All along I was planning on writing a very different post for today. But after last week’s guide to passive revenue, my inbox was flooded with questions on Monday morning. I decided there's still more to discuss on the topic of money. Honestly, I don’t think it’s being talked about enough. You either have those who seem to be secretly successful (how are all those international trips funded?!?) or those who are blasting their monthly revenue like a billboard ad (and honestly I have the hardest time believing those numbers.) Personally, I wish more people would confidently own slow growth.
The short of it is that owning and running your own business is not a quick cash grab. The success of a business doesn’t necessarily translate to the riches of the owner. The first two years were extremely difficult for me. I hustled hard and gave more than I received. Little did I realize, it's expensive to run a business! This is the first year I've paid myself the same amount I was making straight out of college.
As I gained experience, I began to set boundaries and confidently ask for what I was worth, but there were, and still are, moments of struggle as I learn the ropes. Each new season presents its own challenges and opportunities. And also the choice to grow or stay the same. So what do you do when you want to earn more?
Let’s start at the core. The idea of success is deeply personal. To one person, success is the ability to live a luxurious life unapologetically. To another, the ability to provide for their family and spend more nights at home. There is not a formula - only you can define where you want to go.
But let’s be real – you’re not going to be working four hour weeks from a hammock in the Hamptons, at least not right off the bat. Success, growth, money – it all takes time and hard work. To believe in a shortcut is to take away the beauty of accomplishment. But I’m also here to tell you that the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it and you WILL be compensated for your efforts if you work diligently and are willing to make small changes in your behavior.
But last Monday, this one email really hit me:
“I'm actually not sure what to do or say. I wanted to earn more but I don't know what to do or where to start.”
Have you ever felt like this? I know I have. There have been times I’ve been so frustrated because I nearly kill myself finishing something, take a look at the invoice, and think “That's IT? Are you kidding me?” There have been days that I’ve felt I just can’t afford to keep trying.
I’m definitely not an overnight success and each month I make a teeny tiny step towards my goals, but I celebrate the forward motion. And there are a few things I’ve picked up along the way to help you find your own way forward.
It’s so easy to merely say that you want to “earn more.” When in fact, there are a lot of different reasons behind that statement or ways of finding yourself on the other side.
Why do you think you need to make more money? Is it because you can't find enough clients or customers to fill your time? Do you feel like the value of what you're bringing to the table is more than what you're charging? Or is the lifestyle you’re trying to attain - whether it’s adventure, white space, or glamour - outside of what you currently earn?
I think talking about wanting more revenue is like saying we want to feel more successful. Well… what is success? What is more? And most importantly - WHY does success matter and WHY do you want more?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting. Believe me, if the drive for more wasn’t present in my life then it would be difficult to put in my best effort. There would be no point in coming up with innovative new ideas. More keeps me creative.
But not being super clear on your why is going to make it difficult to know if you’re heading in the right direction.
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
The problem with this mindset is that you may end up chasing the wrong kind of more - as in more clients when you’re still not charging the rights prices. Or higher revenue doing something that you actually hate. Or more opportunity when what you really need is more space.
And when that happens, you’ll be so disappointed that your pursuit of more didn’t make you happier.
So instead, let's find your special flavor of more - and then look at ways to pursue it:
If you don't feel like you're booking enough customers or clients, start here:
Get absolutely, one hundred and ten percent clear on who you want to work with. Follow them on social media. Become a student of their life - make a list of their struggles, their interests, and where they spend their money. Learn how to talk the way that they do and see the world through their eyes.
And then, when you know for absolute certain who you want to work with, then ask yourself these questions:
Are you getting in front of enough people like that?
It may be time to reach out for collaborations with someone who works with a similar customer base you'd like to also work with (but not a direct competitor!) Or maybe it's time to run a Facebook ad to your website. Or maybe you need to rewrite your website copy to show that you can work with a more diverse market. Is your website TOO niche?
Honestly so many of my best clients have come from partnering with other creatives who are providing a different service to the same kind of audience: like Staff Retreat Co. that does individual business coaching, or Bossladies Magazine whose entire readership is our target client.
Are you doing everything you can to get exposure?
This includes collaborations, trade work, personal projects, giveaways - network, network, network!
Go to a conference or event. Introduce yourself. Pass out business cards (GET BUSINESS CARDS!) Cold email people you admire - do whatever you can to get your name out there and share what you do!
Show up to events - support other creatives!! Become someone’s biggest and most engaged online fan. Join an organization and a Facebook group. Build your online network and extend your reach.
Start saying yes!
Consider creating an incentive for your former clients/customers to refer new clients/customers your way!
