How you set things up in your business and the ways in which you work with clients have everything to do with how long you continue to enjoy and stay committed to the work you do and the clients you serve.
This is vital because your quality of work and service to clients is directly and immediately impacted by your joy and happiness in your work, and how easy or difficult you make it. Done without forethought, understanding and conciousness, you can easily set yourself—and your business and clients—up for for failure.
A stressed, burned-out service provider is no good to anyone, much less themselves or their business.
That’s why it’s so important to visualize what your best business looks like and what policies, procedures and practices you need to establish and how they work in actual practice to support you in creating your dream business.
So, how have you set things up to support your joy and commitment to being in business?
- Have the right tools and equipment. Obsolete tools and technology will slow you down and drive you crazy. You don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. Slavishly buying top-of-the-line for no other reason than for appearances sake is just immature silliness. But you DO need state-of-the-art because it is what will allow you to do your work as quickly and effectively as possible without unnecessary snafus. That doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, but you also don’t want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish by going the cheapest route. That’s as equally dumb and short-sighted. Do your homework and look for sturdiness and long-life. This is an investment in your joy and happiness and you don’t want to be constantly frustrated and slowed down by tools that just don’t work well. They’ll end up costing you and your clients far more in the long-run.
- What exactly ARE you? Jack-of-all-trades (master of none) is not a profession or expertise. People do not value gophers, much less consider them experts in anything, which is why you’ll never make any real money trying to be and do anything and everything. The fastest path to burnout is keeping yourself on a hamster wheel of constantly scrambling for chump change. Make a clear and conscious decision about what you are in business to do and then only seek clients who need and value that expertise. You’ll be able to command higher fees and the work will be more specific, thus easier, to do.
- Lead your own business. If you are a parent, are you going to let your kids choose the meals your family eats? They know what they like and you definitely take that into consideration, but heck, they’d eat snacks and sweets for every meal if you let them. As the head of your household, it’s up to you to decide what is best for the long-term health and habits of your family. Same thing in business. You are a business owner with an expertise, not a slave or indentured servant. And as a business owner and professional service provider, you simply can’t allow yourself to be sent running in all directions like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s not up to clients to decide when, where or how you work and you simply can’t be a slave to their every whim, wish or demand because that actually isn’t good for you or your business. If you want to stay in business and continue serving clients you care about, doing the work you love, YOU–not your clients–need to set the rules, policies and procedures that are best for you and the long-term health of your business. Because these are the things that allow you to do great work and give great service to all your clients consisistently, all the time and every time.
- Say “no” to say “yes.” YOU get to say what you do and what you don’t do in your business. Having a clear definition/identity of what you are and what you do in business is important because it helps set expectations and align understandings with clients. You also want to operate your business and work with clients in ways that give you plenty of “space” around the work and don’t require you to work at a frantic, unsustainable pace. Say “no” to requests that don’t fall under your category of expertise. Say “no” to work that requires you to work on-demand and check-in daily with clients as if you were their assistant (you’re not!). Say “no” to unrealistic demands and turn-around times. Saying “no” to these things allows you to say “yes” to more fufilling, valuable and profitable work and clients and gives you more space to do fantabulous–not merely sufficient–work.
- Choose a target market and define your ideal (and unideal) client. Not everyone needs what you are in business to do. Nor does what you do make sense for every kind of business. You will drive yourself nuts and keep yourself in the poorhouse if you keep trying to fit square pegs into round holes. You need your thinking cap, not wishful thinking, for this. Figure out who really has the most need (and, thus, will value it most highly) for what you are in business to do and then focus your efforts on that market. It’s going to make all your marketing infinitely easier and “easy” in this respect is insurance against frustration and giving up. Likewise, get clear about who is and who isn’t an ideal client for you. Ill-fitting clients take up double, even triple, the space in your practice and require an even greater amount of energy and hand-holding. If you have clients you don’t enjoy working with, you will dread contact with them, procrastinate on their work and avoid them like the plague, sometimes without even realizing it’s happening. There is absolutely no good that comes from working with anyone you simply don’t like and enjoy. Avoid taking them on as clients and graciously let them go the minute you realize there isn’t a fit.These two steps are what will allow you to make more money, working with fewer clients, and go a long way toward keeping you happy, joyful and committed in your work and business.
- Don’t try to be an island. One of the biggest misconceptions I see in business is this idea that a solopreneur is someone who works completely alone and does everything themself. Nothing could be further from the truth. EVERYONE needs the help of others to be successful–in life and business. Being a solopreneur simply means that you are the craftsperson, the artisan, the expert that clients hire and expect to work with. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need your own support. Hire a bookkeeper to take care of your financial recordkeeping. Find a business attorney you can turn to when you have legal questions and need advice. Partner with an Administrative Consultant to take on some or all of your administrative tasks, functions and roles so you can focus on working with your clients doing whatever it is you do. Join professional organizations and participate in industry forums so you can cultivate relationships with colleagues and others and have a network you can turn to for ideas, advice and additional help when you need it.
No one has perfect vision and we all make missteps along the way. But every day you are given a new opportunity to do things over, to improve and make them better for you and your clients.