Do you watch Dragons Den or The Apprentice?

How to manage your time efficiently when your online business expands

Every week I get a surprisingly high quota of emails from people who are looking for advice on a particular subject. It’s a subject that I am always delighted to hear about and a subject that actually makes me smile and have a little chuckle to myself!

For example, just recently I received an email from a Source Report member who told me:

“Hi Amanda, I’ve been selling online for around 6 months now and my business has started to take off – in fact because I’m also working full time in my usual job, I’m finding that I’m up till all hours packing up orders and answering emails…I’m really totally exhausted….”

Exhausted is quite a strong word. And I sometimes wonder is it really code for: “I’m up till all hours packing up orders and answering emails… which means I have missed the last 3 episodes of EastEnders…”

That might sound harsh, but a few years ago I went to a seminar where I clearly remember this one guy coming onto the stage and showing us a list of TV programmes on the big screen. On this list were programmes such as ‘Dragons Den’ and ‘The Apprentice’ and a few other ‘businessy’ type programmes and documentaries.

So, he asked the room: “How many of you watched any of these on TV this week?” and of course almost everyone waved their arms in the air feeling all smug because after all these are intelligent, entrepreneurial type shows that we ‘would be entrepreneurs’ ought to be watching right?”

Nope!

We were informed in no uncertain terms that we shouldn’t have been watching ANY TV this week – because we could have been putting our TV time to better use working on starting up our businesses and making them a success!

That was us told and everyone looked rather sheepish!

So actually, if you’re ever going to be exhausted then being worn out by your own success is by far the best way, and quite frankly if you really, really are that exhausted from an overload of online sales orders and you’re not just missing your favourite soaps, then you should actually be giving yourself a good old pat on the back and rejoicing because it means that you are making money.

And isn’t feeling a little bit tired worth the extra cash in your pocket? I should hope so!

Now, all this is not supposed to put you off selling online yourself – don’t go thinking that it’s going to send you into a flap – far from it, because it’s pretty obvious that you can make a really comfortable income this way, but I do want to make you aware that in order to make money it’s not effortless. However, you really don’t have to push yourself to the edge of exhaustion either!

Writing product descriptions, packing and posting orders, answering emails, researching new products and everything else comes with ‘online seller’ territory and must be done, especially at the start, but don’t worry, once things are set up it does get easier.

My point though is this – you can’t go on for ever burning the candle at both ends, because you really will discover the meaning of exhaustion or lose your motivation as things end up become less enjoyable and begin to seem like a chore.

As your online business grows you will become more adept at honing your time management skills and you will find that you are able to run your business with the minimum amount of admin and effort each day. And that’s why you need to learn to wear many hats – and alternate those hats on a daily basis!

Alternate your headgear!

When I started my own online business, I was glued to my computer night and day. Seeing those orders coming in has always been a great motivator for me.

But at the beginning, it was like some sort of addiction and at the point where I had over one hundred products listed, all selling day in and day out it was the adrenalin and the fastpaced-ness of it all that motivated me. So, to help you not become exhausted, today I want to give you a little bit of help with your time management.

Running a business by yourself can seem daunting but I am sure that I don’t have to tell you that time management is a very important factor especially if you are running a ‘kitchen table’ business because there’s only little old you to do everything.

You haven’t got an administrator, you haven’t got an accounts person and you certainly haven’t got a very lovely PA who makes you endless cups of coffee.

You need an element of organisation

Here’s the thing. I run very successful online businesses, but I am also a wife, mum to two teenagers and own a dog. I also like to make time for myself and my fitness – ensuring I visit the gym on a daily basis.

And so here is a whole host of things that need to be done besides working on a daily basis – like cooking, dog walking, washing, ironing, cleaning – I could go on, but I am pretty sure you already know what I’m talking about. The important thing is that I make sure I combine my work and my leisure time in almost equal measures so that I have a healthy work/family balance.

You may already know that online customers are amongst some of the most demanding customers in the world – they expect their goods to arrive at their door 5 minutes after they have ordered and have these notions that you are sat glued to your desk 24/7 just waiting for their order to arrive so that you can label up their parcel within seconds of their payment arriving and get it on to the private jet that you have waiting outside.

This is the nature of online selling – and eBay in particular – but do a good job and you’ll be rewarded with positive feedback!

However, there is a limit to what you can actually do in a day without spontaneously combusting and I have been guilty of checking my emails and answering emails as late as midnight or the early hours of the morning, worrying that if I don’t answer right now, that person will either purchase a product from another seller or get fed up waiting for me to answer.

The truth is though, that if an email arrives at 9pm and you don’t answer that email until the following morning, the chances are the sender won’t have bought from someone else in the meantime, nor will they have been hovering by their PC waiting for your reply, so it’s really not such a big deal.

Know what your tasks are for the day or evening

So, the first thing you must do is stop worrying about answering emails as soon as they pop into your inbox. Within 24 hours is time enough. You can set time aside each day for different tasks including answering those emails.

Write a ‘to do’ list each evening, prioritise and keep to your list daily so instead of interrupting another task to read an email that arrived 4 seconds ago, only check your emails at set times throughout the day with a reasonable cut off point in the evening when you can stop, relax and have some leisure time – for example 9.30am, 1pm, 5pm and 8pm or whatever times suit you. This will take you some practice as you’ll be tempted but try and stick with it!

Decide what your working hours will be and try and follow them as closely as possible. I know there will be times when this isn’t achievable – we all have days like that – but believe me, you’ll feel more in control if you know exactly what you are doing on a daily basis.

If you are working full-time during the day and running a part- time online business, schedule a couple of hours each evening to deal with your part-time admin – this is perfectly possible, I’ve been there and done that too!

If you have packing to do, pack up a whole batch of products in to individual jiffy bags one Saturday morning – get the kids involved and make it fun – this way, when your orders come in you just have to label the parcel and post it which will save you time every day.

If you feel you can only dispatch orders once or twice a week because you are employed elsewhere and can’t do a Post Office or My Hermes run daily, make sure you state your dispatch times on your product descriptions or website so that buyers are aware of when to expect their goods.

Likewise, if you dispatch daily then state that too. But do make sure that you pack orders up ready for posting each evening if you can so that you are not rushing around the day before your dispatch days. A little bit each day will keep things under control.

Like anything, good time management does takes practice and comes easier once you are in a steady routine that suits you. But, if you really still can’t fit everything in each day, there’s only one thing for it…

Try getting up an hour earlier!

You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve whilst the rest of the household are still fast asleep and if you’re committed this will help!

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