It’s not easy setting up a business under any circumstances, but it can be extra-challenging if you’ve only got minimal time to work with. If you have a day job and/or are looking after young pre-school children throughout the week, you may only have a limited number of hours and so it’s important you maximise those that you do have.
Before I share some ways you can maximise the time you have available, first of all, I’d urge you to reassess how many hours you do actually have, as you may have access to more than you might originally think. Being realistic, growing a business does take time. So whilst I’d love to tell you you can make a success of your business on 10 minutes a day, that just wouldn’t be true. You’re going to need to MAKE time where you can (of course within the bounds of energy and sanity!) – spare hours won’t just land in your lap.
Like a goldfish your business will grow to whatever capacity you give it, so do try to find as many hours for it as you can. However, this doesn’t mean never giving yourself time off or letting your business take over your life – it has to be something you can sustain and that won’t damage your physical or mental health or your time with your loved ones.
Some different options to find some potential ‘hidden’ time without burning out are:
- If you have a day job, look at jiggling around your existing working hours so that they work better for you – could you work the same number of hours but spread differently throughout the week to free up more time to work on your business, perhaps working longer but fewer days?
- Consider reducing your hours in your day job if you can – is there a balance where you still work enough hours to ensure financial stability but few enough that you can give your new business a bit more space to grow?
- Consider how you could use any scattered free time you do have more productively for your business – could you use lunch hours or commutes, annual leave or early mornings before other household members are awake to do research or planning, listen to audiobooks, trainings etc?
- Reassess your existing commitments – hobbies, series you’re watching, clubs, regular social arrangements – do these matter to you more than setting up your business? Do you get lots of joy from them? Keep doing anything that brings you joy and positive results but cut out anything that doesn’t. You can always pick them up again later but sometimes setting up a business does require sacrificing other things temporarily to get it off the ground.
- Look at how you can switch around commitments and personal errands so that they’re not all separate but are attached to each other or combined in more convenient chunks. For example, could you do one regular errand (e.g supermarket shop) on the way to or from a regular appointment? Can you make your time work better for you rather than randomly scattering errands throughout your week
- Outsource tasks to other family members or assistants e.g. cleaning, grocery shopping
Once you’ve freed up as many hours as you can for your business, here’s how to make the most of the hours you do have – 25 tips to grow your business when you don’t have much time:
1) Set clear, protected working hours
Don’t just play it by ear or working time can easily fall by the wayside – put your working hours in your diary at the beginning of each week and protect them fiercely. Let other family members know you’ll be working during this time and that you shouldn’t be disturbed. Create a clear schedule for work – write it in your calendar, even if it’s just a 15 minute chunk.
2) Plan and set clear goals
Be militant about this. You won’t get anywhere without them and will just go round in circles. Make medium term planning a priority. In The Shutterhood we do this together every 2 months.
3) Focus on ONE thing at a time
️ ONE overarching goal per 6 weeks / quarter
️ ONE key milestone for the week
️ 1-3 key tasks per day
4) Eliminate distractions
️ Maximise your productivity – here are 10 top tips to help with this
️ Put your phone in another room – NO social media during unless you’re posting on your own business channels
️ Pomodoro technique – plan in 30 minute chunks – 25 minutes of timed, focused work with a 5 minute break at the end
️ Time blocking – allocate specific tasks to specific chunks of time
5) Commit publicly to goals / milestones
This will give you the motivation and momentum to complete it – it’s one of my favourite forcing functions and can really help to get things moving faster.
6) Embrace ‘done is better than perfect’
The key here is imperfect action – it doesn’t have to be perfect and it’s fine to make mistakes (we all do and it’s inevitable!) but you HAVE to take action to grow.
7) Consider The Pareto 80/20 Principle
What 20% of the actions you take get you 80% of the results? Focus on these actions for most of the time – usually this will be marketing and sales, networking and speaking to other people about what you do. Here are 5 ways to achieve more by doing less.
8) Accept that it will take time and slow progress is worthwhile
Remember the hare and the tortoise! Keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep going and you WILL get there.
9) Create a routine
Establish healthy habits, especially for mornings (I share some tips here). You’re more likely to do it if it’s part of your routine. You need to get regimented and strict with yourself.
10) Keep it SIMPLE
You are not trying to create the ultimate, gold-standard business / service / product at this stage, you’re creating a Minimum Viable Product, a ‘For Now’ version. Don’t focus on all the things you COULD be doing – focus on the minimum you NEED to do to get it going and off the ground, bringing in income. Keep it as simple and easy to manage as possible. One service, one product, one niche, one marketing channel, one page website, minimum equipment etc – this is just what you’re offering FOR NOW – you can always build on it later.
11) Outsource wherever possible if you can afford to
Editing, website, social media, accounting etc – and remember, your time will earn you money so sometimes it’s a false economy scrimping on outsourcing – what you pay could be far outweighed by the additional income you’re able to bring in with that extra time at your disposal. Assess your strengths & weaknesses – be honest about what your areas of expertise are – outsource those you struggle with and focus in on those you’re good at – make these central to your strategy and don’t waste time on things that don’t yield good results.
12) Invest in coaching / mentoring
Don’t waste time wondering what to do next – make sure that you maximise every hour you have by ensuring you’re spending it in the most productive way, doing exactly what you need to be doing to lead you in the most direct way to your goals. I have two ways I can support you with this – The Shutterhood (group support) and The Accelerator (1-1 support) – just hit reply if you have any questions about either, I’d absolutely love to help you!
