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How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

As a sole proprietor, you can feel like a “one man band” in your business. While there are certainly perks of running a lean operation where you answer only to yourself,  when it comes to growth, it can be hard to figure out the right way to scale your business.

After all, many people would suggest the solution is simply taking on more employees or infrastructure. But that isn’t your only option to grow. Learn from my tips for growing a business without growing your overhead.

Know Your Target Market

As a business owner, we often look at our target market in the broadest possible sense. But when you feel like you’re just about at maximum capacity for workload, you need to get smarter about knowing who your true target market really is. Quite literally, you need to raise your standards. This means focusing on people or businesses who are most likely to engage with you at a higher level, sign you in to larger, longer contracts and allow you to become efficient in the work you do from them because it’s predictable or residual.

When marketing to new clients, or when prospective clients approach you, it’s important to walk away from something that isn’t a good fit and risks pulling your attention away from clients who are.

Keep Your Bandwidth Clear

I’ve written about bandwidth before and I’ll say it again here. The most common way I see people waste time, and as a result turn away new jobs, is because they allow tasks, that can and should be completely quickly, consume their whole day or week. Every day I outline the core tasks that “must” get accomplished that day in order for everything else to stay on track. Usually this is no more than two or three items – very doable. But I stick to it! I don’t let these tasks slide into the next day just because they technically can. I wrap them up and clear my bandwidth for the next day because, more often than not, a new project comes across my desk and I’m then ready to capitalize on the extra income.

Raise Your Rates

It can make business owners uncomfortable to be faced with the decision to raise rates in order to increase income. In fact, I see most business owners try to do anything else but raise their prices, even if it means using more of their time or decreasing their margins. That doesn’t really make sense!

As I’ve found out from experience, if your project workload is so full that you don’t think you can take on one more client, you need to raise your rates. Why? Because you’re priced almost too competitively if every business around town is knocking down your door. It means you’re a steal of a deal. In most cases this isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But if you want to make more money without taking on more overhead or employees, you need to get comfortable with raising your rates to naturally eliminate your lower paying clientele.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know that these are the clients that eat up most of your time anyways. By raising your rates, you put yourself on a new playing field where you can charge more for your time and do more of the work you love for you the clients you’re passionate about serving.

Work Smarter

My final piece of advice, and it’s something you’ve likely heard before, is to work smarter, not harder. If you want to create more time in your day, you need to carefully examine your current processes and work style in order to identify the things that are sucking up time without producing results.

Maybe you’re putting way too much time into creating client proposals. Make this more efficient and streamlined! Maybe you’re giving away hours of your day at coffee meetings and networking events. Learn the art of saying no and focus on only the activities that stand to bring in direct income. When you make a conscious effort to clean up your business’s processes, you’ll be surprised by how hard you’ve been working, without really being smart about it.

Are you a sole proprietor or simply a business owner looking to maintain a lean operation? Share the ways you plan to strategically grow your business without taking on more employees or overhead!

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How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

It’s becoming more and more common for people to work from home, either full-time or even just a few days per week. If your career allows you to work virtually, it’s likely you’ve found yourself trying to be productive at home only to be derailed by a myriad of different distractions.

For the last seven years, I’ve grown my public relations business while working exclusively from home. During different periods of time, that included juggling work with infant babies at home and trying to schedule conference calls around nap times. The good news is, I survived! And throughout my experience working from home, I’ve developed quite a few tips and tricks to that have helped me to stay focused and productive.

Here are my go-to tips for staying focused and making the most of your time when working from home. Take a look!

Make a Mental Commute

When you work from home you don’t have the benefit of a commute. Maybe you’ve never viewed a commute as a benefit, but think about it for a moment. Physically moving from one place to another gives you the mental separation of work and home. During your commute you can get yourself in a “work” mindset. When you work from home, however, you have to make a conscious effort to change from your “home” mindset to your work one.

One tip I highly recommend is having a dedicated office space that feels separate from the rest of your house. This allows you to “commute” to your office and on that commute you can clear your mental space and walk into your office ready to work.

Stick to a Routine

Sure, working from home gives you extreme flexibility in your schedule, but this can also be a trap. To be effective when working from home, it’s so important to stick to a routine. There will certainly be days where this routine will be disrupted, but for the most part you must establish a core routine and stick to whenever you can.

