“Get More Clients!” It’s the message that many marketers want you to hear.
Making money is, of course, an important function of your business but when the numbers in your bank account may feel smaller than you think they should be, money has this habit of taking up more of your attention (AKA worry, anxiety, feeling of lack) than it should.
It’s why I see, time and time again, business owners get hung up on the ‘get more clients’ marketing tactics and end up spending too much time, money and energy, learning how to do these new marketing ideas and processes (usually involving digital tools such as social media and funnels) that don’t make you any happier.
Of course, more money in the bank helps a lot with your finances, but have you ever stopped to consider what revenue will make you happy?
Happy Revenue was a phase that came up during one of our Momentum Pod Calls. At the end of each 90 Day Plan, each member presents their learnings and celebrates their successes. One particular member was sharing her learnings around her sacking a client.
This particular client was, on the surface, a big and important client and they were paying her a substantial monthly retainer. But the problem was that they were turning up to meetings late and sometimes not at all. They weren’t sticking to the project timelines and generally a pain-in-the-arse to deal and it was impacting how she was serving her other clients.
We helped her sack her client gracefully and professionally, and the difference this client sacking made was enormous; not only did she create the opportunity for a new and better client to replace her pain-in-the-arse client, she also stepped back into her power because she was no longer playing a servant role.
Happy Revenue; this is how Caroline, one of our members, described it.
Why chase the ‘get more clients’ story when actually it’s not MORE clients that are going to serve you.
In my book, True Profit Business, I take you through the four choices you can make to help decide which business model will suit you best.
1. What’s the role you want to play in your business; what’s the right balance of technician (delivering what it is you are selling) and manager (having associates or other team members being the customer point of contact)?
2. What’s the optimum number of clients; will you work best with clients 1:1, 1:Group, 1:Many or 1:Mass?
3. What’s the best delivery method; what’s the right balance of in-person, virtual or digital delivery that will allow you to deliver your best work, without burning you out?
4. Which selling system would suit you best; internet marketing, conversation marketing or a hybrid of the two?
These are the four profit levers in your business that can either help you grow, or keep you crazy busy, often with low profitability. They are your top four potential energy, time and profit drainers and/or energisers in your business, and they give you your True Profit.
However, there are no ‘most profitable’ or ‘easiest for you to make money on’ answers here.
Why? Because this is the BS that is being fed to us entrepreneurs right now; particularly those of you in the coaching, therapy and transformation professions.
Digital businesses that focus on having an internet marketing selling system in place and having hundreds of customers every year, can be highly profitable, hugely scalable and a lot of fun to grow and run. But for some people, there types of businesses can be hell on earth, drain you of money and burn you out. Just hearing the word ‘funnel’ is enough to freak you out!
The same goes for those of you who may have been told that selling a VIP or premium level of service is what will work for a business like yours; only to find that you are running yourself ragged, trying to prove that you are worthy of this level of pricing. For some, it doesn’t matter how good the advice is, if you haven’t done the personal development work or built up enough credibility, then you are going to feel extremely uncomfortable at selling at high prices, which is not going to make for an easy, simple business model.
You, believe it or not, have the choice on what’s going to work best for you, based on your own money goals, time needs, core values, personality and impact you want to make. And when you decide what you feel is going to work best for you, you then put in the right boundaries, processes, team and business infrastructure in place to support this.
Let’s tie this back to this phrase Happy Revenue.
I love this phrase and I wish I could credit the person who first came up with it for my client, Caroline, to have shared it in our call yesterday, but it seems that not even Google can give me any clues. (If you know, please let me know – thanks!)
It may become the title of a book I my write in the future if I could drum up enough energy to go through the book writing process for a third time! So for now, I simply want to gift these two words to you: Happy Revenue.
And I invite you to come back to the real reasons why you decided to start your own business. For some of you, you may have grown in confidence and ready to scale up your business to bigger revenues. But for many, starting your business was to give you a sense of freedom; freedom to earn you money in way that was fun, creative and gave you time to do what else you wanted out of life. And if your revenue has stopped being happy, then it’s time to take a breather and review your business model.
