Back in 2017 … those pre-covid days of being able to attend conferences with hundreds of other people! … I had spent an incredible weekend at the One Woman Conference.
There were 400+ women at this event and I had the honour of being invited up on the stage as one of the finalists of the Lead The Change awards 2017, voted by the community as someone who most embodied the One of many SoftPower Leadership principles.
Having spoken on many stages, it has to have been one of my most nerve wracking performances. Somehow sharing my personal story and the vulnerabilities I’d faced (and was still facing!) was nerve racking. ,
In the run up to the conference, I reflected on what it took to step in to our potential to make a difference, and what it was about me that represented being a leader.
When you spend time by yourself and unconnected with people outside of your immediate family (and let’s be honest, we’ve all plenty of this opportunity for this over the past 18 months!), it’s easy to feel that whatever journey you are on, that what’s ahead of you is too steep or too rocky or that your goal isn’t clear and is shrouded in mountain cloud.
And this was the big lesson I shared on stage that day.
That there are times, particularly when you are alone, that fear and doubt and worry creep up, sometimes from nowhere, and take hold of us.
My fear and doubt appears as a gentle tight grip on the inside of my throat; almost like a child’s hand trying to silence me.
Your fears and doubts will appear in different places. Perhaps a knot in your stomach or a pain on your left side or a buzzing sensation at the back of your skull.
For the years running up to working with One of many, I had used this feeling in my throat to pull me back, like a bungee cord. I’d come up with an idea, reach for it and then the bungee cord would snap me back so that I’d either give up on the idea or just do a smaller version of it. And this happened a lot in the years I was recovering from my burn out, often very afraid of getting sick again.
My journey with the incredible mentors who make up One Of Many, Joanna Martin, Annie Stoker and Susie Heath, had allowed me to now feel into my uncomfortableness … the feeling of vulnerability … the feeling of shame, guilt and whatever my inner shit threw up at me at the time I want to do bigger things and become a bigger version of myself.
That gentle tight grip on my throat became my sign that it’s the right thing for me to do.
And as I stood up on that stage, I felt it appear … so I knew what I had to share was the right thing for me to have shared that day!
Feeling in to this experience of identifying where in our body we feel emotions is incredible powerful. It slows down our over thinking, and often over catastrophising, of the situation we are faced with; whether that’s a difficult conversation, a challenge at work or a relationship with a friend or family member.
Do you feel into your uncomfortableness of fear, doubt, shame or guilt … whenever it appears … and see it as a power? As a sign that you may need to hear a message of stepping up, to challenge?
I’d love to know if you do this already, perhaps even on a subconscious basis, not realising that you are doing it.
Because I’ve come to now feel these uncomfortable moments not as a bungee cord as I had done the years previously. I’ve learnt to slow down, take a moment and feel into knot or the pain or the grip or the buzz because I know now it’s probably trying to tell me something.
That bungee cord pulling me back to safety is all very well. Because, after all, safe is lovely place to be, particularly on a warm, cosy Sunday afternoon when you want to snuggle up on the sofa with a good book or film.
But if you want to make a bigger impact on this world around us, then safe will only keep you safe. It doesn’t allow us to take risks and stretch us into our potential.
As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it,
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
So let us get vulnerable and, more importantly, feel vulnerable because I know this has the potential to let out the leader that’s within you, too.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
There’s absolutely no doubt, that what you do on a Monday morning sets the tone for the rest of the week. And often the weeks proceeding.
I’ve learned the hard way.
If I start my week faffing about and scrolling through social feeds, the rest of my week will follow in a similar pattern. I end up drifting from one thing to another, reacting to what comes in to my inbox and I start to lose any clarity that I may have had about where it was I was headed.
At the other extreme, I have at times when I started my week with a blaze of energy, jumping into multiple projects and taking action. This may sound great but starting my week like this, I was always in danger of pinging from one thing to the next over the following days, working faster and faster until I hit Friday like a brick wall.
Over the years I have tried out different Monday morning routines, and have worked out what I need to do to keep myself on track each and every week, without over stretching myself yet still achieving what’s important to me and my business goals.
So I thought I would share these with you today to help inspire you into reviewing how you start your week and decide on the two or three key things that have to happen to ensure you remain focused and on track, without drifting through your week or hitting that Friday brick wall.
1) Check in where I am in my energy cycles
Having gone through some pretty horrid years of recovering from burn out and dealing with menopausal symptoms (still ongoing!), I now make sure I track my energy ebbs and flows. I have had to redefine my workflow and understand the patterns that I naturally go through during my menstrual cycle, as well as how I am affected by the seasonal changes, weather patterns, daylight hours and moon phases.
Some parts of my energy cycle I feel clear headed and naturally in flow. In other parts, my body feels stiff, my brain is foggier than usual and I feel myself retreating. I call these our natural Ebb & Flow energy cycles and once you start to become body conscious of them, they are incredibly powerful to help you do your best work.
