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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Create Extra Hours in Your Day With This Simple 3-Step Process

Setting Up Shop

It’s been said (quite often, in fact) that there are two things we could all use more of: time and money. So we all go around blocking social media, hustling our services and products to our email lists, and crowdsourcing our decision making so we can come to a conclusion thatmuch more quickly.

But I have a secret for you: finding more time (and money) isn’t in the big picture. It’s in the details. Creating processes (sometimes called workflows or systems) can streamline your business operations and save you hours each week. The magic in it all is that when you create processes to save time, you can use those magical minutes to go out and make money!

Look, I know that you’re here at One Woman Shop and you’re thinking “That’s fine, Val. But I don’t have a company or a team. It’s just me. I’m one woman. I can keep it all in my head and I’m pretty clear on how it all works anyways.”

That’s true -- and I’ve had that exact same thought. But what happens when you want to take a week off (like I did with my honeymoon)? Or you have a major life event that forces you to step away for an extended period of time (like when I had my baby)?

There’s no better time to set up process docs than today

Setting up your process documentation now, as you go, saves you from having to hustle and set it all up when you want or need to step away. Better yet, there may come a day when you want to hire some support in your business. Imagine handing over those process docs in your onboarding process and never wasting a minute (or dollar) with your new team member. Now that’s efficient!

Here’s what you need to know: your processes already exist -- they’re the things you do every day/week/month in your business (typically behind-the-scenes) that make it run. It’s those CEO tasks that really make your business a business; not just a hobby. And since they are things you already do, it takes (almost) zero extra effort to craft your ideal process documentation and start to streamline the way you run things.

Want a simple hack to nailing down your processes in no time at all?

Here are the three simple steps to get it done:

  1. Record a video of you doing the task and talking out the steps while you do it (here’s a list of some of my favorite video recording tools to make it easy)
  2. Hand that video over to your VA or a contractor and ask them to make the checklist from the video. If contracting this out isn’t possible, have a friend or colleague do it for you and offer to trade them the same favor -- you’ll both get your processes nailed down together!
  3. Review the final checklist for gaps or missing pieces and complete the documentation in your favorite project management tool (like Asana)

Boom! Not only do you have a set of process documentation done, you are on your way to building out a Company Operating System. (Well, aren’t you fancy!)

The best part? In just a few extra minutes each week, you can complete 1-2 process doc recordings and have your documentation for your entire business up and running in a few short weeks. Be careful, though. Making process videos gets addictive so you might find yourself with documentation sooner than you thought!

Start streamlining to get those lost hours back

Questions? Let me know in the comments below -- and tell me which process you are headed off to document this week. (A great place to start is with your blog posting or social media scheduling!)

Your days, back in your hands.

Get instant access to 5 Days to Reclaiming Your Time, a free email course with the mindset shifts + action steps you need to get started in reframing your relationship with time. Sign up below!

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August #OWSchat: Creating Systems with Heather Crabtree

#OWSchat from One Woman Shop

Mark your calendars: this Wednesday, August 5, at 9pm EST, we're hosting our monthly #OWSchat -- and it's all about a topic that can seriously change the way you do business: creating systems + streamlining.

Whether you're just starting out as a solopreneur or you've been in the game for years, there's always room for improvement when it comes to efficiency.

Even better? We're bringing in a pro to help: Heather Crabtree. Heather helps creative entrepreneurs create strategies + implement systems. During the chat, we'll be riffing on Heather's "Keys to Streamlining" -- from your inbox to editorial calendar, your bookkeeping to projects, and more.

Want more freedom in your biz and less stress in your life? (Yes, please!) Join us as we talk systems, and kick off August right!

Looking forward to chatting Wednesday, 8/5 at 9pm EST!

PS – First ever Twitter chat? We highly recommend using a platform like TweetChat to keep things organized.