M.Y.O.B.

the cobbler's children have no shoes

This old saying warns of a cobbler, who is so busy with his customer's shoes, that he doesn't bother to have proper shoes for his own family. Does this saying ring true...have you forgotten to manage your own business?

If you're a mechanic with an unreliable car, a roofer with buckets catching rain in your kitchen, or a bookkeeper whose own paperwork is stacked to the ceiling, this may be a very accurate way of describing your business. And, it's a habit that you need to break. 

This doesn't just apply to your craft. It's just as bad if the cobbler's taxes are late, or if the mechanic's voicemail message still says Merry Christmas. Taking care of your business is just as important as taking care of a customer. 

This can be a very hard habit to break, and I'm constantly guilty of putting my business on the back burner. The problem is, you don't pay nearly as well as your clients do. Let's say you have two stacks of paper in front of you. When you finish one stack, you know you can send out an invoice for $1,000. When you finish the other stack, you'll be caught up on your own paperwork, but no richer. 

Easy decision, right?

If you know you'll get to your own paperwork tomorrow, then yes, take care of your customer (and your bank account) first. But what if this is the 10th time you've made that "easy" decision this month? Or, what if it's April, and that 2nd stack is your taxes? Before you know it, the problems and stress you've created by putting off your own work make it difficult to continue doing the client work. 

This shows up in 2 types of ways; direct and indirect. 

Direct

This is more obvious. Each time your work truck breaks down, you can't get to your customers. If you forgot to pay your phone bill, your customers can't call you. 

Indirect

This is more subtle. Think of your mental state if you knew the last 2 examples might happen today. Let's say the engine light came on last night, or you got a final notice from the phone company. If you can't fix the problems today, how much of your attention are your clients going to get? What about your health. How many times can you stay up late worrying about your overdue taxes before it starts taking a toll on your body. 

The Customer's Perspective

Setting aside your own stress, let's look at this from the customer's point of view. First impressions (as unfair as this is sometimes) are very important. You could be the best lawyer in town, but if a client comes into your office and yesterday's takeout is spilling onto your important papers, they will leave before you've proven your value to them.

This is no different online. If your website has a technocolour guestbook and every other page features an animated GIF of a construction worker who's "almost done building this page", people won't reach out to you.  

Solutions?

I know as well as anyone that there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done, especially if you're doing this solo. It's all about moderation. My biggest advice would be to set aside some time this weekend to figure out a system. Don't do any work until you've done this first step. Figure out how much time you can devote to managing your business. Then, find the most simple and efficient systems that will allow you to keep things organized in the time you've got. 

Maybe this means you block out one day to write 4 blog posts, and then schedule them to show up at the same time each week.

Or maybe you switch to a simpler bookkeeping app. Freshbooks can automate a lot of your invoicing, including recurring invoices, and late payment reminders. Wave Accounting can pull data from your business bank account, so you just need to go in once a month to make sure everything is in the right category. 

If you still find you're falling behind, then you need to make one of two choices. You need to either scale back the amount of client work you do, or find someone to help you manage your business. Outsource your web design, your bookkeeping (shameless plug), or your marketing to a professional.

It probably won't cost as much as you think, and the stress relief will be incredible.