There once was a service provider who built an online business by working for her clients. She helped her clients build amazing businesses. She was well-liked and respected in her industry. She earned top dollar and was often asked to share her systems.
Sounds like a good thing, right? In the beginning, yes. But keep reading for the rest of the story…
After a few years, she found herself dreading work. All of her client’s projects were boring, and she couldn't get into a groove. She still served her clients but her love for what she did was gone.
Eeek! Not so good anymore, is it?
Thankfully she knew she couldn't continue like this so she reached out to her business coach. Her coach had her track her work for a week and create a pie chart that showed how she divided up most of her time. When she saw the results, she was stunned to realize she wasn’t spending time on her own projects.
Like many service providers, she had let urgent client work slowly take over her business. She felt like she didn’t have time to do activities that she found creatively rewarding. She kept telling herself she would get back to her own projects when she wasn't so busy anymore or after a certain project was completed.
But guess what? It never happened!
Maybe you’ve found yourself where this service provider was. You’ve been pouring out all of your time and energy and giving to your clients. This leaves you feeling drained and maybe even a little bit resentful sometimes.
If you were asked to name your #1 client today, who would you pick? You’d probably choose the one that pays you the most. But what if you were #1? What if you put your projects first and tackled your clients’ work after your own?
Make Yourself Your #1 Client
When the service provider, from the example above, put her own projects first for a month, she quickly noticed an increase in her productivity. Now, she woke up each morning eager to get started and she found it was easier to complete work for her clients.
If your to-do list is filled only with client projects, you miss out on the satisfaction and joy that comes from growing your own business. Commit to working on your projects each day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.
Put The Spotlight On Your Business
Take some time to examine your business this week. Is your website looking shabby? When was the last time your about page was updated? Are your packages updated and relevant?
Are your available work hours published? Do you have recent examples of your work? Do you have testimonials and positive remarks on your website? If you have a podcast or blog, when was the last time you updated?
Make a list of anything that needs to be fixed or updated. Each week, challenge yourself to put one of these tasks on your to-do list (at the top, of course!).
Boost Your Confidence
When your website is up to date and you have a variety of projects on your plate, you’ll feel more confident. You’ll be more likely to try out that new social media trend or book a ticket to that conference you’ve always wanted to attend.
With more confidence, you’ll get choosier about the projects you work on. Before, you might have taken any client that came your way but now, you’ll have the courage to only choose projects that light you up and allow you to do your best work.
Making yourself your #1 client will make your business healthier. It’ll also make you happier to focus on your projects, giving you the freedom to design the perfect business that fits you and your lifestyle.
Design a Business That Fits Your Lifestyle
Don't make the mistake of living life around your business. For example, you know you're not a morning person and can't “function” before 10am, but yet you take client calls early in the morning. Or, you don't work weekends but an email comes in Friday evening from a client and you work all weekend to complete their project.
Sure, you're just being accommodating “just this once”, but it begins happening all the time leaving you feeling resentful of your clients and unhappy with the quality of your work. Instead of designing your life around your business, what if you did the opposite? What if you looked at everything you love about your life and looked for ways to do business around your favorite moments?
Set Business Hours
Setting firm business hours can help you create better boundaries between your life and your work. Keep in mind your business hours don’t have to be traditional. If you feel like you do your best work from 10pm to 4am, then absolutely make those your business hours. If you’d rather work four days a week and have Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off, then do that – it's all about designing your business around your life!
Don't Let Email Take Control Of Your Day
If you have a smartphone or tablet, you probably check your email the moment you get up. Then you go on to check it several more times during the day, popping in and out of your inbox. The problem with checking your email throughout the day is that it becomes easy to get distracted. You’ve probably been working in the middle of a big project, stopped to check your email, and found you were still in your inbox two hours later. Those two hours of productivity were just lost.
Instead, have regular check in times. choose two or three time slots where you can check and respond to any email. For example, you might decide to check your email at ten in the morning because that’s when your clients who are in a different time zone will email you.
Social Media & Client Boundaries
On social media, the line between personal and professional can quickly be blurred. It’s not uncommon for service providers to be friends with their clients on Facebook or follow and interact with them on Instagram.
Sometimes, this can make things awkward. For example, you have that one client who pays attention every time you log onto Facebook chat. As soon as he sees your activity, he’s quick to message you and ask about his latest project.
Resolve problems like this by setting some boundaries. Who do you want to share with? If you’ve decided your Facebook or Instagram account is private and only for family and real life friends then try designating another social media profile as your business profile and connect there.
If you’re a business coach who shows newbies how to create Facebook advertisements, then you may get a lot of friend requests from your clients. Instead of feeling like you have to accept those requests, create a Facebook page and let clients know that they should connect with you there.
Designing a business you love and gives you the freedom to live the lifestyle you want means you have to make yourself the #1 client. And making yourself #1 isn’t about giving your clients second best. It’s actually about doing the opposite. When your business is thriving, you're attracting the best possible clients and you’re doing work that feels fulfilling and fun!
Ready to make yourself #1 but need some guidance along the way? I would love to walk this journey with you! Come join me at my Momentum Coaching Mastermind today.
Bonus: Swipe Files To Handle Common Client Problems
Every service provider has a client problem at some time or another. The important thing is to handle it gracefully, so you can continue to have a good working relationship. Here are some quick swipes that you can copy and paste when you encounter these client problems…
Problem: Client wants you to work weekends.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of working weekends when you’re a service provider. But the more you do it, the more it will be expected of you. Having regular downtime is good for your mental health and the health of your business.
- Swipe #1: This looks like a fun project. My first available time is on Tuesday afternoon. I'll put your project on the schedule for that slot.
- Swipe #2: I’m no longer working on projects after four o’clock during the week. I’m also out of the office on weekends. My current office hours are 10 am – 5 pm Monday-Friday.
- Swipe #3: I’m not available for weekend projects, but I’ll be happy to tackle this for you later next week.
Problem: Client messages you on social media about their project.
Many service providers end up friending or following their clients on social media. But some clients use social media to keep tabs on whether you’re working or they message you about their project. Here’s how to reclaim your social media boundaries…
- Swipe #1: As part of my new social media policy, I’m not doing business over social media messages. If you’d like to contact me, please email me at (email address) or contact my help desk through (link).
- Swipe #2: Thanks so much for your message, but I'm no longer using (platform) for business. To continue this conversation, send me an email at (email address).
- Swipe #3: Messages over social media channels can easily slip between the cracks. I value your business and don’t want that to happen, so I’m switching to email only for client communications. Please email me at (email address) about this project.
Swipe #4: I only communicate with my clients through email. Send me a message me at (email address).
Problem: Client wants you to do additional work.
Sometimes, clients ask you to do more work without re-negotiating your payment. This is often called scope-creep. But don’t do the extra work or you’ll send the message that you’re a provider who’s easy to manipulate. Here’s what to say when this happens…
- Swipe #1: That’s an interesting idea but let’s finish our current project for now. Afterwards, we can talk more about this proposal.
- Swipe #2: Your suggestion will change the project in a big way and we’ll have to start over. Would you like to update the scope of our contract?
- Swipe #3: This additional work will come at an additional cost of $(XX) per hour. I estimate it will take (XX) hours. That’s an extra $(XX) I’ll charge to your project budget.