By Jen Smith Run your business 5 essential tips to keep your business running smoothly 7 Apr 2016 Can I make a confession? I am probably one of the least organised entrepreneurs out there. It feels so good to get that off my chest. Now, why is someone who’s inclined to work with piles of paper surrounding her plus a desktop of screenshots waiting to be trashed giving tips on monthly business tasks to help you keep everything running smoothly? Because I have learnt, through three years of practice, that there are some things that you can’t avoid organising and that if you leave, will jam up your business like nothing else. Not fun I can tell you. Also, because I don’t mind working in clutter, you can be sure that the five monthly business tasks I’m sharing with you today are essential. You’re a busy business owner with no time for ‘nice to have’ tips and I respect that. So without further ado, let’s dive in: 1. Get that inbox cleaned out One-two hours Go on admit it, you’re inbox frequently fills up with non-essential mail and starred items you can’t remember why you starred? Yep, mine too. It’s time for a monthly clear out. All it takes is discipline and a bit of time. Go through your inbox and unsubscribe from and delete any junk mail file all client email into folders reply to anyone outstanding, then file into folders if necessary only allow pending emails to remain in your inbox Be aware of email time suck whilst attempting to reach inbox zero. It’s like when you clean out the loft and get stuck in your mementos box, cooing over old photos and reminiscing. Before you know it three hours have passed and you’re no more organised than you were before you started. In fact, it’s worse. Don’t let your inbox trap you with the same temptation. Set a timer if you know this will be an issue for you. 2. Do your bookkeeping Two-three hours I have an accountant that I meet with quarterly and who prepares and files my tax return for me, but I still have some monthly bookkeeping tasks to handle so that I can hand over my books knowing everything is there, and in reasonable order. For me, this includes: organising the mountain of receipts and expenses into chronological order logging each expenditure on a spreadsheet (or in my online accounting software printing and filing copies of all paid invoice noting invoice references against payments on bank statements filling in income and expenditure log 3. Chase and pay your invoices One hour Cash flow is one of the most important things to take care of in your business. Yes, sometime you’re at the mercy of your clients actually paying you on time, but often you don’t help yourself by invoicing late or forgetting to follow up. Do yourself a favour and get those invoices out, chase outstanding payments and be a good business citizen and pay your suppliers whilst you’re at it. (I believe in business karma. Paying others on time helps you get paid on time). Here’s a handy checklist for this task: raise new invoices and send via email chase any outstanding invoices with a polite but firm email or phone call pay outstanding suppliers 4. Gather testimonials and ask for referrals 30 minutes A lot of my business comes from kind things other people say about me, and direct referrals from past clients. It’s one of the nicest ways to get new clients and doesn’t take much time to nurture either. First up, you want to reach out to anyone who you’ve worked with this month or who’s project has come to a close and ask them for a testimonial. These should be uploaded to your website as soon as you receive them (or there’s a danger they’ll be left to linger in your inbox for all eternity). Whilst you’re at it, ask them if they know anyone who’d benefit from working with you in a similar capacity they would happily recommend you to. And, if appropriate (i.e they are also a business and you trust in them and their services), ask what kinds of clients they’re looking for right now and see if you can refer business their way too. 5. Plan next month’s marketing and editorial calendar One-two hours The last task on the list is to plan the following month’s marketing campaigns and editorial calendar for my blog, email newsletter and social media. I won’t create any of the content or undertake any specific tasks, but it ensures that week by week I’m not twiddling my thumbs trying to think about what content to create and share online. You could plan social media posts, blog topics, email newsletter subject lines, advertising campaigns, and target PR publications. I suggest you carve out a day a month for the above tasks. I do it on a Friday where possible so I can celebrate completing them with my preferred alcoholic tipple and two days off. Over to you in the comments – what are your essential monthly business tasks? Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.