How Streamlining Your Operations Will Increase Your Revenue

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When I work with business owners on getting their systems and operations streamlined and more efficient, the most common question I get is “How will this impact my revenue?”

Most of us hear “Systems” and think of something insanely boring and irrelevant to the creative work that we’re doing. After all, we created our own business so that we could be as creative as we wanted, right?

But at the end of the day, when you have systems your business runs smoother, you’re less stressed, you can get more done, and that all means that you are able to earn more money with less effort.

Here’s the simple equation I like to use (specifically for service-based businesses):

Efficient systems = happier clients/customers = more referrals = more $$$$$ in your bank account.

When you have efficient systems, especially when you work with clients, your clients and customers are happier. They have a better experience with you, they get better results, and they’re excited to work with you.

When your clients have a better experience with you, they’ll be more likely to refer you to their friends.

When you get more referrals, your revenue increases exponentially.

Then those two referrals send five people each to you. Those five people have amazing experiences and send ten people each to you. Those ten people have amazing experiences and send twenty people each to you. (Do you see the pattern yet?)

As you continue to deliver a WOW-worthy experience through the systems you’ve set up, you’ll continue to increase how many clients you’re getting, working with, and wowing. You’re exponentially increasing your referral marketing, which means your income is skyrocketing.

But if you didn’t have systems set up? 

You’d deliver a lackluster service.

Your clients would complain about you to their friends.

Those friends will look for someone else without ever having considered you.

You’ll hit an income ceiling and wonder why you can’t bust through it.

You’ll come up with another service.

You’ll book a couple clients, but it won’t be efficient.

And then the cycle just repeats again.

So when you take the time to really think through your systems, to put them in place and make sure that every little thing is accounted for you’ll be able to skyrocket your reputation, your income, and your client experience.

How to Use Automations to Take Back Your Time

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When we think about taking back our time, the first thing that usually comes to mind is hiring someone -- be it a virtual assistant, graphic designer, copywriter, etc.

But there’s actually something else that you can leverage today to start taking back your time: Automations.

Automations are just things that happen automatically in your business -- they take away the need for you to do things manually, and allow certain things to happen no matter if you’re working, traveling, sleeping, or eating.

Just by implementing automations in your business, you’ll be able to stop doing it all yourself, increase your revenue, and reclaim time that has been sunk into your business with no return so far.

Here are a few easy automations you can put in place today that can start to help you reclaim your time:

Put up an autoresponder on your inbox with answers to frequently asked questions / links people will need access to

This allows people who email you to get the information and/or answers to commonly answered questions without you needing to be in your inbox 24/7.

You can also let people know when they can expect an answer from you. This allows you to only check your email during certain days/times, and for the people emailing you to know you’ll get back to them as soon as you can.

Set up a social media scheduling software so your accounts stay active

You can have new content being pushed to your accounts without you having to be manually writing or publishing every single day.

Scheduling software also allows you to pre-write your content and have it sent out on the day you desire. That means less stress and more ease for you!

For most social media platforms you’ll be able to have things post automatically, but Instagram requires you to manually publish the post. You can use a software like Planoly to pre-schedule all of your content, and then spend 2-5 minutes actually posting the image when you get a notification.

Create a separate folder, email address and filter for newsletters in your email so they go into a folder without ever gracing your inbox

If you’re anything like me, you probably subscribe to 50-100+ email newsletters. You love getting all of them, but they clutter up your inbox and are super distracting.
By creating an email alias (I use newsletter@indigocolton.com) you can still receive all of the newsletters, but filter them into a separate folder and keep them outside of your main inbox.

You’ll only see the emails that are most important in your inbox, but still see the newsletters whenever you’d like.

Set up a scheduling tool so people can book calls without having to correspond with you directly

When you have a scheduling tool like Acuity set up, you eliminate the countless “what time works for you?” email chain with people.

You send a link and the other person simply books for the time that works best for them. Acuity allows people to select their own time zone and have it automatically convert into your availability, which is perfect when you have clients or colleagues all around the globe.

What automation are you going to set up in your business today? Let me know in the comments below!
 

5 Ways Trying to Do It All Yourself Is Losing You Money

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When you’re in the first few years of your business, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of doing it all yourself. After all, it feels like a Catch-22: you need team members to do the day-to-day work so that you can earn more money, but you need more money to hire the team members you need.

So you keep trying to do it all yourself, figuring that this is the best that things are going to be until you magically increase your revenue.

But what you might not realize is that trying to do it all yourself is actually losing you money every. single. day. 