Pick a routine that fits your personality and workload. Are you more effective in the early morning or do you thrive in the afternoons? Unlike a traditional office environment with a strict 9-5 schedule, you get to set your own schedule. However, once you set one, let it give your day structure and stability.

Set Your Work Hours

Along with setting a routine, you also need to establish your work hours. When working from home, it’s easy for work and personal life to blend together. If you’re not careful, you’ll find that you’re never fully present in either space, because you can’t separate the two. By setting work hours, you’ll know that from 7am until 3pm (or whatever you choose) is the time to focus exclusively on work-related tasks. Outside of that time, you must train yourself to put work aside, stop checking emails and shift your focus to friends, family and yourself.

Resist Chores and Errands

During your set work hours, resist any and all temptations to dive into tasks that are not directly related to work. I’ll admit that when working from home, I’ll throw in a load of laundry, put away dishes and tidy up some rooms as I walk through. These are small and necessary tasks that shouldn’t divert you from more than a few minutes of work time. The tasks I’m addressing here are the ones that can sabotage your work productivity for hours. Tasks like sorting out your closet, reorganizing a room or running personal errands can steal hours away from your day and can reasonably wait until the evening or weekend.

Give Yourself Small Breaks

Although you want to squeeze the most you can out of every work day, you can only accomplish this by giving yourself small breaks. Why? Because no one can be productive 100% of the work day. We all need mental and physical breaks in order to return back to a task and be even more productive than we would be otherwise. Trust me on this one. Allow yourself short, timed breaks where you can get some fresh air, stretch your legs, get a snack or cup of coffee and then return to your desk ready to work again.

Close Up Shop!

Finally and most importantly, when you’re done for the day – be done! Don’t linger around refreshing your inbox and fishing around for people to ask you for something. Disconnect, go offline and enjoy your time off. After all, you’ve earned it! The best part of having a productive work day is that you can close up shop knowing the most important tasks are taken care of and everything else can wait until tomorrow.

Do you work from a home office? How do you stay focused throughout the day? Share your tips and best practices by leaving a comment below!

 

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5 Things Consultants and Freelancers Need to Stop Doing

5 Things Consultants and Freelancers Need to Stop Doing

As a Public Relations consultant, I work with a lot of other consultants and freelancers. The majority of these interactions are fun, inspiring and seamless. However, over the last seven years I’ve run into some consultants and freelancers who do things a little differently.

Don’t get me wrong; I love people who think outside the box. However, when it comes to how some consultants and freelancers bill, I get a little discouraged when I see practices that take advantage of clients. In particular, there are five billing practices that quite frankly I find to be cheap shots. And for this reason, I never do this to my clients or other partners I work with.

Learn what they are!

  1. Making sales tax an added line-item

For many purchases, seeing sales tax as a line item on your bill is a pretty standard thing. When it comes to how consultants and freelancers bill, however, I find it a bit tacky to make sales tax an additional line item. Just include it in your hourly rate! Sure, you might feel like you’re making 6% more on every job, but I promise you’re turning off future business that would result in a lot more income long-term. Unless you’re selling someone and actual product or good, adding on sales tax feels like you’re grasping for more dollars.

  1. Billing for an initial meeting

As a business owner, you know you need to invest in business development. And yes, this means sitting through a ton of coffee meetings and networking mixers. I never charge a client for an initial meeting, unless it’s specifically scoped out as a service with deliverables – and we’re all clear on the cost and terms. I’ve seen some consultants and freelancers charge their hourly rate for an initial meeting. Especially if that first meetings turns into more work, it’s best to chalk that time up to business development and build trust with your client by not immediately slapping them with a bill. After all, they didn’t bill you for their time to meet with you!

  1. Billing for answering emails and phone calls

Maybe even worse than billing for an in-person meeting is billing for every phone call and email you answer for a client. I’ll admit, I’ve run into some long-winded and chat happy people who require more of my time than others, but unless email and phone responses are scoped out in a proposal, I don’t sneak that into a client’s bill. If you’re truly bothered by answering client messages, or you feel like they’re getting out of control, the better thing to do is address it head on with your client and set boundaries for your time.

  1. Padding time sheets

Over the last seven years, I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the amount of time it takes to complete certain projects. It’s pretty essential to giving clients accurate proposal, remaining competitive and staying on budget. What this also means is it’s easy to identify when another consultant or freelancer is listing really high hours for a job you know couldn’t have taken that long to complete. I’ve gone to bat for my clients a time or two to challenge how it takes 2.5 hours to switch out one word on a graphic. The best way to earn more money is to do good work, and more opportunities will come. Padding a time sheet will only help momentarily, then clients will catch on and move to the next freelancer with more reasonable costs and billing practices.