Of course, if you want help with this, then me and my coaching team are only a zoom call away. You can book a free True Profit Call to discuss your Happy Revenue potential with us right here.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
The problem with selling services, such as coaching, advice and consulting time, is that it’s very easy to get caught up with how much you ought to be charging. Emotional stories such as “I’m not that worth that much” or “There’s no way my clients will pay that” whip you up into a storm at times, and you can spend days, if not weeks, agonising over the price of your next proposal or new programme.
When you’re selling your time and expertise, you have a low cost of sales, which means you don’t have to spend that much each month to be able to do what it is you that you do. So your prices are often based on how much you feel you can charge.
Although I am a big fan of trusting your intuition in business, emotional feelings are not good commercial indicators, especially if you are working hard to find enough clients each month and you may be coming from a place of worry or anxiety over where your next piece of business is coming from.
What if you could have a simple pricing formula to ensure the prices you charge, give you the income that you want at the end of each month?
There are a number of ways of calculating prices.
Cost based pricing; good for physical products, but not so good for services because of the very low costs involved, particularly if you work virtually and don’t have any office or clinic space.
Value based pricing; typically used for services, but because of the emotional stories, very few service professionals allow them to charge enough and so end up using the next method.
Market based pricing; set your prices based on what everyone else in your market place is doing. The problem with this method is that the only way to ‘win’ at this one is to be the cheapest. Customers will typically use price as the deciding factor when choosing you and you get trapped into having to work harder by having to work with more clients. It’s like putting your next proposal or new programme on Amazon marketplace and just hoping you come out on top of the searches.
There’s a fourth method and that is income based pricing; charge the price that gives you the income you want. And this is what I wanted to demonstrate in this article.
Before I dive in, I have a few caveats.
1) I’m over-simplifying the figures in this article to make it easy for me to share examples. Do you own finance work and costings to make sure it stacks up for your own business.
2) The kinds of businesses that this can work for are usually service providers, such as consultants, coaches, accountants and therapists, because operating costs are usually very low for these kinds of businesses, particularly if you are working virtually and have no office or clinic space.
3) What I am sharing here is not professional accountancy or finance advice. I am not a qualified finance advisor so do seek proper tax and accountancy advice from your own accountant.
4) In my working examples below, I write about monthly revenue. For most businesses, your revenue ebbs and flows. Sometimes people refer to this feast and famine, but in my experience, there is always a natural cycle of a few months of harvest and a month here and there of letting your fields go fallow. So don’t get hung up on the fact that a monthly income needs to be consistent to be successful, because consistent income is one of those holy grails that marketers sell you, but isn’t always easily achievable! It’s how you manage your manage your money during the harvest months that allow you enjoy the fallow months that matters.
How you may be using your income reports right now
For most people, you hire an accountant or bookkeeper to keep track of your finances, and at the end of each year, your accountant hands you your end of year accounts. This is when you find out exactly how profitable you were over the last year, how much tax you now need to pay and how much you’ve actually earned.
There are two problems to this approach. One, you may end up being very disappointed by the final figures, wondering where all your money went after working hard all year. If you’ve not been on top of your finances during the year, this is also where you may find that you’ve not put aside enough tax. This happened to me in my early years; it’s not a nice feeling!
Two, your tax returns and company accounts aren’t really designed for your business use. Tax returns and statutory accounts are legal requirements to let the Inland Revenue know how much tax you have to pay. As day-to-day tools to help you manage your business, they are pretty useless. Some business owners will have accountants who help them with management accounts each month, but for most, they are still too clunky to be use them to help decide on what their pricing ought to be.
You need a simple pricing formula that you can use to quickly and easily price up proposals and programmes.
The Profitability Sweet Spot
If you are like most service based business owners, there’s every chance that you allow yourself to think that whatever you charge your clients, is what you get as income, minus a few expenses and a little bit of tax.
Thus if you charge a client £1000, you may think in your head that your income is about £900, give or take. If you have been trading for several years, this may be why you feel deflated at the end of each year when your accountant hands you your tax returns, and you realise you ended up making very little money. This can often trigger those thoughts that you aren’t working hard enough and thus you keep on the crazy ‘work harder’ hamster wheel.
Here’s how I look at a business’ finances, and how I use them to help them with my pricing.
There are four main areas that your revenue needs to go towards, apart from your personal income; tax, running costs, business growth and personal development.
Let’s go through each one.
