Spring cleaning isn’t reserved just for houses. Throwing everything open, taking stock, and doing a deep clean-out after the dreary winter months is both physically and mentally beneficial. Use the renewed energy that spring brings to put some new attention on your business.
Get a box (for donations), a bag (for trash), and your favorite cleaning gear. It’s time to spring clean your business!
Your online home, aka website
Take a look at your website. When’s the last time you updated it? Do you still like your homepage, and is it targeting the right market for where you are in your business right now? Is your about page still accurate, or does something need to be added or updated? How about that picture – do you still look like that?
Inspect your online portfolio. Remove anything that feels old or doesn’t speak to your current skill level or ideal client. If you’ve got new projects you want to highlight, now is a great time to add them.
Clean up your back-end, too. Update any plugins or themes that have updates. Delete any plugins or code you no longer need. Check for broken links (you can use a plugin like Broken Link Checker or Google’s Webmaster Tools, and Redirection to set up 301 redirects where necessary). And while we’re on the subject of broken links, make sure you’ve got a good 404 page in place.
Check out a few of the hidden corners on your site, too. Make sure your footer reflects the current year. Eliminate any unnecessary menu items. Read through your copy and look for anything that feels old. How about your widgets — do they still feel fresh, or is it time to do something different? Check for anything that’s cluttering up your website, and get rid of it.
This isn’t the time to plan a major overhaul; instead, make a few strategic updates to get everything working well and looking great again.
Your physical workspace
Now’s a great time for (you guessed it) an actual physical clean-up of your workspace. Dust, especially the tops of furniture and behind your computer. Vacuum. Wipe down all the surfaces. Clean your monitor and get the crumbs and smudges off your keyboard. Check your mouse or trackpad for dust. There’s something completely refreshing about a clean workspace.
While you’re cleaning off your desktop, reconsider everything you put back. Is there anything hanging out in your immediate work area that doesn’t need to be there? Tuck it in a drawer. And while you’re looking in your drawers, pull out anything you no longer need or use.
Take a look at your shelves. Are there any books that are no longer relevant or interesting? Get rid of them. Same goes for knick-knacks and office supplies. If something hasn’t earned its keep in the past year, it’s time to get rid of it.
Don’t forget to look at the hidden things — the closets, high shelves, and other storage spaces. Get honest with yourself and evaluate each thing hiding out. Is it time to let some things go?
Finally, clear up the actual clutter. Make sure things are in the right places. Find new solutions for things that bug you continually. Wrangle the mess of cords coming out the back of your machines. Adjust the armchair heights. Pick up a wrist rest. Straighten the lumpy rug once and for all, or toss it. Eliminate everything that annoys you. Future-you will thank you!
Your digital workspace
Just as important as your physical workspace is your digital one. Having the ability to search your computer (your inbox, your cloud storage, etc.) can make life a bit easier, but it also makes it easier to let things get gummed up with clutter. Clutter is clutter, even if it’s digital clutter, so get on top of your digital workspaces as well for some mental breathing room and a bit more ease during your day.
The first thing to do is clear off your desktop. It’s amazing the difference it makes when you can boot up your computer with a clear desktop every day. Set up a background you like with a calendar, an inspirational message, or an image that reflects one of your goals.
Next, back everything up. This can’t be emphasized enough! Run backups of everything — your site, your hard drive, your images, everything. And while you’re in backup mode, set your computer and websites for automatic backup if you haven’t done so already.
Set up a good folder system. Group “like with like” — have large collections of more specific things. For example, sort all your client work into folders for each individual client, and then collect them in one larger client folder. (I would then make one of these client folders for each year, so I’m not sifting through clients I haven’t touched in years.) Personal work would go in another folder or set of folders. Remember – it doesn’t have to be perfect and there’s no one universal system for files. Just do what makes sense and will be easily navigable to you.
Now that you’ve cleared up your desktop, turn some attention to your inbox. How’s your email management system working for you? Not so hot? Here are some suggestions:
- Unsubscribe from every list you aren’t opening and reading immediately.
- If you’ve had it in your inbox for more than a week and you haven’t read it, delete it. (The obvious exception is important messages like client emails, etc.)
