4 Tools I’m Using to Save Time and Grow My Business in 2018

In my previous post, I talked about what I’m leaving behind in 2017. A lot of the lessons I learned heavily impacted where I put my money in 2018, and what I considered to be a worthwhile ROI.

My criteria for where I spent my money was simple: Will it help me save time or grow my business?

When it comes to saving time, this would be an expense that would allow me to take back my time and focus it either in or on my business in ways that would generate more income for me.

When it comes to growing my business, I see this as something where I won’t necessarily see immediate gains, but can use to project growth in the future.

To start, here my favourite tools that save time and help me automate or polish elements of my business:

Tools:

Acuity Scheduling – Not only does this tool help automate booking discovery calls and schedule ongoing client communications, it can be used as a payment tool as well for one-off strategy calls. The time I save from having to coordinate schedules is well worth the $10 a month

Dubsado  – This tool is a dream and the thing that pains me the most is I’m not even using it to its full potential. From managing contracts, intake forms to tracking time, I can easily manage my clients and my business from this one tool. In 2018, I plan to take better advantage of Dubsado’s workflow to enhance my client experience.

ConvertKit  – After starting out with Drip, I recently switched to ConvertKit which I am loving so far. With an easy to use interface and fantastic segmentation options, I’m excited to get more utility out of ConverKit in 2018 as putting more energy and attention into my weekly newsletter is a top priority!

Adobe Creative Suite – I’ll be honest, I’ve never used Canva and likely never will because my love for the Adobe Creative Suite runs so deep. I’ve been using an Adobe tool of sorts since I first dabbled in graphic design when I was 15 and while it’s not my core focus, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere, After Effects and more have been used consistently in my business, for both my work and to jazz up things for clients. $50 a month for a Creative subscription may be steep (especially as I’ve been hiring incredible people to help me with my graphic design), I still use one or more of these tools daily in my business. With several new offerings in the works for 2018, Adobe Creative Suite will no doubt help add some polish to my marketing materials.

Next week, I’ll be back with the bigger investments I’m making. For 2018, I’m choosing to invest in people versus courses, and can’t wait to share some of the incredible people I’m working with to drive my business forward.

What I’m leaving behind in 2017.

Inspired by several ladies I know, (mostly Chris Emmer and Marva Goss), I’ve had a few moments to think critically about what I’m leaving behind in 2017. 2017 was one of the riskiest years of my entrepreneurial journey. Even scarier than taking the leap to entrepreneurship in the first place.

There were so many highs and lows and to be completely honest, there were times where I thought it wasn’t going to work out. But I stuck with it and saw my vision through and in the last three weeks of the year, it paid off.

Moving into a really exciting year in 2018, here is what I’m leaving behind.

Putting all my eggs in one basket

Early in the year, when I was still doing corporate consulting full time, I ramped up on one client and slowly winded down and handed off the rest. This went against my philosophy of multiple revenue streams. I like to diversify my income in the same way I diversify my investments to maintain financial security.

So when my ongoing consulting contract wasn’t renewed, I didn’t have my usual load of clients to fall back on.

On one hand, this was a blessing, because it finally gave me the time to launch this very business. However, if I didn’t have savings to give me a solid cushion to land on, I would have never gone down this path. Now that I’ve built up my client load once again, I am never making that mistake again. I’ve already mapped out 3-4 established and potential revenue streams for 2018.

Second guessing myself

Hey! Do you have an online business that exists in a fairly saturated market? Me too!

The comparison game is a beast. I fully believe in community over competition and supporting other female entrepreneurs, but there were so many times I’ve beat myself up over not being good enough, not communicating my offering effectively enough, not living an Instagrammable life and where did this leave me?

I just didn’t put myself out there.

How can I expect to grow if no one is aware of my offering?  That’s it. I can’t.

So I’m going to stop trying to grow my business behind-the-scenes and step out on the stage in 2018.

Not treating myself as a client

I know I’m not the only one who does this, but I believe that if I stayed on top of myself the same way I stay on top of my clients, things would move faster.

When I get busy, I drop all the needs of my business so I can ensure I maintain the level of support my clients deserve.

So I’m doing the one thing I tell all my clients to do when they’re busy and not tending to their business.

