November 14, 2016
It’s time to wrap up 2016 and prepare for the new year. If you are an independent contractor, consultant or solopreneur, take this opportunity to review results from the past year, evaluate business assets, expenses and relationships, then create a plan to excel in the new year. Use this handy checklist to keep yourself on track.
Wrap Up Financial To-Dos
If you operate your own business, you probably keep an eye on your finances throughout the year. While MBO Associates enjoy the benefit of hassle-free filing thanks to our back office services, it's important to take time this quarter to reflect and look back on how much you've spent. Many credit card companies provide helpful "year-end" statements that wrap up how much you've spent in various categories. If you find yourself over-spending, see how you can scale back or re-negotiate bills for 2017.
You may also wish to:
- Organize receipts, expenses, W9s and other income and deductions for tax purposes.
- Schedule time with your accountant for annual tax return preparation and to learn how changes in the tax code will affect your business next year.
- Review your financial documents and evaluate results. How did your business perform this year? Take a close look at your cash flow statement, income statement and balance sheet to determine where expenses can be cut and consider if you need to raise billing rates.
Set Your New Year's Resolutions Early
Once you have reviewed your financial outcome, solidify your plans for next year. Writing these goals and plans down can help you stick to your resolutions, but it can also prove useful to see where you might have "holes" in your current thinking.
- Write your business plan. Whether you’ve been in business for several years or hope to start a consulting business in 2017, you need to create a business plan. If you've already created one, consider revising and updating to reflect your 2017 goals.
- Flesh out your marketing plan. Your business plan should include an overview of your marketing plans for next year. Review past marketing efforts closely to see where you realized a good return and where you wasted money. Take time to research new ways, such as social media, to get your story out there.
- Review expected expenses and ways to save. From saving money on office supplies or your utility bill to estimating necessary equipment purchases or new expenses, the year end is a great way to see what you've spent, as well as where you can save in the coming year. Not sure how to cut costs? This blog posts details great ways to save both time and money.
- Look for and eliminate activities that don’t benefit your business. Look closely at the time you spend on certain activities associated with your consulting business. Do these activities help your business grow? Can you eliminate anything (too much time online) or revise your approach (consider different networking opportunities).
Reinforce or Renew Relationships
Independent contractors may be solopreneurs, but that doesn’t mean they go it alone. Your business relationships, clients, vendors and other colleagues help your business tick. Make a point to reinforce these relationships before the year comes to a close through networking and other activities.
- Send seasonal thank you cards to customers who did business with you this year and in the past. A handwritten note in a stamped envelope sends a strong message.
- Mail out holiday greetings to prospects to stay top of mind into the new year.
- Reach out to past colleagues by phone or email to say hello and let them know what you’ve been up to. They may be able to use your services in the future or give you a referral.
Update Digital Sites
When people don’t see you face-to-face or talk with you on the phone, your digital sites represent you instead. Make sure that your online presence is up-to-date.
- Create or update your website. If you haven't yet created a website, read why that's important, here, and then create one using these simple steps. If you already have a site you like, make sure contact information is current, links are working, new content is frequently added and traffic levels aren’t falling off.
- Review social sites to see if they still look fresh and that contact information, photos and branding are up-to-date. You should be monitoring your social sites daily, so managing interactions, comments, questions and followers stays current. If you don’t have time to manage your social presence you either need to hire someone to help or spend your time on the sites that produce the best return. Learn more about marketing your consultancy on social media here.
It takes time and commitment to evaluate your business and plan for the future, but it will pay off in the long run. If you stay organized and monitor your business periodically during the year, the process will get easier over time.
News and notes for independent professionals and their clients. This is the October 17, 2016 edition.
As a new independent contractor, you may not know how much to charge for your consulting services. Learn how to calculate a cost-based bill rate with this video tutorial.