Talk with any entrepreneurs—from the would-be Mark Zuckerbergs to the owner of your local florist or toy store—and I can guarantee you one thing: They’re busy. Really busy.
One reason is that we all know so much about what it takes to build a successful business. It’s out there for all to learn on the Web—in articles, e-books, webcasts, seminars, live-streamed events—you name it.
But in growing my own freelance writing business, and now co-founding a startup called the $200KFreelancer, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s better not to act on all of that wisdom. Trying to do too much at once can drain your creative mojo and keep you from excelling in any one area.
Doing Too Much
When my business partner, Elizabeth MacBride, and I first started talking about building traffic though social media, for instance, we immediately opened a Twitter account, set up a blog on Tumblr, and began posting links to sites like StumbleUpon.
Each time we did one of these things, we realized we’d only scratched the surface. What about creating a Facebook page? Should we start a LinkedIn group? Who was going to learn Google+? It started to get overwhelming.
Budgeting Our Time
It was around that time that we decided to make a firm commitment to invest three hours a week for tasks that truly moved the company forward; everything else would have to wait. We’re both bootstrapping the business while earning our livings as freelancers.
Three hours a week may seem like a small amount of time if you’re used to hearing about folks in startups living in cubicles 24/7, but when you’ve got two business partners who are both extremely focused and disciplined about sticking to their to-do list, significant steps toward building the business can be achieved in 52 weeks.
A Little Achievements Adds Up
Here are the things we've accomplished since January. By taking the aforementioned approach, we were able to get a lot done with very little stress.
- Launched a simple website so we could start gathering data on the size of our market and what our readers like to read
- Set ourselves up with Google analytics
- Established a rhythm of publishing content four days a week and branched out from traditional blogging to also provide reported content from top experts
- Began to build a steady audience—from more than 100 countries—including many recurring visitors
Saying no to some great ideas right—like opening a Facebook page and creating a LinkedIn profile—has enabled us to devote more time to others. At the top of our list: Monetizing the site. We’re working on our first salable product now. And once we’ve launched that, we’ll move onto the next thing. That approach may not be the one that a venture capitalist, eager for a quick cash-out, would prescribe. But it’s been working out really well for us so far.
Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist and editorial consultant who specializes in small business, entrepreneurship and careers. A former editor at Fortune Small Business magazine, she has written recently for Fortune, Money, Crain’s New York Business, Working Mother and many other publications.