Get help with implementation

And that leads me to the last thing I’m leaving behind…

Investing in courses vs. people

What Chris Emmer said rang so true for me.

Now, I’m not knocking on courses. There are so many great courses out there that can help you get up to speed on critical skills you need as a business owner. I’ve just found better ROI when I invested in other things for my business.

One thing I learned about myself is I can learn until my brain literally cannot fit another tip or lesson. But if I don’t want to do something, I’m going to put it off. (This is why getting help is so key!!!!)

I have found much better ROI investing in strategy sessions with experts, joining masterminds and really, any experience where interaction with other people is a key component of what I’m investing in.

I’m going to be real with you here. The $300 I invested in a 3 month mastermind with Reina Pomeroy (The Social Glue Sessions) did more for growing my business than the $5,000 or $6,000+ I’ve invested in courses over the last two years.

Interestingly, this realization led me to scrap my plans for the course I was building for 2018. Now I’m focusing on educating with interaction and implementation at the core of everything I teach.


Borrowing again from Chris, I’ll be back tomorrow with the investments I am making in my business in 2018.

It’s okay to ask for help: 4 times I didn’t DIY my business

Running a business is like owning a house. Being a homeowner for the first time can be tough. There is so much you need to do just to maintain the place. Keep up with it on a regular basis and things can go pretty smoothly. Put it off (and off and off) and it takes what feels like forever just to catch up.

Just like owning a house, when you run a business and maintenance comes up, there are a lot of things you’re going to try to DIY. You’re going to start out by writing all your copy and content or designing your own logo. You’ll draft your own business plan and try your hand at Facebook ads. Thanks to the internet, whether you want to fix a leaky pipe or determine your ideal client avatar, there’s likely an article or video telling you how to do it.

I’m a big fan of DIYing (I do it a lot in both of my businesses), but there are times when you need bring in a “professional contractor” to help you fix your business. Putting duct-tape on the issue is a temporary fix, and never addresses the root cause, meaning your problem will continue or even worse, compound and get bigger!

Good news is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. It’s totally okay to ask for help.

Four times I invested in my business

Here are a few examples of when I decided to move my business forward by attending an event or working with an expert.

1. When I needed direction, I invested in Inspired: The RetreatHosted by the wonderful Amber Housley, I met so many incredible female entrepreneurs  and was inspired (quite literally) to take my skills and use them where I can provide tangible value. This set me on a path I am super excited about!

2. When I needed a brand, I went to Megan Martin. I met Megan at my second Inspired experience and instantly clicked with her. When I went back home to Toronto, I looked at the brand identity I had been working on for myself that just wasn’t right. I knew who I needed to call. While Megan doesn’t take on design clients anymore, she offers a wealth of education for creative entrepreneurs and some gorgeously designed templates. One of the loveliest people I’ve had the good fortune of working with, Megan was able to pinpoint exactly what I needed in our first half hour call and saved me a lot of time and energy by nailing what I wanted in a brand.

3. When I needed community and a sounding board, Reina Pomeroy saved the day. It’s one thing to sell my clients – that comes easy enough. Selling myself? That was another ball game all together. Reina is an amazing advocate for the heart-centred entrepreneur.  Another incredible woman I met at Inspired, Reina created The Social Glue Sessions, an intimate mastermind for entrepreneurs just when I needed it. This community has been the perfect platform to not only connect with other entrepreneurs (shout out to my Power Pod, Mariah, Katie and Jen), it’s given me the support I needed to fine tune my business and make big strides in getting over the fear of putting myself out there. P.S. You can join me in round two of the Social Glue Sessions in 2018! Sign up now!

4. When I struggled with my voice, Lauren Carnes gave me back my confidence. As a former corporate consultant, I struggled with talking to my ideal client. I know who she is – she’s a creative entrepreneur who has been at this for awhile and is feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with the current state of her business. But how do I maintain my credibility as a strategist who can grow her business without coming off as a corporate robot? Lauren, who is an incredible photographer is also a formidable communications coach and was able to answer that question easily. With a background in PR, she was able to get me out of my own head and give my content and communications the second set of eyes it needed. She also gave me actionable recommendations on how to proceed. I can now write without staring at a blank text document for 20 minutes thanks to her!

