I spend a lot of time helping people tackle their admin, and I completely understand that it’s not the most exciting part of a creative day. In fact, most people hate it with a passion (although I do like the part where I get to go to Officeworks for more coloured folders). When the allure of creative work is calling, it can be extremely difficult to attend to the small and annoying admin tasks necessary to running a business. However, without the admin there can be no business, and without business there is no money, and for me that makes admin truly vital.
Admin includes managing communications, monitoring financial records, scheduling, handling documentation, client management and basic marketing tasks. With that in mind, here are my six top tips for dealing with the admin of a creative business.
Tip 1: Make time for admin.
Since admin is probably never going to be on the top of your fun things to do list, the only secret is to make the time to do it – just like the gym. Don’t think about it, don’t ask yourself whether or not you want to, just set aside the time and do it. A regular time is best – I recommend first thing Monday morning as a kind of warm-up, but during the day can be just fine. Weirdly, repetitive “left-brain” tasks like paperwork can help you shift gears and give your creative “right-brain” a well-deserved rest. It doesn’t matter when you do it; it’s the regularity and repetition of the time that makes it effective.
Tip 2: Bookkeeping needs it’s own Special Day
According to the ATO, poor record keeping is one of the main reasons that small businesses fail. I’d guess that around 95% of my clients have poorly kept books when they first come to see me (and we get to fixing it straight away!). Maintaining good financial records not only makes reporting to the ATO easier, it also helps you make better decisions about the financial state of your business, and ultimately saves time and money. All that said, I recommend Money Day to my clients. Money Day is exactly what is says on the tin – a whole day, once a month, devoted to financial bookkeeping. If you concentrate on the books even just once a month, you’ll get into good habits, and after a while you’ll be happy to learn it doesn’t have take a whole day. And the most important thing about Money Day at our office? The champagne we drink when it’s all over!
Extra Tip: A video about Record Keeping from the ATO
Tip 3: Handling the Comms
Sometimes we can feel as though we’re drowning in correspondence – email inboxes that never empty, unanswered phone calls and texts that keep on blinging. The never-ending nature of comms can be demoralising, a bit like housework, but similarly if it’s not attended to it can quickly grow from discouraging to overwhelming. Once again, the secret is time management. Make time to regularly answer emails, return calls, and answer texts. I limit myself the three times per day (9am, lunch and 4pm). The most important thing about comms is speedy attendance. A fast reaction is vital and helps you build a better, more trustworthy and responsive business with happier clients.
Extra Tip: Learn more about The Bucket Method
Tip 4: Clients are your Friends
It’s always so fun to bitch about a client, but in reality clients help us achieve what we want for our creative businesses, and ultimately our lives. Making clients happy is crucial, and building that happiness into your admin is a great place to start. Having said that, clients are of course all individuals, and trying to make everyone happy is difficult. An easy way to manage the admin side of clients is to put a process in order – a checklist of activities that you follow for every client. Steps could include a series of questions:
- Have I helped the client make decisions?
- Do I know what their expectations are? Do they?
- Have I checked that they’re happy?
- Have I asked for feedback?
Also, think of ways to educate your clients during the process of hiring and/or working with you. Is there an online form they can fill out to give you more direction on the brief? A free downloadable guide to working with you? An explainer video? The more you can do to manage the client relationship, the easier this aspect of your admin will become.
Extra Tip: Client Management tips for Creatives
Tip 5: Be App Happy
There are literally dozens of ways the web and apps can help you with your admin. Documentation getting your down? Give Dropbox a go. Having trouble managing your time? Try Toggl. Need an easy, interactive to-do list? Try Workflowy. Finding it hard to juggle meeting times? Check out Schedule Once. Hating the books? Try Wave. Ideas keep falling out of your memory? Evernote could be the key. All of the mentioned apps are inexpensive or free, and there are plenty more. Of course, finding the best apps, learning how to use them, and transferring manual systems into the cloud can be time-consuming. However, the time it takes to find the best system for you could end up making your admin less painful in the long run.
Extra Tip: Thirty Essential Tools for Freelancers.
Tip 6: Get some help.
Not everyone is designed to be good at admin, and one of the most important lessons in any business is learning when to ask for help. It can be scary to invite someone else in to your way of doing things, but an admin assistant is an asset beyond measure once they know how to help you. If you can afford it, employ a helper – and if you can’t, train an intern or get a virtual assistant to help you. You’ll wonder how you ever managed without them!
Extra Tip: Check out The Happening Admin!
There is a piece of good news in here – you’re creative. That means you’ll be able to think of imaginative ways to solve your own admin issues. My top tip of all is not to ignore your admin. Let is slide and it could end up engulfing your business, and your creativity. Proactively climb on top of it and watch in amazement as your creativity unclogs and your business grows!
All the best,