Welcome to 2020! This week we’re going to tackle the first task of our 2020 Business Kickstart Challenge: Setting our goals and marking up those calendars.  The best part of this challenge is that it doesn’t matter which planner you’re using, just choose what works best for you.  And we’re giving you a free digital download to help you get started!  Keep reading for your freebie!

This year, in addition to my annual calendar, I’m using a super basic Cambridge planner for my day to day tasks. I’ve found that I like a place for notes on each week, plus a small weekly outlook.  This planner allows me to outline my 3 main tasks for each of my brands each week, then break those down into what needs done each day, as well as gives me a good forecast on all my film shoots, deadlines, appointments, and meetings.

Not an affiliate link – I just like this planner.  I’m not one for a bunch of extras like journaling or stickers.

Set Your Goals

2019 business goalsBefore we can set our tasks, we need to know what we’re trying to accomplish.  Choose a few goals for your business that you hope to achieve for the year.  It’s okay if your general goal is vague, as long as you can clarify this goal through definitive tasks.  I have two separate brands, each in a different stage of development.

My goal for each brand is basically the same: focus and reach. I’ll need to set very different tasks to reach these goals though.

Our corporate brand is still a baby, and to be honest, we’re doing to DEFINE more than refine.  We started the 304 Collective in 2018 with a vague idea of what we wanted to do with this brand. We knew we needed to separate our commercial videos from our wedding brand, and other things (like education, or use of space) that our couples would not be interested in seeing.

Near the end of 2018, we booked a brainstorming session with Courtney from Homeroom to figure out what should go where as far as our brands should go. That session was super helpful, and we walked away with a to-do list about a mile long.  In 2019, the goals were a new website (DONE), active social media channels (DONE) and expanding our personal network (DONE).

We also (rather unexpectedly) added a whole new thing: our huge new studio!  The remodel was intensive, and this space has given us a ton of new possibilities as to what can be done with that space, and our brand.

So many things are still currently a POSSIBILITY.  We opened the doors on our studio space at the end of September, and 3 months is not nearly enough time to evaluate all of those possibilities.  So our one and only goal for 2020 is to focus on the things that work and refine our offerings to be in line with them.

This means that EVERYTHING that takes place in our new studio is up for evaluation and discussion: co-working, studio shares, short term rentals, the darkroom, and education.  2020 will be a trial by fire for all of those things.  Those which are successful will stay.  Those which are not, will end.

It also means that I need to give each of them 100%, because I don’t want anything to fail simply because I didn’t promote it well enough.  It means a lot of hard work this year.  More on how I’m going to manage that in a bit.

Our wedding brand is really well defined.  I’m really happy with the direction we took it last year, and we’re just going to keep forging ahead. (I do have an exciting new theme for 2020 to focus our branding on though!)

Start Your Calendar

We’re giving you a freebie to start this one off!  Download the free annual planning calendar that I use alongside my weekly planner to plan my entire year!

Once you have your goals and the tasks which will accomplish them set, you need to plan them out.  Specifically, you need to plan time each week (or day, or month) when you will accomplish those tasks, and write them in.  For the entire year.

I know that every Monday, I’m going to be scheduling out that social media, just as I’ve done for the past 3 years.

While you’re working on your vision for the year, if you have ideas or themes you’d like to use in your marketing, go ahead and write those down now too!  All year long, any time you have a good idea, just pull out your planner and write it in the space where you’ll have time to focus on it.

That monthly marketing meeting you really want to attend but can never seem to make it to?  Put it on your calendar.  The work you already have booked and the deadlines associated with that work?  On the calendar.  The workout you’ve made as a resolution for 2020?  Write it on your calendar.  Your vacations and trips, put it all on there.

Plan your time off!  This time away from work is what keeps you human.  It is what keeps you YOU, which often the very reason your clients have chosen to work with you!

We use shared calendars (Google calendars, with iCal on our phones) for actual events.  I’ll write those events into my paper planner, but then the planner holds ALL of the other tasks which will require my time.

At this point, you should not have your entire calendar filled up.  You should have a LOT of free time on that calendar.  If your planned lists of tasks are taking up the majority of your time, you need to cut back.  But planning your tasks out like this will give you a look at how you’ve allocated your time.  You’ll know at a glance whether it’s a smart idea to take on another task.

Add Existing Projects

2019 goal planning

If your project based tasks are set that you know your schedule, put those on your calendar as well.  For each project we film, I know that I will have several hours of organizational work (importing media and setting up libraries and keywords) right away.  I can schedule that.  I can give myself a deadline for selecting music.  I can write in the scheduled due dates for my projects and plan my time around them.

I do know that I need to leave a set amount of hours free in my week for that kind of work though (quite a lot of time) and keep that in mind as I’m scheduling my tasks.  This allows me some flexibility for creativity, but also give me a very clear picture of how my deadlines are stacking throughout the year.  I may have 5 projects with a deadline in June, but if I don’t have time to complete them in June, I’m going to get the ones I can get done finished in May (instead of reworking my website or taking on a passion project) so that I can meet on those June deadlines.

Problem Solve, a Year in Advance

Think about the things that stressed you out this year.  All of the business tasks you felt unprepared for or rushed into.  All of the late nights and long hours.  Decide if you need or want to do these things again in 2020.  If so, plan to alleviate that stress now.

For example, that holiday based deadline you barely met, only because you gave up sleeping and seeing sunlight for weeks?  Whether it’s Christmas portraits or holiday markets, plan that project NOW.  Start earlier.  Move your shoot date or production schedule earlier to give yourself more time to get things done.  Which also means moving your planning earlier.  You might find yourself planning for a holiday session or product in July, but that’s okay! Isn’t it worth it still have a grasp on sanity in November?

Do a Final Evaluation

Now that everything that can be written on that calendar is on that calendar, take a good look at it.  Are you overscheduled?  If so, I recommend reviewing which tasks could be automated or outsourced to make your life easier.  As a small business owner, you are the manager.  You don’t have to complete all the tasks (that’s your ego telling you that no one else could possibly do it); you just have to be sure they get done.

I learned the value of outsourcing tasks in 2019, and plan to further utilize that in 2020.  We’re developing an intern program that will give us some assistance with some of our recurring tasks, and provide an educational experience for some local college students.  The time I spent organizing and developing my marketing process in 2019 will make it easier to teach someone to replicate it in 2020.

You may also need to evaluate how much work you’re accepting. Did you have so many events booked that you didn’t see your family for days at a time while catching up on editing?  It might be time to raise your prices and accept fewer bookings.

Business Planning Challenge 2019

I hope you’ll take this week to plan your year out, so that you come into 2020 with a clear vision of what you need to do to reach success, however you define it.  I also hope you’ll come back again for next week, where we’ll get a handle on the never-ending task of managing your email!

Once you’ve gotten your start, I hope you’ll share what you’re working on with us over on Instagram.  I’ve created this fun graphic to share your goals and tasks with the creative community and help keep you accountable for the year.  Don’t forget to tag the 304 Collective so I can come see what you’re working on too.  Grab the graphic here or on our IG story.

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