Yep, I'm going to focus for just a bit on the corporate world, and how the lessons/studies/tracking there can help keep you in the drivers seat in your home office, studio or whatever space you've carved out for yourself in the world.
I can hear many of you now, "Hold on there Mel - I left the corporate world and I don't want to go back." That's OK - I don't want to send you back. Really.
What I want to talk about are some things that are often missing from the Home Office and Home Studio. Think back, why did you start working from home? You, or someone you may know, was sold on the dream of working from home in your pajamas. Why? Not exactly sure - because there's much more to it than that. The issue for many is that they don't really think of their singing, voiceovers or music playing as a business. You want to enjoy what you're doing and just have the money roll in. Maybe you heard the old saying, "Do what you love and the money will follow"...
Well - you're doing what you love, so...
Why is this falling further into the hobby category?
Where's the money?
One word sums it up - Accountability.
To be accountable simple means; "to be responsible for an action".
Another word that ties in is Discipline, but not the meaning we tend to think of. Discipline can mean punishment, but here we're talking about an "activity, exercise, or regimen that develops or improves a skill."
When you look at those interpretations of Accountability and Discipline, and combine them into; "To be responsible for an action or regimen that develops or improves a skill" it shifts away from the negative - into a positive way to build knowledge and rewarding behavior.
Accountability and Discipline are two terms few may still want to look at. But it may the difference between the hobby and a business. A Hobby is somewhat self rewarding. You sit down, you do something for a short while and work toward completion of a project. Once it's done, you pat yourself on the back, tell a few friends over a glass of beer, wine or dinner and think of it as time well spent. Maybe you even made a buck.
For a business, however, it's not exactly the same. Though those routine goals can still be very rewarding - there needs to be a bigger picture. Think of it as time spent, and time well spent. When you had money as a kid - there were two options. 1 - Save money for that new bike or, 2 - Spend it on candy and comic books. Of course, there's also option 3 - Save 50% toward the bike and spend 50% toward candy and comic books. When you have enough money - you go buy the bike. Accountability and Discipline helped you reach that goal, but it's not really as simple as that though - is it?
Part of why it's so difficult is that people get hung up on how to keep track of things and what to keep track of. Can you wait three years to buy the bike, or do you want it in six months? How will that bike help you? Will it cost more than it gains in the long run? Maybe you decided to follow metrics to see how you're doing, but that's not right either. To paraphrase, "Using metrics is like driving a car by looking at where you're been to direct where it is you're going."
So where did I get this quote - from FranklinCovey's Four Disciplines of Execution. Years of research on Accountability and Discipline went behind this program. There are some eye opening statements in the videos located on the Franklin Covey website about the topic. One of them is by looking strictly at 'metrics', or something that you may prefer to call Performance Measurement. Now those metrics can be valuable, but - just because 500 people visited your site, or listened to your demo - doesn't mean you'll get hired unless you are sure that the people listening are the right people. And what about follow up? If you aren't practicing Accountability and Discipline - are you even following up? Are you waiting too long to follow up or, even worse, are you following up too frequently?
As you watch those videos, take some notes that pertain to you. Then take that list and look at the basic areas of your growing hobby, home business or studio you are operating. Ask yourself not only what 's most important, but why:
- Goals - What are you working toward?
- Budgets - Not just expenses, but what will you do with profits?
- Motivation - What motivates you? Money? Seeing the impact your work?
- Rewards - Are you rewarding yourself?
- Education - If you aren't learning, something isn't right!
- Improvement - How can you do what you're doing better?
- Evaluation - How do you know you're being effective?
One very simple way that you may be able to get all of this done is with software built for for Customer Relationship Management aka CRM. Many of these above challenges are built right into the software. The great thing is - many CRM solutions are FREE! Now, of course, some of those free versions can be a bit limiting, so look them over and see what you believe your needs are. From ZoHo to Insightly, Really Simple Systems, Karma and more (Small Biz CRM has a good list) you can use many without any cost, or apply add ons for a small fee.
One great way is with applications that plug into Google Apps. I have worked with several clients who own a domain and use the clunky email interface from their webhost. But - if you sign up for a Free Google Apps account, instead of a paid business account, you can have easy access to email for a few users for free. Google even walks you through the whole process. The bonus - your CRM application may integrate right into your Google Apps account - and it's all in one easy to remember, easy to access, spot. Other systems plug right in too - so you can have an easy way to build newsletters, send out emails to new prospects and more. One thing to remember, don't go crazy - look over the options, find one of two that might work for you, and test them. Do a trial run with a few - see how you like it. Personal preference is key - so make sure you find the one that works best for you. Don't put valuable information into them until you find one you like.
Now, admittedly - I made a comment above about working in your PJ's. The reality is - I researched and wrote this article in mine - but my mentality is never about being in my PJ's - I just jumped on the computer with my notes for this article early in the morning and never left until it was finished (except to grab a cup of coffee when it finished brewing). The good thing is, I can wear my PJ's and remain motivated. It's all simply because I keep track of what's going on, hold myself accountable, practice discipline and get the job done. It's really it's own reward - the benefit is that I hear back from others that what I teach them is working for them as well. Armed with some tools, and a dash of inspiration, it may work for you too! If nothing else, you'll know more about being accountable, and about being disciplined. The corporate mentality doesn't need to enter my home or yours, but learning how to operate more efficiently and 'work smarter not harder' is welcome anytime as far as I'm concerned.
For those who are struggling, you can hire us at Your Audio Pro on as your own personal coach. We'll help start you down this path, build some goals and hold you accountable while you set things into place. It might surprise you how a simple goal can quickly grow your hobby into an income generating business.
All the best, from Mel and the rest of the Your Audio Pro team.