Many businesses like to start the New Year with positive resolutions, just as we do in our personal lives. This month I’ve received several emails asking what tips freelancers/small business owners should be putting at the very top of their 2019 ‘To Do’ lists. I feel it should be a combination of ‘tidying up’ 2018 and planning ahead to get the new year off to a flying start. I wish you a happy, successful 2019.

Erica Wolfe-Murray gives some sound business advice to readers

Erica Wolfe-Murray gives some sound business advice to readers

Look at the ‘data’ you already have in your business – what can it tell you about the last twelve months?

We all hear endlessly about ‘big data’ but wise use of ‘small data’ can give brilliant insights into how your business is evolving. Small business or a freelancer, everyone has data they can use. For example, list all the different contracts you’ve bought in. What are the biggest, the smallest? Which had the greatest percentage profit? Did you have to work just as hard bringing in the little jobs, if so - are they worth expending your energy on?

What marketing brings you most work? Or does it come through recommendation, word of mouth? What is your average purchase size? Has this changed? Are your earnings hit by seasonal fluctuations?

There are just amazing riches to be found in your files – which you already own. So think about what data you can extract and how it can help you build your 2019 plan.

Do a financial audit on your business

We all get so drawn into running the everyday with a business, that we often forget to stand back and take a long clear view. The start of the new year is a good time to focus time working ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ it.

Being out of control of the figures feels horrible. It adds to your stress levels, leaving you feeling uncertain and using up mental space you’d prefer to use on other areas of work.

Start the year as you mean to go on – getting the year ahead’s budget in place. If you’re still running your accounts on a spreadsheet, get to grips with an online programme like Xero or Kwikbooks. Take a half day course to accelerate your learning on how to use them. And if you don’t want to keep doing them yourself, ensure you have the book-keeping support you need asking them for the reports you’d like to see on a weekly or monthly basis.

Get all aspects of your accounts tidy ensuring you are up to date. If you want to change banks or accountants – make a decision, ask around for recommendations and implement the changes now before the new year’s work clouds your diary.

Just as you can ‘tidy’ your finances up – do you need to review and ensure all your ‘legals’ are up to date?

There are all sorts of elements that go into a business – whether you are freelance or a limited company. During the quiet days in between Christmas and New Year, or in the first week of January, check over all the legal documents relating to your business.

Do you have the right insurance cover for what you sell? Have you ensured your insurer is aware of your plans and requirements, whether for public liability or business travel?

Are you client contracts up to date or do they reflect a way of working that you no longer offer? Are there new clauses you want to add in, different payment terms and the like?

If you own a website – check out your T&Cs and Privacy Policy. Are these compliant with the data privacy law? Have you ensured you are not infringing anyone’s copyright on the images used on it?

Is this the year you apply for a trademark? Do you need to start investigating this to ensure you are protected?

With a lovely fresh clean calendar for the year ahead, it feels that there are countless opportunities to take advantage of – now is a good time to develop a quarterly marketing plan.

I love a good plan. But it is hard to do a detailed one at the start of the year when September/October feels forever away. So try to split the year into monthly or quarterly blocks and identify what marketing impacts you would like to achieve in each block. Plan the ones in the first half of the year as much as you can but put more general themes into the later ones.

Have a strategic theme for each section and drop in more tactical, opportunistic ideas that can be added to, adapted or replaced as you need.

Hopefully by the time you have competed each of the four steps above, you will be really set for a solid start to the year ahead. Have fun!

Erica’s new book Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business is out on January 24, 2019. Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available to pre-order now.