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4 ways to simplify your business (and why it’s important)

Dec 4, 2023 | Business, Featured

If I had to pick one word to summarize 2023 for my business, it would be “simplify.” At the beginning of the year, I finally decided that it was time to do something about the waves of burnout I’d been experiencing for the past few years. If my business continued to feel heavy and draining, what was even the point of it?

Simplifying as much as I could seemed like the obvious solution to make my business feel lighter. And so I slowly started experimenting with a few different changes to see if it was really possible to keep my business going without burning out every couple months.

Whether or not you’re experiencing burnout, simplifying your systems and processes is always a good idea. The end of the year is the perfect time to audit your business and assess which aspects could be streamlined or optimized in some way. Chances are, there are parts of your business that are weighing everything else down without you even realizing it. These things can be easy to miss if you’re not actively seeking them out.

In no particular order, here are four impactful ways to simplify your business. Pick and choose whichever ones feel most relevant to you, or go through each one in turn to uncover potential hidden roadblocks. Either way, you’ll be sure to thank yourself later when starting your workday each more morning suddenly feels easeful instead of hectic.

1. Simplify your offers

The first item on our list can be a bit of a doozy. But it’s arguably one of the most important aspects of your business to simplify.

To start, list out all of the different ways people can work with you. When I did this exercise for myself, I was surprised to discover that I was offering a total of 7 different services. For a solo service provider with a specialized skill set, that’s way too many options. And that doesn’t even include the fully custom projects I would scope out for some clients.

The problem with having too many offers is that it not only overwhelms your potential clients, but it also makes your role as a marketer and salesperson much more difficult. If there’s one takeaway from this blog post, let it be that overwhelm is the enemy of a simple and easeful business. If your leads are overwhelmed by all the ways to work with you, they will likely ghost you. And if you’re overwhelmed by how to market and sell each of your offers, you’re on a fast-track to burnout.

Action items:

  1. List out each of your paid offers.
  2. Rank each offer on a scale of 1-5 for three different factors: relevancy, profitability, and enjoyment.
  3. Add up the total rankings for each offer.
  4. Choose 1-3 offers to keep and strongly consider either retiring the rest or placing them on the back burner for select, qualified leads only.

If you operate a product-based business, such as a boutique, you may still find room for simplification here. For example, are there any categories in your store that aren’t relevant for your target customer? Or, are you trying to be a one-stop-shop instead of specializing in a specific niche, like home decor or women’s clothing? If you’re trying to sell everything to everyone as a new store, it’ll be difficult to develop a unique brand identity to help your business stand out and gain traction.

2. Simplify your systems and processes

The second way to simplify your business can be pretty tedious for people like me who are operations-phobic but is extremely important. Systems and processes are vital for running an uncomplicated business. Plus, it’ll be imperative to have strong systems in place if you’d like to scale and onboard team members.

As with all of the tasks on this list, the first step is to simply list out all of the systems and processes your business currently has in place. If you have multiple offers, list out the step-by-step process for each offer. If you use a CRM like Honeybook, list out how leads progress from initial contact to onboarding. How many times do you follow up with leads along the way and at what time intervals? Do you have a system for following up with clients after their project ends?

As you go through this process, you may discover, as I did, that there are certain steps you repeat often yet don’t have a clear process for. For example, instead of following up with leads 3 days after sending your proposal, you simply play it by ear and follow up whenever you think of it, writing basically the same email from scratch each time. Are there any steps in your process like this that could be automated in some way? If you don’t like the idea of using generic email templates, could you at least get automated reminders to follow up at predetermined intervals?

During this process, you may also discover that certain steps are redundant or simply taking up more time and mental energy than they’re worth. For example, I made a major change in my sales process this year by creating an automated pricing guide for my leads, in turn saving hours of time spent creating custom proposals.

Action items:

  1. List out the steps for every process in your business.
  2. Determine whether any of the steps you’re doing manually could be automated and/or templated.
  3. Estimate how much time each step of your processes take. How much time could you save by eliminating non-essential tasks?
  4. Bonus: Review how much your systems tech stack is costing you each month. Are there any services you could cancel by simplifying your processes?

Related post: 5 ways to refresh your brand for the New Year

3. Simplify your marketing strategy

Marketing is one aspect of running a business that consistently feels overwhelming for many business owners.

Marketing is easy to overcomplicate because of the sheer wealth of information out there. Every marketing guru seems to have a different “proven” strategy that they swear by. How do you know whom to listen to? The truth is that there is no singularly effective way to market your business. You just have to pick one that you enjoy enough to be consistent with and that is relevant for your industry and target audience.

