It's the most wonderful time of the year.
For many, it is! There are presents to wrap, carols to sing, vacations to take...no matter how you spend the holidays or what you believe, this time of year can be downright magical.
But for the solo business owner? This time of year can also be nothing short of overwhelming. It's time to wrap up your year-end financials, close projects, send out client notes and gifts, and...plan for the entire year ahead.
Take a deep breath, fellow solopreneur. We highly recommend starting in a place that'll set you up to build an informative plan to work with in the new year: With an audit of your One Woman Shop.
One Woman Shop Audit
noun: A comprehensive inspection of your solo business' past year + planning (financial, content, + strategic) for the upcoming year. Best when performed with coffee or wine in hand.
While we can't run our futures entirely based on our pasts, it would be foolish to plan for the new year without understanding what worked and what didn't in the current year. That's the beauty of an audit: Picking apart what made this year fly by for you will help you decide what you need to keep, stop, and start in the new year.
Where to start
Create a working document and write all of the areas of your business on it -- i.e. finances, marketing, revenue streams, collaborations, and content.
For each area, pull up the necessary information you need to make informed decisions. Maybe it's your income tracking document, your numbers on month-over-month social media growth, your Google Analytics website stats, or your SendOwl account outlining your top-performing affiliates.
Then, break each of those overarching areas down into pieces so you can ask yourself:
- What worked?
- What didn't work?
- What do I want to keep for next year?
- What should I cut, if I'm being brutally honest?
Some of our best tips for a successful audit
1. Use zero-sum principles
It's tempting to tell yourself, "Well, last year I spent $2,500 on Facebook Ads, so that's a good amount to budget for next year."
Hold that thought. Instead, try following zero-sum principles, where you wipe the slate clean and start from zero. Looking at every single budget line, to-do item, and project from the perspective of zero encourages you to more honestly assess exactly what you'd be willing to spend on that task/item/piece of software, etc. today. For example, when you start with a Facebook Ads budget of $0, it forces you to evaluate what worked and what didn't, so you can focus on new strategies rather than repeating last year's efforts.
2. Build in accountability
Maybe it's as simple as letting your accountability group know that you're working on an audit and would love for them to check in with you, or maybe it's meeting in a coffee shop with a fellow biz owner to work on your audits together. Whatever you choose, being accountable to someone else can force you to prioritize your audit.
3. Be ruthlessly honest
There might be aspects of your business that you feel personally invested in that aren't actually generating results. Now's the time to detach yourself emotionally from the stats and focus on what's actually working, and why.
While you're being ruthlessly honest, be sure to clearly define what's a necessity, what's a "should", and what's simply nice to have. Now, we're not saying you cut everything that's not a necessity -- after all, being a solo business owner means setting your own rules -- but it is important to be honest about the things you're doing just because you feel like you should, as well as those things that might be nice but just aren't worth the time or investment you're giving them.
4. Put everything on the calendar
We know from experience how easy it is to make an overly ambitious launch/content/event calendar. That's why it's crucial to look at all of the activities you did in the current year, by date, as well as the things you planned to do that didn't get done. When we did this for One Woman Shop, we noticed a few things:
- We overestimate what we can get done in one month. Lesson: Plan by the quarter for big projects, instead.
- Everything -- even the "smaller" projects -- takes longer than we think it will. Lesson: Build a longer runway for projects and leave room for the unknown.
- Many of our weekly/biweekly tasks were not directly related to our overall goals or revenue streams. Lesson: Paring down our consistent activities into those that, a.) we enjoy doing, and b.) directly support our goals and/or revenue streams will help us free up time for other priorities.
When you're doing this, start with the big projects/launches, and work your way down to the daily/weekly/bi-weekly consistent activities you do, such as scheduling your social media or writing your blog content. For the visual peeps in the house, calendarizing everything, even just in a list in a Google Doc, can be uber helpful in realizing where you tend to overbook yourself.
5. Take the essentialist approach
As Greg McKeown taught us in Essentialism, if you don't determine your priorities, someone else will. Doing your audit and being honest about what needs to stay and what needs to go is your way of taking control of your priorities. As you do this, be sure to persistently as yourself: "How can I scale down to maintain my sanity and prevent overwhelm?"
Being particular about your priorities is one way to be proactive in preventing the overwhelm that plagues so many solopreneurs, threatening burnout as the year wears on.
Hindsight is 20/20
This is the perfect time to take advantage of that hindsight. Block off a few mornings or a full day, build in some accountability, and make your audit happen. It's the perfect way to set you up for smart planning for the new year.
Then tell us: What are your top tips or resources for performing a biz audit?