Solopreneurs Taking Vacations & Keeping Control

Solopreneurs Taking Vacation & Keeping Control

Isn’t being your own boss glorious!?

You get to set your own schedule, you have nobody you have to report back to, and what you say pretty much goes!

So, with setting your own schedule, it seems that taking a vacation should be pretty simple, right??

Wrong!

Plan your trip and make it official.

To begin with, it seems to be a common quality found in many solopreneurs; they have a hard time relaxing and finding the right time to “stop work” for vacation time. “No work” often equates to no income, and that can be a hard thing to justify when you are out “playing.”

In 2014, a survey by OnDeck discovered that only 57% of small business owners were planning on taking a vacation?that year; what’s even worse… just over a quarter of those (26%) were only going to take a few days!??

 

OnDeck.com

Small business owners agree. Your business is your baby, and getting away is hard!

Consider your time away from work, though, as an investment. It’s an investment in both your personal and business life. Studies have found that employees who take regular vacations tend to be happier and more productive at work in the long run.

“It’s typical for families to celebrate the month of August by shutting down the computer and skipping town. From a raw numbers perspective, this counts as lost work. But that’s a short-sighted view, psychologists now say. In fact, by serving as the least productive month for millions of workers, August unexpectedly serves as a productivity-booster.

Just as small breaks improve concentration, long breaks replenish job performance. Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers… ” (Thompson, 2012).

The proof is there. You need a vacation. 😉

Make it official by booking it, marking it on your calendars, and making plans with friends and family. Commit to your vacation!

Plan a budget.

As a small business owner, it’s important to stay on top of your finances, plan ahead, and know exactly what things are going to cost you ahead of time.

An excellent way for solopreneurs to plan ahead for a financially worry-free trip is to simply not take the trip until you are sure you have the necessary money set aside for it. To be sure you get your vacations, a really great budgeting idea is to put aside a certain percentage (at least 5%) of your weekly income until you reach the amount needed for the trip.

Prioritize tasks.

Lists relieve stress by getting everything out of your head and onto paper. Then, you can prioritize tasks and work through them less distracted.

Think of all of the most important tasks you have as a business owner and product or service provider. What are your responsibilities as a solopreneur? What are your responsibilities to your clients?

Make lists. Check them twice. Put all the most important or any time-sensitive tasks at the top of your list. As most of us know, getting EVERYTHING done on our to-do lists is an impossible feat. That’s why we have to prioritize. Get it all down on paper, order it accordingly, and get as much of that list done as possible before you leave for vacation. Knowing things are taken care of will help set your mind at ease so that you can enjoy your time off more fully.

Also, what is left on the list are the projects and tasks that you begin on the second you get back to work. Pick up where you left off.

Tell your clients ahead of time.

Send out an email or handwritten letter maybe four weeks in advance to let your clients know of your upcoming trip. Follow up with reminders as the date approaches.

There might be something out of the ordinary you need to plan for. If you have clients with strict deadlines, or clients you need to have weekly meetings with, it’s important to touch base with them and make the proper arrangements ahead of time. Tie up any loose ends and know exactly what it is that you need to do for these clients before you leave for vacation, or during your vacation. For example, exchange Skype usernames and set up a meeting time in advance.

If you do have one or two employees, great! Now is the time as a proud business owner to release some of your grip on the reins, and let your employees shine. Trust them to do the jobs you hired them for. Assign specified tasks to each worker so they know exactly what they are responsible for while you are away.

Remember to change your “out of office” email message and voicemail to let your clients know you are out of town. Tell them when you will be returning and how they can reach you in the meantime. Include an email and/or phone number that you will have access to during your trip. An alternative is to hire an affordable live answering service, such as?ReceptionHQ, where a professional will answer you calls and either take a message or forward the call directly to you.

Do some work remotely (if you have to).

…but only if it’s necessary! You are supposed to be vacationing?away from work!

Disconnecting can be hard. If you for some reason absolutely?have to do some work on your vacation, or if you feel the need to check in with work to ease your mind, make sure you have the proper tools and apps to make working on your mobile devices convenient. Keep tabs on your business by checking in a couple times via phone or email (Staying connected is pretty easy these days 😉 ).

Don’t forget to take pictures on vacation for your social media accounts!

