Archive for February 20th, 2012

Dear Danielle: Should I Turn Work Away?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve learned a lot from you in regards to Value Based Pricing by purchasing your system. Love it! The only question I have is, do you turn away any admin work that doesn’t fit into your packages? I sometimes have clients ask me to help out with a quick spreadsheet or troubleshoot why a login isn’t working etc. Do you have any tips on how this translates in value based pricing? MD

Thanks for the great question! I’ll do my best to help.

Quick answer: It depends. But let’s examine why and where you may be wanting to take your business.

Personally, at my stage in business, yes, I typically do turn away small ad-hoc project work if that’s what you are referring to. It’s just not worth my time or attention. I make enough from my retainer clients that I don’t need to bother with penny ante stuff like that. And I have more time to devote to my retained clients and more time for my own life because of it.

This is something you begin to realize once you decide that you want to start earning better in your business. Lots of people think they need to take anything they can get, everything that comes their way. And that’s certainly their perogative. If someone is starving and they need to put food on the table, yeah, you’re going to take that work, and any work you can get.

However, continuing to operate in that mode will keep you in the position of what essentially amounts to picking pennies up off the ground. You’ll never create a better, more well-earning business that way. And project work like that will keep you from building a more leisurely paced business–and life. You’ll forever be on a hamster wheel in a business like that.

Getting to a place of higher earning requires intention about the kinds of work and clients you take on. It means saying “no” to certain work in order to focus on getting the kind of work and clients that actually lead you from a hand-to-mouth (or hamster wheel) existence to one where you are earning and profitting well and, in turn, creating the life you want for yourself.

Now, you use the word “clients” rather than prospects so I’m not sure if you meant people who are already retained clients or if you actually meant just random people (prospective clients) who don’t want to retain you, but just want little one-off things.

If it’s retained clients you meant, and they were asking for something outside the scope of their support plan, again it depends. For retained clients, I give the best of my time and attention. If they have a quick, little one-off thing that falls outside the scope of their support plan, a lot of times I will knock that out for them just as a bit of client love. Their long-term business and relationship is more financially profitable for me than a few extra bucks. However, if a pattern begins to emerge (which I will notice in my six-month review of their account) that they really do need ongoing support in a particular area, that’s when we have a conversation about adding that support area onto their plan (and the price goes up accordingly).

But, yes, if it’s just a random person who has found my site and just wants a little project, I turn those away. Just not worth the distraction or my time and effort. One of the reasons I’ve been able to build the practice I have today is by saying “no” to things like that.

If you want to build a retainer based and more well-earning business, you have to say no to any client or work that isn’t in alignment with that goal. I realize there may be a balancing act some folks need to do when they are first starting their business. The caution (and where folks get caught up on) is that if all you ever do is taken on penny-ante project work, it will keep you from building the business that you’d rather have. It just eats up all your time and attention.

I know some people like to say, “But those little projects could turn into retained clients if they like my work.” Again, that’s not building a business based on intention. That’s trying to grow a business based on hope. Doesn’t work. And there’s a better way.

I’m sure you’ve heard me repeat the adage, “You will never get what you don’t ask for.” And this is exactly what this means. If you don’t ask for and expect a commitment from clients, you will never get one. If you don’t ask for exactly the kind of clients and relationship that you prefer to have in your business, you will never get them.

The tail will forever be wagging the dog (the business and clients running you and not serving your needs) and you will never build the business you want unless you ask for it. That means not accepting just any ol’ work and clients. It means telling clients exactly how you work with them (e.g., by monthly retainer) and then only accepting those clients who are ready to work like that. You gotta stop wasting time on everyone else. It’s just delaying and distracting you.

And contrary to all the advice you hear out there on this, I do not recommend you take on a small project so clients can “get a taste of what it’s like to work with you.” Would you go to a home builder and ask them to “just build me this little thing here so I can get an idea of what it’s like to work with you?” They wouldn’t do it (and they’d probably laugh behind your back). It’s just not worth their time to deal with dabblers. And you can’t make it worth your time either or you’ll be doing that the rest of your life.

Focus on the people who are ready to work with you. There are far better ways to allow prospective clients to “sample” you without you being distracted or wasting your one-on-one time. Heck, your entire website should be a “sampling” and demonstration of you and your skills, knowledge and expertise.

I want you to refer back to the Administrative Consultant business model blueprint you received with the Value-Based Pricing Toolkit. This outlines exactly how you can offer them “samples” without letting the “nibblers” take you away from your focus.

Let me know if that helps. 🙂