Being a solo professional is a mixed bag. There are significant upsides to it, but there are also some challenges. Managing the business side of your business while still having enough time to earn a living is one of the most common struggles.
You went out on your own because you’re good at what you do. What you want to do is to practice your trade, not be a marketer or a financial person or an office manager (unless one of those things is your trade).
But there’s no way around it – basic business functions have to be done. Otherwise, there’s no new business, no ink in the printer… or your taxes get out of hand.
These business functions take up a lot of time, and this is particularly troublesome for solo pros. We’re severely limited on time. We’ve got to earn enough to live. The checks don’t just magically show up the way they do when you’re an employee.
We have to work a certain number of hours of every week. We also need enough time to sleep and to have a little bit of a life. The business side of our businesses – the finances, the marketing and everything else – has to fit within the hours that remain.
Yet it can be done. Here’s how to cover the business basics and get your work done, at least on the marketing side of things.
Why Your Marketing Has To Fit Into 45 Minutes a Day
Let’s start off by being kind. We’ll give you three weeks off each year. That sounds indulgent, but it’s not. It gives you one week of vacation, one week to be sick, and one week to do the sundry things of life, like move, wait for cable, or help a friend.
That leaves you 49 weeks every year.
According to the SoloWorkForce.com blog in 2013, most solo professionals log about 1,680 billable hours per year.
1680 hours divided by 49 weeks = 34.3 hours a week.
We’ll round down to 34 hours. You need 34 hours a week to earn your income – to actually do your work.
According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, the average small business owner works 52 hours per week. We’ll assume you’re an average business owner. After you’ve completed your 34 hours of actual work each week, you’ve got 18 hours left for everything else. That “everything else” is the business part of your business.
Let’s split this remaining 18 hours of managing your business into four parts:
- One for client management (unbilled hours)
- One for financial matters
- One for marketing
- One for everything else
You’ve got 4.5 hours a week to manage each of those areas.
According to that same Fargo/Gallup Small Business report, most small business owners work six days a week. That’s forty-five minutes a day for each of those four parts.
What to do with the 45 minutes you have to market yourself
I could write an entire ebook about how to best use your forty-five minutes a day… but it might take you more than an hour to read. You don’t have time for that.
So here’s an outline of what forty-five minutes a day over the course of a month might look like. It’s 18 hours total. Forty-five minutes x 6 days a week x 4 weeks a month.
This is what you can get done:
- Write one blog post a month. 3 hours to write, 1 hour to set up (with header image), 1.5 hours to promote. 5.5 hours a month. (12.5 hours left)
- Send a curated email every two weeks. 2 hours a month. (10.5 hours left)
- Manage social media updates and accounts. 1.5 hours a week = 6 hours a month. (4.5 hours left)
- Participate in professional online communities/forums (either on LinkedIn or elsewhere). 4 hours a month. (0.5 hours left)
- Manage professional listings (phonebook, online directories, Chamber of Commerce, other organizations you belong to). 0.5 hours a month. (zero hours left)
Other things you could do:
- Comment on blogs. 4 hours a month. About 12 detailed comments if you can write one every 20 minutes.
- Guest post. About 6 hours per guest post including pitching, writing the post and then promoting it.
- Public speaking. 10 hours or more for each new talk. 4-6 hours for giving an existing talk.
- Paid advertising. 2-6 hours.
- Direct mail campaigns (like a bulky mailer). 6-18 hours depending on if you find the correct contacts and addresses, or if you hire an assistant to do it.
- Webinars. 6-24 hours.
- Conferences. Several days.
- Send cold emails to pitch new clients. About 30 minutes to one hour per email.
- Write a Kindle book. A few days, even for a 30-40 page Kindle book.
Why email marketing deserves to make your minimalist marketing list
While it is only one component of all your marketing, email pulls a lot of marketing threads together. Once you’ve got your opt-in forms set up and a template for your emails created, it takes surprisingly little time to get a message out.
Many professionals worry about what to say in their emails. You can always just include your latest blog post, or just curate the best content you’ve come across lately.
Or just tell your subscribers what you’ve been working on lately, like Belle Beth Cooper does.
Even if you’re under contract to not reveal who or what you’re working on, the odds are good you’re learning new skills or honing old ones. Write a few paragraphs about that.
Email messages don’t need to be long. A 300-word update of what’s going on in your work life is perfectly good content for an email.
Email list building in 45 minutes a day
If you can give me forty-five minutes a day for a month, I can get your email list building underway. Get my 30 Day List Building Plan for Solo Professionals.