Hopefully, you will have planned ahead for your vacation enough that these “interruptions” can be minimal.

Set a communication policy for yourself ahead of time, so you’re not always thinking about it. Will you check in once a day, once a week, or not at all?

The time will come for vacation to end.

And you need to quickly return to your focused, entrepreneurial, driven mentality.

Don’t let it get the best of you.

If possible, refrain from working on your first day back. Instead, use this day to get organized, both mentally and physically, and to fight off jet lag! Again, lists are always helpful in brainstorming and prioritizing; figure out what needs to be done during this first week back to work. Pour it all out onto paper and get it out of your head so you can continue to relax. Then, enjoy your final moments of “vacation.” Tomorrow is a new day… that you are already well-prepared for. Your first day back to work will be a breeze…

With the proper preparation and organization, vacations can be possible for any small business owner.

Solopreneurs, fear no more.

Vacations are necessary… even for the boss! You have to take care of yourself if you want to care for your business; if you get burnt out, your business will burn out.

Plan ahead, start packing, and go take a vacation instead! 🙂

 

? Mandy

 

Small Business Owners Survey – OnDeck. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2017, from https://www.ondeck.com/vacation-study/
Thompson, D. (2012, August 06). The Case for Vacation: Why Science Says Breaks Are Good for Productivity. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/the-case-for-vacation-why-science-says-breaks-are-good-for-productivity/260747/

Social Media Analytics & ROI

Social Media Analytics & ROI

Social Media ROI can be such a debatable topic; it’s nearly impossible to measure what exactly is coming back to you, based on an Instagram post or a Facebook tag, with 100% accuracy. It’s hard to tell if “that one IG post” increased your revenue or bottom line. Measuring the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts is, in fact, really challenging! A recent study showed that:

41% of companies admitted to having “no idea” of whether or not their social media marketing efforts were successful (ConvinceAndConvert.com).

What is social media ROI?

Basically, it is the sum of what you are getting back, based on the money, time, and resources you are putting in to your social media. Generally, you measure your return in dollars.

You need to track what you are doing, what you are spending, and what results you are getting.

Why measure it

Measuring your ROI is crucial so that you can find which media channels are bringing in the most revenue, you can avoid wasting time and money, you can improve your marketing efforts, and you can see how changes in your strategy affect the overall return.

How to measure it

  • Step 1: Start by defining your social media goals.

    • They should be quantifiable and measurable… something you can assign a number to. (Examples: email list sign-ups, completed contact forms, downloads of your e-book, time spent on an important webpage, trials, purchases, etc.)
    • You can track metrics like followers or shares, but?these shouldn’t be your main goals. It’s more meaningful to track the number of people who go from a casual browser, to a lead, to a paying customer, than to worry about “popularity.”
  • Step 2: Track and measure your goals.

    • Google Analytics?seems to be the easiest way to track your goals. Within the dashboard, you can set specific goals to be tracked on your social media platforms. This is where you?set the goal you chose earlier, such as email sign-ups or downloads of your e-book (For these, set up one landing page for sign-ups and/or one landing page for?downloads, and within?Google Analytics, choose the goal type of “destination page.”) For accurate measurements, be sure that the landing page you are tracking is created specifically for this campaign. It should have a special, unique URL and should?not be discoverable on Google; this way, you can be sure that you are?only tracking the conversions brought in from “that” specific effort. You will know that the only way the person landed on this landing page was by signing up for your email or downloading your e-book.
    • Here is an article that lists some other super helpful tools: Social Media Analytic Tools

 

 

 

  • Step 3: Track your expenses.

    • Include things like:
      • Ad costs – Ads cost money… Include the expense you put towards your boosted Facebook post, your promoted tweet, etc.
      • Labor (man-hours) – Time is money. Measure the amount of hours spent altogether on each specific campaign, per campaign, and multiply the hours by the hourly rate paid.
      • Content – Did you have a professional copywriter help you create a landing page? Did you outsource postings and status updates?
      • Tools – Do you use any tools, like Buffer, Grum, or Hootsuite? Social media management software can be extremely helpful (and reduce man-hours), but there is sometimes an added cost to having/using these. (Again, don’t forget to measure this on a per campaign basis. If you paid for a year’s subscription, and the campaign only lasted 2 months, include the cost of 2 months of that year-long subscription.)
  • Step 4: Calculate your ROI. Income minus costs, times 100, divided by costs.

