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After several months (or years) of being in business for yourself, you begin to get burnt out.  You work all day, every day, and the profits still aren’t enough to let you do the things you dream of doing: going to Europe, paying off student debt, buying that new fancy tablet.

That’s when it’s time to stop thinking that working harder will solve the problem.  Instead, you need to think of ways to work smarter!

Let me start with an example I’m eagerly implementing in my own business this month.  I’m a pen and ink artist primarily but last year I dabbled in turning my illustrations into embroidery patterns.  I only had to make the first one and then I had a PDF pattern file that I could email to the customer.  That’s it!  Hardly any work involved for me!

The patterns sold like hot cakes.  For just a few dollars, someone has an evening (or three) of sewing ahead of them.  It wasn’t much profit per pattern.  A fancy coffee costs nearly the same but since the only work involved is to email a file (which my shopping cart program does automatically), it’s a win-win!

The patterns continue to sell, more than my prints actually, and my customers keep asking me when there will be new ones.  Now, I could just keep the system I have and make a pattern, market it, and then email it over and over again.  Or…I could work smarter.

This month I’m launching my embroidery of the month club, the next step in my embroidery line.  Instead of sending individual emails, I send out one to the whole club.  People pay for six or twelve months and each month a new pattern arrives in their inbox.  I’ve even developed a way thanks to the power of Photoshop where I don’t have to sew the initial design (which can take up to eight hours).  My fans aren’t paying me for my sewing skills, after all, but for my artistic vision and design!

So how can you work smarter in your business?

  • Is there something you can automate?  Can you create an e-book that your fans crave and send it out as an incentive for your mailing list?  Or can you type up an FAQ page that answers the question which constantly fill your inbox.
  • Is there a product or service you can retire because it takes too much time and makes no profit?  I did this last holiday season with embroidery kits.  They took far too long to package and the cost of all the supplies, plus always having them on hand, was killing my profit margin.  Getting rid of something that doesn’t serve you financially clears up your time (and shop) for something new and exciting!
  • Is there a part of your process that you can outsource?  Megan Auman has her assistant weld jumper rings for earrings so she can spend more time designing new pieces, which is what her customer truly values.

Working smarter means getting clear on what your customers value.  It also means accepting what you do really well and leveraging that.  Want another example?

This year I decided to embark on one of those crazy 365 Projects where I draw one portrait every day.  When I started it, I just wanted to improve my portrait drawing skills but soon I had people asking if they could buy their portraits.  The result has been an income stream I never expected and a new way to get closer to my fans.

Oh, and I’m essentially getting paid to improve my drawing skills.  It’s the opposite of college.

So how can you work smarter and save yourself valuable time and effort while putting more money in your savings?  I’d love to hear what ideas you have below!

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