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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Avoiding writer’s block…

Blocked door in a wallHave you had that sinking feeling of not being able to write when you need to?  Time seems to tick by so slowly… but yet the deadline approaches so quickly.

A few weeks ago I gave some ideas on overcoming writer’s block but the ideal is obviously to avoid it rather than deal with it. The following steps can be taken whenever you have the chance to reduce the odds of reaching that situation again. I won’t say you will never face writer’s block again because sometimes it is just too hard to get motivated despite any preparation, but you can reduce the frequency of it!

Here are my ideas for avoiding writer’s block, but I’d love to hear your ideas as well in the comments below…

  1. keep a list of writing ideas so when you have time to write (for a blog, newsletter, articles, etc) you don’t have to waste time thinking of topics as well
  2. if you know you need to write a report, jot down notes as you think of them. For example, every time I write major news items for a particular client, I copy it into a document that will form the basis of their annual report in July. Having those topics already in place makes the annual report much easier to deal with.
  3. set specific times for writing so you know there is a deadline and you don’t have time to sit and worry. Make a separate specific time for editing and rewriting so your writing time is exactly that – writing time.
  4. try making a regular time to write. If you don’t consistently have things you need to write you could still use this time – rewrite web content, write parts of reports you know are coming up, write some standard email/letter responses for customers and so on. Being in the habit of writing at a certain time will make it easier to write when you have to.
  5. know your limitations, and do something about them before crunch time. That could be learning some writing skills (such as reading through my blog once a week), starting bigger projects ahead of time if you can’t write for hours at a time, or researching a writer/editor to help you.
  6. look after yourself leading up to your writing project – get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water, grab some fresh air and exercise, and so on. Being run down and uncomfortable within yourself won’t help you write efficiently or effectively

What else have you done to avoid being unable to write when it’s important?

Natural disasters

With floods in Victoria, NSW and especially in Queensland, fires in WA and cyclones in Queensland, we are experiencing natural disasters across Australia.

Aside from any emotional reactions and personal needs, this is clearly a time to prepare our businesses for the worst. For those in affected and threatened areas, you may not have the time or energy to do much now but I believe the rest of us should take this time to protect our businesses so we can stay strong to help those who are loosing so much.

To help you prepare, here are some previous blog posts where I have written about contingency plans and actions:

Risk acknowledgement

Chain reactions…

Prepared for a chain reaction?

Protecting the essential

Crucial planning ahead for problems

What’s essential?

Website hosting security

Prepared for a chain reaction?

Yesterday I wrote about chain reactions affecting our businesses and lives. Contingency plans help us prepare for negative situations, but a chain reaction may actually be a positive thing.

For example, you may make a single sale where you gave the client great service. That client belongs to a business group so she tells them about your service and you get 3 more sales. Those 3 people post about you on Facebook and you another 5 sales.Those 5 people blog about you which leads to another 8 sales, and those 8 tweet the  original blog post and you get 30 new sales.

Word of mouth marketing and viral marketing have always been good for businesses, and can lead to more sales. With the growth of social media, the chain reaction for a business can be big very fast.

My question is, are you prepared for the chain reaction in your business? If an extra 30 sales came in this week, could you deal with them all? If your marketing campaign goes viral, can your website cope with double, triple or quadruple the traffic? If you suddenly find your blog is popular and getting 50 comments a day, could you keep up with approving and answering them?

Being prepared for a chain reaction, could include the following…

  • have procedures in place so steps are followed even if things are busy and if you get new staff (including temps and VAs) to help you
  • know how to upgrade your website hosting quickly
  • automate whatever you can so you have more time available for the tasks you are truly needed for
  • space out marketing campaigns so there is a steady stream of results instead of ‘all or nothing’
  • when planning a marketing campaign, bring in extra staff, outsource more tasks and keep the following week (or whatever is appropriate) free for dealing with the response
  • monitor online mentions of your business so you can have at least some warning of a possible influx of work
  • if filling your diary from the new sales, remember to block out necessary background tasks (invoicing, packaging, meetings, gathering information, etc)

How have you prepared for a chain reaction resulting in a lot more work for you?

Making your business independant

Following on from my posts about identifying and protecting the essential elements of your business, another way to prepare for the unexpected is to reduce how much your business relies on you.

