Here we are, almost three weeks in to 2019. How’s it going? Are you hitting your goals? Or are you hitting the same old roadblocks that slowed you down or stumped you completely in 2018?

If it’s the latter, you’re not alone! And it’s never too late to make some changes to help you surmount the challenges that are hindering your success.

Everyone faces different challenges in their business. Some have a lot of trouble organizing and tracking finances. Others struggle to find and keep new clients. Some can’t get messaging and branding down. Maybe you fight to have some semblance of time management, or just can’t seem to regularly put out compelling content. It’s all part of the joy of being a business owner to have a few areas that give you fits and make you want to pull your hair out.

I’ve had a number of areas like this when starting up my business. I still do! I seem to have a tendency to ignore the problem or the struggle for a while, either having convinced myself that it will go away (it doesn’t) or that I’m too unqualified to figure it out (I’m not – and neither are you).

No matter your struggle, stop ignoring the things that are holding your business back and stop telling yourself you’re incapable of fixing them. Take to heart a few tips to boost your productivity and move forward in 2019!

Outsource.

You don’t have to be a pro at EVERYTHING. For the smaller jobs that seem to take up more time than they’re worth, consider outsourcing. This would likely be things that aren’t in keeping with the primary service or product(s) of your business. For example, if you’re a writer (like me), and just CANNOT seem to organize your finances to save your life, considering hiring that job out to someone who is an expert at Excel. If you need help marketing, hire a strategist. If you need something artsy, hire a graphic designer. If you need consistent copy or content, hire a copywriter.

Yes, it will cost a bit of money up front, but it’s really an investment. The less time you spend fighting with Excel spreadsheets, messing with Photoshop, or trying to churn out a decent blog post — when you’re really not enjoying any of these things or being successful in doing so — the more time you can devote to the real work of your business.

Time management.

It’s a short phrase with big implications if it’s lacking in your work ethic. As a business owner, especially if you work from home, time management is the difference between productive work days and constantly getting stuck in a life-sucking scroll through Instagram every 20 minutes.

There are plenty of things we can distract ourselves with — the trick is learning how you work best, and then optimizing your work style every day. Consider whether you work better in the morning or in the evening, when you have plenty of time or when you have a hard deadline. Make a schedule, whether strict or lax, and resolve to stick to it. If social media distracts you, make a policy to only check it once every few hours, or resolve to delete the apps from your phone or turn your phone off/on silent while you’re working.

The old adage “work smarter, not harder,” really does ring true. You don’t have to spend MORE time working in order to be productive. You just have to use the time that you have more fully.

Set goals and keep them in sight.

Everybody talks about “SMART” goals — “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.” It’s a good framework to follow, but don’t get caught up in the specifics. The important thing is to set goals that you know you can reach with a little hard work and, as discussed above, time management.

Last year, before I even knew I would start a copywriting/copyediting business, I bought a little notebook to house all my writing ideas and notes. In the front of that, I wrote three goals for the year. They were straightforward, and at the time they seemed challenging and a little daunting, but not impossible. It was thrilling to look back at that first notebook page in December and realize I’d surpassed those goals in 2018. Keep a small list of goals somewhere you’ll see them often — it’ll keep you motivated!

Learn from others.

Talk to/creep on people you admire in your field. Let me qualify that — specifically, I mean that, if you’re working on building a graphic design business and have nowhere to start, research the businesses and websites of graphic designers that you admire. See how they price their services, set up their websites, advertise their work. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask an established business owner for advice or insight into what they do. This goes for pretty much any field.

Note — I am NOT saying that you should copy off of other business owners in your field! DON’T DO IT. But learn from them. Look at how they operate, consider what you like and don’t like. Begin to carve out your own approach to offering your unique product or service, not emulating someone else, but taking what you’ve learned and applying it in your own context.

Read up on what you’re struggling with.

If you’re stuck or struggling with some aspect of the whole business-owning experience, start reading. Read, read, and read some more about what you struggle with: blogs, articles, books, Instagram feeds, etc. etc. See what the pro’s are saying. Building a website, for me, was a daunting and terrifying task. I really drug my feet on starting my business because this and other things were so overwhelming. But, to remedy that, I spent more than a few hours reading up on website-building on blogs and various articles online. I educated myself in the areas in which I had no knowledge. As I grew in knowledge, creating a self-hosted website gradually became less of a daunting process. And I ultimately built a website I’m happy with.

Similarly, the process of paying quarterly taxes left me completely befuddled. I almost threw in the towel on the whole thing when I thought too much about the financial side of things because I found it all so intimidating. But I FORCED myself to spend a day or two really digging deep and reading about it. I also eventually set up a meeting with an experienced tax accountant who answered all my questions and provided me with the guidance I needed. I still shoot him an email each quarter with any questions I have about my quarterly taxes. But the point is that two areas that previously made me shy away from starting a business — web design and taxes — became much less of a problem when I spent ample time educating myself, and asking for help when I needed it.

Make Strides in 2019

Whether you’re facing some big hurdles in your business this year, or whether you just can’t nail down an effective time-management strategy, you can make strides by applying some or all of these productivity tips this year. Don’t expect to know how to do it all. Ask for help or educate yourself when you need to! Never stop learning, and set goals you can look forward to reaching, rather than dread.

And if you decide to take my advice and outsource some of your copy or content needs this year, reach out to me here!

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