It’s been a long time coming, but spring finally feels like it’s here. The blossom is on the trees, the sun has put in an appearance on several consecutive days, and we’ve even been able to venture out of the house without coats (ok, I’ll admit that rains every time I put my washing on the line, but it is still only April).
After a winter spent lurking in my dark and dingy home office, the sunlight streaming through the window seems to highlight all the areas that need a bit of a spruce. No longer can I ignore the piles of un-filed paperwork… the business cards I’ve gathered from contacts and done nothing with… the scribbled post-it notes where I’ve had an idea that I haven’t put into action…
It’s time to roll up my sleeves, set aside a couple of days, and invest some time in a quality spring clean.
It can feel quite overwhelming when faced with what seems like an enormous task, so I find it helps to break it down into smaller jobs (this also means I get to tick tasks off as ‘done’, which makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere quite quickly).
So, here’s my ‘Spring Clean To-Do List’:
Sort out your office space. I am certain that, if you work from home, having an ‘official’ place to work makes you more productive. I think it makes it easier to focus, you feel more professional, you can ‘go to work’, no-one is messing with your stuff (well, that’s not always strictly true in my house as post-it notes hold strange fascination for small people), and you can turn off at the end of the day. It’s not just me, you can read about it here and here.
If you already have an office space, how does it work for you? If it’s anything like mine it’s probably full of boxes of stationery and the kids’ Trunkis, and I actively avoid being in there any longer than necessary as it makes me feel cross. It’s time to sort it out. Make sure your office has the furniture it needs. Throw out the junk. Put stuff away. I promise it will make you feel like spending more time in there.
If you need further convincing, check out this transformation I carried out on someone’s home office recently:
Get your paperwork in order. There is no point in having a beautiful office space if you can’t move for piles of paper! Apart from looking a mess, if your office looks like the first one in the example above, how can you find anything? How are you making sure that all your receipts get to your accountant, or customers are billed for all the work you’ve done for them? Once you’ve established a good filing system it’s easy to keep your paperwork in order – I’m so convinced by this that I’ve written a separate article about it, which you can read here.
Overhaul your record-keeping. Hands up if you stick all your receipts and bank statements (if you download them at all) in a drawer to ‘do another day’. Have you got a stash of email contacts collected with the aim of sending out a newsletter that you’ve never got round to? What about all those people who’ve shown an interest in your product or service but you’ve never heard from again? It’s time to do something about it. Create that mailing list. Bring your accounts up-to-date (after all, it’s always handy to know your current financial situation!). I recently went through a client’s records going back several years and discovered that they were owed hundreds of pounds in missing payments from regular customers – it can make a massive difference.
Could you be saving money? If you’re listed on all the free online directories, you’re probably plagued with calls from companies offering you a better deal for your work phone or insurance. They’re really annoying, but it probably is worth checking (independently) whether you could save money by switching provider or tariff. I’d say this particularly applies to insurance, as rates seem to stealthily creep up every time your contract is automatically renewed, and fuel. You can easily use price comparison websites to do this (just be prepared for the onslaught of calls from insurance brokers!).
Make sure you’re operating legally. Despite recent media coverage to the contrary I’d say the majority of us small business owners and freelancers would like to think we’re operating within the law, but how recently have you checked all the rules and regulations governing sole traders or limited companies. For example, if you’re a limited company have you got the right company details on your ‘official’ publications and paperwork (websites, invoices, headed paper…)? If you sell items online, do you have the correct statutory rights information displayed? If you collect subscriber contact details are you storing and using them legally?
Review your external face. When I first launched my company I got a bit carried away with my social media presence and created a profile on pretty much every social media platform going…. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram… you name it, I was on it! But I quickly realised that it was impossible to maintain them all (unless it was going to be my full-time job) and downscaled to a couple that I could concentrate on (there are only so many photos a girl can Instagram of excel spreadsheets and organised filing cabinets – Instagram was first to go!). Out-of-date profiles and pages speak volumes to potential customers. The same can be said for websites. It’s great to have a web presence, but if links don’t work or contact details are out of date you’re not doing yourself any favours. So check out what your potential customers are seeing when they find you online, and if necessary update it.
If you’d like to have a spring clean but it all sounds a bit too stressful, or you simply do not have the time, don’t forget there is an expert on hand to help. Just get in touch.