Time Management Strategies for Online Entrepreneurs
Are you managing your time effectively? As online entrepreneurs we’re bad about falling in the trap of counting every hour at the computer as “work time”. Be honest with yourself here for a minute. How much of that time is spent browsing through Facebook, checking the latest Reddit posts or going down the rabbit hole of “research”. You’ll do yourself a service to practice these time management strategies.
We’re all guilty of it but to be more profitable and productive we have to manage our time effectively. While the ideas below will take some getting used to, the end result will be to spend less time at your desk and more time away from your computer doing the things you love to do.
Make A Plan And Break It Down
Start by figuring out what you want to get accomplished. What’s your next big project and what ongoing tasks need to be taken care of on a daily or weekly basis.
If you’re working on a new coaching program, that might involve outlining what you want to teach, writing the training course, editing and formatting, creating worksheets and slides and figuring out how you’ll sell and deliver the program.
In addition you may have daily or weekly tasks like blogging, emailing your subscribers, interacting on social media sites and forums etc.
Figure out what you need to get done over the coming weeks and write it down. Knowing what you should be working on to be more profitable is half the battle.
Write Out Daily and Weekly To-Do Lists
Next it’s time to write out your to-do lists. Start with everything you’ve written down in the last step and break it down into daily or weekly tasks. Use whatever method works best for you.
Use a weekly list if you prefer working on larger tasks or projects all day long, or try daily lists and break larger projects up into manageable chunks that you can accomplish in just a few hours or less.
You can jot down your to-do list on a piece of paper and cross things off your list as you get them done. Or use an app for your smartphone. Remember The Milk is a simple and easy to use list app that allows you to create tasks, assign dates, priorities and even make the tasks recurring (great for reminders to write those blog posts).
Set A Time And Get To Work
The tasks on your to-do list will take as long as you allow them to take. To stay productive use a timer and get them done. Pick an item on your list, estimate how long it should ideally take you to get it done and then set that timer.
Remind yourself that if you work hard and fast, you can be done for the day and go play. Train yourself to work faster over time, but don’t forget to take breaks. 25 minutes of intense work followed by a 5 minute break seems to work well.
Continue to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Do more of what’s profitable and fun and try to get it done in the shortest amount of time possible – without sacrificing quality of course.
Tracking What’s Working and Making Money
The easiest way to make your business more profitable is to track what’s working. What parts of your business, what projects and what products are making you money? Which ones don’t? What type of customer is most profitable for you? Where is your most profitable traffic coming from?
Taking time to dig into your stats and calculating ROI (Return on Investment) is one of the best things you can do for your bottom line.
Start by looking at your products. This could be info products, physical products, any coaching you do, anything you resell or even advertising you sell on your site. List it all out.
Next to each item on your list, note down how much money each product has brought in. You can break it down by month, or look at long term figures like year-to-date profits or revenue generated over the past 12 months. Use whatever number seems most helpful.
Next think about how much work each of these products or profit streams take. Selling advertising space on your site or a simple little kindle book may not make as much money per month as that big info product you created or the one-on-one coaching you offer, but they also don’t take hardly any time to create and maintain. Assign a value to each item on your list.
Once you have all your data, it’s just a matter of creating more products of the type that’s most profitable for the time you invest in them.
Your Customers and Prospects
Taking a look at your customers and prospects is also a good idea. Where did they come from? Who is your core customer base? These are the people that buy everything you put out and are signing your praises to their circle of influence. They may also be repeat customers that come back to you over and over again.
What prospects are most likely to turn into paying customers? Are they people that were attracted by the freebie you offer to get them on your list, or are they people that found you via the great blog posts you write?
You can find a lot of this information by looking at your customer database and by comparing subscriber lists to customer lists. You can also learn a lot by talking to your customers and subscribers. Start a conversation via email, on your site or in a Facebook group.
Your end goal is to pinpoint who your most profitable demographic is and then figure out how to put yourself in front of more of those people. Which brings us to our last point…
It’s time to dig into those website stats. Where is your most profitable traffic coming from? How do they find your site, what do they look at once they get there and what funnel do they go through until they become part of your most profitable customer group?
Tools like Google Analytics are your best friend here. Spend a weekend learning more about the different reporting you can set up, what you can track and how to read the numbers.
