With December well underway, the end-of-year downtime can be a great opportunity to wrap up 2016 and prepare your business for the coming year. Many solopreneurs drown in business documents because they’re busy dedicating their time to client projects. The outlying problem here is they just might not have the best system for creating organized documents. This holiday season, turn downtime into productivity. We’ll share our list of business documents to produce before the new year hits.
But first, let’s pack up 2016 by:
- Compiling reports on your income, expenses or other key metrics. File or scan the documents you need to keep—like receipts or contracts.
- Shredding documents that contain sensitive information, like tax IDs or trade secrets.
Business Document #1: A Contract Agreement
As a service business owner—a consultant, interior decorator or web designer—hopefully your clients sign a contract outlining the scope of work, payment expectations and how disputes will be handled. Contracts protect you and your clients and also help ensure that you get paid. If you don’t already have a contract you use, then create your own contract or hire an attorney to write one for you.
Business Document #2: A Business Mission Statement
A business mission statement sums up your business’ goals and philosophy in a few sentences. Entrepreneur recommends creating one to signal to customers, suppliers and employers who you are and why you do what you do. You can also refer to your mission statement when making important business decisions, then choose the option that reflects your mission. If you already have one, refer back to it and ensure it reflects your business philosophy today. If you don’t, set aside some time now to write one.
Business Document #3: A Social Media Calendar
Rather than posting on social media whenever you have the time, it’s helpful to schedule and plan content in advance to maintain fluidity. It can also be helpful to schedule recurring posts on different days of the week to bulk up your social media structure. For instance, #WisdomWednesday, where you can post your favorite quotes—or #ThowbackThursday, where you post company history or archived photos.
Hubspot has a free social media content calendar template, while Coschedule offers its own social media calendar template and tips. If you have other people managing your social media presence, you might want to create brand guidelines around the tone of your social media posts and how to deal with heckling. Hubspot covers tips on social media style guides.
Business Document #3: A Social Media Engagement Tracker
If you’re not tracking key social media metrics like clicks and engagement rates, then you can’t assume the time you invest in social media is actually paying off. Hootsuite offers a free downloadable template to help you audit your social media, while Buffer has a list of 19 free social media analytics tools.
Business Document #4: Handy for Tax Time—a Profit and Loss Statement
You need to stay on top of your Profit and Loss statement (also called a P&L, income statement or statement of operations) to ensure that your business isn’t spending more money than it actually generates. If you use Freshbooks, click here to learn more about the Profit and Loss statement in Reports. If you’re not already checking this statement on a regular basis, make a resolution in 2017 to do so. It will help you manage your money better.
Business Document #5: If You’re Scaling in 2017—an Employee Handbook
If you have employees, you should have a handbook outlining company policies and expectations. You might be able to get away with not having one if you only have a few employees but as you scale, your employee handbook becomes an important piece. It allows your team to understand policies on diversity, dress codes, paydays, benefits and other issues. The NFIB Legal Foundation has a model employee handbook for small businesses that covers some of the areas you might want to consider. Of course, the size and nature of your business should dictate what you need to include or omit.
Business Document #6: A List of New Prospects
If you track prospects in a haphazard manner—like collect business cards on your desk—then you need a better way to stay on top of who you’ve contacted and when you talked to them. Vertex42 offers a free excel template for customer relationship management (CRM). Or if you prefer a software solution rather than a spreadsheet, check out The Balance’s list of economical small business CRM tools.
Business Document #7: A Pitching Template
Each communication with a prospect should be tailored to their needs as much as possible. But you can create a template letter or email for initial communications so you’re not reinventing the wheel each time you contact a new prospect. To get you started, Pipetop offers this list of 17 cold email templates that you could customize to your business needs.
While creating all of these business documents makes for a great new year’s resolution, doing it over the holidays means you’ll actually be able to put them to use as soon as the new year rolls around. Start January on the right foot by doing the legwork now.
About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter@UrbanMuseWriter.