How to Stay Organised When You're a Sole Trader

The life of a sole trader is becoming attractive to an increasing number of people, with the freedom to control your own time, work wherever you like and define your own workload. Staying organised when there’s nobody else there to manage you has its daily challenges, but all of these can be dealt with tactically. Here, we look at some you might be facing now, and explain how to overcome them.

Plan your time

If you’re not already using platforms like Asana and Trello to visualise and prioritise your workload, it’s time to start. By creating different boards and lists within these virtual pinboards, you can organise everything from abstract creative ideas, to detailed deliverables — you can even add your clients so that they can view your workload. Whatever platform or process you choose, being able to see everything in priority order is the most important feature. Paper notes or even those made in spreadsheets have a tendency to lose their context or get mislaid over time.

Secondly, scheduling. Maybe you’re already using an online calendar to organise your time, but if your busy schedule could use more advanced features — like the ability to accept online bookings through Facebook, or take payments at the time of booking — check out software like Square Appointments.

Software aside, it’s best practice to give yourself planning time once a week or (even better) once a day. Sitting down to familiarise yourself with what needs to be done will organise and calm your mind, preparing you for the work ahead.

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Automate everything you can

Automation might seem to be the default answer to every problem, but the benefits are indisputable in the working life of a sole trader. Your time is everything. The less you spend on menial tasks, the more you have to make money or rest from all the hours you’ve been cramming in. Here are some of the things you can easily automate with online tools:

You can find some of our other favourite apps for staying organised here.

Go paperless

We’ve all been there, furiously rummaging through folders and drawers to dig out an important document. While you should always keep hold of important paper copies, creating scans or photos and saving them in designated folders on your computer gives you quicker access. Don’t forget to back-up of course.

Simplify the way you do social media

Inspiring and sustaining conversations on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is no easy feat when you’re doing it alone. It’s far more effective to redistribute your social media efforts according to where the most potential is. Consider things like:

  • Which of your social communities have the fastest growth
  • Where your followers are interacting with you most
  • Which engagements have led to a discussion or sale
  • Where you look the strongest against your competitors (e.g. in terms of follower numbers)
  • Which platforms allow you to accurately explain your services and present your brand

Staying organised is about working with what’s important in the here and now, cutting anything that isn’t clearly making a positive difference. If you discover that some platforms aren’t yielding obvious benefits, drop them for now, and spend that extra time on the platforms that are. Don’t delete anything just yet though — those platforms might be useful in future.

Create a wellbeing routine

The way you present yourself and your workspace to clients affects everything from how your pitches go, to whether you get paid. Everyone finds it hard to function when they’re unwell; sickness, fatigue, stress, alienation and poor physical fitness can bring you down when you most need your focus and energy. Take care of number one by following a wellbeing routine, that includes:

  • A balance of rest and exercise
  • Regular cleaning of your workspace (hire a professional if you don’t have the time)
  • Check-ins with friends, family or even business associates who you can offload to
  • A food diary to make sure you’re eating healthily
  • Time blocked out for extended periods of downtime or even a holiday

You can also check out our post on ways to improve your health as an entrepreneur.

Connect with other small business owners

There’s value in collaboration even as a sole trader. Working independently can easily lead to a sense of isolation — that “why am I doing this” feeling. By connecting with others, especially those in a similar position to you, you get re-energised and reconnected you to your work. Both help sole traders focus and consequently organise themselves better. You can also use the opportunity to ask those professionals what tools and tactics they use to stay organised.

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