For the first time ever, many of us are sharing a season of life that has necessitated major lifestyle shifts. The months of social distancing have forced many of us to slow down in all sorts of ways, from our social lives to our work.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are experiencing a slow season, which can often be more stressful than it is relaxing. Some business owners have experienced a lull in operations—or an inability to operate—to an extent they never could have predicted. While nothing about our current circumstances are ideal, there are opportunities to use this slower season of life and business to your advantage.
From tackling your books to getting your website in order (made easy and painless with our go-to platform, Squarespace), consider these seven things you can do right now that will save you time and money later.
Start your free Squarespace trial today (no credit card required) and use code ‘EVERYGIRL’ for 10% off when you’re ready to publish your website.
1. Optimize your web presence
As a savvy, modern business owner, you probably have a website already. If you don’t, now is the time! We love Squarespace because it takes all the guesswork out of building and hosting your site. There are no plugins to constantly update or complicated hosting vs. building questions to consider. Everything is included in one easy-to-use platform that can get you up and running in a few hours.
Why is having a website important? First and foremost, cultivating a web presence and ensuring customers or readers know where to go to find you is a great resource that will save you the headache of answering the same questions over and over. Secondly, a well-designed website will entice your customers or readers to come back again and again and should save you time and money in the long-run. Today, take a good hard look at your website and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your website search engine optimized (SEO) so new customers find you on Google easily?
If you answered no, read and review our SEO checklist.
- Do you have a F.A.Q. page that answers your customers’ or clients’ most common questions so they don’t need to contact you for basic info?
- Can your visitors easily learn how to contact you, make an appointment, or make a purchase?
- Are your products and services displayed in a clear and easy-to-understand way?
- If needed, is customer support easily accessible?
- Are links to your social media channels and e-mail sign up forms easily found?
2. Get your finances in order
We hate to say it, but there’s no time like the present to give your finances a good, close look. It may not be all that tempting to look at your balance sheets right now, but getting your finances in order will make your life so much easier during tax season and throughout the year. First things first, sit down and make sure you’ve received payment for every single dollar you earned to date this year. If you don’t already have a system for tracking incoming and outgoing cash, now is the time to set a system in place. Ideally, you’ll have a system—whether that be through a spreadsheet, accounting software, or working with an accountant—that allows you to easily track what you’ve spent, what money you’re owed, and what the status of any invoices are. Follow up on any overdue payments now and make sure you have a system in place for catching overdue invoices sooner rather than later.
Next, you’ll want to get a plan for tax season in place. To eliminate any expensive surprises down the road, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong handle on how to pay all of your taxes. Depending on your business structure and how you earn income, this could involve a mix of annual taxes, quarterly taxes, and business taxes. Of course, hiring a professional is always handy, but if you can’t afford an accountant long-term, you can still pay for a consultation or two that can help you get your tax ducks in a row so that you know exactly what you need to pay and when. Squarespace also offers extensions for services like TaxJar and Quickbooks to help you seamlessly keep track of your taxes and accounting needs.
3. Network to your advantage
While more traditional networking methods are less available right now, there’s no reason you can’t network via phone or video chat. Like you, there are other business owners and professionals who have some extra time on their hands and are longing to experience a bit more connection. Set up some informational interviews with professionals you admire and ask if you can pick their brain about your industry, their work, or anything that can help you now or down the line in your business. Learn from their mistakes. If you can afford it, show your gratitude by sending them a gift card to a local coffee shop so they can grab a cup of coffee before your call if they want to!
4. Hit the books
When business is slow, it can be very tempting to storm full speed ahead while attempting to drum up new business. There’s nothing wrong with this strategy, but do a gut check and see if it’s really working for you. If you know that no matter how hard you try, business will be slow right now, it’s OK to take a break. Pause, rest, and let your creative juices flow. Now is a great time to invest in education, whether through online courses, informational interviews, or good old fashioned reading. Instead of automatically hiring a consultant, contractor, or employee to tackle the areas you struggle with, start by learning how you can manage them yourself. Squarespace offers online courses that allow you to learn at your own pace with a variety of helpful subjects such as design, email marketing, and SEO.
The best business owners are ones who really understand all areas of their business, from production to finances to marketing to human resources. Pick a weak spot and learn more about how you can improve. Even if you feel like you have a good understanding of how to manage all areas of your business, you may learn some creative new ideas that can come in handy down the road.
5. Create a killer marketing plan
You can execute effective marketing on the fly; a quick Facebook post here, a speedy email blast there. But alongside those more impromptu and organic marketing efforts, you should be following a strategic marketing plan. You don’t have to follow a marketing plan word-for-word until the end of time, but it can serve as a strong guide that you can reference when you’re unsure of what move to make next. A good marketing plan should outline your business’s goals for the year, what steps you can take to achieve those goals, and what your marketing budget is. Use slow seasons to create and update your marketing plan and focus your marketing efforts, as staying on a well-planned path can be a big time saver down the road when you find yourself doubting what move to make next.
6. Load up on content
Now that you have a marketing plan in place, use some of your downtime to stockpile content. Start with social media. There are dozens upon dozens of great social media scheduling apps on the market that will allow you to upload and schedule posts to publish at a later date. These tools give you the chance to perfect your marketing plans and to review your upcoming content in a way that’s easy to visualize.
The same goes for email. We love the integrated email campaigns from Squarespace, which pull directly from your site and make designing your emails easy and fast. If you want to send a weekly email newsletter, start writing a month’s worth at once and schedule the newsletters for later dates. You can always tweak them if need be, but scheduling your newsletters early will ensure you don’t let one slip through the cracks once you get busy.
Don’t forget to finally make the leap and purchase a custom email domain! It’s an inexpensive way to make your business look super professional. Squarespace users can easily customize their email domain name and manage their email through G Suite.
7. Create streamlined processes
Operations experts don’t get enough credit in the business world. Sure, the sales department can bring in big numbers and the design team can make everything they touch look stunning, but it’s safe to guess that there is an operations team working hard to keep the show running. For smaller businesses, operations are super important, especially as you grow your business. Use extra time found during slower periods to invest in creating foolproof operations processes. Sit down and think about where in your workflow you experience delays or complications. What steps would stop those struggles from occurring? It’s OK if there are more than a few errors during the trial-and-error phase, as this experimenting will eventually lead you to the right fit for you and your team.
Creating an easy-to-follow and organized operational process will save both time and money later by simplifying your workflow and eliminating confusion, which will allow you to work faster. Consider tackling how you invoice, assign work to freelancers, or rethink how you create social media content. Start with just one new process and see how it feels, then move onto a new process until your whole business is running like the well oiled machine you always knew it could be.
One final pro-tip: use Squarespace’s Zapier integration to connect to your go-to task management app and set up automations that can save you tons of time. You know what they say, time is money!
Ready to share your vision or business with the world? Start your free Squarespace trial today (no credit card required) and use code ‘EVERYGIRL’ for 10% off when you’re ready to publish your website.
This post was in partnership with Squarespace, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.