Once you know where your most profitable traffic is coming from – be it Search Results, Pinterest, your Affiliates or Facebook Ads – put on your thinking cap and figure out how you can tap into more of that traffic or something similar.
Keep tracking, tweaking and improving your bottom line. Make it a goal to get more profitable this month than you were last month and you’ll see your business and bank account grow in no time.
Do You Have Systems In Place?
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The key to running a successful online business without running yourself ragged is to have systems in place for everything. You’ll be surprised how much time you’ll save each week and how much more productive you’ll be once they are in place. Let’s take a look at a couple of different types of systems you may want to implement.
Document your systems and create checklists for them as you start to create them. They will come in handy over the coming months and years.
Your systems for product creating will depend on what your products are and how you will deliver them, but some of the things you may want to document in the form of a check list are:
- Topic Research
- Creating An Outline
- Writing or Recording the Info Product
- Editing and Formatting
- Uploading It To Your Site
- Creating Sales and Download Pages
- Creating Marketing Materials
In addition, it’s a good idea to create a template you can use for all your short reports and ebooks to make sure they look consistent across the board. This will also make your job a lot easier when it comes time to format your product.
Templates and calendars will make your life so much easier when it comes to content creation. Spend a little time each month creating an editorial calendar for your blog. Figure out how often you want to blog and what topics you want to cover. With that in place you’ll never sit down at your desk with no idea what to write about.
Having templates in place is also helpful. Look at what content you create on a regular basis. Is it a newsletter, short reports and eBooks? Make templates for them. Most of your formatting will be taken care of and you don’t have to start with a blank page.
Make your social media interactions faster with a system in place. Figure out how often you want to post and during what times. When will you post your own content, when will you ask a question or make an observation and when will you share other people’s posts? Having a schedule in place allows you to work ahead when you need to and just like the blog schedule it helps you get things done faster if you know what you’re writing or sharing ahead of time.
Website Maintenance And Security
Here’s a biggy. How are you keeping your site safe and secure? If you’re using a CMS like WordPress to run your site, you want to make sure it’s updated regularly. Backups are also a must. Schedule both those on a monthly basis and review your sites regularly to make sure everything is safe and secure. Set an alert on your phone or add the task to your calendar each month.
Do you have systems in place for handling customer service requests? Having a page with Frequently Asked Questions (and your responses of course) is always helpful. You can point customers to the page and be done. A list of “canned “responses to common questions will also save you a lot of time. Personalize them as needed, but have the bulk of it ready to copy and paste. Having these systems in place also makes it much easier to outsource customer service down the road.
Having these systems in place helps you run your online business more productively, but there’s an added bonus to getting them in place. Once you have a system set up, it makes it easy to outsource that portion of your business to a Virtual Assistant. As you grow and there’s more work to be done than hours in your day, you’ll appreciate being one step close to outsourcing.
Creating Passive Income Streams
A good way to make sure your business stays profitable for years to come is to spend at least some of your time working on passive income streams. Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.
An example we’re all familiar with is the interest you earn on your savings account. You don’t have to do anything other than letting your money sit in the bank. Of course you’re not going to get rich from having a few thousand dollars sitting in the bank. But thankfully there are plenty of different ways to create passive streams of income online.
Let’s look at a few of them. This is by no means an extensive list. I’m sure you’ll start to come up with other passive income ideas as you read through these examples.
Blog Posts With A Strong Call To Action
Write some evergreen content. Optimize it to get free search engine traffic and then wrap it all up with a strong call to action at the end. That call to action could lead readers directly to an offer for an affiliate products, one of your own products, or even better, to a list that you can then monetize further.
Monetized Emails And Free Reports
Speaking of lists and emails… write a series of emails that are monetized, again either with affiliate offers or offers to your own things. Heck, you can even send your readers to more free content on your blog that has AdSense ads on it.
Build your list using free reports that are monetized as well. Then take it a step further and invite them to share the report. You of course can share it far and wide across the web as well. As your report gets read by more and more people, they will find their way back to your site and the offers you’re making in the report itself.
Write Some Books
Let’s not forget an old favorite. Write some books and publish them. These can be physical books or Kindle books. Self-publishing has made it easy to do both and it has the added advantage that you get to keep the majority of the income you make from your books.
