“Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.”
As we all stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, many of our businesses suddenly look very different. Not every business has been able to stay open, but many have pivoted quickly, moving their offerings fully online in interesting and creative ways. I’ve been so inspired these last few weeks to see the ingenuity underpinning new services, contactless pickup options, generous shipping policies and online resources like podcasts and ebooks.
If you are among the group of entrepreneurs who have suddenly found themselves in a brave new online world, welcome! I am here for you. The digital world has been my playground since I was a kid, and I have seen firsthand how powerful connections, insights, and experiences can be created through virtual technologies. We’re here now, so we might as well invest a little bit in optimizing our business’s digital footprint in the time we all suddenly have. Yes, you may enthusiastically return to the more analog, human-to-human ways of doing business once all of this is over! But in the meantime, it certainly can’t hurt to do a bit of digital Spring cleaning.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but my hope is that these suggestions might spark something for you! Here are 7 ways to digitally optimize your online business, now and in the future.
1. Set up your Zoom account properly
If you don’t yet have a Zoom account, start there. Then, make sure to fully set up your profile with a good photo (this is shown if your camera is off, which is a nice human touch), your full name, your title, and any other relevant details.
Next, head to your settings and turn on “Touch up my appearance”. This gives you a subtly polished look that can make a big difference on a video call, especially if you’ve been tired or stressed lately. You can also play around with adding in Virtual Backgrounds – or better yet, just clean up the space behind you in real life!
Lastly, create a customized shortlink for your personal Zoom meeting ID. I can’t tell you how much time this one little trick has saved me over the past month! I used Bitly.com to create mine: just paste in the long Personal Meeting ID URL (which you can find at the top of your Profile page on Zoom), and then edit the ending to something easy to remember. For example: bit.ly/yourbrandcall or bit.ly/yournameconnect. Then the next time you need to jump on a call with someone, tell them to type the URL into their browser and they’ll automatically join the call. Easy for you to remember & share, and it makes the process of connecting with you feel more professional and streamlined.
PS. If you need even more tips about video calls, look no further than this extremely in-depth guide!
2. Set up a digital scheduler
Another digital tool that has been saving my butt since even before the virus forced us all online is my scheduler. As a coach, I spend a lot of time coordinating meetings, coaching sessions, and discovery calls. If I were to do all my scheduling via email, my life would be a nightmare of double-bookings, circling back to people, and email ping-pong. No gracias!
Instead, I have a simple online scheduler set up and synced with my calendar: see an example here. Whenever I want to schedule a call with someone, I just send them the link to the appropriate scheduler – I have one for coaching sessions and another for discovery calls. Best of all, the links are also custom bit.ly shortlinks, which means I never have to go searching for the link to my scheduler! I can just type it into an email or Instagram DM thread from memory. The confirmation lands in my email & syncs to my calendar, and I’m good to jump on the call at the chosen time. So easy.
If you aren’t familiar with schedulers or how to set them up, you can check out my blog post on the topic (complete with a step-by-step video tutorial!) right here.
3. Polish up your online appearance
One thing I see a lot of entrepreneurs struggling with is having a messy online “appearance” for their business or brand. This is not the most important thing in your business, but it’s absolutely worth investing a bit of time in, especially now. A little goes a LONG way. Basically, there should be consistency in terms of your photos, colours, and messaging wherever you’re showing up online. The goal is to create familiar touch points across all your digital channels, to help your clients feel like the process of connecting with you is seamless and clear.
Here are some ways to create a consistent online appearance:
- Update your email profile photo to match your profile photo on other social networks (or at least be a recent photo!)
- Update your email signature to match the rest of your brand. I like this tutorial for a DIY option, but there are also tons of tools online you can use, such as this one.
- If you use an email autoresponder, revisit it! Make sure that it’s fully updated and lists only relevant information. Better yet, spruce it up a bit with some kind of visual component or links to your best resources.
- If you use an Instagram link service like Linktree, make sure it’s looking on-brand and that all the links are up-to-date. Better yet, create a simple links page on your own website so that you’re driving more traffic to yourself. Here’s mine.
- Update your bio sections & photos on your social media accounts & create consistency across platforms.
4. Find digital tools to help you work better
I think it’s safe to say that there has probably never been a better time for you to work on improving your business systems and tools! This is such an important aspect of running a business that often gets overlooked in the day-to-day management of your clients and products. I suggest you take some of your quarantime to find some technologies that you enjoy and that will help you do your work more efficiently. Research, experiment, play, and try new things. Switch between four different apps until you find the one you like. Don’t just believe the expert that says Trello is the best (I personally cannot stand Trello, while others love it) – just try it for yourself!