  1. Going over budget without notice

My final pet peeve is when consultants or freelancers give you a proposal for the scope of work, but when it comes time to invoice the price has increased – and without notice. I fully understand how projects can expand beyond the initial scope of the proposal, but again the right way to handle this is communication. Inform the client as soon as they’ve exhausted your scoped hours and ask them how they wish to proceed. Better yet, give them a budget for the additional expense to finish the project the way they want it done. More often than not the client will give you the green light to proceed, but it makes a huge difference to get permission, and to be upfront about the larger invoice that will be coming their way.

Do you have another pet peeve to share when it comes to working with consultants and freelancers? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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20 Fun Facts About Bennis Public Relations

20 fun factsI love sharing insights into the business I started more than seven years ago, Bennis Public Relations. At just 23 years old, I was well aware I didn’t have everything figured out. Actually I was pretty certain I knew nothing about the entrepreneurial journey I was about to embark upon, but I was certain I was passionate about following this calling and would do whatever it took to make this a successful career.

On a fun and light-hearted note, I want to share some of the little known facts about Bennis Public Relations, and me personally. Entrepreneurs are quarky people, and I am no exception. So as I draw back the curtain a little further, I hope you’ll get a kick out of these facts that are fun, interesting and maybe even a bit strange.

1. My business is named after my maiden name, and my son is also named Bennis. I love that when he gets a little older he’ll realize the business I started from ground up and poured a lot of passion into, also shares his name. Hey, maybe he’ll take it over someday?

2. Less than 2 months after I started this blog on WordPress (as a trial for my own blog building services) I was featured on WordPress’s homepage and as a result I got almost 7,000 views in 1 day. August 24, 2011 still holds my record for most views.

3. My only overhead expenses are $10 a month to Hootsuite and $40 per year to the PA Public Relations Society. Almost unbelievable I know, but it’s true. I don’t pay any other subscriptions, memberships, fees, payroll, rent, etc. (Taxes are a whole other story, of course). I love running a lean business!

4. I have no desire to have employees. I continue to grow every year without having to hire employees by raising my hourly rates, taking on new clients and finding ways to be more efficient with my time. It’s just me (and my network of vendors) and that’s how I like it.

5. One of my titles is the Executive Director of the Carwash Association of Pennsylvania. That’s right, CAP has been my client for several years and for the particular services I provide to them, I serve as the E.D.

6. I rarely work more than 6 hours per day. Again, I LOVE efficiency and I love that with my business model, the more efficient I am, the more time I have to devote to other passions and projects. Some days/weeks I work well over that! But I know those long hours every so often afford me short work days most every other day.

7. When I first started my business, I had just enough clients to pay the rent. I hadn’t figured out how to pay for other expenses or even taxes when I made the entrepreneurial leap to quit my former job. But I hustled hard and went into survival mode. That work ethic had afforded me what I have today.

8. I have successfully turned nearly all “competition” into partnerships and collaboration opportunities. I love meeting with other PR professionals because nearly every time I do I’m able to identify our unique differences and turn them into collaboration opportunities.

9. I started doing freelance public relations work when I was still in college. During my senior year at Penn State University, I met a professional speaker and best-selling author through one of the events I planned through an internship and he and I started doing work together that last for about 5 years. He’s how I bought my first car!

10. My husband is a serial entrepreneur too. Between the two of us, we run four businesses. His current and largest venture right now is a tech startup that provides performance-based fundraising – and it’s changing the world! Read the stories at http://www.pledgeit.org and you’ll see I’m not exaggerating.

11. Throughout running my business, we grew our family by two sons. As an entrepreneur, I can’t really take a maternity leave, so I literally never missed a day of work, even if it meant answering emails from the hospital (yes I packed my laptop in my hospital bag). It’s one of the hard truths of running our own business, but the payback is so worth it!

12. My dad is part owner of Bennis Public Relations. He gave me the money I needed to fully incorporate Bennis Inc. in 2011. He jokes that Jeff Bezos’s dad was the first to invest in Amazon. I don’t know if I’ll afford him quite that payback!