(Income from Campaign – Costs from Camp.) x 100 / Costs from Camp.

= SOCIAL MEDIA ROI

Going deeper

If you were using multiple efforts to direct consumers to your landing page, and you want to break your numbers down further, look at each social media platform individually. Find your income and your costs for that one campaign on that one platform to calculate your total ROI for that one platform. (Use the same equation above.)

Analyze & adjust

Find the platform that is giving your company the highest ROI, and adjust your marketing efforts to focus more on the most effective platforms.

A negative ROI on a campaign or social network means that your strategy needs to be adjusted. Work to reduce your costs, or make your campaigns more effective.

If you’re more of a visual person, check out THIS INFOGRAPHIC?created by ‘Quicksprout’. It will walk you through an excellent example of a fictional company setting, measuring, and analyzing their own social media efforts and ROI.

It’s not all in the numbers

Keep in mind that not everything can be tracked and measured. It’s important to also remember the indirect benefits you can receive through social media. For example, if a top influencer on Instagram shares one of your photos, your brand is instantly exposed to a whole new (huge) audience! You will likely gain some followers, and this may or may not result in sales. So when you look at your social media ROI, remember that it’s not all in the numbers and dollar signs. Everything you do on social media can affect your ROI.

It’s possible, and it’s worth it

While tracking and analyzing your social media ROI can be incredibly challenging, it’s worth taking the time and energy to do! It will pay off by showing you where you are struggling and where you can shift your marketing efforts and dollars to better benefit your business.

Go in with a planned strategic approach. Organization will make this task immensely more enjoyable (and accurate)! Over time, fine-tune your numbers; your expense estimates will become more accurate with experience and, as with anything, the process will get easier with practice. 🙂

 

– Mandy

Social Media Policies for Employees

Social Media Policies for Employees

What’s your company’s policy?

Do you know? Do your employees know?

As with any policy, in order to be effective, this needs to be a?firm set of rules.

It needs to be an organized, well thought out list that is written down, shared?with employees, updated over time, and posted around the workplace as a constant reminder.

Enforcing a social media policy is important in keeping your company (and brand) safe!

A firm policy?will protect your brand, while empowering?employees. A social media policy tells?the employee what is accepted in the workplace, as well as?what is expected from them. Laying out these guidelines?will?give the employee a sense of creative freedom; by having everything laid out, they feel confident in their work and know?they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be.

Your company has likely developed a certain?voice, a certain?character. It has become a?brand…

Keep your brand and message consistent.

This will ensure your brand’s voice, vision, and character come through loud and clear.?A social media policy will make this easy!?Use the policy to outline expectations of what your brand’s voice and tone should be. Images, as well as copy, should follow one unified voice. Keeping your brand consistent will help you draw in your ideal market and allow customers to really connect with you.

Do you have public-facing employees? Make sure they are well aware of the company’s policy and “voice” and that their public image fits with yours. Consider encouraging them to create a Twitter handle that includes a reference to your brand. For example, if you have employees interacting with the public on behalf of the company, they could create a Twitter handle such as:?@”Co.Name,EmployeeName” (Ex: @AmazonTiffany). This makes it clear that Tiffany is an Amazon representative.

What to include in your Social Media Policy

Your policy should cover?how your company uses social media, as well as how employees are expected to use their?own accounts. Here are some ideas on what to include:

  • General guidelines for overall conduct. Use phrases such as “Act respectfully, amongst both customers and peers” or “Be the solution, not the problem.”
  • Stress the importance of confidentiality. What is your company’s policy on new product releases? What’s your policy for company news?
  • Employees should never reveal or discuss sensitive, private information – not about the company, other employees, or your customers.
  • Be very clear in describing the?brand, the?character, and the?voice. Give examples of what kinds of messages, wording, and images to use, and explain how to talk about specific products within your portfolio.
  • Humor posts can be good, but stress to your employees that it has to be appropriate and relatable to your brand. (Ex: Is politics somewhere you want to go…?!)
  • It’s important?that your employees know how to act, but they also have to know how to?re-act. How should they handle negative content that they see on your company’s page? How should they handle any negative comments about your brand that they come across? What procedures should they follow?
  • Include etiquette guidelines that explain how employees should respond to complaints respectfully.
  • You might want to clarify which sites employees may/may not visit at work.
  • Do you want your employees to claim accountability on their own social media profiles? For example, should they write something like an “opinions are my own” disclaimer?
  • A lot of people’s personal profiles link to their employer, stating where they work. Do you think employees should “behave” a certain way on their own personal accounts? They are, after all, public representatives of your brand…

Assign roles.