If you’re not sure how, here are five ways that trying to do it all yourself is losing you money:

Working outside of your zone of genius

When you work outside of your zone of genius and try to do #allthethings, it means that you aren’t being efficient with your time. And that means that you aren’t spending the majority of your time on revenue-generating tasks.

One thing that’s stuck with me from working with a network marketing company is the conscious choice to do your IPA’s first -- put your Income Producing Activities first on your to-do list every day.

But as small business owners, we generally put the least income producing activities first. We prioritize perfecting our branding, trying to be on every social media platform, etc. ahead of things like working with our clients, connecting with our community, and developing new offerings.

And when you’re constantly working outside of your zone of genius, it gets much more difficult to know what those IPA’s are for your business. Because you’re stretching yourself so thin across your entire business, you’re out of touch with what actually brings in the revenue.

Working 24/7

When you’re working around the clock, you’re not being compensated for all of the time you’re spending.

We look at 9-5 jobs that pay $10-$15 per hour and scoff, but what is YOUR hourly rate? If you calculated it (revenue in divided by how many hours you’re actually working, I’m willing to bet that it’s coming in under $15/hr.

But if you set strict work times around your business, your hourly rate will start to increase because you’re giving yourself limits around how long you’re going to do certain things for your business during the day.

Not tracking your time

Don’t know how much time you’re spending in your business to calculate your hourly rate? That’s a huge, yet common, thing that I’ve come across when working with online business owners.

When you don’t track your time you have no idea where your time is going. That means that you don’t know where the inefficiencies are, or how to stop time leaks in your business.

And time leaks (like spending 5 hours a day in your inbox, getting sucked into the endless Facebook or Instagram scroll) mean that you are losing out on revenue, and costing your business money.

Getting burned out

Something that we can (unfortunately) all relate to is the feeling of getting burned out. When you are trying to do everything yourself, you are not giving yourself the time or support to show up when you are feeling your best.

This means that you are burning the candle at both ends, and not giving yourself the time to rest so that you can continue to support your business.

And when you get burnt out as someone who is doing it all yourself, you have to take time away from your business without anyone there to support it.

That means that you are losing out on revenue, because nobody is there to do the IPA’s in your business. And unless you’ve preemptively set up a financial cushion, it could be more stressful to not be earning money as you recover from your burnout than it was working yourself into burnout.

Spending money on tools you don’t need

Here’s a hard truth: Most business owners spend thousands of dollars on software and tools that they simply don’t need.

By purchasing the latest fad software, or jumping into lifetime deals because it saves you money (only if you use that tool every day!), you are essentially just bleeding money that could be going to things like:

  • Hiring a VA / copywriter / graphic designer / podcast editor / project manager

  • Keeping cash in the bank so you always have working capital

  • Paying yourself a salary

  • Being able to take a vacation without your business collapsing

Are you doing any of these things right now? Let me know in the comments below!

10 Reasons Why You Need A Contract If You Work With Clients

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If you are a service-based business owner, one of the most important things you need to have in your business is a contract.

While contracts may seem out of place in the online business world (especially if you’re a creative!), they will save you SO much headache, prevent so many issues, and protect you and your business.

Today I want to share 10 reasons why you need to have a contract in your service-based business, and some of these are lessons I have learned the hard way in my years of operating my own business.

Prevent Scope Creep

In your contract, you’ll want to define the scope of service. Essentially, what you’ll be doing for your client. I recommend getting as granular and specific as you can, just so both you and your client are on the same page.

For example, in the contracts for my Project Management services, I outline how many calls we’ll have, exactly what deliverables I’ll be providing, etc. 

It may seem like overkill to get that specific, but when you have a very clear and defined scope of service, you’ll be able to avoid scope creep. 

Scope creep happens when a client hires you for your service, and throughout the project keeps asking for one extra thing here, another extra thing there, and before you know it you’ve done 40 hours of extra work that isn’t billable, and isn’t accounted for in the scope of service.

When you have a scope of service to fall back to in your contract, you can tell your client that their extra requests fall outside of that scope and you’ll be happy to do them for an extra fee.

SET EXPECTATIONS AROUND COMMUNICATION

Your contract should, just like the scope of service, very clearly outline how and when you will communicate with your clients.

This sets the expectations and boundaries from the beginning, and makes sure you and your client are on the same page.

For example, in all of my contracts, I explain that:

  • I am not going to answer emails, Voxer messages, etc outside of my working hours

  • I am not going to answer any communication over the weekend

  • If they need me to do something after hours or over the weekend, there is an hourly rate for that work

  • I will communicate with them in certain ways, and not in others (i.e. I don’t ever text with my clients, but we’ll use Slack instead)

  • When I am out of the office/on vacation/out of town, I am not reachable and will get back to them when I am back at work

The reason you want to get that specific is so that you are protecting your energy, your time, and you’re letting them know that you are a professional and are not going to be at their beck and call 24/7/365.

