Robin Singletary launched her business at a vending event in 2013 before taking the full entrepreneurial leap in 2017. Since then, her company, Bird's Eye View Branding Studio, has serviced over 200 clients and programs including, numerous churches, a Baltimore City Mayoral Initiative, and an NBA championship event.
Serving a variety of fields while being a wife and board member for two non-profits, Robin understands the value of her time and schedule. Her seven years as a business owner have produced 10 tried and true strategies for managing time and saving headaches.
Set parameters before committing to anything
"I struggled with saying yes to everything. I wanted to help, so when people came to me, without looking at my other clients or schedule, I would say yes.
I now say, 'Let's have an initial conversation to see if it's a good fit.' I send an email and have a questionnaire for people to fill out. You'll weed out a lot of people when you present how you run your business. Based on the conversation, you'll know if they read your process, you'll have time to consider other project timelines and you can make an informed decision."
Monitor your accessibility
"Set boundaries with your life. When working for yourself, you can't just switch up your schedule because someone is demanding you. You might have to say no to picking someone up from the doctor's office just because 'you're at home.' If you're working, you're working.
Turning on 'Do not Disturb' has worked wonders. I set my iPhone so that if a person calls more than once in case of emergency, only that will come through."
Plan your calls
“Too often I’d be engrossed in a project and someone would call about a completely different project for another industry. I don’t want to switch gears in the middle of working, so I set up a system. I created a booking portal for people to select times to review their project. It can be tough for people who see something and immediately want to call you to talk about it, but scheduling helps me ensure that I’ll be prepared and have the time to talk.
A booking portal also saves on back and forth emails to confirm a time, so I use a feature through Wix on my website for people to set up initial consultations, brainstorming sessions, and follow-up calls.”
Schedule your full calendar the week before
"Every Friday I prepare my schedule for the next week. I set an alarm that says 'prepare week schedule' at 2 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. (in case I get busy). I stop everything, look at my to-do list and project management tool, and schedule the week ahead. I use this hour to schedule my personal and business plans factoring in project revisions, cooking, and time with family."
I leave cushion in my schedule. Even though an initial call is 15 minutes, I may need time to prepare for it or send a proposal after, so I set aside two hours. I know I need breaks throughout the day. You have to be realistic with yourself. Everyone doesn't have to be hustling all the time; understand how you work and make adjustments. If you know you need your lunch break to be an hour-and-a-half, that's fine; just know your workday is now condensed to five hours, so consider how much you get done in that time."
Learn when and how to seek help
“We take on a lot. We think we have all the time in a day when we really don’t. A struggle for me was trusting people to help and knowing the areas I needed help in. I like to carry three to four clients at a time, but if I want to grow, I know I need a team. That involves finding good people and learning what areas I want to step back from. I learned that interns can’t do everything, and it’s helpful to have a team to outsource work I’m unable to take on.”
Regularly set administrative time
"It doesn't have to be weekly, but you should have an administrative day to work on business tasks. This could include calculating taxes, recording your mileage, checking on contracts, setting up your social media or making payments. Whether you do this bi-weekly or monthly, we definitely have to set aside time for these tedious tasks, so we aren't stuck completing them at the end of the year."
Establish priorities for the day
"If you have several different projects you're working on at the same time, understand what takes priority. Depending on how you work, some people like to do the hardest things first to get them out of the way. These could be the most draining or time-consuming projects. Others may want to work on the larger projects in between the small projects. Prioritizing projects is key."
Expect to adjust as you navigate life's transitions
"Outside of business, we have other priorities. This could be family, church, caretaking, vacationing, or major life moves. For some people, their business is a priority, and that's fine too. Adjust your schedule and what you want to do based on your priorities. I know August is a slow month for marketing, so I can take on additional family activities during that time. When you know what's important to you, you can make decisions and feel good because you planned for them."
Communicate your needs
"When I stopped committing to everything, I started communicating. If I look at the week ahead and I don't see any space, I either don't take a client on, or I give them a realistic turn-around time. I'm honest about when I can start their project. If this doesn't work for a client, it's okay. I don't push people. I want to work with people who are ready, and people for whom I'm ready.
I'm also transparent with regular clients. I keep them informed of when I need to push back a deadline or step away for a day. Because these are ideal clients, they are appreciative of the communication and understanding."
Incorporate systems and apps to streamline basic needs
Whether you get audited or not, as a business owner you really need a record of your expenses and mileage. In the beginning, I had to find what I could do for free. I used Expensify to track spending by taking pictures of receipts. I progressed into Quickbooks for invoices, expenses, and taxes; I pay $25 per month for that. Quickbooks Self-Employed is a little cheaper. Another free app for tracking mileage is MilelQ, but they only track 40 rides per month unless you get the paid service.
There's a lot of apps to organize your life. One app I use for my clients' social media is APPHI. They have a free and paid version, and you can set up posts for the next three months to post automatically. Planoly is another free one. For project management, I use Asana. You can do a lot with the free version. It's very user-friendly, and you can add your clients or team, assign tasks, and converse about each task."
Robin is a Mogul Millennial who moves with purpose, thinks outside the box, and is willing to take risks in every aspect of life. She's full of entrepreneurial gems and is happy to connect via Facebook and Instagram.