Time is a commodity – and commodity holds tremendous value, often times more than money does. When you’re plowing through the enormous challenges that face you as an entrepreneur, what you have the least of is time because every minute of your day is spent obsessing over how to scale your business.

Here’s your dilemma Where and who should I spend my time with? And when do I say no?

I powered up a freelance writing business five years ago. As any writer would know, the only way to achieve your goals is to build up an online portfolio through blogging and volunteering, writing for a range of websites that fall within your niche.

Here’s the harsh reality: you don’t get paid to create your own website and there’s plenty of people fishing for for your freebies. Ultimately, my website and portfolio became a free advertising tool that kick started everything.

But back to that dilemma When should you volunteer your time while building your small startup? And when should you says know?

Here are some tips to help manage your time and the red flags to watch out for – the red flags you ultimately say no to.


Should: Outsourcing

Shouldn’t: Tasks you don’t enjoy

Every business owner has to understand their limitations. You may have great ideas and fantastic business acumen, but often times there areas that you don’t thrive in. It may be writing and it may be graphic design; it may be building websites or managing social media pages. Rather than volunteering all your time in educating yourself in these skills, outsourcing allows you to find employees over the internet. These workers are masters at what they do, and they charge a low price due to the overwhelming competition in the market. You can hire office assistants who take care of your emails, or copywriters who can help you with marketing campaigns. This gives you more time to focus on the structure of your business. If you don’t enjoy certain tasks, OUTSOURCE.  


Should: Paid advertising

Shouldn’t: Google advertising

Once your business website is created, you’ll want to drive traffic to your page. When traffic hits your page, many new business owners set up Google Adwords to make funds off clicks on advertisement, but it is time-consuming and not worth the effort early on. You are better off paying for advertisements on Facebook and even trying to locate some banner space on prominent websites that link with your target audience. Spend time navigating the web looking for the perfect places to plant your seeds, and don’t worry about Google advertising just yet. Keep the line tight and resist the urge to sign up to every available advertising service.


Should: Competitor analysis

Shouldn’t: Similar connections

Know your enemy. In other words – study your competition. While ‘enemy’ may seem like a strong word, it perfectly sums up the competition in the market. Knowing what they do well and what they fail to do will help you improve your product or service. In my freelance writing business, I asked people who had employed freelance writers before: what was lacking, what were the frustrations, what were the issues? Volunteering your time to market research is something you should always say yes to, but definitely say no to building connections with them. Many business owners spend their time contacting like-minded businesspeople within the same industry for ‘advice’ and ‘secrets’. Some even ask for client contacts. This is a waste of your time. In the age of the internet, you can find out anything through a time-invested search. Don’t build up a reliance on people who are seeking the same sales from the same people. If you need to talk to people, talk to the buyers not the sellers.  


Should: Investors

Shouldn’t: SEO emails

When you start your business, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to investors for funds. If you’ve seen Shark Tank, you would think it is a daunting process that challenges every fibre in your body, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have a great idea, a well thought out business plan and you have started to build your empire wisely, it is worth spending your time emailing investors who have a successful track record. The worst they can do is say no…but what YOU should be saying no to are the emails hitting your inbox stating they can ‘make your website reach great heights on search engines through SEO’. Once you have contact details on your website, they’ll attack like hungry animals. Don’t waste your time. If you need to increase your rankings, turn to your outsourcing contacts.


Should: Testing

Shouldn’t: Perfecting

The best advice I ever received from a successful business owner was to test before you establish. For a service provision such as my writing business, I had the luxury of being paid part of the price up front for each article. But if you’re providing products or information services, you need to know they’ll work before you perfect the craft. Many business owners spend their time perfecting every little aspect during the building phase, only to realize these great-looking, well-positioned, smooth-moving sites and products aren’t actually getting a response. Testing is quick, it’s cheap and it’s a great use of your time because you’re always learning about what works, and what fails. Perfecting teaches you the same…but reaches further into your pocket and saps time you’ll never get back.  


Should: The people

Shouldn’t: The doubters

The final coin that is often flipped by a new business owner is who to spend their time listening to: the people who buy the product/service, or the doubters who tell them that their idea won’t work in business. Your time is precious, and you can say no to whoever you please. This is your business, this is your empire, and they will be your profits. The only people who can validate your ideas are those that vote with their wallets. If you believe in your creation, and people buy your creation, why would you waste time listening to negativity? Here’s what is tragically comical – business owners too often listen to naysayers. Hearing about your potential failure is easier to digest in the early stages because you already doubt yourself. But spend your time testing, outsourcing, analyzing and advertising and you won’t hear the doubters from the other side of the fence anymore.

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