Clarity in Decision Making: Using Ranking Systems in Your Solopreneur Biz

We do our best to avoid business buzzwords (you know, like “authentic” or “attract”), but one that we feel still carries meaning is “clarity.” When you don’t have clarity, it’s easy to feel like you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

For us, clarity often comes from putting systems in place -- and one place we love having systems and clarity is in evaluating opportunities that come across our plates. It’s important, as we blend work and life (while maintaining our sanity), that we look at each opportunity as part of an overall strategic business, not as one-off, snap decisions.

Let’s say that you’re lucky enough you’ve worked hard to have client inquiries pop up in your inbox every day. It might be tempting to say yes to every potential project -- after all, you’re “lucky” enough to be inundated with amazing opportunities, so you should take advantage of all of them, right? Not so quick, friend. Not every opportunity is created equally.

Or let’s say that you publish guest posts or take sponsorships on your blog and aren’t sure which ones to accept and which ones to politely decline. (Because hey, they all mean more money that you can invest back in your beloved blog.)

Or you’re looking to boost your income from affiliate marketing but, as you dig in, you discover just how many programs are out there, and aren’t sure how to discern the good from the not-so-good.

The miracle ranking system

Enter: The ranking system. Consider it your new filter to run every decision through.

We like to use a simple 1-4 ranking based on our unique criteria for each situation. Here’s what each number means:

  • 1 - There’s no chance this will be a fit, no matter what you do
  • 2 - With some specific work and/or changes, this might be right for your business
  • 3 - You only need minor changes or thinking to make this a great fit
  • 4 - Hell yes, good to go!

A case study

Let’s use the example of sponsorship/affiliate opportunities. You run an incredible resource hub and community for female solo business owners called, hypothetically, One Woman Shop. Someone emails you (well, actually they email “Dear Sir/Madam”) and asks if you’d like to promote their men’s protein supplement.

Um...huh? The ranking for this one’s pretty obvious: 1.

Soon after, a woman who seems awesome emails you and asks if she can buy a sponsorship package to promote her new membership community for freelancers. While you would love to support her (#collaborationovercompetition), your (legitimate) fear is that accepting this sponsorship will take people away from your membership community and will cannibalize, rather than help, your biz.

We’d give that baby a 2. (As a reminder, 2 is “with some specific work and/or changes, this might be right for your business.”) If the woman pitching, for example, decides to take away paid membership and offer a paid course, instead, it could be a fit down the road. Consider it tabled.

Next: You recently found out that Fitbit has an affiliate program. At first glance, it doesn’t have a perfectly clear connection to women business owners -- but you do often talk about fitness as part of overall solopreneur sanity. And, you’re a diehard Fitbit user. (We’re with you.) With some gentle finessing, Fitbit references can be perfectly natural, without distracting from any of your offerings.

Sounds like a 3 to us.

Finally, you see that some of the online business owners you respect and admire have affiliate programs for their products -- like Stress Less & Impress or BluChic’s beautiful website templates (Yep -- those are our affiliate links. #shameless.) These products address specific needs of those within your community that you don’t serve, they’re created by business owners whose work you proudly promote, and they offer you a chance to grow your revenue streams without feeling sleazy.

Say it with us: 4! 4! 4! (Anyone else think of Monica on Friends saying “7! 7! 7! 7…”?)

Let’s get back to those client inquiries flooding your inbox

Back to receiving a high volume of client inquiries: You might decide that the top three criteria that matter to you when taking on new work include whether the work pushes you forward as a professional, the rate the potential client is willing to pay, and the number of hours they expect.

Time to apply your newfound ranking system to make a decision that fits your overall business strategy, so you don’t say yes to everything and later regret it when you’re working away at midnight for a PITA client.

Being flexible within the system

Depending on the ebbs and flows of your business, you might find yourself in periods where you have the freedom to be extremely picky, so you can’t or won’t take on any project or opportunity that’s not a 4.

However, during a slow period, you might find that you’re willing to accept projects that are a 2. A client that’s not “perfect”; a website project that’s not your #1 area of interest; a sponsorship that isn’t a complete slam dunk.

As long as you aren’t compromising your ethics or alienating your community, we advocate maintaining flexibility as your needs change within your solo biz.

Your turn: Where in your business can you implement a ranking system to make more effective decisions, save yourself time, and maintain your sanity?

Here’s to clarity!

12 Days of Solopreneur Sanity

A free email course with bite-sized practices for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and underappreciated .

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