Just had a wonderful workshop session with some amazing entrepreneurial ladies in Cleveland, OH…a few questions came up at the end that I thought worthy of sharing:
“I’m overloaded with work at the moment and am putting up a new website…I don’t think I want any more new work…what can I do about this?”
The first thing is to plan to raise your prices for new clients coming in (and your ‘worst’ current clients.)
The next step is to get some help — and perhaps not someone who can take on your primary craft, but perhaps someone who can take on the other aspects of your business that take time/energy. This would free you up to do more of what you get paid to do (and paid more handsomely.)
“I know I need help, but finding good people is so difficult…any ideas?”
Begin by making a list of all the things you want to have someone else do for you. Then write up a recruitment ad — a paragraph that outlines what you need. Be as direct as possible about who you want, what you want them to be like and what you want them to do for you. Post this ad on Craigslist and send it to colleagues. Be sure to not give away any confidential information — I wouldn’t even give your company name or address until you’ve narrowed it down. Ask them to reply with a resume and perhaps answers to a few questions (so you get a feel for them before you interview.) If it’s not bookkeeping or other skill-specific work, you could also try posting an internship at a local school that has a program that teaches people to do what you do…senior level interns are often responsible and vested in doing whatever is necessary to gain hands-on experience.
I found my Director of Sanity on Craigslist 7 years ago — when I asked for a ‘Chaos wrangler/mom’ who would help me with everything from bookkeeping to general office organization. I had little to offer other than $10 an hour and flexibility, but it was enough to get us started. Over time, she’s taken on more and more (that I didn’t even realize I needed help with) such as updating technology, project managing, booking travel and dealing with all those pesky things in the day that would make my eyebrows itch (if I wan’t avoiding them altogether.)
Obviously, her pay scale has increased with these responsibilities, but so has my bottom line due to my ability to do more paying work and less administrative work. The key is to start with a manageable set of expectations and a written agreement (can be a paragraph as opposed to a contract) that outlines what you need them to do, by when and for how much. Have them bill you by the month. No long-term promises. Hire someone you like and trust over someone with ‘qualifications’ per se — and be flexible about where the work gets done (you’ll get better people and won’t have someone under foot all the time.) Delegating is a life skill and it’s a bit rough at first but it’s sooooooo worth it! Ask for help where people are looking for work!
“My business is brand new, but because of the nature of what I do, I don’t think advertising my service is an efficient way to get the word out…how else can I do it?”
The first step is to get some confidence around what people find valuable about what you offer…get one or two customers who would be willing to give you feedback/a testimonial in exchange for your services. Getting customer input will not only align your promise with the actual benefit they get from working with you, but it will help you refine your approach and language in your materials and website (ideally you can use this testimonial on your site – but get permission first.)
Once you have your marketing materials in-hand, visit places where your customers are likely to be (ideally closest to point of stain) so they can self-select and contact you when they’re ready (if they don’t have an immediate need.)
These gatekeepers (e.g., shop owners) can become ambassadors/advocates for you. Many of them want to provide assistance (value) to their customers and if they don’t offer it and think their customers need what you offer, they will likely recommend you if you ask.
Lastly, the best way to get your name/product/service out there (especially if it’s a new category of service) is to speak and/or write about it. Find groups or publications of customers you feel may be the most open and interested in what you have to offer and approach them about writing a piece. Note, however, that these opportunities require you to share some of your philosophy/expertise and cannot just be a ‘sell’ piece. Don’t be afraid to share – most of what you offer is either already being used by your competitors or they won’t be able to ramp up quickly enough to go after the same customers. Your reputation and awareness of your brand is your best source of ‘security’ — not being quiet about what you do.