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A really simple way to reflect on your small business*

*works just as well for your job if you’re not self-employed!

Before the end of last year, I was lucky enough to co-host the Christmas special edition of #ContentClubUK over on Twitter with the lovely Laura Parker. And as the last chat of the year, we decided to take the opportunity to reflect back on the last twelve months in our businesses.

Being a Christmas party, any serious thinking had to be disguised as a game (yes, we remember the special maths quizzes our teachers would magic up for the last day of term). So, a game of Would You Rather was in order.

It’s actually a really simple way to review how your business works for you

OK, it might not be a professional SWOT analysis or a detailed look at your finances, but it can help to really dig into how you feel about the way you spend your days.

It turned out that some people weren’t as familiar with the concept of Would You Rather as I’d assumed. The idea is to pick between two (often bad) options. We had a lot of “I’d go for a mix of both” as replies and, of course, in real life you’d be able to choose a bit of both.

But I love the either/or format for small business because it forces you to reflect on your priorities and perhaps helps you see where you could make small tweaks to your business here and there so that it works better for your lifestyle and for you as an individual.

A quick caveat before we go any further. Yes, #ContentClubUK is for anyone who works in content, whatever they do, and whether they’re employed, self-employed or somewhere in between. Over 300 people got involved during the chat (thank you ALL!). However, the majority of those who take part are copywriters, and the majority work for themselves. Keep that in mind when you look at what we found out…

Having said that, I think this approach can be helpful whatever work you do, and that’s why I’ve kept it quite generic for each of the themes below at first (and then followed on with some Content Club specifics).

Theme one: Ask yourself what motivates you the most?

Beyond the basics of supporting ourselves, we’re all really different when it comes to motivation. For some, it’s the love of what they do. For others, it’s money or status. For others still, it’s lifestyle and flexibility. Our question format called for a choice between just two of these for Content Club, so we went with…

Would you rather work on a boring, tricky project for twice your normal pay or work with your dream client for half your normal pay?

And on the whole it seems we have a pretty healthy balance between being motivated by money and a love of our work.

We all need to eat, so it’s only natural that when it REALLY comes down to it, we’re going to choose money if there’s not a lot of that around for us at the moment.

But if you’re lucky and have enough money to cover the basics, what happens to your motivation next? Are you still chasing the money? Or are you more interested in job satisfaction?

So it turns out we’re very evenly balanced on this one. But my little heart is warmed by the fact that the second option comes out (just) on top.

Theme two: Decide what kind of clients you prefer.

Do you prefer novelty and variety, or reliability and familiarity? How about working for small creative businesses vs large corporates? UK-based or overseas? Charitable and not-for-profit, or commercial? The choices are endless, but for our freelance content buddies we opted for:

Would you rather work with a handful of ongoing/long-term contracts or lots of different one-off projects?

And it turns out we really value stability (shock!).

No huge surprise there, I guess, given the majority of those who took part work freelance. The flexibility of the lifestyle is brilliant, but being able to rely on a steady income from a few long term clients definitely has its attractions.

I’m with the minority here, though. I absolutely love getting to know new clients and seeing where we can make a big impact. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t work with clients long-term (I do!), but variety keeps me going.

Theme three: Think about all those ways we wish we didn’t have to spend our days… is it time to think about outsourcing the misery?

How do you spend your days? Does that feel right to you? Is there anything you want to (or need to) delegate or outsource? And if there are things you don’t like doing but you can’t outsource them all, which of them is the most happiness-draining or time-consuming? We picked out two themes that seem to come up lots in the freelance chats we hang out in…

Would you rather spend your time chasing unpaid invoices or chasing new business?

We may moan a lot on social media and elsewhere about chasing new work, but it seems we’d rather do that than chase unpaid invoices.

It’s interesting how pitting these two much-complained-about aspects of business against each other really puts things into perspective. Also interesting that the majority went so much for chasing new work when, as André points out, the time and effort that goes into chasing payment is often far less!

Theme four: Think about whether you’re working in a subject-area you actually enjoy?

What sort of work really makes you lose track of time? What projects do you feel properly proud of when they’re done? We all have to pay the bills, but given the choice, are you focusing on finding work that makes you happy? We asked our content friends:

Would you rather work ONLY on…

We have a soft spot for B2C content – who knew?!

I was shocked. I know that at the end of the day, B2B is writing for people too (so don’t start with the whole “they’re the same thing” argument), but I honestly thought B2B would be more popular. Maybe it’s just that I hang out with a lot of B2B bods online. But maybe not. After all, the 2019 ProCopywriters Survey asked whether respondents specialised in anything. 64% picked B2B, and only 41% picked B2C. Curious.

Theme five: Take a closer look at your work environment

Are you happy with where you work? And who you work alongside? Would you prefer to be around people more? Or less? And should those people be clients? Totally unrelated to your own business? Co-workers? We stuck to the basics on this one.

Would you rather spend your every working day…

In a total shock discovery(!), the results revealed we’re a solitary bunch.

OK, no great surprise here. But still worth noting, especially as these are a load of people who are active online. Maybe those who prefer working alongside other people spend less time on Twitter. There’s some research to be had there…

So, to sum up…

If you want a really easy way to look at how your business works for YOU, ask yourself some tricky either/or questions. Personally, themes like type of work, type of client, where you work and what you prioritise have worked well for me. It’s less about making massive changes, and more about understanding your business and yourself that little bit better, so you can lean towards choices that bring in more of the good stuff.

And with that, I feel like I’ve done more than enough new year reflection for my liking. So I’ll let you get back to your daily life and all the big important decisions of your day.

Now, would you rather drink a cup of coffee or a mug of tea…

Like this? Last time I hosted #ContentClubUK we focused on all things pricing and working out what to charge. Catch up on that chat here.

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