Just like the scope of service, having a legally binding document that outlines all of this gives you something to fall back to when your client tries to push past your boundaries.

AVOID PAYMENT ISSUES

This is a big one! For a lot of us, it can sometimes feel awkward asking for money in exchange for our creative work. And it can feel even more awkward following up on late payments, reminding your clients when their next payment is due, etc.

By having a contract that clearly lays out their total investment, and the payment schedule (if you have one), you and your client will be able to know exactly what payments are due when.
This means that if your client is late, they know (and agreed!) to your late payment terms. 

This means that if your client claims they already paid you everything when they haven’t, you have a document that can back you up.

Pro Tip: If you use a software like HoneyBook for your contracts, invoicing, etc. you can create an invoice with the payment schedule that matches your contract. HoneyBook will automatically send payment reminders for upcoming payments, late payments, and keep you up to date!

AVOID REFUND / CANCELLATION ISSUES

In your contract, you’ll want to very clearly state what your refund policy is, and what your project cancellation policy is.

This is so that if a client wants to cancel the project halfway through, you both know what needs to happen for that cancellation to be valid, and what happens to their investment.

By being very clear about this in your contract, you’ll have something to back you up if your client tries to get a refund out of you that you don’t offer, or anything else like that.

If you want to have a kill fee for projects (that is, a fee that your client must pay to cancel their project), you’ll also want to outline that in your contract so that your client knows going into the project what your policy is.

PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS

Basically, if you don’t have a contract when you work with a client, you don’t have any legal protection. And while it’s very unlikely that a client will try to sue you, it is much better to be prepared than not.

The contract can protect your business assets, the business itself, as well as your personal liability. (This is also a good time to mention that legally incorporating your business is an important thing to do as well!)

If you don’t have a contract, or you don’t have your clients sign a contract before you begin working with them, you don’t have anything to support your position or claims.

KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CLIENT GOES AWOL

Have you ever had a client ghost you in the middle of a project? They don’t return any emails, don’t pay their invoices, etc?

If you have a contract with them, you can outline what happens in that situation with a “project pause” clause. You want to clearly define what constitutes a pause (or a ghosting), what actions you’ll take when that happens, and how a client can get their project back on your schedule if/when they start communicating with you again.

This can help you still receive any payments you are owed, but it doesn’t leave you in limbo and allows you to confidently put their project in pause mode and take another client.

HELPS YOU ENFORCE YOUR BOUNDARIES

We’ve talked about this already, but it’s so important that I wanted to call it out on its own.

If you are a (recovering) people-pleaser, it can be very hard to say the word no. Especially to people who are paying you money to do things.

By having all of your boundaries around working with clients clearly spelled out in your contract, you are giving yourself a legally binding document/fallback to keep your boundaries.

Instead of saying “No, I don’t feel like answering your emails when I’m watching This Is Us,” you can tell your clients, “As per our contract, my working hours are X-Y and I don’t respond to any communication outside of those hours.”

KEEP TRADE SECRETS CONFIDENTIAL

We usually think about this just for service-provider-to-client, but this actually goes both ways.

By having a confidentiality clause in your contract, you are ensuring that you won’t share any trade secrets or business secrets about your client’s business, but you’re also ensuring they won’t share any of yours.

This keeps both of you happy, and you can feel confident sharing information knowing that it will remain confidential between the two of you.

SHOWS THAT YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL

When you send a contract to your client before beginning work with them, you are showing them that you are a professional, and you know what you’re doing.

A lot of business owners, especially if they’re stuck in the freelance mindset, don’t think they are ready for or need contracts. So they don’t send them, and that sends a signal to their clients that they aren’t quite a professional yet.

But by sending a contract, and by outlining everything (and more) that we’ve talked about, you are impressing your client AND showing them that you are a professional, and that you take your business seriously.

KEEPS THE PLAYING FIELD EVEN

When you use a contract with your clients, you are keeping both of you on the same page moving into the project. You both know the policies and procedures, nothing is hidden, and you can move into the project knowing that every scenario is covered, clearly outlined, and you don’t have to worry about playing the “What if?” game.

If you don’t have a contract in your business, and you’re ready to get one, I highly recommend grabbing a template from The Contract Shop! Christina Scalera is a lawyer for creatives, and has created insanely valuable contract templates for pretty much everything you can image. You just plug in your own info and go, while knowing that everything that needs to be thought of has been, and is included.

 

 

Get all of your contract templates at The Contract Shop!