How to Do a Business Check-In

So, how is your business doing these days? We find ourselves just past the halfway point of an exceptionally challenging year.  It’s likely circumstances in your business and your life have changed. Now’s the perfect time to take a pause and check in with your business. How are you doing with your goals? In the thick of things, sometimes our focus on our goals can get a little murky. Below, I share a process for reviewing your business with an eye towards those goals, and celebrating what you’ve already done. Here’s the step-by-step:

Review

When you take a look at the goals you’re working towards, it’s easy to get bogged down by focusing on what you still need to do. Instead, train your focus on what you’ve already done.

Start by making a list of milestones you’ve hit or steps you’ve completed. Rifle through your day planner or old to-do lists if you need a refresher. Go back through the year, month by month. Especially because it’s likely this year required you to adapt to COVID-19, there are likely some changes to note.

Now, it’s time for a little introspection. Take stock of all the actions you’ve taken towards your goals, and then ask yourself a few questions: How do I feel about this goal? Do I still want to achieve it by the end of the year? Is that feasible? At what pace have I been able to work toward this? What’s my capacity been like?

Don’t be afraid to drop things or add new things. Some goals may simply no longer excite you, or you may have realized that another objective is more important or time sensitive.

During this review process, it’s also helpful to take a look at the systems and work routines you have in place for your business. For example, you may have set an intention to review your numbers once a week, or you may be trying out the a money mapping system. Evaluate the effectiveness of your systems and routines. Are they working for you? Do you have time to do these things? Are you consistent? You may find that your routines need to be simplified or tweaked to be more pleasant or attainable. Or, you might find that your systems and routines are working just fine! Both are vital evidence when checking in on your business.

Finally, it’s a good idea to check in on how much you’re earning. Perhaps you’ll want to take time to consider your hourly wage, or look into revenue cycles in your business. Checking in with where your business is at financially is key in this step.

Learn and Adapt

Next, it’s time to use all of that evidence you’ve gathered to adapt your goals and practices. First, notice if you have any goals that you are either discarding or adding. Then, examine the pace at which you’ve worked on your goals. These pieces are important when it comes to planning out the rest of your year.

I recommend drawing or writing out a map for the next six months. Include any events relevant to your business, like conferences, trade shows, or gallery openings. Then, begin to write in milestones you hope to meet in the next six months. Make sure these are realistic! Don’t pressure yourself to level up in three months if it took you six to get where you are now. Instead, allow yourself the space and time to achieve things incrementally.

When you’re making your plan, be sure to adapt your goals to what’s worked so far this year. If you really love a certain routine or feel fired up to keep working toward a certain goal, go for it. If you’ve stalled on a project because you need to do more research, carve out some time to go back to the drawing board. When charting your course, keep your own needs and preferences in mind.

Now that you’ve reviewed your work so far and adapted your strategies and goals appropriately, it’s time for the next few steps. These are intended to really up the feeling of getting a fresh start, while enjoying your business for what it is: a way to meet your life goals.

Refresh

For an extra dash of clarity and focus, include a refresh in your review process! Now is the time to do whatever necessary maintenance you might need to grease the wheels of your business. You might clean your workspace, clear your inbox, or centralize your passwords. Attend to your physical and digital spaces. Check in with your finances, and schedule an appointment with a bookkeeper.

This is usually my favorite part of the review process, because I make time to do all the little things that have been nagging me, like scheduling lower priority appointments, finding that one piece of paper, and sometimes making a new goal chart for myself. Giving yourself the space to get organized can save you time and effort down the road.

Celebrate

Go back to step one, and take stock again of all you’ve done this year, including this review process. Chances are, you will find you’ve done quite a bit of work towards your goals, no matter how close you might be to completing them! Take some time to celebrate all the work you’ve done. Treat yourself to an afternoon off, a fun or inspiring event, or whatever you’d like to do to celebrate your achievements so far! Being a solopreneur is hard work. If you’ve done the work, you deserve to cheer yourself on once in a while.

I hope this outline has given you some ideas for checking in with your goals and your business. If you’d like someone to engage in this process with you, this is something I love to do with my bookkeeping and coaching clients. Please feel free to review my services and schedule a curiosity call.