To ensure?a successful social media policy, assign?employees to specific tasks that they will be held responsible for. Here are some basic roles that should be filled:

  • Training, education, and implementation of the policy to new and current employees
  • Branding guidelines (voice, character, images)
  • Social media post approval process
  • Online customer service?guidelines and protocols (how to act and re-act to both good and bad comments)
  • Safety and security of the company/brand
  • Legal issues (always?credit original sources if sharing or borrowing content)
  • Maintaining?a logical, effective, up-to-date social media?policy

Here are some examples of social media policies!

This is Adidas Group’s social media policy:?Adidas Group

Here is one by AP (much more in depth than Adidas’):?Associated Press

More:?Reuters’,?Shift Communications

The following is more formal, as a governmental policy:?NYC Department of Education

A healthcare industry example:?Mayo Clinic

And last but not least, the following article is super?helpful because it gives a list of big brands’ social media policies, then goes on to discuss where each one succeeds and/or fails.:?Need Sample Social Media Policies? Here Are 7 to Inspire Yours

Social media policy templates, for you 🙂

Templates provide an AWESOME starting ground for your own company’s policy.

This one is short and sweet, and super clear:?Template Sample

Here’s another:?Workable.com Template

So, how would you define?your company’s social media policy? Good, bad, old, non-existent? It’s time to get a solid, updated policy in place so that you and your team can start curating great content (AND SHARING IT SAFELY!), today. 😉

 

? Mandy

The Importance of Writing Articles

The Importance of Writing Articles

The Importance of Writing Articles

It can be a challenging task for some of us.

If you’re not a natural-born writer, writing articles for your website can sometimes be really?challenging. It can be hard to think of the appropriate topics, fill in the correct details, and tie it all together with the right?words.

 

It's worth it!

… But the pay-offs are worth it! ?

Writing your own original, informative articles?is a super important factor?in your marketing strategy.?It increases your SEO and discoverability, has the power to boost your sales, and provides?value for?your customers.

Provide?value. Increase customer loyalty.

It’s important to understand your audience. What are they looking for??What resonates with them?

Have you created your buyer persona? Who is your ideal customer? Think about what he/she would be interested in, and create your article topics based on?their needs.

With monthly?or weekly articles, a wide array of topics can be covered. Just plan it out! As?your fans?come to know, trust, and love your articles, they will look forward to the next one. They might rely on them for pertinent information in the industry, or look to them for tips/pointers. You will have developed customer loyalty and trust within your fanbase.

 

Plan ahead!

Plan ahead.

As long as you know and understand the topic at hand, blogging isn’t hard at all! It just takes a little planning, and with proper organization, the?task will become far less daunting.

For example, after considering your target audience, come up with a list of topics they might find interesting. Then, choose a date for each topic (monthly, weekly, daily, etc.). Now, you will already know exactly?what you are writing about each time you sit down to blog.

With the topic already nailed?down, you will have more energy and brainpower to put towards the actual article.

A good way to start each article is to create a layout. First, figure out?general headings for each topic you want to cover, then fill in the details. Write about what you already know, then do some?research (if necessary) to gather additional details, examples, statistics, or facts. During writing, or when you are finished, you can go back through the article and see if you are able to make the headings more interesting, captivating, or fitting to the material discussed in the section. Also, please don’t forget to proofread and edit your articles! Nobody wants to take advice from the “pro” who can’t form a proper sentence. ?;)

What do you want the reader to do?

It’s helpful to include a Call-to-Action (CTA) at the end. What do you want the reader to do next? Subscribe to your blog or newsletter, download an e-book, register for an event? CTA’s are a way to offer additional value to your readers, and if the reader follows your CTA, he/she could instantly become a lead (and even a customer) for your business!

Call-to-action

In one of our recent articles (about Editorial Calendars), our CTA was an offer for readers to download their free 2017 EC. They entered their name and email to receive the free template, and in doing so, became an instant lead for us! (Click on the photo above to view our article about Editorial Calendars and download YOUR free copy.)

