It is often said that time is money, and most start-ups/entrepreneurs have a lot more of the former than the latter, especially at the early stages of launching their business.
As a lifestyle entrepreneur, you want your business to be a success, but you don’t want it to take over your life. So from the very early stages of planning your business and how it will function, you want to consider ways to save time.
Note that I’m not talking about that overused term ‘time management’ here – after all, as lifestyle entrepreneurs we don’t want to find ways to fit more work into each day.
Instead, we want to find ways to fit our work into as little time as possible so we can spend more of our lives doing what is most meaningful to us rather than postponing our dreams until we retire.
With that said, here are ten simple ways to save time and still run a successful business.
The key to running a successful lifestyle business and still having time to enjoy life is to set up automated systems.
The beauty of online business is that it’s possible to automate almost every aspect of your business, from your website’s sales process to your marketing. For example, you can use email marketing software like AWeber or Mailchimp to set up a simple autoresponder series which will help convert potential customers into buyers all without any additional effort or time on your part.
You will probably still need some kind of customer service process so that your customers can get satisfaction if they have complaints and queries, but that can be outsourced, which brings me on to my next point.
Pretty much anything can be outsourced these days, whether it’s customer service or content marketing. Outsourcing is by far the best way to save time and allow yourself to focus on what you’re best at, which as the founder of new company is probably more of the ‘big picture’ stuff, such as planning in advance, and preparing a marketing strategy.
There are many different services online which offer outsourcing e..g. Zirtual.com which is a good way to hire a virtual assistant to take care of tasks that you don’t have time for or would prefer not to do, or elance.com if you are looking for a specific skill such as web design.
The key to successful outsourcing is to clearly explain what you want and make sure you have brand guidelines in place so that you can be sure the work gets done to a reasonable standard.
You may have to invest some time upfront to ‘train’ your virtual assistants so that they’re aware of what you require, but once you’ve found someone reliable and as long as you give them clear guidance, outsourcing will free up a lot of your time so that you can play to your strengths.
Saving time isn’t just about getting more done in less time, it’s about making better decisions about what needs to be done. There is no point wasting hours promoting your lifestyle business on social media if it isn’t having the desired effect and actually leading to sales.
Remember you are investing your time into your business just as much as you are investing your money, and time is the one thing we can’t get back. So make sure that you truly prioritise your main business activities and then monitor how much time is being spent on them each day or week to ensure that it is in line with your goals.
The simpler your process is, the easier and quicker it will be to run your store on a daily basis and also to make changes if they are needed. Maintaining a strict focus for your business is not something you do on an annual or quarterly basis, it is a ongoing process. You need to always be thinking of ways to simplify.
A good way of doing this is to make a list of all of your goals for your business, and then ruthlessly prioritise so that you are left with only the top 3-4 goals. Decide to concentrate on these primarily for at least the next 3 months until you are able to accurately measure the impact of your activity in these areas – you can always address the other goals later.
Outsourcing is one good way of ensuring you have enough content for your business. Another way is to repurpose existing content, for example you could compile all of your existing blog posts into an ebook which you give away to email subscribers, or as an on-site guide for shoppers who want more information about how to use your products.
Alternatively you could create an ebook or multimedia information product which you could sell to those who want more in-depth info, but you could also use drip-feed the content on your blog as a teaser for the product and reminder of the value it contains.
5. Batch Process!
Just thinking about how much time we waste checking email is enough to make a grown entrepreneur weep.
What if, instead of compulsively refreshing your mail app every 5 minutes, you only checked email twice a day, and actually set aside 20 to 30 minutes to actually process it properly, rather than reading emails when not in the right frame of mind to reply to or action them (thus only adding to your stress levels).
This is the art of batch processing, and it can be used to fire through menial tasks quickly – after all, half the battle with any task is in getting started, and once you’ve done something a few times it becomes easier and quicker to accomplish.
One of the biggest time-wasting activities in any new business is failing to measure customer behavior effectively. The beauty of an online business such as an ecommerce store is that there are many ways to measure both how traffic comes to your site and what those visitors do once they arrive, such as Google Analytics and various A/B testing tools.
Ever forget your sat nav and get lost when driving in an unfamiliar place? Rather than driving around for hours trying to get your bearings, it’s clear that asking someone for directions will save a ton of time, however many of us are too proud to do so.
It’s the same with your business. As well as measuring customer behavior by using automated tools, what’s to stop you asking them outright for feedback? It’s a much better strategy for rapid success than relying on guesswork and wasting hours promoting something that your customers aren’t interested in.
It’s always sensible to test your site on a small focus group of test users before you even launch it to the wider world, but what about once your business is already live?
Well, as you will be interacting with customers on social media and via email anyway, it’s easy to build in regular requests for feedback about all aspects of your business – just add a question to your email autoresponders or set up a Facebook poll.
Who knows, they might give you an idea you hadn’t previously thought of and feedback like that can be priceless as it could change your business entirely. For example, what products would they like to see in your store? What information would help them when making a buying decision?
8. Start small!
If you are building an ecommerce business, you could spend a lot of time and money developing your website, however with platforms like Shopify you could have your store up and ready within hours of creating an account.
You can always revamp your store’s design later once you are making money enough to justify it, but why waste time and money now before your business is proven?
You also want to keep costs down in other areas such as staffing and delivery costs (another reason why dropshipping can be such a good option). Again, once you have got feedback and metrics to prove that your business will be profitable, you can start to invest further.
Whilst there’s no substitute for taking action on your business, there is a lot of value in researching what others have done and learning from their successes (and failures).
Whether you learn best by reading interviews online, listening to podcasts, watching videos or studying books on the topic, you can avoid making a lot of the same mistakes that all new business owners make – and also maybe get some ideas of how to up your game early on which might not have occurred to you until much later.
It is also good to build relationships with other business owners who have walked a similar path and who you can ask for advice, although you will want to offer them something of value in return – for example you could introduce them to someone who could help them or promote them via your social media channels.
At Ecommerce Rules, we’re big believers in the drop-shipping model as the basis for a lifestyle business. By setting up an ecommerce store with products that are manufactured and delivered by someone else, you are effectively outsourcing the most time, cost and labour intensive aspect of running an ecommerce business.
For more information, check out our guide to building a long-lasting, profitable drop-shipping business.
Even time-saving tips can take some time upfront to implement, but if you only applied one or two of these strategies to your business, I’m convinced you would save a significant amount of time very quickly.
I hope you can find a way to take action today on at least one of these time-saving tactics, and free up your time to focus on what you really enjoy whilst also ensuring your lifestyle business goes from strength to strength.
Have any of these tips worked for your business or do you have any tips to share with our readers? Let us know in the comments.