Build a Business, Not Another Job

Many people dream of working for themselves, being their own boss, and having the freedom to only take on clients and projects they love.

What they don’t realize, though, is that there is a huge difference between building a business and being self-employed.

Business owners scale their income. Self-employed people trade dollars for hours

Business owners leverage the skills and talents of others. Self-employed people rely only on their own skills.

Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Every business owner started out self-employed. Just don’t stay there. These tips will help you build a sustainable business instead of just another job.

Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself

Building a sustainable business requires that you leverage the talents and time of others. While it might seem cost-effective to simply do everything yourself—especially in the start-up phase when you likely have more time than money—it’s a path to burnout and stress.

Instead, separate your tasks into those that you love and are especially suited for (such as marketing) and those you dislike and aren’t good at. Then make a solid plan to get those that you aren’t good at off your list of things to do. If you feel like you can’t afford to outsource it all right now, start with what you tend to procrastinate the most on, even if it’s just a few hours each month.

Don’t Allow Yourself to Work All the Time

The trouble with working at home is that you live at work. And that means that there’s no clear line in the sand between your work day and your home life.

Since there’s always work to do, it’s easy to find yourself working every available moment—often to the detriment of your family relationships.

You can help avoid this by:

  • Setting—and maintaining—clear work hours
  • Having an office with a door you can close when you’re done
  • Scheduling time for family and other activities
  • Taking time for yourself

Holidays and Downtime Are Important

Don’t create a business that requires you to be “in the office” every day. At the start, you may need to be available more, but you should definitely be planning for the day when you can be “off the grid” for extended periods of time.

  • Have trusted contractors who can handle things when you’re not available
  • Leverage automation tools such as autoresponders and autowebinar systems
  • Create repeatable systems so you’re not always re-inventing the wheel

While you might not be able to hit the road with no internet access for weeks at a time, at the very least you should be able to reduce your workload to a daily check-in.

Sound impossible? It’s not. With some forethought and planning, you can create a team—and the systems they need—to successfully run your business without becoming overwhelmed and overworked.

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How to systemise everything


If you’ve ever looked at another business owner and wondered how they manage to get it all done, the answer might surprise you.

They’ve got good systems.

It’s true. The most productive people all have one thing in common: they don’t reinvent the wheel every day. Instead, they’ve figured out the best, most efficient way to do every task, and they create a system to do just that.

No matter what business you’re in and what projects you find yourself tackling, a systemized approach will help you:

  • Work faster and produce more
  • Produce higher quality results with fewer mistakes
  • Easily outsource the tasks you don’t like to do

The Magic of Templates

How many times do you answer email from potential clients? What about responding to customer complaints? Or mailing your partners about an upcoming launch?

All of these tasks and more become effortless when you create fill-in-the-blank templates that can be repurposed for specific cases/people. Templates can be as simple as a “canned response” in your email client or help desk, or you can use software such as Text Expander (for Mac) or Phrase Express (for Windows). You might even create a template document in Dropbox or Google Drive to house all your templates for easier access.

While templates will undoubtedly save you time, the real beauty is that once they’re created, you can easily outsource things like email and even sales. Simply instruct your assistant on the proper use of your templates, and you’ll be free to do other, more important things.

Checklists Prevent Mistakes

It might seem counterintuitive, but when you perform the same tasks over and over again, it’s easy to miss a critical step. You might think you paid your suppliers this month—you might even remember doing it—only to look back and see it was never completed.

But when you implement checklists, it’s suddenly much more difficult to miss an important task.

You can easily create checklists for all your common tasks and projects using nothing more than a text document. If you’re managing a team, checklists in your project management system allow you to see exactly what tasks are complete, and which are still outstanding.

Templates and checklists turn smart business owners into productivity superstars, and it’s easy to get started. The next time you answer an email you’ve answered before, save your response. The next time you set up a new product in your shopping cart or create a new opt-in page, take the time to record the steps. These documents will make future projects easier and faster to complete, and best of all, you can hand them off to your assistant to do instead.

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Is Your Business Consuming You? Time to Reassess

As business owners the buck stops with you, always.  The external and internal pressure of that can easily override logic when it comes to downtime. You’re more likely to forgo a break or holiday because you feel you have so much to do. You don’t want to lose the momentum. Hustle Hustle. I get it. I used to do exactly that. I was always ‘On” always in business mode. But, relaxation became a dirty word, something to forego so I could get that next thing done.  At a certain point I came undone, and realised that always being in business mode was not conducive to a “fun” me!