Consider creating a launch strategy for your services or products. This sounds so complicated, but it’s actually not. Basically what I mean by that is to consider trying to go hard and book out an entire season of projects during one short window. This will help you not feel like you’re in constant “promotion mode” and you can be creative in batching your sales (and sleep a little easier at night knowing who you’re going to be working with ahead of time!)
If you don't feel like you're charging enough, start here:
Get a blank sheet of paper and write down every single thing you do for your clients. Every single thing that’s providing value to them. Go back through your emails and pay attention to comments like “this blew me away!” or “thank you so much, this was more than I was expecting!”
Usually the desire to charge more comes from the frustration that you’re doing more work than you’re being compensated for. And you’ll simultaneously build confidence in your value AND make it an easier sell for your audience if you’re able to communicate why your service/product is worth more. But in the same breath, be sure that what you want to offer is something that your audience wants to buy!
And then, when you know for absolute certain the full value of your services and products, then ask yourself these questions:
Are you sharing all that you bring to the table? Are you communicating exactly what you plan to do for your customer or client?
Go back through your website, your social media, your introductory emails, and your FAQ. Is that value clearly communicated? Are you telling them what they need to know to understand the price?
Share testimonials! Show that you frequently go above and beyond!
People want to trust you and see that other people have seen your service as a good investment and were not disappointed. Plus it’s a chance to reward your best clients and customers by featuring them on your website, which in turn promotes them!
Testimonials don’t have to be cheesy. They are best when they feel authentic, and when it seems like a mutually happy relationship. It can be as easy as a screenshot of an awesome email or text message, or recording someone’s response getting your product in the mail, or having someone share their experience in a video!
Show behind-the-scenes on social media so that your audience can see just how much work you're doing and gain respect for the value you bring to the table!
Even the messy parts!! People love seeing something come together, and by showing how much work you’re doing behind the scenes, they will gain respect for what you’re bringing to the table and understand your full value.
Just don’t go overboard complaining or becoming a martyr to your craft. Find a way to genuinely and optimistically show everything that goes into your process so that your audience can relate to your effort.
Share what you know for free - start a blog, create more information-rich social media posts, offer to help someone out online. It's time to communicate the value of your services!
To be an expert, you have to share what you know. It can take someone months to experience your brand before they decide to buy, especially if your product or service has a high price! Nurture your audience and be generous with your experience.
If you don't feel like your lifestyle is reflecting your goals, start here:
Be very realistic and detailed about what you want your life to look like. Actually think through what that dream lifestyle would require of you. Think about what daily life would look like. How would you spend your money? Your time? How often would you work? How many people would you work with? From where? What boundaries would exist for you? What would you feel obligated to (if anything?!?)
To make a lifestyle change, you need to be able to fully visualize exactly what that lifestyle looks like and then make micro changes in that direction. And even more importantly, you need to understand WHY that lifestyle is best for you and exactly what value it will add to your life and the ones you love.
And then, when you know for absolute certain the way you want your lifestyle to look, then ask yourself these questions:
Does this lifestyle require you to restructure your business?
Does it require more revenue (see above) or more space and freedom? Does it mean that you need an assistant or maybe to let your large and overwhelming team go? Maybe it means trading the awesome office for the ability to work from anywhere in the world. Does it mean you do something else entirely, that doesn't require the same kind of attention and time? Be honest about the projection of your business and what it will require of you - does it fit in line with how you want your life to look?
Is your target customer/client feeling the same way?
Consider sharing about the steps you're taking to pursue more calm / balance / adventure and your audience may find it easier to connect with you! And better yet, they may give you amazing ideas!!
Always wanted to travel to Italy? Who knows… maybe someone in your audience has an open room for a month in the summer! Put your full dreams and desires out there, share them with your audience so that you can pursue big dreams together and you might just be surprised at the “random opportunities” that come your way...
Is there an opportunity to be innovative that you're not pursuing?
Maybe there's a quick product or service that would be great for either someone who's not quite at the point of being ready for your services to nurture them into being a client or a way to keep former clients onboard as ongoing customers! Brainstorm creative ways to diversify your revenue, and make more by doing less.
Also, think about ways to bring your lifestyle dreams into your business model! Want to travel? Consider hosting a retreat! Want to find reasons to be fancy? Consider style shoots for your business or events to go to in your city!
In closing, I just want to communicate that “more” is a multi-faceted conversation. It requires deep honesty and a bit of humility to understand what’s lacking. But when you ask the hard questions and are willing to do a bit of trial-and-error to make it happen, truly magical things will emerge, providing all the “more” you could ever ask for!