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Lessons Learned as a Solo-Entrepreneur

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This post comes to us from Erich Stauffer, an Indianapolis web designer who shares lessons he learned after branching out to start his own business.

While being your own boss can be exciting, it also means you have to manage yourself. In this article I’ll discuss what I’ve learned over the last six months about time management from my experience as a solo-entrepreneur.

One of the first things I realized when I started my own business was that there was no one but me to plan my day. I was in charge of when I had to start work, when I took breaks, and when I quit for the day. This was incredibly freeing, but at the same time, incredibly scary. I realized that if I failed to be productive, I’d never get that day back – so I made a plan.

I decided to set a time to get up in the morning and begin a routine that I could live with. I set the alarm for 8 AM, decided I would eat breakfast and get started working first thing in the morning. I’d spend some time checking email, spend some time learning in order to keep sharp, and spend some time networking with other people. That was my first plan.

What actually happened was that by the time I actually started working it was already after 9 AM and my clients had already started their work day. They had been calling and/or emailing me for support while I was still in the shower or eating breakfast. Obviously, I needed to get up earlier. But that wasn’t my only problem.

consulting on email overload

© Flickr user timsackton

The other problem was that the time spent “checking email” and “learning” was taking way too long. I wasn’t actually getting any work done. I decided to create a quota for the day to do at least 2 billable hours per day and this work needed to come before time spent learning or honing my trade. But then I ran out of billable work to do.

I realized I didn’t have the right balance of managing my business, fulfilling client needs, learning new skills, and marketing my business (through in-person and online networking). I had spent too much time working on my existing clients and had neglected to spend time trying to get new business. Something else had to change.

I was actively blogging and being social online, but I wasn’t getting the type of traction I had hoped for when one of my clients invited me to BNI, which stands for Business Networking International. I was already active in Meetup.com, but Meetups aren’t the type of groups geared toward generating business leads (although they can be fun).

I decided to join BNI three months after I started my own business and because of it’s mandatory attendance policy, it created a ‘center post’ in my calendar of which I could start to schedule my time. Because I had to get up at 5:30 AM for my BNI meeting I decided to get up at that time every day and it completely changed the way I worked.

By getting up at 5:30 in the morning on days when I didn’t have BNI, I was able to get some production work done in the mornings before my clients started working – giving me an edge on the day. If you can change the way you start your day, you have a good chance of changing your whole day.

Erich Stauffer is the owner at an Indianapolis web design firm, Watershawl, which helps business owners market their businesses online starting with their web sites and moving out into social media and other online marketing tools. Erich also runs his own Meetup, where he teaches business owners how to market their business online.

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