How to work less, have more time and enjoy the best of your business
Who wouldn’t want to slow down in business, to work less and have more time? Without your business being at a disadvantage?
Imagine you were the tortoise who is ‘racing’ the hare. It is easy to imagine that your slowness will go against you. But as we know from the well-known fable, being ‘slow and steady’ helps you win the race!
Since speed is never a surefire route to success anyway, you definitely won’t be losing out by slowing down. Quite the opposite – in my experience, the slow approach to business wins every time!
Reasons to slow down
The SLOW Movement has gained a lot of traction everywhere. It all started with Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Fashion. On Instagram there are countless hashtags in relation to Slow Living now, including #slowbusiness!
It is understandable that the idea of slowing down appeals to many busy women. Progress in business (and our lives) is rarely linear anyway. We are all human, we have dreams, face obstacles , suffer from stress occasionally, and our needs and priorities can change too over time.
There are events and developments that require your full attention (chronic illness in my case), when you need to work less and manage your workload differently, perhaps with little warning.
Then there is the time when you yourself make the conscious decision to have more time to ‘smell the roses’, as they say.
Whatever your reasons, slowing down (and being less busy) may have financial implications depending on your particular circumstances.
Not everyone can afford to reduce their income. And not everyone wants to reduce it either! Some people enjoy their work far too much despite a need or desire to slow down.
There is always a way… anything is possible in my book.
A good way to work less in your established business
First up, if you’re wondering whether to start by telling your clients that you want to reduce your work, please be careful.
I have been working less for a few years now but, to be honest, apart from mentioning it here, I never talk about it. It’s partly because I’m sure that some clients wouldn’t hire me if they thought I was semi-retired (‘Will she still care about us? Be reliable too?’).
Your own situation and type of customer may be different of course. Sometimes it isn’t wise to unsettle the good relationships you have built up over a period of time.
You probably want to think through first what slowing down actually means for you and your business. And how this will affect different customers.
What else to consider before starting to work less
There is more than your client work to think about. What about all the other business related tasks like marketing, admin or accounts?
The Slow Ethos isn’t just about doing less, it’s about paying more attention to everything you do, and about doing it better. Which, incidentally, is not that different to the famed ‘4-hr Work Week’ principles by Tim Ferris!
You’ll get the most from slowing down when you…
- have identified what really matters in your business
- are more focused and selective about what you take on
- can tweak your business model (if appropriate)
- use efficient processes and software to simplify and save time with all the back-office tasks (I may write a separate blog post about this)
- use time-saving Apps (like the social media ones I mention further down)
All these could help you manage all your business tasks in much less time.
So whilst it may not sound terribly exciting but one of the best ways to slow down and work less is to be very focused in your decisions. And more efficient and effective in everything you do!
On that note, here’s one strategic idea for you:
Focus on your favourite clients
Do you work with clients who give you joy? Who don’t drain you?
Over the years I have seen way too many women put up with demanding clients or time consuming projects that get stressful. Often these don’t don’t pay reasonable rates either.
Working with the wrong clients or poorly paid projects is not a wise thing to do. It’s highly likely you won’t get a good return on the time and energy you invest in them.
(Read more about how to avoid difficult clients)
I love seeing the relieved expression on a client’s face when I’ve helped them to stop working with a challenging client. It suddenly hits them that they have made space for the right ones. Like those that are happy to pay more because they value you.
You can free precious time by working with fewer clients that pay you more!
Financially, being selective makes so much sense! Your happy clients are likely to be a lot more appreciative which in turn makes you happier too.
Saying that, what do you do when you already focus on the right clients but want to (or need to) work less?
Why not use a freelancer to help you out? Even if only temporarily.
Outsourcing and delegating sadly are strategies much underused by micro-business owners. It is such a shame. Many women worry that they will lose control over the finished work or that their client will not trust the freelancer. But the reality is often different and it’s good to focus on the win-win here: You can be more hands-off, your client still feels looked after, and the freelancer gets to do what they do best. Financially this often makes sense too!
Work less by reducing your networking (safely)
A lot of people gain free time by stopping a marketing activity like networking. (I saw this happen quite a lot in the days we ran Success Network as a networking group.) It can be tempting to stop going to meetings when your previous efforts haven’t led to reliable results or when something has happened in your life.
But putting networking on hold isn’t the answer especially when you offer a local service. Your focus may be changing but you don’t want anyone to think that your business is closed whilst you’re figuring things out.
So I’d like you to consider how effective the groups are that you belong to. I put this to one of my clients only yesterday, and she quickly realised she could save huge amounts of time by being more focused and selective with her networking.
This is much easier when you already have an existing network of people you know very well. I always think of these as Advocates. (As in the networking ebook I co-authored a few years ago, called ‘From Contact to Advocate’.)
