Blog Post
August 23, 2021

Pandemic, Inc.

It’s day 637 of the COVID-19 pandemic and I have no idea what day of the week it is. I only know that people are expecting work from me, I have way too many Zoom calls scheduled, a toddler who doesn’t understand boundaries, an infant who despises sleep, and that I’m tired of the long-distance relationship with my luggage. Nevertheless, I must persist.

By now, it’s abundantly clear that we’re not controlling this pandemic and that, whether we like it or not, we must adjust to a new normal for the foreseeable future. If you’re like me, you may be working longer hours to (attempt to) achieve pre-pandemic productivity, which is leaving you stretched thin. Or you may be running on fumes because you’re one of the 4.4 million people who started a new business in 2020.  

While many businesses closed, both big and small alike, entrepreneurship saw a 24% spike last year. With many unemployed or working from home during the pandemic, combined with enhanced unemployment and stimulus payments, last year was a great year to take the entrepreneurial leap. However, doing so while outside is literally on fire, means you may have missed the new business meeting to help you get on your way. No worries, we’re here to offer tips, tools and ideas that may help you survive and thrive in these uncertain times.

Time is Money

One of the greatest pitfalls of being an entrepreneur is not adequately accounting for your time. One aspect of operating a small business where this can be extremely problematic is billing. Whether you bill clients hourly, or by the project, knowing how long it takes you to do something will make you a better manager. If you bill hourly, you’re legally obligated to do it accurately. Even if you charge by the project, product or service, you still want to know how long tasks take you, so you don’t undervalue your work, or overestimate your ability to complete tasks.

Let’s say you’re in the business of baking cakes. When attempting to set prices, aside from ingredients, overhead, marketing and advertising, one of the biggest oversights is labor, your labor. Consider the amount of time it takes you to bake a cake from beginning to end. First, start with the time it takes you to source the ingredients for the cake. Then, add the time it takes to answer and return calls and respond to emails from people wanting to hire you to bake the cake. Don’t forget to allot time to pay bills that allow you to bake the cake (power, light, internet, etc.). Then there’s the actual baking of the cake and then the delivery and presentation of the cake. If you baked cakes for profit prior to launching a small business, some of these considerations may be new to you. And for those aspects that aren’t new, the volume of the tasks is probably a new wrinkle in the mix. If you don’t currently have a precise timeline about how long it takes you to get from Point A: Being Hired to Bake a Cake to Point B: Delivering Said Cake, that should be priority number one.

There are several free and low-cost apps that offer online time tracking and reporting services via online, mobile and desktop applications. One such app is Toggl, which also allows you to add billing rates, client, and project information, and create internal and external reports. Until you get the hang of how best to allot your time, you want to time everything from coffee breaks to power naps and everything in between.

Even Bosses Have Bosses

One of the greatest misnomers about entrepreneurship is that it’s an opportunity to “Be your own boss.” Everyone, from the executive assistant, to the Founder, President and CEO of Me, Incorporated has a boss: clients and customers.

When you run your own shop, it’s easy to fall into the trap that you can come and go as you please and that so long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter what your hours are. Well, not really. If you’re a web designer, the specific times you use to design and execute projects are probably not important. What is important is that you must make time to talk to customers about their ideal design, feel and function for their site and answer their questions each step of the away.

You may find you’re at your best from dusk to dawn, but generally people expect to be able to contact businesses from dawn to dusk, also known as “normal business hours”. So, you either must amend your night owl hours or adjust your target demographic to vampires and werewolves.  

Celebrate Your Wins

In the beginning, wins may be few and far between so to ensure you don’t lose sight of your goals, when you achieve them, celebrate them. Even if you grow to a point where you’re racking up W’s like the ’95 Bulls, you should still celebrate. One of the most common mistakes of small business owners, is being so consumed in the day-to-day that they fail to take a step back to celebrate. Whether the occasion is your first customer, your largest client, or a line of business you landed after a long pursuit, honor the time, sweat and tears that went into the endeavor by lighting a cigar, raising a glass, or doing whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote and brings you joy.

People love winners (unless you’re Tom Brady). So, when you land a new client, secure a big deal, or make it into a publication that highlights you or your business, post it! Instead of viewing it as “Stuntin’ for the gram” think of it as demonstrating competence and capability. Showing clients and prospective clients that not only can you do what you said you can do, but also that you’ve done it, which should help you attract more business.

Practice Self-Care

DE’s first BIG client was Lauryn Williams, a 4x Olympian, 3x Olympic medalist, and former fastest woman in the world. She’s one of six athletes to have won a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games, as well as the first American woman to do so. When she left track and field and joined the U.S. Olympic team for the Sochi games, she enlisted our help with management.

As a fledgling agency, we didn’t make the trip to the Sochi Olympics. Managing a client 7 time zones away in one of the most visible athletic competitions in the world meant sleep was fleeting. When Lauryn returned with her silver medal, it was still nowhere to be found as we took a 3-week “Homecoming Tour”. When I returned home, I was the sickest I had ever been in my life because I had spent the last 3 months (from Worlds to Homecoming) doing the absolute most.

The lesson I learned being down for several days was “Make time or your body will take time.” There is a “Grind Epidemic” amongst entrepreneurs that is pervasive. The idea that you shouldn’t eat or sleep until you’re successful negates the very real possibility that you could, you know, die before that happens. Particularly, due to the lack of sleeping and eating you’re undergoing to achieve said success. Self-care is extremely important which can be anything from regularly scheduled nail appointments and massages, to putting your phone on Do Not Disturb during certain hours or watching 22 minutes of an episode of your favorite show before you go to bed. Whatever “it” is, prioritize it.

In the best of times, owning and operating a small business is a daunting undertaking. It’s even harder amid a pandemic. My advice, take in as much information as you can and find what works for your unique business. Be open to being wrong, willing to change your mind and give yourself grace. If you find yourself in need of help making your brand and business the best version of itself, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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