Being self-employed, as most of us are, has tremendous benefits. We make our own hours, we work with the people we like to work with, we have a lot of flexible time for family or personal commitments, we set our own schedules, etc. The list of perks is lengthy. Sometimes, however, self-employment comes with decided downsides.
As a business owner, it all rests on our shoulders. There is no manager dictating schedules. Often there are not co-workers present to pick up the slack when needed. When your productivity slides, there is no one but you to kick it back into shape. Thankfully, we live in a modern world that we probably never saw coming. There are a number of ways that technology can keep you on track. Here 5 ways I try to remain productive.
Link up your apps
How many apps do you have on your work phone? How do you keep up with tasks, feeds, calendars, messages, and social posts on a daily basis? Look to streamline those. For my social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) I use Hootsuite which brings together all of your social media platforms, allowing you to simultaneously post content on every one of your profiles, as well as checking and replying to any messages and notifications, all from the one application. Another favorite of mine is IFTTT (If This, Then That), which can create ‘recipes’ that automatically trigger an action on one app when something happens on another. Examples are endless. I use it when traveling, for example when I take a photo on my phone, it automatically posts to Twitter. If I make a post on Facebook, it sends it to Twitter. I have an alarm system in my home and when I get out of a radius of my house (thanks to GPS on my phone) it will automatically arm the system, and disarm it when I return. Definitely one of the most useful tools around—take a look and explore what others have created for your particular channels.
Text to Speech
If you did not grow up with a keyboard on your desk, typing may be a challenge—or at the minimum a time consuming task. I am pretty quick but I only use a few fingers. Then I discovered Dragon Naturally Speaking. It is a voice to text software available on whatever platform you have—Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, etc. Now, instead of typing out email responses, blog entries, letters to clients, etc., just dictate them. I was shocked at how accurate it was out of the box and took very little “learning” of my speech idiosyncrasies.
If you are like me, space is at a premium in your office. The travel industry is known for not only sending people to the Amazon; at times it seems like we are responsible for cutting down half of it with all the paper we generate. A while ago, I made a decision to focus on keeping only critical papers and when possible to store them digitally. You can turn your phone into a scanner with the help of apps such as TinyScanner (Android and iOS). All you do is snap a photo with your phone’s camera, and the image is automatically converted into a PDF document. The downside is that it is a PDF and not easily editable.
Put It In The Cloud
Just last month, I moved what amounts to my C-Drive to the cloud. I am paying for a professional version of Dropbox and now, I have adjusted my settings on all of my applications that save something—to do it on Dropbox. Word and Excel files are there. Photos are there. PDFs are there. Graphic Images are there. And with Dropbox, those documents are available to me anywhere from virtually any platform. iPhone, laptop, desktop, friend’s Android, the computer at my local library, or even from a client’s home computer if needed. Two big bonuses—I can share folders and files with clients, and Dropbox also allows me to keep a local copy on select devices so I do not need internet access. For a typical group, I will have a master folder for the group which will have my contracts, graphics, advertising collateral, spreadsheets, etc. Under that I will have all my “public” documents for clients—itineraries, forms, tips, etc. And under that, I will have client specific information—invoices, notes, special needs, etc. I can provide my client with two links and they will have it all in front of them. Of course, if the client is looking for a old school way, we are set to do that as well.
Time Tracking Software
This one is not for everyone. If you do a number of groups, I do suggest it. If you are new to the industry, I also suggest it. A lot of the time, we look at the end result—hey I got a check from Sandals for $1500 for that Smith wedding. Is $1500 adequate, and more importantly, profitable for you? Maybe? Maybe not? The group commissions feel great. But what if that $15,000 check represented 1700 hours of work? Will $8.82 an hour be enough for you to live, pay the bills, and continue your business? The use of a simple time tracking software program will help you determine how much time you are spending on a typical sale. This will enable you to set your fees accordingly or to implement other options to make sure you are fairly compensated. Eventually, bookings and groups may become second-nature, but it is always a good idea to periodically check and make sure you are on track so there are no surprises in your P&L at the end of the year. There are a number of free programs out there and they tend to come and go—pick one and use it.