While the books generate passive income, they also help establish your authority and broaden your reach.
Create Your Own Digital Products
You can also create your own line of digital products and sell them through your own site or places like the Google and Apple App stores. The beauty of digital products is that you create them once and can sell them over and over again.
Yes, there’s a little customer service work to do and the occasional update to write, but for the most part, digital products are pretty hands-off once they have been created.
Setting Up Your Own Affiliate Program
Once you have your own products set up, set up an affiliate program as well. Others will do the marketing and selling for you for a percentage of the profits.
Recommending Other People’s Products
Of course you can work on the flip side as well. Find a few related products to your own, sign up as an affiliate and recommend them to your own customer base. It’s a quick and easy way to increase your income and once those emails are written (or you’ve included the affiliate products in your own products or on your download pages), you just sit back and watch the sales notifications come in.
Making Friends In All The Right Places
The internet is a huge place and there’s plenty of room for all of us making a living online. If you’re worried about collaborating with “your competition” think again. One of the best things you can do is make friends with other online business owners in your niche.
Start By Figuring Out What You Can Do For Them
There’s nothing worse than getting a pitch email from someone you don’t know. You don’t like getting them and the person you’re sending them to is no different. And quite frankly it’s not how you make friends in the online business space. Instead, look at some of the people in your niche that you would like to connect with and figure out what you can do for them
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or that you don’t have a big reach yet. Start sharing good content they put out and recommend them to your audience. Take the time to write a meaningful comment on their blog post or in response to a Facebook post.
Shoot them an email if you notice that their website is down or there’s a problem with a broken link. Be genuinely helpful and it will be noticed.
Cultivating Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Once you’re on the person’s radar, it’s time to start cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This can take a lot of different forms. You may guest blog post on each other’s sites, become a podcast guest, contribute a chapter to their latest book or even create a product together.
Or maybe you just have fun public social media conversation that help both of you reach a larger audience. And of course becoming affiliates of your respective products and doing some mailings is always a popular option.
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what you do exactly as long as it benefits both of you. If your list is significantly smaller, offer to do more of the leg work. Make sure the other person walks away feeling good about the collaboration.
Grow Your Reach And Make More Friends
As you start to make friends, your reach will grow. But it doesn’t end there. The people you’re meeting can help introduce you to other players in the market. And of course you shouldn’t stop seeking people out on your own either. Combine both approaches and you will continue to make more friends, grow your reach and grow your business.
Last but not least, it’s a lot more fun to work on your online business when you have friends who not only “get” what you do for a living, but are there to talk shop, encourage and exchange ideas. You’ll learn a lot and have a blast all while growing your business and your bottom line.
Time To Build Out Your Funnel
Let’s talk about your business funnel for a bit today. The funnel is the path you want your visitors to take from the time they first find you to becoming a repeat customer. For most of us it looks something like this:
- Someone comes to our blog or website.
- He signs up for a freebie and we capture his email address.
- Emails go out to him, including introductory (think low priced) product offers.
- He makes a purchase and becomes a customer.
- He’s presented with an upsell or one time offer.
- We continue to make more relevant offers while continuing to build a relationship via the website, email and social media.
- Eventually the customer will buy higher and higher priced items, or sign up for a recurring program.
Take a few minutes today and jot down what your current product funnel looks like. Do you have all the pieces in place to smoothly move a customer through the process? Do you have a free opt in offer on your site to give you a chance to capture your visitors email addresses?
Do you have an introductory product in place? This could be a small eBook, an introductory course or even a short coaching session. Price will depend on your market but think in the $7 – $97 price range here.
Do you have an upsell or one time offer in place immediately after the first purchase is made? If not, this should be the first thing you work on. Your customer is buying and interested in what you have to offer. The chance that they add something else to their cart is pretty good right now. Make sure the offer is relevant and a bit higher priced than what they bought initially.
What might your customers need next? Is there another piece of the puzzle they should be learning to move them one step closer to their end goal? Or are you offering a consumable product like PLR articles for example. In that case your funnel may include monthly fresh PLR offers.
Don’t forget to remind your customers regularly about what else you have to offer that might be helpful. Sometimes building out your funnel simply means writing a few follow up emails, or bundling existing products into one larger bundle.