13. My cat, Pinot, has been the closest thing I’ve had to a colleague. She’s been with me since day 1 of starting Bennis Public Relations and lays by my side just about every time I open my lap top to write. She’s also been my most popular blog topic by far!

14. Most of my friends and family have no idea what I do. I’m not offended! Unless you’ve studied it or work in the industry, public relations doesn’t really fit in a standard “box” especially with how it’s evolved thanks to technology. I usually just say I do a lot of writing, and leave it at that.

15. As far as I am aware, I’ve never run into a roadblock for my gender. In the day and age when everyone is shouting “the future is female,” I’ve never found I needed to apologize or compensate for being a female business owner. I simply let my work ethic speak for itself. In fact, I’ve beat many male businesses for different jobs, not based on gender, but based on the ideas and follow-through I bring to the table.

16. A lot of people confuse me with a publicist. Frankly, I think I’d make an awful publicist. While I have worked with people to enhance their personal brand, I most commonly work to enhance the communications and branding for businesses and organizations.

17. In high school I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” I thought it was silly at the time – and my mom thought it was pretentious and borderline offensive. Now looking back, I think that title may have subliminally inspired me. And though I didn’t get “Best Dressed,” I think this one has served me a lot better.

18. Though I have a dedicated home office (behind a hidden door to boot) and several office locations in downtown Harrisburg I can use as I wish, I prefer to work from our home living room. I’m a creature of habit!

19. I still have my very first client on retainer – that’s been 7 years now! The work has ebbed and flowed over the years, but I love being able to say I have the consistency of working with clients for many years, some even from the start.

20. And for #20 the fun fact I want to end with is that I’m proud to say I have had the privileged to serve 100+ clients from coast to coast in just seven short years. It may sound crazy, but I serve 25 different client accounts monthly, with many more one-time projects scattered throughout. Entrepreneurship has been a crazy one, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

So now that you know a little but more about what shapes me, and as a result by public relations business, what fact do you find more interesting? Or maybe you’d like to share your own quarky and random fact.

Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Dear New Entrepreneur…A Letter to My Younger Self

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Momsquad

Credit: Perry Media Group where I am proud to be a part of the “Mom Squad” team of fellow communication consultants.

It was July 2011 when I handed HR my two-week notice. I still have this simple letter, modeled after a template I found online when I googled “professional resignation.” I put no more effort into creating this life-changing document than I had put into what was supposed to be my “dream job” for the past 4 months.

Before taking the entrepreneurial leap to start my own Public Relations consulting business, I worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Office of Legislative Affairs. The title and the perception were the only things remotely impressive and glamorous about this job, I assure you.

My tiny cubicle, stable salary and paid time off, while a luxury for most fresh college grads, all contributed to creating a comfortable prison that just might have kept me locked away until I earned my vested retirement, had I not longed for so much more.

Blame it on my entrepreneurial spirit – or foolish confidence, but I was willing to walk away from the guarantee of a stable, but unfulfilling, career for the chance at creating something so much greater.

Nearly seven years later, I thank this young entrepreneur who wasted no time pursuing her dreams. Every day I work to make her sacrifices and uncertainties worth something by continuing to grow this business while never slipping back into the monotony of a career I don’t truly love.

Like most entrepreneurs, I wish I could somehow equip my younger self with the wisdom I’ve since gained from years of experience. Though I can’t, I can hopefully inspire other new entrepreneurs to take the leap – and maybe, just maybe – change the world…or at least their own!


Dear New Entrepreneur:

I know you’re busy, and likely skeptical about the advice I want to give you, so I will get straight to the point. You know a lot; a lot more than you might give yourself credit for right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand to learn a few things from a fellow entrepreneur who is a few years ahead of you on this journey.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do – I know that’s exactly what you’re trying to escape. But I would like to tell you that you’re on the right track, your gut is your best navigation device and the passion you feel today will continue to grow, despite what people may try and tell you. Please read on. I promise it won’t take long and it just might be that reassurance you’re so desperately looking for right now.

My advice to you, new entrepreneur is this…

Office space and employees don’t determine your success.

Right now you may be working from home as a sole proprietor just waiting for your first chance to lock into a commercial lease and hire your best friends. Stop looking for ways to tie yourself down and add to your overhead. This is everything you ran away from in corporate America. Learn to love the freedom and efficiency of working from home with no one to answer to but yourself. Hire fellow contractors only as you need them, get to know the best coffee shops to hold client meetings and enjoy keeping so much more of your salary – and sanity.

