Millions of self-employed professionals have to cope daily with so many issues; such as not having much disposable income, dealing with increased competition, working in the weekends, getting customers, how to find the right course or webinar to gain some skills, how to find cost effective marketing strategies, to pitch, etc.. And the issues are even more present in this crisis time as my may have realised.
How to cope with self-employed professionals’ issues?
To overcome the issues that you are facing, you have to identify them, reflect on them and then make the necessary correction. Here are some of the actions you can take:
Evaluate the Situation
The first action is to sit and assess your situation. Where do you position with your business? Are you still gaining clients, and do they repeatedly order a product or service? Is the need for your products or services still there? If not, why so? With tools such as Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, you can understand the forces that shape competition within a sector. It is also useful for helping you to adjust your strategy to suit your competitive environment, and to improve your potential profit. It works by looking at the strength of five important forces that affect competition: namely supplier power, buyer power, competitive rivalry, the threat of substitution, the treat of the new entry. By thinking about how each force affects you, and by identifying their strength and direction, you can quickly assess your position.
You can then look at what strategic changes you need to make to deliver long-term profit.
Do you have a good insight on who your competitors are, and do you know how their business is going? What are they doing differently? What can you learn from it? And do you know the profile of your clients (Client Avatar)?
The next tool, Value chain from Porter analysis, allows businesses to examine their activities and find competitive opportunities. A value chain is used to describe all the business activities it takes to create a product from start to finish (e.g., design, production, distribution, etc.). And a value chain analysis gives businesses a visual model of these activities. With this analysis, you can take steps to create a competitive advantage, improve efficiency, and increase profit margins.
Depending on which competitive strategy you choose, the goal of your value chain analysis will be to either reduce costs or differentiate to improve margins. Then you’ll have a clear idea of your business’ goals, how you plan to provide value, and it narrows the scope of changes that might need to be made to improve efficiency. Or you can introduce two or three lines of business to diversify your portfolio to absorb the loss of income in another business line when times are harder.
Have you listed the steps that are needed to achieve your goals, and do you track your progress towards them? Regular goal-tracking can help you stay focused. James Collins and Jerry Porras have invented the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). They suggest settling your BHAG for 10-20 years. There is no famous, huge brand in the world that started without an ambitious, visionary goal. Try to look into the future and create a vision and a plan with clear steps that guides you all along your business journey.
Cost-Effective marketing strategies for growing your business
We tend to think that we need money to expand a small business or to change strategy of a business to deal with competition. Have a look from the different perspectives (financial, marketing, supply chain, strategy…) to find what you can do to grow your business. For example, when cash is limited, simply use different tactics to boost your business. Innovate yourself! That is the clue for every self-employed person. Identify and implement ways to get other people to talk about your business and refer you. Mouth-to-mouth publicity is a still valid source of business for the self-employed and small entrepreneurs. Collaborating with a partner (win-win) in one of your business lines can be rewarding, as it might provide you additional clients and a broader scope of networking, therefore becoming an additional stream of income. Reach out to businesses that have some influence and that you trust: find out if they would be willing to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. Apart of the fact that it represents a quick way to generate extra traffic, 71% of marketers have found influencer marketing to deliver higher quality customers and traffic when compared to other channels. This means every dollar you spend on influencer marketing will have a higher return on investments compared to other channels.
Planning and efficiency
Here again, look from different perspectives (administration, marketing, sales…) how you can improve your planning and be more efficient in your work. In fact, efficiency is the key word according to me, which can allow you to focus on your core business. The better organised and efficient in your processes and procedures you are, the more time you can spend on gaining new clients (thus increasing your revenue streams). Being disciplined in managing your daily schedule is of utmost importance. We are not always as productive as we wish. Planning is therefore crucial. You can increase your productivity without working more hours. All you need to do is focus and block your time. For instance, instead of logging into your social media accounts regularly, set aside some time in your diary to focus on communication and social media posts. You may use a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite to automate sending the posts out to all your social media accounts on the days and times you want the posts to appear. Manage your time better by planning and prioritising tasks. Spend less time on email by turning off email alerts, and only reading and writing email on a schedule you set. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you’re not interested in. Move any non-important mail into “read later” folder so you concentrate only on the important mail. E-mails that are send to you in CC can also be automatically stored in a separate CC folder.
Delegate some tasks
As self-employed, you always have to consider which activities you perform or which activities you delegate. It might be rewarding to delegate some work (routine tasks) and to pay a student for it. At the end, the saved time will allow you to spend more time on tasks such as marketing or networking, that are important to attract new clients. Invest in good quality systems for routine tasks that make your work more effectively. With regards to filing tax returns, I choose to delegate it to an external accountant. It costs something, but it’s worth delegating such task as it is not my core business. Once again, you have to approach this activity from different perspectives.