- 20% Tax. You only pay tax on your profits, rather than revenue, and there are different tax rates depending on your overall income, including personal tax and corporation tax, if you are a limited company. This is why I make the caveat above about over-simplifying. I am not a tax accountant and nor do I want to be working out my own tax each year. But I do want to include a percentage of tax in my pricing to ensure I am being paid the money I want in my personal bank account. 20% is often slightly higher than it needs to be, but I always work to have more money in my tax account rather than risk having a short fall and not being able to pay my tax on time. Anything extra left in my tax account after I’ve paid my taxes I see as a great way of saving, so it’s a win win in my opinion.
- 10% running costs. Of course, this is going to vary depending on your business, which is why you have to get clear on exactly what you spend each month. But over the years of working with many consultants and service businesses, this figure is a good average to work from to get started. This percentage needs to cover everything from internet services and website hosting, to admin support and insurance.
- 5% business growth. Your business needs income, too. You may need ad hoc technical support, or need to invest in a new website, images or brochure design. Having this percentage ensures you have the cash to build up a buffer to pay for what you need, when you need it. Too often small businesses like yours struggle to invest, particularly as they start to scale up and grow, because they are trying to pay for things like new websites or branding out of cash that month, and that’s never easy to do.
- 5% personal development. Investing in yourself is critical as a business owner. Yes, this may cover the obvious such as coaching or mentoring, but you may also want to invest in CPD training or keep yourself up to date with the latest industry trends or attend a conference. Again, like business growth, people often try to pay for these things out of cash that month and if you struggle to have enough money, you forgo what is needed to develop yourself, both personally and professionally.
So the profitability sweet spot becomes 60%, which means for every £600 you want to earn, you need to sell £1000 to get that income.
Or let’s put it another way, for every £1,000 you sell, your true income is just £600. How does this make you think about your prices?
Now that you know you need 40% of everything you sell to go towards tax, running costs, business growth and personal development, can see why you have to charge better than most of your competitors.
Let me give you some working examples.
Example #1 Freelancer wants an income of £2,000 a month so needs to sell £40,000 of services a year
20% Tax: £8,000
10% Running Costs: £4,000
5% Business Growth: £2,000
5% Personal Development: £2,000
60% Personal Income (Profitability): £24,000
To sell £40,000 of services in the year, your monthly revenue needs to be £3,300. And if you work with five clients during the month, they each need to be spending £660 with you each month. Thus, £40,000 divided by 12 months = £3,300 divided by 5 clients = £660
Example #2 Consultant wants an income of £6,000 a month so needs to sell £120,000 of services a year
20% Tax: £24,000
10% Running Costs: £12,000
5% Business Growth: £6,000
5% Personal Development: £6,000
60% Personal Income (Profitability): £72,000
To sell £120,000 of services in the year, your monthly revenue needs to be £10,000. How this breaks down per client will depend on your business model but if you are predominately working with as a consultant, then this may look like five clients a month need to spend £2,000 a month with you.
If you sell group programmes, then maybe you need to be selling ten places at £1,000 a month. Or if you sell longer term contracts, such as training or consulting, then that may be ten clients over the year that all need to spend a minimum of £12,000 each.
What will typically happen with a business this size is that you will have a few different revenue streams, and your revenue will often ebb and flow over the year, as highlighted above in my caveats. But it never needs to be complicated.
If you struggle working this through with a business this size, then reach out to me. I do this work with my clients all the time so it’s easy for me to show you what your revenue model could look like with the right prices in place.
What if you are running at a higher profitability than 60%
What if you are genuinely paying yourself far more than 60% of your revenue each year? If it’s working for you, then great. You don’t have to be putting aside 5% for business growth and 5% for personal development, for example. And you may find your running costs are less than 5% over the year.
But there are two profitability danger spots you need to look out for.
Swinging into 80% or more
If you are swinging towards 80% profitability and above, and earning £800 for every £1,000 you sell, then there is a danger of your business being under-invested and under-resourced.
In the short-term, this may work. Enjoy the fruits of your labour!
But long-term, you may find yourself burning out, particularly if you are in the higher revenue bracket as seen in example #2. If you run a business with a revenue of £100,000 and more, then there is every chance you need a good operations person, and perhaps even start looking at hiring associates if you are in high growth phase, so it may mean you aren’t spending enough to give you the team, processes and systems to support you in your work.
