This post originally appeared as a guest article in the Rising Tide Society's October 2017 Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Business Planning.
As a solopreneur or small business owner, it’s easy for long-term planning to fall off your to-do list. Seeking out clients, promoting your business and doing client work becomes a priority during your day-to-day work, and without the right business planning in place, you can get years into your work and realize you haven’t taken the right steps to evolve your business to the level you want to be at. There has to be a better way to long-term plan than just writing ideas down and forgetting to act on them, right? The only way to achieve those long term goals you want in your business is to properly plan for them. As someone who is not naturally organized, that idea might make you want to immediately scroll right past this article and never look back. But I promise these steps are simple, non-painful ways to build structure and make big strides in prioritizing your long-term business planning.
Set up a time each week to review your ideas and prioritize them.
Sometimes I get blindsided by a great idea and want to act on it immediately. But when I look back on work I did quickly after inspiration hit me, it’s not as refined and as well thought-out as it could have been if I’d worked through it more thoroughly.
Make an idea wall.
So, what to do with those ideas you’re not going to act on right away? Store them! I need things in front of me to remember to actually do them, so I have a physical idea wall next to my desk. I have running paper lists of blog ideas, social media posts, and bigger ideas for my business. Also, I’m an avid Pinterest pinner. Whenever I see colors, branding, illustrations, and more that I’d love to use, I make sure to save them on my Pinterest boards. This way, they’re tucked away in one place so I can look at them whenever I need them.
Keep yourself in check with monthly and quarterly goals.
For all of those larger business goals, I have monthly and quarterly check-ins with myself to tackle them. As a small business owner, it’s often difficult to prioritize those big picture ideas; I use these check-ins to break big goals into manageable pieces. At the beginning of every quarter, I map out an overarching goal for my business, with smaller action items for each month of that quarter. Usually, the goals for my months and quarters evolve organically through what I’ve been putting on my idea wall and to-do lists, and fit in with the needs of both my clients and my business. For example, I already know my main Q4 goal will be to create more content through courses and blog posts. One of my smaller monthly goals might be to complete writing and designing a course for clients, or to create a social media content calendar for the upcoming year. Although priorities may change depending on extenuating circumstances, it’s often easier to set your business priorities with a clear mindset when you know what you’re choosing to focus on that quarter. Establishing clear goals and strategy for your business will help you achieve goals and see true growth in your business.
Build long term goals into your payment structure and hourly time.
Last, but certainly not least. One of the biggest (and easiest!) mistakes an entrepreneur can make is not making sure they have the time and money to allow themselves to prioritize strategically growing their business. Be sure to work at least a few hours a week growing your own business through checkins and website, social media, and blog management. Figure out the best way for build those hours into your payment structure so you feel comfortable spending non-billable hours on yourself. Building this into your long-term structure will allow you to be more organized when it come to growing your company, and not letting that growth fall by the wayside.