Workflows & Processes

How to Make Your Small Business Work Smarter Not Harder


As a freelancer or small business owner, being busy is a good thing. But it’s far from enough to make your small business a success. You have to work smarter not harder to make it work.

I was recently chatting with a freelance friend of mine and she mentioned that she was working late every day (and even on weekends) but still wasn’t making enough money. And it got me thinking about what we can do to make sure we see our hard work as small business owners pay off.

This post is the result of that discussion! Here are my top tips on how to make your small business work smarter not harder.

Make your time count

1. Optimise your workflows & processes

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Make sure you’re organised and have good workflows and processes in place to get your tasks done quickly and efficiently. This means you’ll spend less time on individual tasks, freeing up time to make more money.

This applies to both billable client work and non-billable internal business tasks. Being more efficient will help productivity in all aspects of your business.

Check out my full post on automating your processes to save you valuable time!

2. Cut down on meetings

It’s always nice to meet a client face-to-face, especially when you initially start working with them. But are regular meetings really necessary?

Before agreeing to a meeting (which could take up a whole morning or afternoon), ask yourself if you could do it over the phone or via video call. This could save you a lot of time, especially if you’re busy and can’t afford to spend a chunk of your day travelling to meetings.

And even if you are meeting over a video call, be sure to consider how long is really necessary. Does it need to take a full hour? Or would booking it in for half an hour make you both more productive?

Get paid

1. Work out your costs

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In order to run a successful small business, you need to be making a profit. Check how much you’re charging for your products or services, and make sure this is enough to cover your costs (and allow for a profit margin).

If it doesn’t cover costs, it’s time to raise your rates! It’s also worth reviewing your pricing strategy, to make sure however you’re pricing your services is maximising your potential for profit.

2. Send invoices immediately

Don’t wait until a specific date or the end of the month – just send your invoices as soon as you’ve finished the work. Cash flow is important for the survival of your business, and sending invoices immediately can help to keep this flowing steadily.

You’ll usually find that the better you get at doing this, the quicker your clients will pay you. It helps everyone to get into this habit.

3. Chase up payments

Related to the first point, make sure all your clients pay on time to keep your cash flow healthy. Don’t be afraid to chase up payments for work that you’ve done.

Make your payment terms clear in your contract or on the invoice itself, and send reminders if you haven’t been paid by the agreed date. And don’t feel guilty about it! You deserve to be paid on time for your hard work – don’t let anyone make you feel bad for reminding them of that.

Find out why you shouldn’t keep your rates a secret.


1. Are you too nice?

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Doing stuff for free (or next to nothing) is something we all do from time to time. However, we need to make sure it’s not impacting too much on our billable time.

It’s easy to get carried away when chatting to people at things like networking events. And it’s nice to be helpful. But only agree to take on work like this if you’ve got time for it and it’s rewarding for you. Otherwise, stop doing favours and start concentrating on paid client work.

2. Focus

Focus on your priorities to make your business work for you and your staff. As the last point explained, occasional freebies are fine but ensure paid work always takes priority.

The same goes for finding new clients and taking care of your existing ones – both are equally important so don’t forget about one in favour of the other.

I have a post detailing some of the best ways to keep in touch with your existing clients – check it out to help make this an easy, consistent part of your schedule.

3. Take care of yourself

If you’re constantly tired and stressed, your work performance and motivation will suffer. Allow yourself to take regular short breaks – especially when you’re busy.

Get some fresh air, do some exercise or just sit down with a cup of tea for five minutes. You’ll come back to your desk feeling refreshed, productive and ready to tackle the rest of your to-do list.

Balancing work and life is one of the most important things I’ve learned in all my years as a small business owner.

Work smarter not harder

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Making a few small changes to your workflow and productivity can have a huge impact on the financial success of your small business.

And by making the best of your time and getting paid adequately, you’ll be able to work fewer hours and earn more money. Or: Work smarter not harder.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
How to Grow Your Small Business & Keep on Track
Set Goals for Your Small Business in 4 Steps
How to Save Time and Automate your Workflows
How I Balance Work and Life as a Small Business Owner

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.