You are working hard at doing everything yourself, and although this can work in the short term, over many months and years, your health and wellbeing is going to suffer trying to keep up with delivery work, as well as what it takes to sell and support you and your clients.
Swinging into 40% or less
If you are swinging towards the 40% profitability and lower, and earning less than £400 for every £1,000 you sell, then there is a danger of your business being over-invested and under-resourced.
In the short-term, this may be necessary; you may be going through an intense period of growth and hiring new members of your team whilst the revenues go up. Hang in there if this is the case, and stay strong with your vision.
But long-term, you may find yourself over-spending and if there is one guaranteed way of a business going under is a lack of cash.
One area I often see being over-spent is personal development; high priced coaching programmes and getting sucked into big marketing programmes can often put a business owner into a cash flow crisis, especially if you are using a credit card to finance.
The other area is hiring too many people, especially if you have decided to run a big launch or you are developing the digital marketing side of your business. You want to have a tight rein on your finances and ensure that whoever you are hiring have clear ROI targets and know what is expected of them.
So watch out for these two swings in both directions. Over the many years of working with consultants, agencies and service professionals, the sweet spot for your personal income happens around 60%, whilst ensuring 40% of whatever you sell goes into your tax, running costs, business growth and personal development pots.
How does this help with your pricing decisions? Let me know what you put into place and what impact this has on your business.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
I’m writing about boundaries this month; those often invisible lines that we need to have to protect and fuel our time and energy. Last week I wrote about the 4 work boundaries to increasing profitability and avoiding burnout. This week, I want to shine the light on how clear your legal and professional working relationship needs are set with your clients.
When so much attention is given to sales and marketing, the legal processes and terms of engagement of a new client starting to work with you are often overlooked. For some of you, it’s a lack of awareness. After all, what you don’t know, you don’t know. For others, it can feel dull, confusing or perhaps a little scary.
And I’m here to tell you that none of that needs to happen.
There’s no shame in not knowing what you aren’t even aware of. And if you have been shying away from this area of your business (or even burying your head in the sand!), then I want you to know that it is far easier and simpler than you may be making it out to be.
In this week’s article, I have broken down the three documents to use during your onboarding process with new clients that set up your Power Partnership working relationship. With these in place, you will find a real shift in your business, no matter what it is that you actually do with them or for them.
First of all, what is a Power Partnership™?
Partnership Power™ is the phrase that I use to teach my clients how to sell and work with clients from a place of equal power.
When you let your work and personal boundaries slip, you start to give up your power and this can lead to some clients beginning to take liberties with you. Sometimes this shows up as simply not turning up to meetings on time or not giving you what you need in order to do your work, such as completed questionnaires. With others, they may start asking for discounts or add-ons to what you’ve already agreed.
When you start saying ‘no problem’ to them, you allow your power to shift away from you even more and the relationship has the danger of quickly becoming toxic; behaviour such as unpaid invoices going unpaid to start or cancelling meetings without notice.
But take too much power over your clients, dictate your terms and not show any flexibility or compassion when needed, you will come across as arrogant, cold or dismissive of their needs. This, of course, would start pushing away clients and your business will suffer.
Setting clear working relationship boundaries doesn’t mean you need to become Queen Bitch. Putting the right legal and terms of engagement in place is about creating the space and container for both and your client to work side by side, in partnership and in service with each other, rather than you becoming the servant.
Let’s dive into the three things that will give you this container.
1) Terms of Service
Whatever you sell, your clients have to be aware of the parameters of your professional working relationship; basically, getting clear on what it is that they’ve actually bought.
If you don’t set the rules at the start, your client won’t know when they are stepping over the mark or requesting something that you can’t or don’t want to deliver on. Remember you are in service to them, rather than taking on a servant role.
The specifics of your working relationship need to include:
- Exact outline of your service and/or programme. If you’ve done this via a proposal, then this should be pretty clear. But if you’ve sold via a conversation or click on your website, then having a welcome pack or email to confirm what it is that your client is receiving from you, is critical. You may have told them on the phone the details or have it listed on your website, but your clients are human; they won’t have heard or read every detail so it’s important that you clarify this at the start of your working relationship to ensure their expectations are met and they is no ambiguity on what was on offer.