It’s okay to walk away from a “bad” client…even if you really need the money.

Go with your gut here. If a client tries to undercut your pricing or negotiate you into a corner, be willing to walk away. There will always be more, I promise. Yeah, you could really use the money…you always will be able to “really use the money.” The drawbacks to taking on a client that is a bad fit for your business will always cost you more in the long run than they’re willing to pay. Set boundaries and respect your values. You will learn to appreciate those “good” clients so much more!

You will always be surprised by those who want to see you succeed…and those who do not.

There will always be “friends” who you think will support you way more than they actually do. It will hurt and may make you question your decision to become an entrepreneur. Your decision is not what you should be second-guessing, rather it’s your friendship with this person. But don’t take it too hard; there will also be people you barely know that will rise up as your greatest cheerleaders. Appreciate these people and do the same for them in return!

Basic skills, like mail merging and stuffing envelopes, will be just as important five years from now.

When I first started out, I thought someday I might hire someone who would send my invoices, set meetings on my calendar and answer my phone calls. Five years later and the most capable person to handle these tasks is still me. These basic skills will always be important for running your business. Stay as hands on as it makes sense. Don’t outsource something just because you think you’re above it. Keep your overhead – and your ego – in check.

Make friends with your competition.

You will meet many other businesses along your journey that appear to do exactly what you do. Before you choose to secretly stalk their social media accounts and compare your client list, sit down and get to know them! Learning more about businesses I once deemed as competition has helped to create some of the best “power partnerships” I have. It’s amazing how once you really get to know about each other and the ideal client you are each hoping to find, you will realize you don’t overlap at all. Rather, you are great referrals for one another that can work together to help you both thrive.

Never make excuses

Mistakes will happen. Hopefully they are small, but they also might be big. No matter the size or scope, take ownership of any mistake and never make excuses. If something was truly a mistake or oversight, you have nothing of which to be ashamed. We are fallible humans, even us entrepreneurs. A reasonable client will understand this simple truth, as they are bound to make a few mistakes too. You will build credibility and trust if you own up to a mistake quickly and openly without blaming it on something, or someone else.

Only you can determine what you are worth

Deciding how you will price your services will be one of the hardest parts of running your business. You will have moments when you feel horribly underpaid and moments when you question whether you’re asking for too much. My best advice is to be strategic and remain consistent. This doesn’t mean you will (or should) charge the same rates for the rest of your life. Your experience will increase and so should your fees. But developing a strategy for how you will price your projects early on will save you from second-guessing, losing clients and losing income in the future.

Work toward creating a lifestyle, not just a business

In an effort to run a business, it’s easy to make the mistake of letting the business run you. Don’t recreate the same hell you fought so hard to leave to start your entrepreneurial journey. Take time off, travel, spend some money on fun things (all within reason, of course…it doesn’t take much)! Always keep in mind your goal of creating a particular lifestyle – one that affords you to be flexible and fulfilled – not just earning a certain income no matter the real costs.

Begin and end every day with affirmations

The entrepreneurial journey can be rough at times, that goes without saying. Amidst your efforts to be self-motivated and fearless, also take it easy on yourself when you need it. Promise to begin and end every day with affirmations as to all the things you’re doing well and that are going right. It’s easy to forget and take for granted life’s little blessings when you’re so focused on ironing out every wrinkle. Appreciate the small gestures, like a green light when you really need it, that are reasons to smile.

That’s all I have for you, new entrepreneur. It’s not all the advice I could give, but it’s all I feel you really need right now. Remember…after all, you’ve got this!

What piece of advice speaks to you? Do you have other words of wisdom to offer new entrepreneurs based upon your own experience? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
 

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Contractors and Freelancers: Tips for Crafting a Fair and Appealing Proposal

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Tips for Crafting a Fair and Appealing Proposal

When you take the entrepreneurial leap and venture out on your own as a contractor or freelancer, one of the biggest challenges is creating a competitive and consistent pricing model you can stick to. It’s a real test of self-confidence to put a rate on your hours and truly believe you are worth this much. But it’s imperative to running a successful and sustainable business!

I have previously written on topics related to pricing services (like how to price for efficiency or tips for being smart and fair). However, even if “the price is right,” a subpar proposal can jeopardize your chances of getting a signed contract. How you package your proposal gives businesses a sense of your professionalism. It’s also an important opportunity to properly scope your work and protect your pricing.

