So maybe your first step in your “Great Escape” from corporate was to start work as a freelancer – doing the work for someone else. But you’ve been doing it a little while and realize that you’re stuck trading dollars for hours and it is almost impossible for you to scale your business!
And maybe you envisioned having more freedom in your business than in your job – but instead are now working more hours, and instead of one boss – you have 10 bosses – all who want something yesterday!
I hear you. One of the biggest dangers of leaving corporate is that we often create the position that is the “low hanging fruit” at the time – the thing that we can implement without a ton of marketing. So we create a website and business card, and head off to networking meeting, in the effort to find clients and sell our services.
It’s great at first, we’re building our stable of clients. We’re making money. We’re finally our own boss! But then, we start getting the emails and texts that someone has a project that they need done in a half hour and they forgot to tell you. Then we get a phone call saying our client needs you to make changes right now for the client meeting they’re heading into! And you find that you are literally answering to a number of people whose projects are critically important to their businesses – and you have to jump through hoops to get everything. done.
Here are a few ways to circumvent this – as you’re building:
Create a Scope of Work and a Service Contract for every single client you agree to work with. There is nothing worse than agreeing to a certain set of tasks, and then being told half way through the project that the client expected or understood that you would be doing something different. I have learned that we all see and hear what we want to see and hear – and often we don’t remember things quite like they really happened. The only way to protect yourself is to create a system that includes a Scope of Work and Service Agreement for every single client that specifies exactly what is included, when payments are due, when services are rendered, refund terms – or anything that you need to document about your working relationship.
Create “Office Hours” – In your client contract, designate the hours that you will be available to work on their project? Does the client get a whole day each week? Do they get from 10 am to noon Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Make sure that you are crystal clear on what you are agreeing to. Put it in writing. And stick to it until you mutually agree to modify the terms (in writing).
Automate ANYTHING that you can! I am often AMAZED at how much my clients are doing manually that can be automated! Not long ago, I was talking to a client who followed up every first meeting with a copy and paste email. Then she had to put notes in her appointment book to follow up again in a couple of weeks. Today, our CRM and email automation systems do this for us – and all you have to do is assign a tag! Or a client who provided branding services would manually send questionnaires to people who expressed interest in working with her.
Create Hoops For Clients To Jump Through. We set it up a few years ago in my business that as soon as you schedule an appointment with me, a questionnaire goes out automatically. Then if you don’t provide the questionnaire, you get a reminder email. If you don’t provide it again, the system emails me and lets me know. I then send you a manual text. If it still isn’t provided within 24 hours, the appointment gets canceled. We did it for a few reasons, but first and foremost, we only wanted to have appointments with people who had follow through and respected our time. If someone wouldn’t follow the system before we started working together – would they be a problem child if we were actually working together? This became an immediate way for us to identify the people we would have to chase in our business! By telling clients at the time they booked their appointment that if they didn’t complete their questionnaire, their appointment would be canceled, it made our time more valuable, and our clients got used to being responsive and professional! At first, it was painful to cancel appointments and eliminate those prospects, but we found that we had much better prospects who were happy to work with us and who respected our time!
Focus on the tasks YOU MUST DO and outsource some of the others. As a service provider or freelancer – you probably don’t do all tasks in your own business. Look at it the same was in other businesses. You can’t delegate the responsibility; if a client’s contract is with you – the buck stops with you. You and you alone are responsible for ensuring the service is provided. But maybe you have a virtual assistant who helps you create graphics, do research, write first drafts, edit copy, proofread, program the website – any number of things. You are not an island! The only way to genuinely ever be able to scale a business is to have systems and a team behind you – following the processes.
If you’re feeling “stuck” as a freelancer and aren’t certain how to step off of the hamster wheel – consider looking at your business processes to determine how to run your business as the owner versus the operator. To get more guidance on where you are stuck – download our Business Assessment – and determine YOUR immediate next steps in how to better automate and systematize your business – for more profits and more free time!