Are you a self-employed professional who is constantly on the road, in the field or providing mobile services? Feel like you're always racing from one client's residence to the next, or one job site to the next? When you are on the road it is critical that you find ways to simplify your business or you'll always be behind.
Professionals who are diligent about completing tasks in near-real-time stay ahead of their work. Letting tasks pile up for the end of day or the end of week is not the best approach when you are trying to work smarter, not harder. There is no need to put off productivity until you get back to your office or behind a desk. By being properly prepared, you can instead be productive while working on the go. Here are some simple tips for working smarter, not harder.
Choose the right business tools, ones that can travel with you
Use your phone for the computer that it is. You can work smart AND work mobile (hence "smartphone"). Use business and marketing websites and web applications with mobile-friendly, responsively-designed interfaces (built to adapt to different screen sizes and provide the best user experience for each). You can work on your phone throughout the day to help increase your productivity and complete the activities necessary to boost your business. There are numerous tools that can be used on your phone or mobile device that allow you to run your business and be productive while you're out in the field or traveling.
Take advantage of pockets of downtime, even create them yourself
If you have downtime between appointments, don't waste the opportunity. Use that time wisely. Instead of surfing the web or getting your 3rd Starbucks for the day by yourself, use those portable business tools. Update client records from your previous appointments that day, read comments and history on clients you will be meeting later that day, connect with other clients or prospects, etc. For more on using your tools, see the additional tips below.
If these pockets of downtime don't naturally present themselves, schedule them yourself. Whenever possible, make sure you have a few short breaks ("buffers") throughout the day devoted to keeping up and being prepared. And make sure to leverage your lunch hour. Take time for lunch even if it is only 30 minutes. If you didn't get your short breaks to catch up, use your lunch time and multi-task (not normally recommended, but this is an exception!). If you did get your short breaks, take your lunch time to meet up with different clients as often as possible. You can use the time to strengthen your business relationships and get customer insights on how to improve your services. You may also find it works better for you to meet for coffee with clients at the beginning of the day or during extended downtime during other parts of your day. It's a great way to reconnect with a client or business contact to build rapport and potentially gather new leads or referrals.
Don't do tasks you don't have to. Use a virtual personal assistant.
Find an easy-to-use, affordable cloud-based system that will run your common business functions for you 24/7. Many of these functions will operate regardless of where you are or what you are doing. It's like having a virtual personal assistant without the hassle or cost of having an employee. Virtual personal assistants are also less prone to error (aka human error).
Your virtual personal assistant can provide your clients with access to your appointment schedule, allow them to book online, send them appointment reminders via email and SMS text messaging, and follow up with a thank you message after a completed appointment. Automating all of these tasks will free your schedule for you to do more important tasks that require your specific skills and experience. It also provides additional convenience to your clients and enhances your image as a professional.
While you are sleeping or driving to your next appointment, your virtual assistant can be busy on your behalf. The next time you're ready to connect to the internet on your preferred device, the fruits of your assistant's labor will be right there waiting for you to view or follow up on.
Don't WAIT to get organized. STAY organized. Manage client information ASAP.
Use your mobile-friendly contact management tools to log your client's requests, service preferences, appointment history, and even important personal details. These digital tools make it easy to capture new information like appointment notes or items needed for follow-up. Whether you are a hair stylist, contractor, personal trainer, massage therapist, accountant – or whatever – once you've completed a project or service, take a few minutes to log your session details. This will help with invoicing, completing follow-up tasks, scheduling the next appointment, preparing for the next appointment, and ultimately building your client relationships.
One landscaper, Theo, shared with us that he has a client with very specific pruning instructions for palm trees, yet he only works at this particular client's home every 3-4 months. It would be easy to forget the specifics of these requests. But Theo routinely updates the client's contact profile after each yard clean up, keeping all the important details and comments at his fingertips. Make sure the contact management tool you use has an easy way to search for contacts in a variety of ways, including the ability to search for notes you have made. After all, there wouldn't be much point in taking the time to log all of your information if you weren't able to find it quickly when you need it.
What tips do you have for working more efficient and saving time?
Personal trainers, mobile massage therapists, arborists, landscapers, electricians, and other mobile service providers, how do you organize your work and your appointments to ensure you are working smarter and not harder?
Share how you work smarter not harder. What lessons have you learned that make a difference for your productivity in the field?