Your Advocate relationships are the ones that result in the kind of referrals you rarely have to ask for. The ones that open doors!
Your Advocates know you very well and that makes them far more important than all of your other loose contacts. You always want to stay in touch with Advocates outside your group meetings, something you can easily achieve in less time-consuming and more personal ways.
When I moved my business online I cancelled all my memberships of local networks to free up lots of time. But I too make a point to stay in touch with my Advocates. I also attend the occasional conference or independent event if I want to get out and feel inspired.
You don’t need to go as far as I did and drop out of every group you belong to! You could initially just reduce the number of meetings you attend or remain in the group that gives you the best results. And stay close to your Advocates!
Work less on your social media (but stay visible)
When it comes to maintaining your online presence we all know that it can be a huge time drain.
But you do want to stay visible and get found easily regardless of how much or how little you work.
Whilst the following ‘housekeeping’ tasks may not seem a high priority when you want to work less, they will reassure potential customers that you are a reliable partner to their business.
Start by checking your website, your social media bios and blog posts. Is your key information up to date? Do your bios include important keywords and phrases? Do all the links work?
You don’t need to be on every social media platform
You just want to be visible where your clients spend most of their time! The last thing you want to do is apply a scattergun approach online once you start working less.
So wherever your clients are, engaging and building connections there will always be worth it. Adding a few regular likes or the briefest of comments in crucial places may not take much time and can help keep your name fresh in people’s minds!
A thought… Over 60% of the UK population is now on Facebook – the one network that many working people use every day (personally and professionally) no matter how busy they are. It’s probably best not to underestimate its potential.
Automation helps you work less and have more time
If you’re not yet using scheduling programs like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, I would urge you to give them a try. Imagine being able to ‘feed’ your social media accounts just once a week or even less. What a time saver!
And on your blog you could write and schedule several posts ahead to cover you whilst you’re busy focusing on other things.
I particularly like two automation tools that work like magic:
‘Social Jukebox’ is great for promoting webpages, offers, blog posts and free downloads. It may not be free any more but it’s a great tool!
And the ‘Revive old posts’ plugin is a life saver for bloggers. Once you have set up tools like this they promote your content for you – without any further input from you.
They could save you a LOT of time and are a real winner in my book. As long as you don’t rely on automation all the time! It can make your account seem impersonal which is not ideal – your followers might start to ignore you.
You still want to check in briefly to reply to messages, comments and retweets and help others by promoting their content too.
Explore new sources of income online
If you don’t want to do a lot of client-facing work any more but would still like to share your knowledge for financial gain, there is another option. Quite a few people I know have changed their offering and how they deliver it. They’ve repackaged their ‘knowledge’ as digital products, e.g ebooks and online courses.
This is similar to what we have done on Attract Readers too, our sister site for business owners and writers with a blog.
Online products don’t always need your input once live. So whilst it takes time to create these, you can be more hands-off afterwards. A great option for people who want to work less and have more time.
The launch can be straightforward if you use your existing mailing list. Launching online to a cold audience may require a bit more learning and some patience.
Either way, the reward is having products that either become a single source of passive income, or that drive customers to your high level 1-to-1 service. Which, of course, you can carry out from anywhere.
I love the freedom of being location independent!
Both Attract Readers and Success Network allow me to do that. When I reduced my own work by stopping all face-to-face training events, I moved my ‘Inner Circle’ Group Mentoring meetings and the 1-to-1 coaching online.
Platforms like Zoom or Skype make it possible and are very efficient. We save a lot of time by staying at our desks or whichever location (or even country!) we might be working from.
One observation… running an online business isn’t for everyone especially if technology isn’t your forte. Online marketing relies on a lot of content creation and getting to grips with technology which can be time consuming. There is an easy way to get round that by finding someone to help you.
And it can also get a bit lonely from time to time. But by talking regularly to people, or collaborating with colleagues, you can make sure the isolation won’t get you down.
A final thought…
As you’ve seen, getting the balance right between slowing down and working less and maintaining a good level of visibility in your business may involve some careful thinking and planning. Especially when you either can’t or don’t want to reduce your income.
But working smarter and being more effective in how you both run and market your business could be by far the best investment in your business in the long run.
It prepares you and your business for change too. Because even if you are not facing any major obstacles now you never know what’s around the corner.
I have only touched on a few of the strategies that work for me and some of my clients – perhaps they have sparked a few ideas of your own?
I’ll leave you to make your own plans to slow down and work less in your simplified or streamlined business. Or maybe you have already put the plan into action? Either way I hope you get to spend more time on what matters to you!
PS. I would be happy to be a sounding board for you. Why not drop me a line and we’ll arrange a Skype or Zoom chat over a cup of tea to see how I can help you.