Here are some ways to reduce that reliance:

  • train someone else to do some of the tasks, even if they don’t do it every time some knowledge will help if the key person can’t do it
  • have some written procedures so someone else can ge the job done – it may be slower but it would be done. This also helps if you want to sell the business or hire a new person for the task.
  • have critical knowledge stored somewhere other than in your head – have a document with passwords & contact details where it can be accessed by limited people. For some of my clients, I prepare a document register so they can track versions – I usually add comments about who designed thdocument so the client can quickly arrange a change if I wasn’t available. It also saves me remembering the information myself so it’s a good plan anyway
  • identify back up people for critical tasks/roles
  • ensure any staff understand the entire business and functions of other staff, and preferably be able to do a couple of other people’s tasks if necessary
  • have a shared calendar for your team – if someone is then sick for example, any appointments and deadlines can be managed
  • be flexible as much as possible – a team member who can’t come to the office for a few weeks may still be able to do some tasks at home or online, or work part time or unusual hours
  • build relationships with professionals who can replace key skills – for example, I have relationships with other writters so in an emeregency my clients’ work could still be written even if I was unable to write myself

As part of your contingency preparations, there are a few related tings yo can do:

  • test how reliant your business is on specific people – find out how long the businesscan manage without someone, how skilled others are at filling in for the key person, how many people can be missing from your team before it is critical, and so on
  • plan some altered work practicesfor certain levels of staffing – for example, if a key person is sick for one or two days, everything continues but if they’re away for a week reduce client hours or produced items by 10% and if they’re away for a month, reduce by 50%. This would be particularly relevant during a prolonged event such as a pandemic or natural disaster if you have a team
  • establish policies about how much leave staff are entitled to and how they are paid for such leave, including any leave without pay or make up hour arrangements
  • have as much information and work available on a computer as possible so that remote access is an option and back ups are also easier

Preparing for 30 June…

It is now June and the end of financial year is rapidly approaching – are you ready for it?

Here are some of the things I am considering at the moment to maximise my position at 30 June. Is there anything else you do at this time of year?

  • send out all pending invoices and statements as soon as possible – not only does it increase your cash flow this month, many other businesses will appreciate being able to pay (and claim a tax deduction) this financial year
  • pay off all outstanding invoices if possible – you may as well claim deductions now rather than in 13 months time! And the new tax rates may mean deductions this year will help your tax position anyway
  • consider making a contribution to your super fund – this is tax deductible for the self-employed now
  • if you or your business supports a charity and you haven’t made a donation yet, now is a good time to do so as it can then count as a tax deduction this financial year – I wonder how much their donations go up in June each year!
  • if you are eligible for a Government Co-contribution, your personal contributions of up to $1,000 must be made to your super fund by 30 June  – and changes from the budget or an increased income next year may mean you aren’t eligible next year so get in while you can!
  • consider making business purchases that will be needed soon. Not only can you claim it as a tax deduction, it may save you stress when you do actually need the item – printers notoriously run out of ink the day your proposal is due!
  • get your accounts sorted and in order – the more organised they are, the quicker you (or your accountant/tax agent) can get the return completed and submitted
  • collate related information, such as a travel log or noting the distances travelled, home office bills, private health insurance policy details, bank statements and PAYG statements
  • if you run a service business, check the proportion of income from each client as tax rules can change if more than 80% of your income is from one source. There’s not a lot of time to adjust that, but if you’re on 81 or 82% a few quick projects may make a difference
  • consider taking out health insurance if you are a higher income earner ($50,000 for a single or $100,00 for a couple/family) – the higher income brackets come into effect from 1 July 2008
  • check if there are any expenses you can (and will benefit from) pay now rather than later in the year – for example, insurance premiums and interest on investment loans can be paid in advance to be claimed as a tax deduction now, and are sometimes cheaper paid as a lump sum. Obviously, this affects cash flow and other factors so is not always the best plan, but it never hurts to research your options!

By preparing now, you may decrease your tax liability and be ready to start the new financial year with a clean slate.

Christmas already!

Can you believe I just received an email about Christmas? And it’s only mid March!

Ok, it was a request to fill in a survey about Christmas in your business  – a survey where the answers will be used to provide information to magazine readers preparing for Christmas. So it is reasonable to mention Christmas this early, but it still shocked me!

But it does raise the question – how soon do you plan for major events in your business? Not just Christmas, but Easter, change of seasons, new financial year, awareness weeks and so on that are relevant to your business in some way.