I implemented certain things into my life to bring back “fun” me:

A stop work time

I could work all night, plenty to do and I loved it. So, I set a “stop work” time.  I did ease myself into it though. It was such an ingrained habit for me that I switched computer time to reading business books initially. This made me feel like I was still in business mode but not as the usual intensity. After a while I was able to switch some of this time for pure downtime. (yay Netflix!)

What’s your stop work time? Do you need to rest it? Has it crept out?

Regular Social engagements (not business related)

I wouldn’t say no to social engagements but I wouldn’t necessarily seek them out either. It’s very easy to become a weekend warrior for your business. So, I made a commitment to regular social things such as book clubs (aka wine club), coffee with friends, dinner parties, weekends away, no business speak allowed!

What social outings can you make time for to give you a well earned rest from your business?

Scheduling time off

Friday afternoons are a great afternoon to schedule off. It sets the tone for your weekend. You almost feel like you’re playing hookie! But, when you start your week on a Monday knowing you’re giving yourself permission to have Friday afternoon off, you make sure you keep on track to keep that appointment with yourself.

Maybe Friday afternoons aren’t your thing? Perhaps it’s an hour earlier on certain days. Find what works for you and schedule that in

Booking and paying for holidays

Holidays only get taken if you book them in and keep the commitment with yourself. I highly recommend scheduling, booking and paying for a holiday to make sure that you do indeed take that time off. If you plan a staycation at home, it can be very easy for you to persuade yourself that the business emergency requires you, not your staycation. IF that’s you, book and pay for a holiday, you will keep that appointment with yourself.

And ask yourself what works best for you. One big holiday of 4 weeks or several holidays of 1 week.  Whichever works best, book that.

Feel a little consumed by your business, and think, but hey I’m still fun? You might be, but just to be sure ask your bestie, they’ll tell you straight up. Then go and implement the above. See you on the fun side!

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7 Sure Fire Ways to Ensure a Productive Day

productivity for to do list

productivity for to do listAre you getting distracted each time you sit at your desk to get stuff done? Are you jittery, making endless cups of coffee, eating snacks, getting social on social media?  The distractions will always be there so how can we make ourselves more focused to fulfil that sense of accomplishment after a productive day?

Plan your day

First thing in the morning or the night before, plan exactly what you must you get done today. Write it out, get it out of your head.  If you plan your day the night before you will often not only sleep better but work on solutions while you sleep!

Keep the to-dos to a minimum

3 to 5 items on your to do list is enough, 15 items on your to do list is too many! Often when we do the brain dump getting stuff out of our head we list 15 or so items to get done the next day.  Awesome, you think I’ll smash through those. Have you ever achieved all of those to-dos? Or have transferred them to another day? Doesn’t do much for your productivity ego does it?

Stick to 3 – 5 per day, spread the 15 to do’s over your entire work week.

Still convinced you are a productivity ninja and can accomplish the 10 to-do’s today?

I challenge you to think seriously about how long it would take to complete each task and write the time beside each task. Often we underestimate the time taken to complete a task so add in a 10-20% buffer unless you’re absolutely sure.  Add up all the time. Is it achievable? If not reduce your to-dos for today.

Write your to do’s using verbs

All tasks require action of some kind and when we write them down we should ensure they stipulate the action required.   If for example you have “website” as a to-do, when in fact you have to “rewrite the copy for your About page on website” you are making your brain think too hard.  Often your brain will see that to-do “website” and think “oh what did I have to do to the website again? This is a total waste of brain power.  Make it easy on yourself.  Be descriptive with verbs for your tasks.

If your verbs aren’t cutting it and leaving you overwhelmed, chunk it down.

Just like the example above if your verb to-do for the “website” task turned into “write copy for website” you probably went and made yourself a coffee as soon as you saw it.  It’s overwhelming and you probably feel exhausted just thinking about it! Break it down, and in this case into each of the pages, about page, services page, products page etc.  Chunking down a task makes it easier to make a start and often that’s all the motivation you need.