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Angela

Stop Expecting “Business As Usual”

So far, 2020 has been a challenge for many business owners. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout and the protests that have broken out around the country have both rocked the business landscape. Many solopreneurs and business owners have had to completely reshape their offerings and financial strategies. Perhaps this includes you!

This time last year, I shared my thoughts on how to do a mid-year review. This time around, I’m thinking about how rather than reflecting on the year so far, it’s time to adapt to a new and different future. I had prepared a blog post about how my income expectations faltered as the pandemic set in. However, because so many people ended up needing help straightening out their books, I blew my original income goal out of the water! My point with this post was going to be how important it is to not let a dismal situation limit your expectations for your business. But, at this moment, I think there’s something deeper to learn. In these rapidly-changing times, it’s important for us to adapt and be gentle with ourselves.

No More “Business As Usual”

Despite the many plans for re-opening the U.S., for many of us, things are not going back to normal. Perhaps you already know this from looking at your bottom line. Or maybe you’ve seen reports about how small businesses have been affected at large. The economic effects and social effects of recent times have created a lasting change in the small business landscape. It’s important for us as business owners to prepare for things to continue to change. This can look a myriad of ways. Creating a money system and putting together a savings cushion are two great strategies for establishing financial resiliency if you want extra ideas.

Just because things aren’t going back to normal doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom, though. Aside from the economic effects, both the pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter protests have also enriched the business landscape from a social perspective. There are so many opportunities for collaboration! Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to lift each other up. If you want more ideas for collaboration, check out my article on 7 Tips for Business Owners During COVID-19 and my Cash Flow Reboot Guide.

Be Gentle

Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t meet your income goals or if your business is struggling. Conversely, if you find yourself getting a ton of business as a result of the pandemic, don’t work yourself too hard, either! Coping with changes in your business can be challenging. Giving yourself the space to be present with feelings that come up and get enough rest are of paramount importance. The reality is that, no matter how hard you grind right now, in many cases things are still going to be challenging. This is a hard time in the world for most people, solopreneur or not! Be gentle in your expectations of yourself as best you can.

Be Present

In addition to stepping up to give your emotions some space, this is also a time step up for your community as a business owner. The current moment we are in is showing us many ways to do this. Whether we choose to uplift Black colleagues, create fundraising projects, or present some offerings for free, we’ve got options in how to contribute. I think that, if we want to, we can use this moment to permanently change how we do business. I love the way that Proposals for the Feminine Economy frames businesses – as “needs-fulfillment machine[s].” How can we find ways to do business that meet, not only our own needs, but the needs of those around us? Both COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests have shown us how connected we all really are – socially and economically. This is a question we can sit with right now.

What are your thoughts about business as usual? Has your business experienced any bumps in the road? Please sound off in the comments below. If you’re feeling in need of more guidance on how to navigate this time, don’t hesitate to check out my services and schedule a call.

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Angela

Image by Christin Hume

Solopreneur Spotlight: Bri Crabtree on Adapting as a Professional Performer to COVID-19

Bri Crabtree is a professional circus performer. She juggles, unicycles, and entertains people of many different ages with silly antics. Typically, she performs at a variety of events. When COVID-19 hit, her work for the foreseeable future was cancelled. Bri quickly pivoted both her business tasks and personal finances to address this new challenge. Here are some of the insights she shared with me in a recent video interview.

Making Connections & Staying Connected

Bri told me that as soon COVID-19 began impacting her work, she started making personal connections and reaching out for opportunities. She also spoke about her social media strategy during this time. She told me she’s become more active on social media in order to maintain a presence in her clients’ minds. Through online offerings like her Silly Circus Show virtual parties, posts to her Instagram, Facebook, and her newly created Patreon account, she’s staying connected to fans. These accounts give her a chance to do a lot of behind the scenes work and show her clients what those processes look like. Making content like this also gives her more time to work on the many costuming, puppet-making, and other prop-related projects involved in her business. I loved this video from her costume closet!

Opening Income Streams & Applying for Aid

When Bri reached out to others looking for opportunities to make up for her lost work, she found solutions in the form of new income streams. She was offered a babysitting job and directed to a place where she could take paid surveys.

She also applied for aid in a couple different forms. She applied for unemployment early on, although she didn’t get good results. She also applied for EBT, and applied for and received a grant from the Bay Area Safety Net Fund.