- Cancellation policy. In the UK, anything sold that your client hasn’t seen in person (which is anything you sell, unless you have an in-person gallery or shop that you are selling from), gives them the right to a 14 day cooling off period. But what happens if they no-show or they want to cancel a contract or workshop? How do you deal with emergency situations when they genuinely can’t keep their agreed time? Is there a charge in place when they don’t? If you are in any doubt that you need to have clear cancellation or postponement clauses in your terms, then I always recommend you take inspiration from your dentist; you’d never be able to cancel an appointment at the last minute without a financial penalty. Why should you be any different?
- Confidentiality. Is this important to highlight in your client work? Do they need reassurance of the level of confidentiality and how you will manage this?
- Payment terms. When do you expect payment and how? It’s not good enough to let your clients pay you when it suits them. You either set up a pay-before-we-start-work-together process or invoice with 5 days payment terms, slightly longer perhaps if you are dealing with a finance team in an organisation, but certainly not 90 days which I’ve seen one of my own clients feel obligated to agree to.
These terms of service don’t need to be long and legal. You can create a very personable welcome pack or letter that highlights the promise you are making to your client and the level of service you are giving them, without lots of small print.
For those of you who work directly as a coach, consultant, trainer or therapist, I do recommend you get your clients to sign one, rather than just email them a copy for reference, before you start working together because it means they’ve read it and acknowledged how your relationship is going to work. There are some good, inexpensive options such as Hellosign that make this signing process work easily online.
2) Terms and conditions
Technically, there’s very little difference between a Terms of Service and a Terms and Conditions. Many businesses will refer their clients to one document and contract.
But I like to split them apart because I find that many of you reading my articles run businesses that involve personal relationships with your clients. Simply having a long, legal contract as your only form of service or programme confirmation, can be rather daunting for your client. They may even be scared off or feel it’s all rather too serious if this is their first time working with someone like you. On the other end of the scale, only having a Terms of Service welcome pack can mean you miss out on some important legal points that protect both you and your clients.
So for clarity, I am referring to your Terms of Service as a read-friendly document that confirms your client working relationship; a welcome pack or letter or proposal. Your Terms and Conditions is a statement of both you and your clients’ legal rights. This is the document that is needed to protect you both in case of a breakdown of your working relationship, unforeseen circumstances that mean you may not be able to deliver what you’ve sold and cover things such as IP, professional indemnity and data protection.
Now I am sure you would never want or even imagine a breakdown of a working relationship. But the truth is that it happens. And when it does happen, it usually happens at the worst possible time. So it is critical that you have clear and legal terms and conditions set up for your business and have them both listed on your website, and have them sent to your clients at the start of the working relationship.
If you are a UK Business and want some well written templates to work from, then I can highly recommend The Small Business Legal Academy which is where I’ve got all my contracts and terms of service documents from.
(Please note: the above link is an affiliate link and if you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I recommend this service because it’s something that I have already purchased, use in my own business and wholeheartedly recommend.)
3) Fair Play Agreement
This third document may be overkill for some of you, but for those of you who are about to embark on a long term working relationship or consultancy project, then a Fair Play Agreement document can be a really useful addition to your onboarding process.
I have to give credit to one of my clients for this name; Jon Norton from http://www.barefootaccounting.co.uk/ came up with this name to use in his accountancy practice and I love it. You, of course, can come up with your own name and version.
What this document gives your client is a clear outline of what you both agree to do for each other to enable a successful outcome. It is particularly useful for professional services, consultants or design companies who have used a proposal to confirm the exact nature of the project or contract, and then want to highlight some key working practices during the onboarding process.
This may include some of the following:
- Support times and access to you. How do your clients reach you whilst working with you? If you don’t want them calling you on your mobile number, why do you have it on your business card or email signature? What response time do you promise for emails or phone messages?
- Information from the client. What ‘homework’ or information do you expect your client to give you by when? If you are working to tight deadlines or managing a design project for them, and you can only deliver based on what your client gives, being clear on what you need and when, will help prevent project creep or any blame that you are at fault. Rather than have to become Queen Bitch and quote any legal obligations, you can use this agreement to keep in your Power Partnership.
- Expectations of how people are treated. You may have an assistant or a number of associates that will work with your client, so it may be that you want to ensure the right level of trust and respect is given to your team members.
Although not a legal document, it is something that I would recommend asking your client to sign, as above with your Terms of Service.