Make a to-do later list (aka Master to-do list)

Not all tasks need to be done straight away but need to be done within a certain timeframe.  Create a Master to-do list, put those items in there.  Just putting those items on a separate list can help reduce anxiety and keep track of all those items to do later.  Refer to this list when you create your daily to do list to see what needs to be scheduled in to be completed.

Change location

And if none of this is working at all change your location. Simply changing your environment can make a huge difference to your focus.  Outside, your dining table, a cafe no matter where, as long as it fuels inspiration for you to get stuff done.

Remember the first battle is starting, from then its all downhill to your destination. Make sure you can get to the start line by implementing the ideas above.

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Track Your Time for One Week to Increase Your Productivity

time, productivity

time, productivityProfessions that track their time are onto something. They can look back and see exactly what that time was spent on. And if they were in fact working on the important things. While I hope that Accountants have banished the charging of 6 minute increments by now, tracking you time for productivity purposes can be enlightening.

When you’re the boss, the one in charge, whether that be of just yourself or a team, no one holds you accountable, so taking stock of what you’re spending your time on can be beneficial. Don’t worry I’m not suggesting you do it forever, just one week.  A week is long enough to show any patterns to what you spend your time working on. In order for this to be an effective exercise you should be quite detailed about what you’re working on.

It might look something like this:

8-10am emails

10-10:30 web browsing

10:30 meeting

11:30 email

12:00 lunch

12:30 – 5:30 report for client

At the end of the week you can analyse your timesheet and see any patterns that emerge and unproductive time. An analysis of the above example, would no doubt conclude there is a lot of email fluffing going on! Perhaps you can set some boundaries around that? Have a power hour first thing to clear emails and then a power hour post lunch to do the same, rather than using it as a time filler throughout that day. Shutting your email off completely will also stop your tendency to “check” it. And while you’re at it, put your phone out of sight, you’re less likely to “check it” as well.

Perhaps a pattern emerges around a task that you should no longer be completing, outsource it to free up your time.  Or perhaps you’re spending a load of time completing manual paperwork each week, when an accounting system would shorten the time required. Implementing that system would have a substantial impact on your productivity.

Based on the example above, it appears the “real work” is not really starting until after lunch and you’ve been struggling to get the “real work” done? Perhaps you’re naturally more productive and driven in the morning?  If that’s the case, make sure you schedule in your “high level” work for that time of day. You’ll achieve substantially more if you work with your natural rhythms rather than against them.

If you have another period where you feel like you aren’t as productive as you should be, track your time for another week and see where the real time suck culprits are. It’s a useful tool in your productivity arsenal.

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Effective Hourly Rate – the ultimate measure of business profit

The aim of business is to make a profit. If you’re not making profits, well there’s no point. There is a caveat to that, the initial stages of a business, it can take time to develop that profitable sustainable market. But the aim is to get to profit in the quickest time frame possible.

Not all profits in business are created equal. Sounds silly, right? Actually no, let me explain.  Let’s look at two business owners, business owner A making $20000 profit per month and Business Owner B making $10000 per month. You would think based on this example that you’d like to be Business Owner A because well he’s making way more profit than B?

But what if I gave you a bit more information:


  • Business Owner A worked 240 hours for the month
  • Business Owner B worked 80 hours for the month

This is where the Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) calculations shows you the impact of this.  Quite simply Effective Hourly Rate is your profit divided by the numbers of hours you as the business owner have worked to arrive at that profit.

Let’s calculate:

  • EHR –  Business Owner A = $20000/240 = $83.33 per hour
  • EHR – Business Owner B = $10000/80 = $125 per hour

Now, while $20000 is more profit than $10000, if you only had to work 20 hours per week rather than 60 per week to derive that each month, $10000 may be more appealing to you.

Aside from other factors such as tax, and other cashflow items that I won’t delve into now, the EHR really does make you think about what your time is worth.

Personally, I’d rather be Business Owner B working 20 hours a week to derive a $10k profit per month. You have time available to use as you would like. Perhaps spend as leisure time, perhaps spend more time on your business and derive even more profit and increase the EHR while you’re at it. When you have time, you have choices.

I believe that EHR is one of the most important calculations you can track in your business. It clearly shows you whether doing this business thing is really worth it to you.

Go ahead calculate your EHR, see what number you come up with.  You may be quite surprised.

Want to improve your EHR? It’s a matter of tweaking profit or your time, or even both for a double whammy. Not sure how? Join our community so that you can focus on the key measure of business success.