Last but not least think about bigger ticket items. These could be larger bundles, large courses or training and coaching programs. Only a small percentage of your customers will take you up on those offers, but the profit per sale will be high enough that it will be well worth it.
Tools To Help You Be More Productive
You’ve got to love technology. We live in a day and age full of tools and software that make running an online business so much easier than it was just 10 years ago. Here are a few different types of tools that can help you get things done faster and spend less time at your desk.
Tools To Help You Get More Done In Less Time
Let’s start with a couple of tools that help you get more done in less time – in other words, tools that help get more productive in anything you do.
The first is a to-do list. It’s amazing how much more you’ll get done once you write everything you would like to get accomplished down. You can jot down your daily to-do list on a piece of paper, print up some pretty check lists or use one of the free to-do list apps.
Next, get things done even faster with the help of a timer. Grab a kitchen timer or set a countdown timer on your phone and get to work. You’ll be surprised how much faster you get through your tasks when there’s a timer ticking.
Tools To Make Content Creation Easier
In today’s market you have to create a lot of content. A great tool to make adding content to your website quick and easy is of course WordPress. If you haven’t switched your site over to this popular CMS (Content Management System), do it now. You’ll be glad you did.
Another favorite around here is Google Docs. It’s a web based word processing program that works similar to Microsoft Word with the added benefit of being available online. Work on your latest eBook or report from any computer. It also makes collaborating with other writers, business partners and assistants easy as pie.
Tools To Create Beautiful Graphics Fast
Once your content is written, it’s time to pretty it up with some graphics. Start with a beautiful photo that relates to the content you’ve written. Pretty images grab our attention and pull us in. Use a stock photography site like Bigstockphotos.com IStockPhotos.com or DepositPhotos.com to grab an image for under a dollar.
Then use a service like PicMonkey to edit, add text and make it just right for your post. Yes, there are professional tools like Photoshop for example. But they are expensive and hard to master. Keep it simple and get just what you need with PicMonkey.
Tools To Make Running Your Business Faster
So far we’ve talked about tools that make the things you already do quicker and easier. In this last section, let’s talk about some things that will make running your business faster because they take you out of the equation – automation tools.
The first is auto-responder software. If you’re still managing emails manually and sending mass emails from your Gmail account, it’s time to look at a service like Aweber.com. The entire process of sending emails is automated and auto-responder services work hard at making sure your emails get delivered to the recipient’s inbox.
If you’re selling your own products, invest in some good shopping cart software. There are a ton of different ones on the market. Do your research and pick the one that’s best for you and your business model.
Last but not least, make customer service quicker and easier with the help of a helpdesk. Not only does it take some of the workload of you, it also makes it easy to get an assistant to help you. As an added bonus it’s a better experience for your customers as well.
Tap Into Your Passion – Do What You Love
Sometimes the work just seems to flow and you don’t mind working long hours on a project. Often those are also the things that end up making you the most money, and the reason is simple. The passion you have for the work you do shines through in the end result.
To make your business more profitable and a lot more fun at the same time, tap into your passion and work on what you love to do. Of course it isn’t quite as simple as that all the time.
Find A Market You Enjoy Serving
Start by finding a market that you enjoy working in. You’ll be creating a lot of content and talking a lot about whatever niche you chose to be in. While it is important that your niche is profitable. It’s just as, if not even more important that you enjoy what you do. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time working on your business.
Your enthusiasm and love for the market will shine through as you write and talk about it. It will help establish you as a knowledgeable and creditable source of information. That will make gaining the trust of your potential customers much easier.
Attract Your Ideal Customers
Speaking of customers… Since you’ll be spending a lot of time interacting with, helping, educating and entertaining your customer base, you may want to pay attention to the type of clients you attract.
It’s helpful to get a clear picture of who your ideal customer would be. Be as specific as possible when it comes to gender, age, how well off they are, if they are married and have kids etc.
Once you know what your ideal customer or client looks like, it will be a lot easier to find places where you can find them. Start your marketing there and build your ideal target audience.
Work On What You Love Doing
Online businesses have a lot of different parts. Some you’ll enjoy working on a lot more than others. If product creation is what you love, focus on that. If you prefer talking to writing, start an audio or video podcast instead of committing to writing daily blog posts.