Having all three of these documents in place not only protect you and your client, but create a strong set of working relationship boundaries. Each time I help our clients put these in place in their business, there is a visible difference to the way they work within weeks.
Yes, they can take some thinking out. But do the work and you have a clear and professional onboarding process that sets the tone for a sustainable and profitable working relationship.
And as a final note, these aren’t just to be used with your new clients. If you need to get some (or all!) of your clients realigned with your new working relationship boundaries, then communicating these with them will only show you in better professional light. They set the tone for working together sustainably in the future, and can always be a great reason for bringing some more painful clients to the end 😉
Let me know what you end up putting in place and what impact these documents have on your business.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
As a woman of a certain age, I’ve grown wise to the fact that there are two things that are most precious to us. But too often we can spend our whole lives giving them away without a moment’s thought.
When we have lots of these two things, we take them for granted. But when we don’t have much of either of them, we grind along, working to other people’s schedules and demands.
They exist as a finite resource for everyone, no matter where on this planet you live, and yet we can’t make more of either of them when we run out.
They are the most valuable resources we have in our lives and businesses, and yet without some fundamental boundaries in place, we will under-value them; give them both away to anyone who demands them of us, without recognising the need to use them first on ourselves and what’s important to us.
These two things are time and energy.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I often felt I had boundless amounts of both. If I felt tired, I would just grab another cup of coffee. If I was hungry and didn’t have the energy to cook a meal, I would simply throw in a ready meal in the microwave or eat a sandwich on the run.
We could do that then, couldn’t we? And without much thought to the consequences or long term impact.
But as I woke up to my 40’s, kicking off the decade with a young family (2 kids just 22 months apart), reeling from losing my dad to cancer and a business to run, my time and energy resources were suddenly depleted.
That coffee fix or sandwich on the run didn’t quite do the job as it had in my 20’s and I spent most of that decade crawling my way through quite extreme peri-menopausal symptoms, over-worked adrenals and wearing my Superwoman cape just to get by every day.
But what has all this got to do with business?
There’s a magic word that I want to focus on this month with you, that has become one of the most important strategies to my own business growth, and one that comes up time and time again in our coaching conversations with our clients.
And that’s boundaries.
Without boundaries in place to protect and fuel your time and energy resources, you will often end up working like a ‘busy fool’, as one of my clients called herself before we began working together. You may be making money, but for the number of hours you are putting in, the money you pay yourself at the end of each month, it doesn’t feel worth it.
So this month, I am shining a light on this important topic within your business. I want to share with you some boundary strategies that we need to put in place with our clients, and with ourselves.
In this article, I want to focus on the top 4 work boundaries I’d recommend you have in place in order for you to increase your profitability and avoid burnout.
1. Hours Worked
What hours are you prepared to work?
Very few clients that I have worked with have ever stopped to think about how their ideal week could look; they have allowed their weekly routine to be shaped by what their business gives them.
When you first started up your business, your work diary probably looked very empty. It’s not until you begin marketing, start to work with clients and become able to attend various events or conferences that you find your diary starting to get booked up. Meetings are being scheduled to suit other people. You don’t take into account the preparation or rest time you need between appointments. Your once open diary is now pulling you apart, you’re wearing your busy badge of honour and you find you don’t have the time to focus on projects that could grow your business.
The irony of time management is that you can’t actually manage time; you can only manage yourself.
In order to put a stop to this, I’d recommend you take a breath and work out what your ideal week could be. If a week feels too routine for you and you imagine different things happening at different times of your working month, change the time frame to an ideal month.
Here are a list of questions to help you define your ideal week.
- My ideal working week starts on …
- What would I do on my first working day to set the right tone for my week ahead?
- How would I spend the other days? (For example, are there certain mornings or afternoons that are important to keep clear for certain activities?)
- My favourite day of the week is … and this is the reason why …
- The days and hours that I want to work with my clients are …
- I am most in flow during this time …
- What I love to be spending most of my time doing is …
- Who I want to be spending more of my time with is …
- When I am not working, I want to be … (This question is especially important for those of you who don’t have other commitments, such as family members to look after, to pre-determine your working hours. It can be far harder to switch off from work when you only have yourself to be committed to, so decide what it is you want to be doing when you are not working.)