13) Conduct market research
Speak to your intended clients before creating anything – ensure it’s something they want – ask them, poll them, build your initial service / product around what they want so you don’t waste time building and trying to sell something people don’t actually want.
14) You have to get visible and put yourself out there
Audience growth is a priority. If there aren’t enough people who know what you do, you’ll never get enough people booking you. Prioritise doing things that get you in front of new people and that introduce new people to you – interact with your ideal clients in other people’s audiences (who provide a different service), interact in Facebook groups, collaborate, chat to people in the local community, pitch to one potential client, let one more person know about what you do – there are heaps of things you could do, I share 25 ways to grow your audience here.
15) Choose a marketing activity and do it consistently every day for at least 15 minutes
Ideally gradually increase this until you’re investing up to 1 day per week on marketing. Here’s an article to help you do this. Test out different marketing tactics and see what feels good to you. You will create longer marketing campaigns, but try to develop some core daily marketing habits and try to use at least 20-30% of whatever overall time you have on marketing. Here I share 25 ideas for marketing to get more enquiries and bookings.
16) Get comfortable with marketing and selling
It’s necessary. It’s an exchange of value – if people want it, they buy it, if they don’t, they won’t. You’re not forcing anything on anyone. Here’s some advice to help you get past the fear of marketing and selling your services.
17) Define your ideal client
In trying to appeal to everyone you’ll appeal to no one. Again, this doesn’t have to be your ‘forever’ ideal client. Just start somewhere, you can change and develop it over time. Just try to be as specific as you can about the type of people you do and don’t feel excited to work with. What kind of people are likeminded? What might they have in common with you? Here’s a helpful article I wrote all about digging deep into your ideal client psychographics.
18) Create one irresistible offer
Don’t spend loads of time trying to create and sell loads of different products and services. Just start with one. You want something that is likely to be snapped up quickly – don’t focus on high ticket items just yet – make it easy for them to buy into it. Some suggestions to start with:
️ Free sessions
️ Free sessions with option to purchase more
️ Low-cost introductory sessions (with options to upsell)
️ Products (e.g. albums, prints)
There are step by step trainings in The Shutterhood to lead you through the process of setting up effective portfolio building shoots and Mini Sessions.
19) Make sure you take advantage of your warm audience
Connect with people who already know, like and trust you. Don’t overlook your existing network. It’s far easier to convert people you’re already connected with – and connection is the key to bookings – pick the ‘low hanging fruit’ first! Make sure you let them all know what you’re doing and share your offer with them. You can tell them what you do, and/or ask if they know others who might want what you do, and/or ask them to share what you do with others. Some suggestions of people you can contact:
️ Friends of friends/family
️ Personal Facebook ‘friends’ and Instagram followers / social media profiles
️ Past clients
️ Past enquiries
️ Peers (other photographers)
️ Networking groups
️ Facebook groups & online communities you’re in
️ Past/current work colleagues
️ In-person groups / communities you’re already in – hobbies, school, social, sports, playgroups, associations
️ Doorsteps in local area
️ Everyday conversations
20) Be specific about what you want people to do next
Don’t just share your work without any calls to action (CTAs) as people won’t then take action! Let them know exactly what you’d like them to do next – make it easy for them to help you. What you ask them to do will depend on who they are and how well you know them, and also on whether or not you think they might like your services themselves or whether you think they will know others who will – but some suggestions are:
️ Share with their network
️ Refer to specific people
️ Join your mailing list
️ Book you themselves (either paid or free work)
21) Don’t be afraid to incentivise referrals
Use referral incentives to encourage others to spread the word in the early days to get your business up and running – you won’t need to do this for everyone, especially if you know them well, and you don’t have to do it forever – it can be just an introductory offer. Consider discounts or bonuses – for both referrer and/or referee – give them a good reason to do it – also make sure you provide an incentive to join your mailing list. Some options:
️ Bonus (extras on shoot OR voucher for something else)
️ Free photos
22) Use strong personal connection to generate bookings
Don’t just shout vaguely into the clouds and to no-one in particular on social media – create more personal, intimate opportunities to speak to people directly about what you do. Some suggestions:
️ Posts on your own personal social media page(s) / profile(s)
️ Phone calls
️ Direct messages / emails
️ Chatting in groups
️ Face to face conversations
️ Zoom calls
23) Don’t get hung up on creating a website
This can really get in your way and you don’t need one to start working – to begin with, create an online sales page or brochure with Adobe Spark or Canva pdfs hosted on Google Docs – a full website can wait until later.
24) Set up a mailing list with a lead magnet and a cornerstone blog post
I’ve written free articles here and here about these and there are Booster trainings in The Shutterhood to lead you through doing both of these step by step – these are two of the most important marketing activities you can undertake as they will continue working for you and compounding in effect the longer you have them
25) Do as much in-person networking as you can
Do this both socially and specifically for your business – meet other local business owners. It’s an often overlooked thing to do in this digital day and age and there really is no substitute for actually meeting people in the flesh and having proper conversations. It’s also the fastest way to kickstart your business with minimal time. Social media is playing the long game. Get out there and meet people!
I really hope these have helped. I know it can seem difficult in those early days, but just make the best use of the time you do have and keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there I promise!
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