As an independent professional, successfully managing a small business begins and ends with you. There are many aspects to managing your own company, from back-office tasks like handling finances, paying the right taxes, and writing contracts, to staying organized and delivering quality work.
If there’s a particular aspect of management that you feel is lacking in your own business, it’s worth taking the time to evaluate what you could be doing better and making a plan to get back on track. Below, we explore five areas of business management along with strategies and best practices to streamline your work.
1. Maintain Strong Client Relationships
Building and maintaining client relationships is an essential part of your job as an independent professional. A good relationship can lead to future work down the road, or a poor one can lead to a negative reputation in your industry.
To cultivate positive relationships, take the time to ensure you are thoroughly meeting your client’s needs. Be open and honest with them, and encourage them to be truthful with you. Prioritize strong communication, and be consistent with delivery of quality work.
2. Invest in Professional Development
When you work for yourself, professional development is in your hands. In order to remain competitive in your area of expertise, maintaining your skills and knowledge above that of your peers is an important investment.
Professional development can take many forms, from online training courses or resources such as educational webinars, to professional events and continuing education or certification programs.
3. Streamline Project Management
One of the most difficult things you can run into with a project is scope creep—when a client adds new provisions, tasks, or deliverables that are outside of the existing scope of work. Scope creep can cause you to miss deadlines, perform additional work that was not budgeted for, and ultimately result in a product the client is not happy with.
To avoid running into these issues, be sure to include detailed deliverables, timelines, milestones, and responsibilities in your initial project contract, have a backup plan in place in the case a request for additional work comes up, and prioritize clear communication throughout the project.
4. Take Time for Yourself
Yes, having a long list of clients and a full roster of projects to work on is great, but overworking yourself can impact the quality of your work and put a damper on the reason you wanted to go independent in the first place. If you find yourself faced with an insurmountable workload, first consider your current time management strategies. If they aren’t up to par, try something new that allows you to be more efficient and stay organized.
Another option is to team up with other independent professionals. Bringing another person on board can help you take on more work, lend specific expertise to a bigger project, or simply act as an assistant who can help manage tasks like screening calls, scheduling meetings, and organizing paperwork.
5. Deliver Value to Your Clients
By focusing on creating long-term value with each project you complete, you can help clients reach their business goals while securing future work or a strong referral for yourself. To deliver value to a client, first consider what value means to them. Value will differ from person to person depending on their individual goals and business needs.
By taking the time to get to know your client and understand what matters most to them, you can conduct your work in a way that supports their goals. Along the way, be sure to measure and communicate progress so your client can follow along and see the work you’ve put in to achieve the objectives you discussed.