- How I want to feel at the end of my ideal week is …
- What do I want to do or achieve daily?
- What do I want to do or achieve weekly?
- What do I want to do or achieve monthly?
- What are you not prepared to sacrifice? (Are your Fridays sacred? Do you have to pick up children every day at 3.30 pm? Are you happy to work during the weekends but you have to have two days off during the week? Decide what time you aren’t prepared to give away so you can set those boundaries in place now and avoid frustration or resentment at a later date.)
Once you have answered these questions, decide what changes you can make to your scheduling and working hours right now. Do you need to block out certain mornings or afternoons for routine activities, such as content creation or team meetings? If you are unable to make any immediate changes, at what point in the future can you introduce this new schedule? Can you add this to your diary right now?
You do have total control over who and what takes your attention during your working week. I know some of you may not feel this is the case right now, especially if you are fully booked with clients for the next weeks or months. But when you decide what’s important to you in how you spend your time, you set the necessary boundaries needed to create the space to grow and you will realise that the right clients will want to work with you when you are available, rather than you being dictated by their schedules.
2. Capacity Available
What is your capacity and availability for taking on new clients?
I often hear business owners asking for more clients, but they haven’t stopped to consider how many clients would give them a ‘full’ business. Think of your business like a hotel booking sheet. A hotel will have a finite number of rooms to sell for every day of the week. No matter what you sell, you will find there will be an optimum level of clients or products or programmes you can sell, whilst still maintaining the level of service you want to give.
If you choose to maximise your sales and compete on price (AKA always sell at lower prices because you feel it’s easier for you to sell), you are going to find this a tough marketing strategy; competition is going to be tight and you have to ensure you have the distribution channels or delivery systems in place to keep up with the demand.
For most of you reading this, you will have better success in thinking in terms of optimising your sales and deciding how many clients or customers you can serve in any one week or month. By doing your sales numbers this way, you can work your charge rates back from here once you’ve decided how much you want to earn, and thus set your boundaries as to how many clients you can effectively onboard each week, month or quarter. This simple exercise can radically change your profitability over night and if you need help in working this through, get in touch.
Email me at [email protected] and I’m happy to arrange for one of our coaches to talk you through the process and help assess your profitability options.
3. Communication Channels
Technology is a double-edged sword; it’s made ways of communicating and corresponding with clients and prospects more accessible than ever … but that’s also meant that you are in danger of managing multiple platforms, never being able to follow a message trail and always being switched on.
First rule of communication is that you DON’T have to be everywhere or have every messaging app switched on at all times.
Yes, each of your clients may have their own preference, but if you allow every one of your clients to communicate with you on their messaging channel of choice, you are going to let your precious time and energy run out each day. You decide which communication channel(s) you want to use and set your working hours.
For example, you may want to only use email for all communications on the projects you are working on and you promise to respond within one working day or same day if you get their email before 2pm. And for all quick messages or check-ins before meetings, you keep your WhatsApp on between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday through to Thursday.
I have had many clients over the years, complain of having to answer WhatsApp messages on Sunday mornings or late at night. But the truth is that they have allowed that relationship to happen because they didn’t have clear communication channel boundaries set up at the start of their relationship.
If these boundaries slip as the relationship goes on (as often is the case if a client forgets or gets comfortable with working with you and treats you as they would any other member of their team), you can simply remind them of the original agreement and reset the boundary again.
For those of you who run a business that serves many hundreds of customers online, the same principle applies for customer support and help desks. Be clear on what support your business offers and at what times, and your customers will know what is expected. Bad customer support happens when there are no clear communication boundaries set up and the customer will ALWAYS have higher expectations of response than you can give them. So avoid this from happening by setting clear expectations up front.
4. Holidays & Time Off
Last but not least, is the need for holiday boundaries. I see too many self-employed business owners rarely plan their holiday times.
If you were employed, you would automatically get 20+ days holiday a year. And yet, when most people want to work for themselves because of the freedom of choice, they rarely take holidays. The irony!
For most of you, I’d put money on the fact that holidays and time off are forced upon you; either by kids’ school holidays (you can’t work when the kids are off so you swap one job for another!) or you end up booking a week off just as you reach breaking point and the holiday becomes a necessity before you keel over in exhaustion.