So at the start of the week, I remind myself where I may be in my menstrual cycle (which has become far more erratic as I approach my menopause), where we are in the moon phase (I have a clock on the wall that tracks this for me and helps me see quickly at a glance) and what the weather may be doing in the week ahead.
If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend you get a copy of my Energy Tracker which will help you embody this work. I liken it to checking your weather app on your phone and if it says there’s 60% of rain, you’d probably take an umbrella with you if you are going out. You aren’t trying to predict how you are going to feel energetically, but preparing yourself for whether you are more like to experience ebb energy or flow energy.
And if you are interested in how your menstrual cycle in particular affects your productivity, check out this article here: Marketing with your menstrual cycle
2) Overview of my business objectives and intentions for the week ahead
Next I give myself an overview of what is happening short and medium term in my business. I have a Big Vision and a strategy for the year ahead, but for my Monday mornings, I focus on what is due to happen over the next 4 to 6 weeks. I review what I have planned and have scheduled in my diary and then I drill down what needs to happen on one piece of paper.
This “one piece of paper” concept is important. I don’t have running to-do lists that go from week to week (these can distract and overwhelm you if you never seem to get the bottom. Read more about how to-do lists distract you here.) and I actually don’t use any fancy online scheduling tools because of the time it used to take me to maintain all the notifications, priority colour changes, etc. I’ve tried various ones but this way just doesn’t work for me.
My intentions for the week get put down on to one A4 sheet of paper, and that sheet remains on my desk until the end of the week or I have completed them all, whichever happens first. I then decide who needs to do each task or short project on that sheet of paper so I either put my initials next to or the initials of somebody else that it needs to be delegated to. So quite often a lot of the things that go down there have the letter A to it, which stands for Alexia, who is my VA and looks after my client and diary management.
This is often a fairly quick exercise taking no more than half an hour or so, as long as I do this every week. If I’ve been away or haven’t done this for the past few Mondays, it can longer. Sometimes I need a bit warming up, a coffee, sometimes a walk, depending on where I am in my energy flow.
3) Money Management
The next thing I do every Monday morning, is my money management. Often it takes me just 10 or 15 minutes to dive in and get this done. I go into my Xero online bookkeeping system, where I have all my bank account reconciliations to check to see what money is coming in and what money is flowing out. I check what I need to still pay for, and what invoices of mine maybe still outstanding. And I also review my revenue spreadsheet so I know how balanced I am moving towards my financial targets for the year.
This simple process gives me a real grounding about where I am financially in my business. It’s what keeps my eye on my profitability. It makes sure I don’t get carried away with all the dozens of ideas that I’m always coming up with it, to ensure they financially benchmark against where I’m going from the money side of my business.
When I don’t do this, I could go weeks before realising that maybe my cashflow was about to dry up or I was overspending. I would often bury my head in the sand, especially when sales weren’t what they could have been, which meant I didn’t have the right energy when I showed up for my sales conversations. So now this money focus happens every single Monday morning.
4) Weekly team meeting
The fourth thing that I do is I have a zoom conference call with my team, Alexia my Operations Manager, and Melina, my Senior Coach. I didn’t really do this for the first eight or nine years of my business. It didn’t seem necessary when it was just myself and Alexia, who was more of a virtual assistant back then. But this weekly 45 minute call has made a huge difference to how we work together.
If you know me personally, or you have worked with me, you know my brain can work incredibly fast. I’m full of ideas; I’m a very creative and innovative person. And the danger of being this way is that I am always racing ahead and Alexia’s trying to keep up; trying to work out where I’m going, and what’s the latest thing I’m doing.
Our team meeting now grounds our week, gets us all focused on what is happening in our client programme, Momentum, which of our clients may need extra support, as well as what tasks are needed for events or campaigns coming up.
These are the four things I do every Monday. I’d love to know what you do each Monday morning to start your week.
Do you do the same things or do you do things differently?
Or perhaps this has inspired you to put some regular tasks or appointments in your diary every Monday morning.
What’s important is that you have a regular focus to your Monday morning (or it could be Sunday evening if you prefer – whatever works best for you) so that you don’t have to rethink Monday morning every week, and it gets you working on what and where it is you need to focus your time and energy on, rather then just jumping straight into your to-do list and reacting to the week.
Having this approach will give you that focus; reviewing, and possibly resetting your focus to ensure that you know where are in your journey and bigger plans.
If you don’t have this weekly grounding of planning, scheduling, tasking, working out where the money is, and who in your team needs to do what, it’s really easy to go adrift. It’s really easy to get carried away with ideas or get lost in the confusion and drown under information and feel you have too much to do.
So what can you do every Monday morning to start your week?
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
“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.