 

don't forget to add visuals

Make it pretty.

Last but not least, add some visuals! (Pay attention to copyright laws.) Find images that are relevant to the topic at hand. Images help create and develop a story. Studies have shown that readers are more drawn to articles with images than those without.

Once your article is complete with images, proof it one more time (or give it to a co-worker to look over). Fix?spelling and grammatical errors, correct any alignment or formatting issues, and make it look beautiful.

Organization and planning can go a LONG?way in making blogging a more desirable task!

 

still struggling?

Still struggling?

If you still just have no idea where to begin, check out this article:?20 Prompts to Inspire Your Next Professional Blog Post. It has lots of really great blog?ideas/topics you can adapt and use for your own business! This is a great article to bookmark and refer back to whenever you are having a hard time coming up with?new ideas.

?

Your audience is out there searching the world wide web, every single day, for solutions to their problems.

Be the solution.

Give them the information?they are looking for. Start writing articles for your website (and your target audience) today!

 

Using an Editorial Calendar

drllc-2016_11-article-cover-image2

While there are many pieces that go into a complete marketing strategy, one piece that is central to many other parts?is the Editorial Calendar. The complexity of the calendar you use can vary. However, not having one at all means you are working blindly.

If you spend time creating your business’s marketing strategy, you need to make sure you follow?through with it. Your Editorial Calendar helps you follow through with your strategy by giving you guidelines and a planned strategic schedule to follow. Your editorial calendar will?keep you on track.

Many people feel like staying on top of their social media accounts is overwhelming and time consuming; but the reality is, if you take the time to plan ahead, then the actual posting will seem quite effortless. Also, if you have a central Editorial Calendar for your business, you can have it open to your team so everyone knows what each other is doing.

It’s?a Breathing Animal

Orca

You want to think of your Editorial Calendar as a living, breathing tool. You can do all the planning in the world for your entire year, only to have something pop up unexpectedly later in the year. Therefore, you want to make sure your Editorial Calendar can evolve with your business as time passes. At a minimum, make sure you review your Editorial Calendar once a month. This way you can add or modify any social media/print messages when new opportunities arise.

Remember to also reference the calendar?to keep you on track with?the type of content you should be sharing during that week or month. For example, if you know you are going to talk about “Image Editing Tools” in a February article, then you would also want to have your social posts for that month talk about Images.

Know Your Timelines

Sales Timeline

Be sure to have a good understanding of?the life cycle of your sales process. Know the timeline you follow when starting a promotion to the closing of a sale. This will dictate how far out in advance you need to start promoting your business before a launch, during a launch, and after a launch. TIP: This information can be quite valuable with your CRM, as well.

What Should You Plan For?

Large corporations start their planning well in advance of the following?year. Think April-May planning for next year (sometimes they may even start two years?out). However, many “solopreneurs” and small businesses find themselves in a reactionary position scrambling the week of a launch to get their ducks in a row. Ideally, small businesses?should start?planning the following?year by the 4th quarter of the current year… that time is now! Think of things like:

  • Season changes
  • Slow times of the year
  • Busy times of the year
  • Holidays (locally/nationally/internationally)
  • Product launches
  • Specials on pricing
  • National events
  • Local events
  • Speaking engagements
  • Trade Shows
  • Really anything you want to make sure you share with your audience

Seasons

By creating the content for your Editorial Calendar well in advance, you will hopefully notice?all the “seasons” and layers of your business.?During the planning, you may find that you are missing out on important events in your industry; or it may show you that you are putting too much focus on items that do not bring you leads. The calendar planning?gets your gears grinding and creative juices flowing so that you are able to stay on top of your business and the industry in which it competes.

Let Us Help You with?an Editorial Calendar!

DR Editorial Calendar sample

We understand that it may seem quite overwhelming to think about everything you need to include in?your Editorial Calendar. That is why we have created a Calendar template that you can start using today. We created it in Excel, so that you can easily modify it to your specific needs. This provides you with a starting point to alleviate some of the stress. Get?your free 2017 Editorial Calendar today! Start piecing it together now so you are not scrambling after the new year to get it filled in 😉

Dianna Rands

DRLLCLogoForEmail