Holidays and days off need to be planned ahead. Without this, you will just keep working and working and working. So set the boundaries now, and look ahead over the next 12+ months and decide which days you want to set clear for holidays.
You don’t have to book anywhere, nor do you need to decide what it is you want to do with that time off. But without blocking these days out in your diary, you will automatically fill up the space with work, more work and more work. I have to do this myself every 3 or 4 months, on top of our family holiday time. If I didn’t block out chunks of 2 or 3 days around the flow of our business, I would just keep on trucking, which I know is not good for me over a long period of time.
These 4 boundaries may be just the foundation for you to work on more, depending on what business model you run and how you work with your clients. But if you have found yourself working like a ‘busy fool’, then starting with these will hugely help shift your patterns of work and help reclaim your time and energy precious resources.
Now that you’ve read through this, I’d recommend you schedule the time to work through each one. You will need time and energy to do this; a clear space to think and reflect on what’s important to you. For some of you, you will think you won’t have the time, but this will be because you haven’t got the right boundaries in place for you and your business. Without taking this critical time out, you run the risk of keeping those wheels spinning.
If you are really super busy, start with a small slot of just 20 minutes – just the right amount of time to sit down with a cuppa – and work through the first one, Hours Worked. This is the most do-able one to put into place, especially if you start to change your schedule from two months hence. This may not make an immediate difference, but you will thanking yourself for your forward thinking in just two months time if you do!
And if you know of someone else who needs to read this article, please share it with them. You could be saving their health and sanity!
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
This time last year, life, as we knew it, changed.
As I sit here and reflect over the past year, and of course acknowledge the trauma that happened to so many, I am also in awe by how many people have shifted and grown their businesses.
Comfort and growth can’t co-exist.
It often takes extreme discomfort for us to make big changes to how we are living and working. And for all the grief and loss that many have encountered, there are many others who have risen up, like a phoenix from the ashes.
I think of all the new experiences that I have bought that I would have never considered before March last year.
Joining fitness classes over zoom is probably something we’ve all done for the first time this past year. But now some fitness professionals are going further and making decisions to staying online; they’ve realised they are now open for a global market (time zones dependant) and have upped their tech skills to have a full TV production suite in their home studios.
This month I booked a magician for my son’s 19th birthday (never too old for a magician, yes!) through an Airbnb experience. An hour’s private show beamed straight to my laptop from a chap over in Japan; it was 4am for him! He told us that his day job was a project manager and in June last year he decided it was time to turn his hobby into his career. He now runs between 3 and 5 shows every few days, to an audience across the world, and is regularly booked for corporate events, as well as families like us.
And last week, I had a virtual photo shoot. Yes … a professional photo shoot through an app that I downloaded on my phone. I was a little sceptical about this but if you are on Instagram, you can see the results on my profile @karenskidmore. I was blown away by the quality of photos and how good Aga was at directing me by only using her voice.
What about me? What new skills and ways of doing business have I adopted?
I’ve always worked predominately online, so working on zoom wasn’t new to me. But I have had to learn how to run my all day workshops virtually, as well as our Mastermind Days for our Momentum Impact members. I’ve decided these work better online – more powerful – and I won’t be travelling into London to run these again, something I would have never considered before last year.
I’m also now working in my Plotting Shed, a new garden office that we built at the end of last year. With my husband now working from home, it became apparent we needed two separate offices. Of course, I volunteered to go outside. And I love it. (Again, you can go see what it looks like on my Insta pics.) It is the most gorgeous space and it makes me smile every time I walk down the garden path to unlock the door each morning.
Would any of these examples that I’ve shared here have happened without the discomfort of the last year?
This past year has pushed many of us to our extreme boundaries. We’ve been forced to step outside of our comfort zones and face, head on, parts (or even everything) about our business that stop working suddenly twelve months ago. You’ve made decisions about where and how to move your business through these last twelve months and, whatever has happened, there’s every chance your business is very different from where it was a year ago.
Acknowledge what you’ve achieved in your business through these uncomfortable months. And know that the potential of what is possible happens because you don’t stay comfortable.
Which leads me to wonder how we can all make sure we take full advantage of a little (or a lot of!) discomfort from time to time so that we can keep moving forward and ensure we are thriving in business.
If you want to discuss what I’ve shared here today and you’re interested in being challenged in what you could achieve, get in touch.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.