unhelpful.
My personal rule of thumb: if an email takes more than two minutes to respond to, I send a quick email to request I chat about it on the phone for five to 15 minutes. Or, in the case of my weekly clients and students, I’ll say: “Great question! Remind me to answer this in our next meeting.” (This trick is especially valuable if you’re not getting paid extra to sit there and write a novel of an email response.)
Create email templates to reuse. There was a season when every time I received a new client inquiry, I would write their welcome email from scratch! *facepalm* Each email was meticulously detailed with all the answers to the relevant questions. The day this started bothering me, I created an unsent email draft with all these responses and added to it over time. Then, the next time a client asked the same question, I’d copy/paste those previously written answers into those responses as they would come up.
Want more shortcuts for email? I suggest Googling “email shortcuts for [insert your email provider here]” Tons of tips and tricks will pop up!
Build a FAQs section. You could take this one step further and create a one-stop shop for all possible questions from your clients. You could use a Google Doc or put the Q&As on a page in your website. This would allow you to respond with “Great question! I’ve already put the answer here (link) and if you have any follow-up questions remind me to answer that at our next meeting on Tuesday!” (See? Less than five sentences and still super helpful!)
Automate Your Bookkeeping. If you’re still using a spreadsheet to do all your bookkeeping, then spending just one of your typical bookkeeping days to convert over to an automated bookkeeping online software will help you immensely! I use Quickbooks Online, but there’s also FreshBooks, ZipBooks, Zero, Zoho, FreeAgent, Wave Accounting. Some of those even have a free option too. It’s worth shopping around for the best option. I spend five minutes at most every week to check in on my business finances.
Hire a Bookkeeper. I know, I know. You don’t think you have enough time/money to hire a bookkeeper. Hear me out though. If you’re spending up to five hours every month (60 hours/year) doing something someone else could do in two hours every quarter (eight hours/year), then you’re already wasting time and money. In a case like that, hiring a bookkeeper would be a money-making choice, because you’d be free to add another client (or four) to your roster of income!
It’s worth the extra elbow grease to ensure that the systems you set up are actually working for you, not against you. There may be a season of growing pains when your business demands more than you can give to it, which is why it’s so important to automate where you can and tweak your systems as you grow.
What automated systems (not listed here) do YOU use? I’d love to hear about them!
Emily Ann Peterson is a singer-songwriter, teaching artist, consultant, and creative entrepreneur who spent 17 years with her cello. It was her second voice until she was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological hand tremor. Refusing to resign to fate and genetics, she expanded her skills to include the piano and solo songwriting. This act of neurological defiance broke through her creative glass ceiling and then swept her up in the expansive limits.
Her podcast, Bare Naked Bravery, features conversations with everyday heroes about the quiet successes and loud failures required to do the brave things for which we know and love them.
Peterson’s mission is inspire a global resonance and magnanimous community through the marriage of art and whole-person development.
She is available here: www.emilyannpeterson.com