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5 Lessons learned running a service-based business during the pandemic

By | 2020-12-29T11:29:47+00:00 December 29th, 2020|Content Marketing, Growing Your Business|4 Comments

I’m not ashamed to say that my business grew a lot during the 2020 pandemic! It was my 3rd official year of my “full-time” business and it was by far my best one yet.

It didn’t come easy though. I worked hard. I changed my processes. I changed my mindset. As my year-end wrap up post, I wanted to share the 5 biggest lessons I learned running a service-based business during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Lesson 1: Processes are pivotal

This is a great business tip, no matter what the economy is like. Systems and processes in your business can save you so much time and make you look more professional. Here are some of the processes that helped me grow my business this year:

  • Appointment scheduling: How much time have you wasted sending back and forth emails trying to find a time to meet with a client or prospect for your business? Get an appointment scheduler and it’s so much easier.I was using Square Appointments for most of the year but it didn’t integrate with Zoom so I recently switched to Calendy (here’s my booking site if you want to check it out). I have linked it to my calendar so people can book appointments with me and they automatically get assigned a unique Zoom link. I can even collect consultation fees for my paid strategy calls through the same system.It also looks much more professional to say “you can book a time in my calendar here,” rather than going back and forth over email to find that ideal time.
  • Payment processing: I put this off for so long in my business because I didn’t want to pay the processing fees associated with accepting credit cards. But once I found a payment processor (Stripe) that integrated with my invoicing system (Harvest) it was easy for clients to pay me, and automatically get a payment receipt (instead of me manually checking the payment and sending a confirmation receipt).I still do the majority of my business via Interac Transfers, but for clients who prefer credit card, I can now offer that option for them. The fees are honestly negligible, and I can write them off as a business expense at tax time.

Lesson 2: Prepare for the flood

In March when the pandemic started, I didn’t know if my business would survive. The entire small business community worried about how they were going to stay afloat with the change in people’s buying needs and habits. Since I seemed to have more time on my hands, I decided to try out a bunch of new networking groups and I spent April and May filling my calendar with virtual networking events.

This snowballed into more get-to-know-you-better chats. Many of these turned into small projects, then larger projects, including my biggest one-time project to date: writing 80 pages of website content for a client in California. By July I had gotten so many new contracts that I tripled my average monthly business that month!

But I wasn’t expecting to be so busy and I wasn’t fully prepared. I had to rush to implement new task management systems (switching my to-do list from Trello to Asana) and create new contracts and business templates to make onboarding new clients more efficient and professional. I’ve got these systems in place now so I can scale my business when the next flood of new projects come in (which is coming with a bunch of new clients starting with me in January).

Lesson 3: Pivot your strategy


I said I wouldn’t use the word, but it gets across what I mean. I’ve been impressed watching how other businesses have pivoted their business in light of the pandemic. Thankfully, since my business was already online and virtual, I required less pivoting, but I still had to realign to better meet my client’s needs.

I realized that not all business owners could afford to hire a copywriter during this time, so I put more energy into my programs and workshops to teach people how to DIY their own marketing and writing. My annual membership program, the Caffeinated Marketing Club, launched this year with a handful of eager entrepreneurs who are learning together. New members are joining every month and learning the best and easiest ways to do their own content marketing, meeting and networking with business owners around North America, and getting the resources they need to create their own systems and processes for their business.

(funny sidebar: I was a huge fan of the show Friends and there is a scene where Ross says the word “pivot” a lot…if you know the show, you know the scene I’m referencing. Every time I hear the word “pivot” this year, I heard it as if Ross was saying it)

Lesson 4: Be flexible

I’ve always prided myself in being flexible in my business and for my clients, but I realized that it was needed this year more than ever. I was more flexible on changes in contracts for example. Instead of locking people into a long-term contract with me, I made it flexible so business owners can pivot our projects together during the contract term as their business needs changed. As long as the dollar value of the contract remained the same, we could change our project focus to where it needed to be.

In marketing, consistency is critical, so I always suggest that businesses stick with their chosen content marketing strategy for at least 3-6 months before making big changes. But 2020 was an unprecedented year that none of us planned for so I made myself a bit more flexible to better meet the changing needs of my clients this year.

Lesson 5: Be grateful

I know not all businesses thrived in 2020 as mine did. Every day I’m incredibly grateful that my business and family were healthy this year. I’m not afraid to share my successes with others and I do what I can to support others so they can find their own version of health and success in their life and business.

In 2021, I plan to make gratitude part of my daily routine but writing in my gratitude journal.

2020 wasn’t what we expected or planned. Many business owners struggled and had to claw up the wall to stay afloat. There are others who thrived and it may have looked easy from the outside, but it took hard work, determination and sacrifices. I had to sacrifice some personal and family time to get there but it was ok because I knew it was a temporary shift in focus I needed to make for my business and family’s future.

In business we make sacrifices to set ourselves up for the bright and prosperous future we deserve. My actions today are setting up a future where I can have a profitable and successful business and have more time for personal and family projects and endeavours.

I’m looking forward to 2021 with these lessons from 2020 in my pocket. I will use them to grow and evolve with whatever curveballs the world decides to throw at us. If it’s giant spiders, I’ll be ready. If it’s an alien invasion, I’ll be ready with my tinfoil hat. If it’s more of the uncertainty that 2020 gave us, I’ll be ready!

How are you using your lessons from 2020 to get ready to thrive in 2021? (Shamelessly, if you want to use 2021 to expand your business and marketing skills, check out the Caffeinated Marketing Club to see how it can help you move your business to the next level in 2021.)

About the Author:

I'm WriterGal of WriterGal Marketing Services and I help small-medium sized businesses execute writing and online marketing projects so they can focus on other ways of growing their business. I'm also the mother of 2 munchkins and 1 Jack Russell Terrier, love baking and cooking, and enjoy travelling the world (when I have time) with my family. I'm also passionate about organization and time management (a must for busy moms and business owners). I enjoy sharing my business and organization tips and processes with others.

4 Comments

  1. Caroline Grover January 5, 2021 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Great blog and candid solid advice. Thanks Ashley

    • Ashley Doan January 5, 2021 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks! It was a big year for me and I learned so much about myself and business that I plan to use to grow in 2021!
      -Ash

  2. Cheryl Jensen January 5, 2021 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Thank you Ashley.

    I hope you and your family stay healthy and safe.
    Take care, from Cheryl

    • Ashley Doan January 5, 2021 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cheryl. We are staying safe and well! I look forward to catching up with you again soon!
      -Ash

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