An entirely made up question and answer session between me and a client who is in the same situation as many of my clients.
Kate: Are you enjoying your business right now?
Megan: Yes, of course! I’m my own boss and I’m doing great, and well, there’s pros and cons of course. I’m not earning quite what I’d like to be making, but I’m doing okay. And sometimes, I end up working through family events, which isn’t ideal. But it’s worth it for the freedom.
Kate: So it sounds like it’s close, but not quite what you want. Is that right?
Megan: I guess so. I really thought I would be able to spend more time with my family and wouldn’t be so tied to working long hours. Don’t get me wrong, the flexibility to run up to the school is great, but I often have to work through my kid’s football games.
Plus, I’m smart, right? I should be making a heck of a lot more money than I am right now. I should be able to figure it out. AND, my consulting program is awesome and I can help in so many ways. I should be doing better.
Note: A lot of women want to say things are just fine, even when they’re not. Same with my clients. They feel like they have to put on a good front, even when they’re coming to me for help. Nearly EVERY client I work with tells me how they should be doing better. Lots of shoulds.
Kate: Yes! You’re right, your program is amazing. But take away the “shoulds.” You can be doing better. The folks that get things magically right the first time they do anything are the exception, and business is no different.
Megan: Okay, I want to be doing better and making more money. But really, I just don’t have the time to find any more clients. And even if I did, I couldn’t handle any more right now. I’m already working through sports practices and after dinner every night. I’m just not willing to give up dinner with the family.
Kate: If your business was easy and your life was ideal, what would it look like?
Megan: Well then, I wouldn’t have to work and my house would be clean and my kids would behave all the time. Ha ha.
Kate: Hmmm, I can’t help with the kids, but I’d imagine if you could spend more carefree time with them, they would be happier too.
What would have to happen for you to be able to a) not have to work, and b) pay for a cleaning service?
Megan: I’d have to have a boatload of money coming in!
Well, I wouldn’t have to make that much more to hire a cleaning service. Probably just about $400 more per month.
To not have to work, I’d have to win the lottery or something and live off the interest!
But the truth is, I actually do like most of what I do. I just hate the scrambling for clients and the unexpected hours I have to spend away from my family to make a client happy.
So my real ideal would be something like this: I get up and get the kids off to school. I head to the gym for a quick workout, and get back home around 8:00. I work until 3:00, then I walk down to the bus stop and walk the kids home. We play, I help them with homework, and I have time to take them to their activities, without feeling stressed or like I need to bring work with me. Then, we have dinner as a whole family and my partner puts them to bed so we can have some time together.
Oh, and I have a cleaning service come in once a week.
And occasionally go to lunch with a friend or meet my spouse downtown for lunch. I guess it’s not wildly different. But it would feel wildly different.
Kate: You’re right, it’s not wildly different. But if you could: reduce your hours by a few each week, set up processes that help you avoid scrambling around last minute, and make about $500 more per month, would it change your life?
Megan: Wow, I never thought of it like that. It would. I could do that.
Kate: Did you think it could be simple like that?
Megan: No. It sounds simple but it will be a lot of work though.
Kate: Yes, it will take work. But it’s not as hard or as far away as you think. Wouldn’t it be worth it if it could work?
Megan: Yeah, it would. If I could really get to that point, it would be awesome. But where do I start?
Kate: Definitely pick something easy that can do multiple things, like save time AND get more business. For you Megan, I would add a 30 minute task to do one day per week.
Touch base and see how they’re doing.
You will save marketing time because you’ll be keeping your name fresh in these folks’ minds. In addition, it’s likely somebody need your services and will be ready to start a project soon.
It has taken me ages to figure out that it doesn’t really matter where you start. Having that picture of your ideal day in mind is the important part. Then filter your ideas, actions, and policies through that filter of the ideal day.
Pick something and keep at it. Following up is probably a good activity for nearly everyone. I’ve recently found some wonderful projects just by genuinely checking in with people. Working on your own can feel isolating. But following up and reaching out to people adds a social element to your day that you can look forward to.
I started writing this out as an exercise for myself to help me make sure I’m focusing on building the right things for you guys. I’m not entirely making up the answers, but they’re definitely NOT from a real interview. I’m looking back to the answers previous clients have given me and I’m thinking about what some of my own answers would be.