Time Management Tips for eCommerce Business Owners
What's our goal in this guide?
The goal of this guide is to teach you the basics of managing your time well and creating a work environment that's ideal for productivity.
Time Management Tips
I have to be honest with you here... I am far from the world's foremost authority on effective time management. In fact, I'm probably somewhere around the 17th percentile. :)
That said, I have learned a few things over the past two decades of being in this industry, and this training course is all about sharing what I know with you. So, at the risk of being called a hypocrite for not always practicing what I preach, let me highlight 4 keys to effective time management specific to running an eCommerce store.
Key #1. Create an Effective Work Environment
If you're like most of our students, you'll be working from home on most days. This fine, as long as you can create a productive home workspace by utilizing these tips:
- Designate a dedicated workspace that isn't used for anything else!
- Create a productive home workspace that fosters productivity by creating an environment that suits you
- Invest in the tools you need to be productive as possible
- Set a daily schedule and pretend you're going into the office each day
- Start your day off by setting goals for the day and place them somewhere that you will see them throughout the day (i.e. use a post-it)
Key #2. Set Aside Blocks of Time for Marketing
- Don't let SEO/marketing take a "back seat" to everything else (which is easy to let happen because there's no deadline or timetable for getting it done)
- Get started with marketing your store immediately (don't wait until your store is "100% finished" or even to a certain point)
- Set aside at least a few 60-90 minute blocks of time each week to focus on SEO/marketing and nothing else
- Close everything else (email, store admin panel, Facebook, Skype, etc.) and work exclusively on SEO/marketing for that block of time
Key #3. Set Up & Stick to a Schedule for Monthly Site Reviews
- It should only take 60-90 minutes to do a good store review
- These site reviews allow you to escape from the "trenches" of day-to-day operations once a month and look at your store at a high level (i.e. 40,000-foot view)
- Analyze your store's key performance metrics and trends from month to month
- Set goals & make an action plan to accomplish those goals
- Analyze your A/B split testing results & make a plan for upcoming A/B split tests for the coming month
Key #4. Set Aside Blocks of Time for Order Processing & Customer Service
- If you drop everything & process individual orders throughout the day as they come in, you'll never get anything else done
- We recommend reserving a specific block of time each day (or maybe 2 blocks of time per day) to process all orders that have come in & do all other customer service tasks
- During this block of time, take care of all of the following:
- Process new orders
- Send tracking information for previously processed orders
- Respond to email and live chat messages that have been left
- Deal with sale follow-up issues
- Call back customers and potential customers who left voice mail messages
Outsourcing & Hiring Help
Want to know what the biggest bottleneck is for your store's growth and profitability? It's almost certainly YOU! There simply aren't enough hours in the day to do everything you can and really should be doing to make your store as successful as it could be.
That's why outsourcing is so crucial to your long-term success. Those who "make it big" are almost never the people who try to do everything themselves. They're the people who surround themselves with talented, capable people and teams and use their time to direct and coordinate others' efforts to build something big.
Let's discuss the top 5 outsourcing "candidates" for an online store...
1. Content Writing
- Writing content is time-consuming, and most people either don't enjoy it or aren't good at it
- But having unique, well-written content is critical for getting ranked well in Google & the other search engines
- For your ongoing social marketing through an on-site blog, consider using our recommended content writing service.
2. SEO, Marketing and Link Building
- SEO, marketing and link-building are hands-down the most complex, challenging and time-consuming part of running an online store or website
- It's also a very logical, stand-alone thing to outsource
- Consider outsourcing SEO to a trusted, competent company but make sure that whichever company you pick follows our best practices and does not employ any of the shady and worthless link building practices that we've previously discussed
3. Expanding Your Store or Building a New Store
- Adding new categories and products to your store is time-consuming and requires a lot of unique content
- You may also want to hire a person/firm that specializes in taking your store onto Amazon, eBay or other selling marketplaces
4. Customer Service Work
- Outsourcing the daily order fulfillment/customer service work to an employee or "virtual assistant" will free up A LOT of your time to do higher-level, bigger impact things
- One good option is to hire somebody locally (child, grandchild, cousin, niece/nephew, neighbor OR post the job on CraigsList)
- If you do this, you should technically pay them as an employee, which will require you to set up federal & state payroll accounts and pay payroll taxes & unemployment insurance & such
- Because of the administrative hassle of doing all this, some people opt to pay their workers as independent contractors instead of as "employees"
- Read this article on IRS.gov for a discussion about whether workers should be treated as employees or independent contractors, the tax requirements for each and the consequences of wrongly classifying an employee as an independent contractor
- Another good option is to hire a "virtual assistant" through a service such as Agents of Value
- Pro: Extremely affordable for quite intelligent workers
- Con: Difficult to oversee & manage since they're not local and you only work with them online
- We've used Agents of Value many times in the past & have been quite pleased
5. Packing + Shipping + Inventory
As we discussed back WAY back in Module 2, if you are not using the affiliate or dropship model and are purchasing in bulk and doing all of the packing and shipping, yourself, you are likely wasting a TON of time that you could be using for far more productive things.
Even if you think you are saving lots of money, the little that you "save" by cramming a room or your garage full of products and then doing all of the packaging/shipping on your own could be costing you far more money in the long run. Just tying to keep up with inventory - how much is left and when to re-order is time consuming, itself.
You should definitely consider using a fulfillment center and as we mentioned before, Xpert Fulfillment Services is the best one that we have worked with. You may be surprised out how inexpensive they can do all of that for you. Your business owner now; you have far more important things to do! :)
Finding Solid "Employees" or Service Providers on Upwork
Much like all online freelancer communities, Upwork is loaded with absolute "garbage" service providers. However, if you know how to weed out the poor providers and find the "diamonds in the rough", Upwork can be an amazing resource for outsourcing your projects! You can find extremely high-quality providers who will work for unbelievably low rates!
Here are a handful of important guidelines for setting up a job on Upwork...
- Be VERY specific about what type of individual you are looking for. Do NOT be afraid to sound too demanding (see our example listing below).
- Provide a bullet list of your exact requirements, and ask the potential bidders to only bid if they fully qualify (you can even ask them to specifically state in their bid that they meet all of the requirements).
- If you want your individual to be from a specific country or area, specify that in the project settings.
- Do NOT choose the very first person who seems promising. For the average job, you will get 5-10 (or more) proposals per day, so don't "jump the gun" and make a decision prematurely.
- Carefully look over example work and the portfolios of service providers you are considering and do your best to verify that it is authentic work that they actually did themselves.
- When you find a promising service provider, it is recommended that you interview them either by phone or by Skype. Our method of choice is Skype because virtually everyone using Upwork uses it and you can make free computer-to-computer calls with Skype.
- Make your demands and requirements extremely clear up front. Many bidders will not thoroughly read your job description, so it is important that you verify the expectations more than once.
- Don't be afraid to give more than 1 person a shot. Have them do a "trial" job and analyze how efficient they were and how good the quality of the work is.
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