You Think Doing Great Work Promotes Itself? Think Again
How to add more time to your day and start growing your business
In the past, I found it hard to grow my business. What does “growth” even mean? Does it mean I must expand from a one-man team to set up offices all over the world? Or has it got to do with having more profits? If that’s the case, is it okay to stop growing?
It really depends on your life goals. In my case, growth is to allow me and my family the freedom to create, to help other purposeful businesses make an impact and to help other designers live and work from anywhere by joining our team. In this case, the more people know about us and work with us, the more we will grow.
I found it extremely tough to reach my goals because, for the past 10 to 15 years, I was spending way too much of my time only delivering design work to my customers.
With only so many hours in a day, all my time was spent finding the perfect colour, font, layout, perfecting my craft and trying to make a design look perfect, yet to be rejected at the end of all the hard work and time spent.
How did I get out of this? Here’s what I’ve been through to end up with a system to “add more time” to grow:
Do great work and they shall come…really?
I hated sales and I am still uncomfortable selling. That’s because there are too many people complaining they have been receiving cold calls and emails. I feel that if I were to try and sell my services, I will be judged in the same way too. I didn’t want to be seen as that ‘cold sales call’ person who interrupted someone’s date night.
Hence I hid under the blanket of my comfort zone to feel safe. Since there are many successful entrepreneurs who claimed their awesome work brought them many clients, I thought I could do that too.
“More customers shall come”, I consoled myself. Happy that I didn’t have to do any sales and marketing at all, I literally relied on referrals and waited, hoped and prayed for more work to come every day.
At that time, here were my thoughts: “I’m an introvert and networking is such a fake event where everyone is not there for me, they just want to sell me something. I’m not like them.”
Truth is, that didn’t work out very well. In fact, I was just lying to myself. And guess what? I actually knew that all along, but I refused to budge and give in to doing something I didn’t like to do.
One fine day, for some reason, customers started leaving. I asked for feedback but that didn’t help. They claimed there was nothing wrong with our service. They truly loved us, but they just didn’t need it anymore, so there’s no reason for them to spend.
The turning point
It was heart-broken, but the truth is, the ball has always been in my court. I learned that it’s not that I should do mediocre work. But I should have found my own way to make sure both great work including sales and marketing systems are fulfilled at the same time, on a daily basis.
Now your question could be: “How do you maintain your work quality and delivery to your customers if you have less time allocated to design work?”. After many months of losing sleep trying to complete all client work before working on my business growth, I made one change to my business that is one of the best decisions ever made in my 10-year career.
That change is to add office hours to my services.
As I’m typing, I’m laughing at myself because it seemed too easy to just do this. I took a long time to have it implemented because I didn’t have the courage. I used to respond to all emails almost immediately and my turnaround was freaking by the hour. Hence, I was afraid all my customers would leave me if I told them “sorry, we are closed now and I will update you from 9 am to 6 pm tomorrow”.
Then one fine day, I decided to make this change for just one customer to test it out. I thought if this customer were to leave me for good, I will be sad, but it’s just one, the world does not end there. Truth is, all the fearful thoughts were just in my own head. Everything turned out fine and we are still working with each other till this day.
“Add more time” and start growing
Of course you can’t literally add more time to your day. But doing small changes to what you do each day will free up time that you can fit in work to grow your business.
In my case, I was like a giant onion with many layers of fearful skin to peel off before I could “add more time”. The first “skin” was to set office hours. That itself freed up some time for myself before 9 am and after 6 pm. This “extra” time gave me more bandwidth to create a system to free up even more time so that I can later create a sales and marketing system to rely on for regular flow of new customers.
Here’s a breakdown of what I did that “added” more time for me to promote my business and grew it from 5 to 10 customers in a month. I call this the “Growth Audit” plan:
- Goals Audit — List everything you know that will lead to growth in your own terms. For example, winning 10 new customers per month.
- Time Audit — Just like managing your bank account, create a list of what you do daily of a particular week. In my case, I list everything from preparing my kids for school to a call with a customer to writing a story like this.
- Tasks Audit — From time-audit, filter the must-do things that are repeatable and don’t have to be done by you. For me, these are things like submission of business details to listing sites, admin and designing and delivery of client work.
You may do this on a physical notebook or a piece of paper. I did mine in a Google Sheet to easily keep track and update it wherever I go.
Get started now
In short, the actions towards making time to promote yourself is not hard. The hard part is letting go other things you’ve done for years to make way for things we seldom do in order to grow.
We need to promote ourselves, not just for our welfare. Knowing people will benefit from our service, aren’t we doing them a disservice if we don’t let them know about us?
You can do this.