For small businesses that don’t have a dedicated marketing team, a good rule of thumb is to implement no more than 3 marketing strategies. Ideally, these 3 strategies can feed off of each other so that you’re getting more bang for your buck without overextending yourself. For example, blogging and email marketing is a great combination because it’s easy to repurpose your blog posts as newsletters.

Another good rule of thumb is to choose one form of long-form content to prioritize. Examples of long-form content are a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel. Each of these is very effective if you’re consistent, but they’re also very time-consuming. If you try to do multiple at once, you will likely burn out.

For my business, I prioritize my blog and newsletter as my primary marketing channels. If and when I have time, I’ll create content for Pinterest and Instagram. Thanks to SEO, I can count on my blog to bring thousands of visitors to my site each month, some percentage of which will convert into clients. This allows me to put social media on the back burner and thus reduce the overwhelm of marketing.

Action items:

  1. List out all the marketing channels you’re currently using for your business.
  2. Rank each strategy by how much time they take and how effective they are at generating business.
  3. The strategy that takes the least time and produces the biggest ROI should be your top priority. If it’s not, determine if you can eliminate or de-prioritize any of the others for the sake of simplification.

If it’s not clear which marketing systems are working best for you, what can you do to get more clarity? Do you ask your clients and leads how they found you? You may also find that each of your strategies are comparable in terms of time and effectiveness. If that’s the case, how would it feel to cut out the one that’s least enjoyable? Making your business feel more fun is a huge win that we shouldn’t overlook.

Related post: 7 content marketing tips to increase brand awareness and engagement

4. Simplify your schedule

Last but not least, simplifying your schedule can make a huge difference in how heavy your business feels. As a business owner, you have the freedom and flexibility to determine how you use your time. This is a major benefit, and likely a big part of why you started your business in the first place. Are you truly taking advantage?

As a business owner who genuinely cares about your customers, it’s easy to feel pressure to bend to their whims and preferences at the expense of your boundaries. This is a delicate line to tread. You should absolutely give your clients a 5-star experience, however it should not cost you your wellbeing.

For some, simplifying your schedule could look like creating firmer boundaries around your availability. For example, I only schedule calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I can do more deep, focused work on the other days. Occasionally, I’ll make exceptions, but with limitations. For example, Monday morning calls are a definite no-go because I dedicate that time to working on my own business.

Simplifying your schedule could also mean finding ways to optimize your productivity. Do you use a project management system like Notion to schedule and track your various tasks? Or do you prefer old-fashioned pen and paper? Studies have shown that most people tend to be most productive between 9-11am. Therefore, it stands to reason that we should aim to work on tasks that require the most focus and energy during those hours.

Action items:

  1. Figure out how much time you need to dedicate to different parts of your business (i.e. client work, content creation, lead generation, etc.) each week.
  2. Create time blocks for each day of the week and assign a task category to each. For example, 9am-12pm on Monday is for content creation; 12-1pm is for lunch; 1-4pm is for client work; 4-5pm is for exercise; etc.
  3. Are you too available for your customers? If so, try implementing some boundaries. You can start small, for example freeing up Friday afternoon, and build on this over time if it feels like too much of a leap.
  4. Are there any tasks that feel particularly heavy and/or time-intensive? If so, could you either outsource them or find an AI tool to help lighten the load? Or, could you drop the task entirely without compromising your business?

Summary

Finding ways to simplify your business can help you find more ease and enjoyment in your work. If you’re battling burnout, are overwhelmed by a never-ending to-do list, or simply crave a bit more breathing room in your day-to-day life, tackling each of the action items in this post can help provide the relief you’re looking for. That said, simplification is easier said than done, as it often requires quite a bit of work upfront. It’s also something that you’ll need to revisit repeatedly over the course of your business journey.

For more insights on creating a sustainable and easeful business, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, The Luxe Entrepreneur. You’ll join a community of 1,700+ other entrepreneurs building businesses that bring fulfillment to their lives, while staving off burnout and overwhelm.

This post contains affiliate links. I only affiliate with products and services I’ve personally used and genuinely recommend.

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Steph Corrigan Design Blogger

Meet Steph

BRAND AND WEB DESIGNER + FOUNDER

I’m here to break down everything you’ve been wondering about when it comes to starting and scaling a small business in the most aligned way possible. From branding basics to tried-and-true marketing strategies, you’ll get my unfiltered thoughts and advice on how to make your brand stand out.

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