Focus on what you have fun doing. Yes, there will be times when you have to do some stuff that isn’t as fun (taxes anyone?), but make sure you have some enjoyable work on your plate at all times. It’ll keep you going and makes the day go by much faster.
Outsource The Rest
Start to outsource anything you absolutely hate doing as quickly as possible. Then add to the list as you can afford to until you’re only left with work you enjoy.
With all the tedious parts removed, it’s amazing not only how much fun running your online business will be but also how much faster you will move forward with projects. The end result is a more profitable and enjoyable business.
When It Is Time To Start Outsourcing
We all have only 24 hours a day to work with and some of that time needs to be spent sleeping, eating and doing something other than work. That means time is our only truly limited resource.
You are probably starting out doing everything yourself when it comes to your online business. You’re the business mastermind, the content creator, tech guy and customer support. That’s all good and well when you’re first starting out, but as your business grows, you’ll get to the point where there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. That’s when you know it’s time to start outsourcing.
Start Slow and Stay Profitable
Don’t feel like you have to outsource everything all at once. Instead start with one task or one particular part of your business. If making graphics isn’t your strong suit, it may be a good place to start. Or maybe you want to outsource customer service to leave you with more time for product creation.
The key is to start small. Pick one little project and find someone to do it for you. You can ask peers for recommendations, or look on websites like ODesk or even Fiverr. Usually graphic designers, web designers, writers and VAs that come recommended by others will work out best.
Again, start with one little project and see how things go. Be prepared to be patient in the beginning. It will take some time and feedback for the other person to get an idea of what you want.
Build Your Team
Once you get that first person trained, start expanding and building our team as funds allow. Think about what skills you want to outsource and what your team should look like. As you find people you enjoy working with, do what you can to keep them on board. That means sending them work regularly and paying promptly.
Do that along with being kind and it won’t take you long to build a team that’s knowledgeable and loyal. Spend the time your team is saving you on expanding your business. You want to make sure you can pay them well and still stay profitable.
Keep What You Love – Outsource The Rest
Your end goal should be to only work on the things you enjoy working on, or those tasks crucial to business expansion. In other words, work on what you love to do and outsource the rest. Not only will this leave you plenty of time to focus on money making tasks, it also makes sure you continue to love what you do.
Use And Improve What You’ve Got
Let’s talk about making your business more profitable. Sure, you could go out and create a new product or come up with an entirely new stream of revenue. But that takes a lot of time and energy. Let’s look at a much easier way to improve you bottom line – using what you’ve already got.
Start by seeing what you can do to get more traffic to your site. Read up on Search Engine Optimization to get more free traffic from Google. If you’re not already adding fresh content regularly, now is a great time to start blogging a few times a week. Fresh content will bring fresh visitors to your site and encourage your existing readers to keep coming back.
Make it easy to share your content via social media. Add some Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest buttons to your site along with some attention grabbing images. It’s a good idea to get more active on social media yourself to grow your audience and drive engagement.
Once you have more traffic coming to your site, it’s time to test. Start with your opt in boxes and see if you can’t improve what percentage of visitors share your email with them. Once they are on your list, you get a chance to get back in touch, build a relationship with your readers and eventually sell them something.
Since we’re talking about emails, lets’ stay on that topic for a minute. Look through the emails you’re currently sending to your subscribers – be it via an auto responder, a blog broadcast or broadcast emails. What can you do to get better at email marketing? Are you mailing frequently enough? Are you making offers? Are you gaining your readers’ trust and building a relationship? Work on becoming a better email marketer to see better results quickly.
Next take a look at your current products. Can you improve the sales pages? Can you improve and add to the products themselves to warrant a higher price point? Can you bundle a few of your current products into a higher priced item?
Last but not least, take a look at all the fresh content you’ve been writing. How can you repurpose it and get the most mileage out of every word you’ve written? Can you combine several blog posts into a short report or even a Kindle book? Can you expand on the idea and make it the basis for a new information product? Can you offer a paid coaching programs on the topics, using your content as the basis for the training modules?
Get in the habit of using, reusing and improving what you already have. Your bottom line will thank you.