I would like to start this blog post about having a Monthly Business Checklist for small business owners with the absolute clarity that I realized I did NOT have my monthly checklist working for me at all.
Often times when we go to teach others the habits or systems we have (or at least think we have), it can be very humbling to realize we aren’t even serving ourselves correctly. More specifically, I realized that I, as a well-established business owner, didn’t have my Quickbooks subscription up to date and nearly lost all my data. Embarrassing. Nevertheless, a good lesson to learn and a pivotal reason to have this monthly checklist at your fingertips. Let’s dive in, friends.
MONTHLY BUSINESS CHECKLIST FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
When diving into your monthly business checklist, I highly recommend making it the same day each month. For me, that’s the first Monday of every month, so it’s a repeat appointment on my calendar. Treat it like a client meeting where you can’t miss it. No matter what, this is the time you dedicate to keeping your ducks in a row.
#1 Review Events & Sessions Coming Up
I like to begin my business check-in by looking at what’s coming up next for work. Since wedding photographers are booked well in advance, we typically already have a good idea of what is coming. However, smaller sessions, social events, industry events, or personal appointments can creep up on us.
With adding a small human to my entourage, staying ahead of my schedule will be imperative to my sanity. This is also a great time to finalize any timelines, shoot schedules, weather backups etc, with your clients. Ensuring your clients have all the details and no lingering questions will add to your top-notch client experience and set your mind at ease.
Also…any pesky final invoices lying around? Again, with those final follow-up emails, feel free to pop in a sweet little reminder that there is money due. It’s not weird, and it won’t be awkward so long as you are clear and concise and include a link to online payment.
#2 Finance Check In → Bucket Method Style
Now that we’ve checked our monthly calendar, it’s time to check in on our money. If you’re anything like me, I’ve been checking in weekly as invoices drop (especially during high season) to ensure my money is going into its proper Buckets.
While you’re in your online banking portal, I want you to see how you’re doing in terms of savings for things like taxes, business expenses, off-season finances, AND retirement funding. Are you on track to hit your goals? Are there a few invoices that haven’t been moved from your checking account into savings? Tidy it up, friend.
If you haven’t implemented the Bucket Method yet, head back to this point to get started. It’s game-changing.
#3 Categorize Your Monthly Expenses
Next up on the list is the dreadful accounting task. Opening up your Quickbooks account (or bookkeeping of choice) and categorizing all the money you spent last month.
To be honest, I don’t typically dread this anymore because, just like looking at my finance each month made the monster less scary, categorizing my expenses made me really cut back on costs. Everything from packing my own food for wedding days, not needing a “treat” every time I went to a shoot, or even skipping that latest template pack because Lawd knows I’ve bought them all.
Hopefully, this doesn’t take you more than an hour at most. By keeping this as a monthly task, when it comes to tax season, you will be so far ahead of the game!
#4 Review Your Actual Spend against Your Monthly Budget
Now that you’ve faced the music with your bucket check and expense categorization, peek at your monthly business budget. How did your actual spending stack up against your proposed budget? This is a judgment-free zone, so be honest with yourself because the numbers won’t lie.
Learning to save money is a muscle you have to build. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t built in a day. It takes a while to build those bulky muscles of money-saving strength.
#5 Track Your Mileage
Oof! This one used to be much harder before the days of smartphones and apps. Thankfully, if you already use Quickbooks Online, you can download their app and set it up to automatically track your drives! Then, swipe left or right each month (or even daily instead of mindlessly scrolling Instagram) to categorize your drive as personal or business.
Don’t use Quickbooks? No problem; here is a link to the top mileage-tracking apps.
Whew! That’s a lot to do in a little list. Running a business takes a lot of work. I assume by now you have figured that out for yourself. I think it’s amazing how often people assume running a photography business is 80% taking photos and living this artistic life…when in reality, it’s 80% running a business, 10% doubting your life choices, and 10% taking photos and making art.
With this simple monthly business checklist, you can stay on top of your finances, schedule, and goals. Don’t wait around for motivation because, just like your flaky ex-best friend from high school, she isn’t going to be there. Put it in your calendar, make the commitment, and if you fall off the bandwagon, be like Aaliyah, dust yourself off, and try again.
Onwards and upwards, my friends.