- Set up inbox rules and filters to pre-sort some of your messages. For example, all social media notifications can skip your inbox and go to their own folder. Clients could get their own individual folders. Email newsletters and the like can get their own folder, too. The more you can pre-sort the deluge, the easier it will be to stay on top of everything.
- Delete ruthlessly. If you can’t bear to delete something, archive it.
Finally, is it time to consider moving to the cloud? If you aren’t already using web-based storage services (like Google Docs, Dropbox, iCloud, etc.) then it may be time to set it up. What’s eating up the most space and causing the most craziness on your computer? Consider moving it all to online storage. One caveat about being largely cloud-based: you may need to look into a portable WiFi device or a mobile hotspot so you’re never stuck without an Internet connection when it’s time to get some work done. (Nothing spells mental satisfaction like kicking an unreliable Internet connection to the curb!)
Your workload and client roster
The first quarter of the year is already over, and now is a perfect time to take stock of the actual work you’re doing. First of all, when’s the last time you gave yourself a raise? It’s time to bump up those rates! Develop your new rates and update your internal rate chart — or create one, if you don’t have it already. Consider the work systems you have in place. Are you able to do what you need to do, effectively and efficiently? How can you eliminate any bottlenecks? And what can you take off your plate entirely? (Hint: anything you dread doing, put off constantly, or skip all the time should get the boot.)
Think about your current clients and consider whether it’s time to phase out anyone or anything. Want to stop doing blog headers? Now’s the time to decide. Is there a retainer client who isn’t worth the headaches? Time to figure out how to drop them. As you begin to phase out low-paying clients and replacing them with ones you adore, you’ll begin feeling greater satisfaction, which is exactly what we’re after.
While you’re in client-finding mode, take a look at your current marketing plan. What’s working? What’s definitely not working? Decide what changes need to be made and commit to making them.
Your finances and money flow
While you presumably have some sort of financial infrastructure in place already, now’s a good time to make sure it’s all working right and fill in any gaps.
If you haven’t gotten around to separating your personal finances from your business finances, now’s the time. You’ll need a separate checking account with its own credit or debit card to handle all your business income and expenses. It’s also a great idea to set up a PNL, or Profit & Loss statement, which you can update monthly with your income and expenses. Not only is a PNL great to have on hand at tax time, but it’s really helpful to refer to throughout the year to keep tabs on your income and outgo. Set up calendar reminders for yourself to update the PNL monthly or quarterly. While you’re at it, add in calendar reminders to send in your quarterly tax payments too (if you owe quarterly payments).
And while you’re in tax mode, it’s a good idea to get yourself set up for this year’s taxes, if you haven’t already done so. Set aside an envelope to catch any business receipts, and set up a file where you can put any tax-relevant documents. This could be a file, a drawer, or even a shoe box; it doesn’t matter what you use to collect your tax stuff as long as you’re actually collecting it.
Other spring cleaning odd-jobs
The point of this whole spring-cleaning exercise is to dust everything off, re-examine it, and fix what’s not working. There are a few other things you can do to make your workflow a lot smoother, and now’s as good a time as any.
First of all, if you aren’t yet using calendar alerts to help you remember everything you’ve got going on, now is the time to set them up. Put important deadlines and milestones in your calendar. Put your tax deadlines in there. Put holidays and time off there. Set a reminder for when it’s time to start thinking about — and ordering — client gifts. Anything that you know is coming, add it to the calendar. The less you have to try to remember, the better off you’ll be.
Now it’s time to flex a little bit. Do you need a new playlist? Are you ready to switch to a new business card? Is it time to redesign (or come up with) your leave-behind? With all the mental and physical space you’ve cleared up, now is a great time to do some of those little odd jobs.
Now that you’ve got your entire workspace and workflow polished and optimized, it’s a great time to do some of the fun stuff: dreaming. What big things do you want to do in your business this year, and how are you progressing toward them? Take some time to set a few goals and make a few plans toward them. Maybe it’s even time to start outsourcing!
A good spring clean does take some time and effort, but it’s absolutely worth it. Think of how much lighter you’ll feel without all this “old business stuff” hanging around. With all the energy you’re putting into your business and the mental energy you’re freeing up, you’ll have all kinds of space to come up with your next big thing.