The Takeaway

When I approach a new task, I ask myself: What is the opportunity cost of doing this myself? DIYing takes a lot of time, trial and error so I carefully evaluate whether my time drives more value in my business by doing it myself or putting my time toward revenue generating projects. Every single one of these investments has helped me tremendously on my path. More so, in addition to helping me grow my business faster, I get to support an incredible community of female biz bosses.

If you’re not sure if you should DIY or not, download my mini workbook for a look at how I decide when to invest.

DIY or Not? When to invest in your business.

Download your free mini workbook now!

Where you do and don’t DIY in your business might not be the same, but if you’re in need of an inspiring community, beautifully designed resources to grow your business, an amazing mastermind and an incredible communications coach, I can’t recommend these ladies enough.

Balanced in Business: Defining Your Strategic Vision

 

Having a plan is crucial to success in your business. Sure, you can wing it, but why would you want to? Winging it leads to:

  • Scattered focus. You’re not spending your time on the activities that grow your business.
  • Disorganization. You have no processes in place and you’re making it up as you go along.
  • Money wasted. When you don’t have a plan for growth, your money often gets spent inefficiently or on the wrong things all together.

Does any of that sound familiar? If you’ve experienced one or more of those things as a creative entrepreneur, raise your hand. I definitely did when I dived into launching my first business 3 years ago!

The thing is, a strategic plan doesn’t have to be a 40 page document. Detail is good and your plan should be built out, but if you’re finding yourself off course, completely overwhelmed or just not content with where your business is, you need revisit (or redefine) your strategic vision.

You strategic vision is more than your “why”, it’s the single most important driver of your business. It is your filter for activities you take on, ensuring you maintain focus, have processes and manage your business financials wisely. It’s what everything in your business ladders up to. What do I mean by that? Well, your goals, business focus and values will all be derived from that strategic vision.

You’ve already heard mine. I help creative entrepreneurs achieve balance in their life by building a stable, balanced business that is poised for growth. 

Every time I take on a new marketing activity, build a new offering or invest in another specialist or course, I ask myself if the activity will set me up to help others. You’d be surprised at how many times the answer is no.

Your strategic vision should do three things:

  1. Speak to or identify your audience. Whether your audience is super niche or broad, they need to be addressed in your vision. This helps you remember WHO is at the core of your business. If they’re not mentioned outright, your statement should talk to them.
  2. Have a positive outcome. What are you trying to achieve with your business? How will you change your client’s life?
  3. Be concise. Your vision should be one to two sentences tops and very clear. Avoid using vague terms that are hard to define.

One example of a strategic vision that really stuck with me is by my wonderful friend, Maghon Taylor of All She Wrote Notes. When I met Maghon at Inspired Retreat last year and asked about her business, she said

“I spread happiness through my handwriting.”

I remember thinking how spot on that was for her business as a calligrapher. She clearly defines the positive outcome, her statement is super concise and the phrasing speaks to her audience. Most importantly, it’s memorable (I remembered it more than a year later!) and every aspect of her business thoroughly demonstrates the joy she wants her customers to experience through her work. If you haven’t visited her site yet, you are in for a treat! Her work is gorgeous!

What other examples of great strategic visions can you think of? I have a few more examples in mind, but I’ll use them as I go through the next part of this series on Strategy. Stay tuned to learn how you can leverage values to maintain balance in your biz.

Want feedback on your strategic vision? Go ahead and send me a note, I’d be happy to review it!

 

The Busy Entrepreneur’s Guide to Learning Strategically

As an entrepreneur, you often spend a significant portion of your day learning by consuming content. For a lot of us, you learn as you go and you’re constantly seeking out new resources because your business and the state of your industry is always evolving.

Whether it’s a business blog, a podcast, a community you’re part of or a new course, you consume with the intention of applying your learnings to your business. But what happens with all that information? It’s impossible to apply every tidbit you learn to growing your business (…unless you’re a robot), and let’s be honest for a second here: We’ve all spent some time reading work-relevant blogs or magazines to put off an undesirable task on our to do list.

If your creative business is getting the way of achieving balance in your life, you need a learning strategy. Don’t worry, this is easy! It’s a mindset shift about content consumption that streamlines what you learn and helps you identify actionable ways to improve your business.