My die-hard business tools are my project management software (Asana) and my Customer Relationship Management tool (Dubsado). Without these, it would be hard, if not impossible for me to get things done.
Bonus tip: Google “system name + your industry” to see if there are any tools custom-built for the profession you’re in! A great example of this is software that is designed for therapists, which will include all the features that a therapist would need to run their practice.
Here are some more resources to help you get started:
- I love Thomas Frank’s YouTube channel! Here’s his roundup of Best Productivity Apps, best Note-Taking Apps, and his in-depth review of Notion.
- The Sweet Setup is a nice resource of apps and technologies for your phone and computer
- Check out this post on the 5 systems that most support solopreneurs for more ideas of tools that could help you work more efficiently
- The Appothecary is my custom database full of the systems I use or am excited to try
5. Create bundles or packages
As I was doing a bit of online retail therapy yesterday with Saje, I noticed how they’ve done such a great job at creating special kits of their products. Rather than leave the customer a bit adrift in all the options, they’ve narrowed it down into curated packages that are easy to browse and select. Lo and behold, I ended up purchasing a set for myself! Not only was it easier to choose, it also made it feel more fun for me. Suddenly I was getting a curated experience, rather than just a few random products shipped together.
So this is an easy tip, especially if you have a product-based business. Find a way to bundle together beautiful sets for customers to choose from! One of my clients who is doing a great job of this is CAMBIE Design, with their newly-launched Gift Collection. Another is Sunday’s Company, who offers seasonal themed boxes full of carefully-selected products.
This is also something you can do with digital offerings or services. For instance in my business, when folks join The Foundery, they also get access to my Inbox Zero course and The Appothecary. And as I continue to build out my digital products & services, I will be thinking about ways to bundle them up for easier shopping.
6. Give your website a little TLC
You absolutely do not need to take this time to overhaul your entire website or rebrand your whole business. I, for one, do not have the energy for that right now! That said, there might be some wiggle room to make a couple small changes that can have a big impact.
First of all, if you’ve put any of your products or services on sale because of the pandemic, make sure that’s being communicated through your website! I currently have an announcement bar up letting people know that they can get my digital courses for 50% off, for as long as this lasts.
Another thing I recommend is adding a homepage section outlining any changes to your offerings because of COVID-19. I find it reassuring to see a business advising me on how things have changed and what I can expect from them right now. I’ll be adding this to my own website over the next few days!
Lastly, make sure that your website clearly outlines your offerings and points people towards the actions you’d like them to take. That means a simple, easy-to-use Main Menu for starters. Bonus points for featuring your services or best-selling products on the homepage! Extra bonus points for including your newsletter signup and social media links prominently.
7. Disconnect from work
The last way to optimize your digital business is to make sure you’re separating it from the rest of your life. When all our work is done virtually, it has a tendency to bleed over into our down time. But down time is so important! You want to optimize your systems for working effectively, as well as set up systems that will support you in NOT working, effectively. Technology is a good servant, but a bad master. If you can put some of these guardrails in place, you’ll actually need less willpower to avoid getting sucked into your work, not more.
Here are some of my favourite ways to set up boundaries around my work:
- Limit my work hours and number of calls per day, in the settings of my scheduler software
- Block off some days each week to have no calls, in the settings of my scheduler software
- Keep my phone and computer on Do Not Disturb mode all day
- Go to bed with my phone on Airplane mode, so I don’t wake up to notifications & pings
- Turn off notifications for most of my apps, including email
- Turn on Screen Time on my phone to block apps after a certain time of night (alternative for Android here)
You’re Already Doing a Great Job
Here’s what I know for sure: you’re doing the best you can. If none of the above feels accessible, or exciting, or manageable for you right now: that is okay, and so normal. That’s why this is a blog post! It’s a resource for you to come back to whenever you have the energy or inclination. It’s a list of ideas that might be helpful or create a bit of momentum for you. Take what works & leave the rest, now and always.
If you’ve been pivoting your business to be more digital lately, I’d love to know: What’s helped you most with the transition to virtual? Which tools & technologies have made your life easier lately? Let me know in the comments below, or on Instagram @stephpellett.
PS. Have you ever seen my Shop? It’s full of courses, products, and free guides to help you build your business in a way that matches up with your values. I hope you find something inside that you love.