Her new virtual party offerings, stickers, and her Patreon account are also new income streams that she has opened during COVID. All of this combined shows Bri’s flexible and diverse approach to adapting her business during this time.

Zeroing In

Bri talked about how important it was for her to “zero in” on essentials and pare down her budget. One thing that’s been particularly helpful is going out to eat less, and cooking more at home. She’s been buying staple foods in bulk, for economic reasons and to keep herself well-stocked. Many people are trying to stay focused on essentials right now. Bri and I worked to establish a comfortable spending plan for her life. Here’s some ideas on how to do that for yourself.

Keeping A Good Mindset

Maintaining a good mindset through these challenges has been key for Bri. Much like my interview with Jennifer Graham, Bri shared some specific things that have been helping her out. She’s been learning to play the ukulele (and sharing her progress!). She also works out four times a week, citing Ground Up Fitness Home Workouts as one of her favorite resources.To keep track of both of these projects, each day she uses a motivational sticker calendar.

Finally, she spoke to me about feeling financially confident during these challenging times, because of the work we’ve done together on her finances in the past. As a coach, it’s good to hear that work is paying off.

Flexible Thinking

The many ways Bri has adapted her business to the conditions of COVID-19 show a lot of flexible thinking. She problem-solved in a number of ways, from adapting her offerings to the digital realm, to pursuing income streams unrelated to her talents, to applying for aid and creating healthy routines for herself. Her new approaches to her business have not only kept her afloat, but also created new opportunities. The fact that she has created a Patreon and gotten to create more behind-the-scenes content for her clients is a wonderful use of her time. It allows her to work on those projects, and create more interest in her work.

You can watch our full video interview here. You can also follow Bri on her site, check out her Silly Circus Show, support her on Patreon, and see what she posts on Facebook and Instagram. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like the two I wrote about how Jennifer Graham, a photographer in the Bay Area, has adapted to COVID.

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Angela

Solopreneur Spotlight: Jennifer Graham on Adapting Her Photography Business During COVID-19

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Graham, a photographer and solopreneur, and we got to talk about how she’s adapted her business to COVID-19. Originally, her main income was in-person photoshoots. A week before shelter-in-place orders went into effect, she saw about $10,000 worth of shoots cancelled. Immediately, she began to think, “How am I gonna pivot?,” and I’m excited to share some of the strategies she came up with today!

Digital Assistance

Jennifer adapted to the quickly shifting atmosphere by adding some new offerings to her repertoire. The first one she told us about was an offering to help business owners organize their visual branding materials. She’s created an offering to cull, edit, and arrange the photos her clients already have to best convey their branding. Since this can all be done remotely, and there’s a huge incentive to ramp up digital presence for most businesses, this is a timely offer.

Educational Offering

Jennifer’s also created offering called Lights, Camera, Action!, which offers the client help with staging and lighting at-home photos, shoots, zoom calls, you name it. Another relevant way to adapt to these digital times, this offer is also a way for her business to recoup some income while practicing social distancing. In addition to this offering, she’s also been offering short tips and tricks videos on her Instagram feed.

Distance Shoots

Since our interview, Jennifer has started to offer Family Porch Portraits, which comply with social distancing and donate 50% of their proceeds to local charities. This offering combines the need for physical distance with the opportunity for people to give back to the community, something that’s very important right now. I love the way she adapted her services to be so specific to the conditions of shelter in place, while still getting to do what she loves.

Working on the Business, Not In It

During our interview, Jennifer spoke about how, with the removal of regular photoshoots from her calendar, she’s had more time to work on her business, rather than just in it. Rather than simply doing shoot after shoot, she’s had room to pause and think about what she’s creating through her business. This is a rare opportunity for solopreneurs to reflect, and I appreciated that she mentioned this as one of her priorities. I’d recommend doing some introspection on your business, if you haven’t been able to yet!

You can watch the full video interview with Jennifer here, and you can visit her website and Facebook page to learn more about what she’s doing. Her adjusted offerings are great examples to follow for solopreneurs, and I’m glad to be able to share them with you all. She also had some great insights on dealing with the shelter in place from an emotional perspective, so we’ll discuss that next week.

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Angela