  1. Block off an hour a day for learning. This ensures you’re staying up to date on trends in your space but limits the time spent so it doesn’t spill over into work time. Put on a podcast, catch up on your blogs or do a module in an e-course you’re taking. It all counts.  You can even split this window up, but it’s important to schedule it into your day.
  2. Block off 15-30 minutes a day for doing. This is key. You’re not just making a list of something to do eventually – in order to benefit from what you’ve learned and limit information overload, you need to take one or two insights that you’ve picked up and apply it to your business that day.
  3. Revisit your goals. Before you implement your learnings, you want to make sure they support your business goals. Think of 3-5 goals you’re reaching for with your business. Take some of the ideas you want to implement and compare them to your goals. Do they support your goals? Will they help you get closer to achieving them? If you can’t find link, it may not be the best use of your time. Remember, if you want balance in your life, you need to be strategic about where you spend it in your business.
  4.  Do. Break it down into smaller tasks if you need to. The only way you’ll know if something works for your business is if you do it. Get into the habit of optimizing your business a little every day, so you don’t fall behind and have more work to do down the road.

Download the very same worksheet I use to action what I learn on a daily basis!

If you’re thinking that’s a lot of time to spend, I encourage you to give it a try for one week. I suspect one of two things will happen: 1) You’ll spend more time getting things done and less time scrolling through blogs and social media or 2) You’ll find yourself inspired by new ideas and see new potentials for growth in your biz.

 

I’d love to know what you think of this approach! Tell me in the comments below or send me a note!

A new start

Welcome to YasmineKashefi.com. This new adventure was born out of a conference I attended last year in Nashville, Tennessee, called Inspired: The Retreat.

Inspired 2016 -Photo Credit: Gina Zeidler / ginaziedler.com

I adore and am grateful for knowing Amber Housley, more than she will ever know. You see, just over two years ago, I launched Spruce+Willow, my boutique strategy consultancy here in Toronto, Ontario. Eager for a more creative endeavour, I went to Inspired with the intent to launch a stationery company, with luxe paper, tools and accessories targeted at chic urban professionals with a discerning eye. I left Inspired on a completely different path, one that has led me here. If I didn’t know Amber, if I never attended Inspired, I would not be here, pursuing my dream job.

Every creative business is full of heart, and they have an incredible passion for their product or service – a thing that is meant to touch the lives of their customers in a meaningful way. Their passion and their hustle has made them what they are – fearless entrepreneurs who work hard day in and day out. But they recognize that passion alone doesn’t always bring in customers, or create operational efficiencies, or help them manage their finances. Passion gives them many ideas, but it doesn’t clarify which idea is the best to pursue. Passion doesn’t solve problems.

I’m not knocking passion, far from it! You definitely need it for your business to survive. But sometimes you need a helping hand to guide you along the way. That’s where I come in!

Inspired 2016 -Photo Credit: Gina Zeidler / ginaziedler.com

I know most creative entrepreneurs would never dream of hiring a management consultant who can look at their business as a whole, identify what the obstacles actually are and develop a strategy that helps them achieve their goals. Simply put – those services are far too costly and the time intensive approach is not always necessary.

My dream is to make quality strategy services accessible to creative businesses through shorter, cost effective one-on-one sessions. I want to provide the tools and direction that empower creatives to build a business that has strength in four key pillars: strategy, operations, finance and marketing. These are the pillars that make up a Balanced Business.

I’m passionate about the notion of a Balanced Business, so much that I’ve distilled years of experience and education into developing a method for evaluating whether your business is balanced and the steps you can take to build one. As a creative entrepreneur, you’re often dealing with limited resources and time, which makes the business problems you face seem even bigger.

The one thing I stress to every single amazing person I work with is that business challenges are not one dimensional. They are influenced by various pillars and if you are not confident in your understanding of how your business is performing in all four, you cannot effectively solve your problems. You can only come up with a band-aid fix. I want to give you more than a quick solution that will eventually lose its stickiness and fall apart.

So I hope you’ll stick around and join me on this journey.

Inspired 2016 – Photo Credit: Gina Zeidler / ginaziedler.com

If you want to learn more about the Balanced Business Method, you can sign-up for my mailing list for weekly tips and strategic advice or join the Balanced in Business Facebook group for support and free trainings. Curious about what it would be like to work with me? Let’s chat! Book an intro call so we can get to know each other or drop me a note. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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