As you might anticipate, I have passionate advice to share on this topic. This has come from my own trial and (sometimes critical) error, so take note! Here are six components that help to make up a fair and appealing proposal.

Account for any task that will require your time

When you create your proposal, you want to be as specific and all-inclusive as you can be with the services you will perform. My rule of thumb is to include any task that will require a reasonable amount of your time.

So often as contractors, we forget about the time and effort we put into things like doing research, attending meetings, answering emails and jumping on phone calls for clients. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to charge more for these “expected” tasks, but it’s worth showcasing everything that goes into your relationship with your client so they understand the full value of the work you perform.

Quantify your deliverables

Simply saying “…will post to social media accounts” doesn’t put into perspective the tangible work that will be performed. Your client may worry about what they will actually get for the money. Be overly clear – there’s no reason to be vague with your efforts! A better version is, “…will post 6 times per week to Facebook, 3 times per day to Twitter and 4 times per week to Linkedin.”

I also prefer to use language like “up to 3 rounds of edits” because this protects you from getting stuck with a difficult client who requests that you redo your work from scratch 8+ time while still providing you with the flexibility to not have to deliver 3 rounds of edits, if they are not needed.

If you don’t define it, you can’t defend it. Should a project exceed its scope, you want to reserve the right to say that it is outside the terms of the proposal and is subject to an additional cost.

Organize services by goals

Showing your client you are an organized and detail-oriented professional begins with your proposal. Help them quickly grasp the value of what they will receive by organizing your services by the goal they aim to achieve. This will help to paint the bigger picture of how each service is strategically designed to work together and will also make your deliverables clear and direct. For clients who came to you without really knowing their goals, this added feature of your proposal will help them to feel secure under your direction (i.e. you’ll look like you have your stuff together).

Include an hourly rate for miscellaneous services

It’s natural for a project to exceed its scope once you’re signed into a contract and dig into the tasks. For example, your client may want five more web pages designed or would now like to add a weekly blog. These items will require more of your time and you need to get paid for this.

So long as you properly quantified your deliverables (see previous section we just discussed), you should have no problem responding to your client with “That sounds like a great idea! Let me get you a quote for that additional work.”

In an effort to appear both professional and transparent, I often include a line item in my proposals that note that miscellaneous writing and communication services can be completed at the rate of $X per hour. This gives clients a heads up for your normal hourly rate and reminds them that work outside the scope of this proposal is subject to additional cost.

Offer a discount for long-term commitments

For contracts that intend to be on a reoccurring basis (i.e. they have the same repeated deliverables each month with no obvious end date), I structure the pricing of my proposal to encourage clients to sign into a long-term commitment in exchange for a price break. Why? Contractors and freelancers love residual paychecks and clients love to feel like they’re getting a deal!

I suggest having three different price points. The most expensive is month-to-month. The added value here is the client’s complete flexibility to get out of a contract with minimal commitment. The next tier is per quarter. Finally, there is the annual contract pricing which is the best deal. I allow clients to still pay the breakdown each month (for cash flow sake), but they are committed to the length of the contract.

Bonus tip: I also include wording in the contract to allow for the client to adjust or increase services at any time, so long as the minimum contract price remains the same. This gives the client flexibility to add and remove services should their goals change over the course of a long-term contract, or should they wish to increase services (always a welcome change).

Set an expiration date

Finally, I have learned to include an “expiration date” on my proposals (usually 30 days from the date issued) to protect my pricing. I’ve experienced some clients go completely radio silent after receiving a proposal and then come back 4+ months later ready to engage. I can’t anticipate what other clients I may take on in the future and how my pricing may need to change to accommodate my bandwidth. The proposal expiration date allows me the right to issue a new proposal after 30 days has passed and change my pricing as I see fit. Every business must be mindful of supply and demand and how this impacts pricing; for contractors and freelancers, this is your hourly rate.

Additionally, an expiration date should give clients a nudge of encouragement to make a decision within 30 days and lock in your pricing and services while they are favorable and available. I’ve preached about how “a no is as good as a yes.” You want to receive a response to your proposal, even if it’s a no, so you can move forward….or move on.

What other questions do you have for crafting a fair and appealing proposal? Ask and I’ll answer!

 

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How to Professionally Fire a Client

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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