Here’s a scary thought:
What if your content marketing actually works? What if you get all the clients you want? Will you be able to handle them?
Those are important questions every service provider needs to answer honestly because there is often a disconnect between what we say we want and the actions we take.
Fear of success can prevent us from crafting the bold, strategic plans that will grow our businesses. Without realizing it, self-doubt causes us to make weak and safe moves that limit our potential — because we’re unsure if we’re capable of managing a full roster of clients.
Self-doubt will arise in any business journey, but if you prepare for the healthy, sustainable relationships you want to have with clients, you’ll be one step closer to attracting and winning over prospects with confidence.
Check out these 10 service business essentials, so that you’ll feel nothing but proud when your content marketing dreams come true.
1. Get serious
Before you offer services, you’re used to operating as a non-business person. You likely perform favors for others — whether it’s reviewing a friend’s resume or sharing their content on social media.
Once you start offering services, part of you becomes your “business self.”
It’s the foundation for the rest of these pointers.
While in your personal life “wanting” to do something might be a reason to do it, in your business life, you need to consider favors or discounts with care.
Your service is a business now, not a hobby.
2. List goals
To reinforce your new business-centric mindset, list out your professional goals in a document you keep handy near your workspace.
A digital file on your computer desktop works well because you can easily add to it over time. The items in the list will ideally help both you and your clients.
They’ll be especially useful when you’re faced with a tough decision. You’ll already have clear intentions for your business, so the choice you make should always help you reach one or more of those goals.
You might have to say “no” sometimes.
3. Protect your time
Service providers often work at all hours throughout the day and night, and give the excuse “that’s just my lifestyle.” (Been there, done that, wasn’t worth the indigestion.)
Skip that path to burnout and don’t reinvent the wheel just because you have the freedom to make your own schedule.
You can have a creative work life and borrow wisdom from tried-and-true practices, like designated office hours.
Give yourself time for:
- Work responsibilities
- Personal responsibilities
- Meals and breaks
Like your list of goals, here you need to have clear priorities and agree to activities only if they realistically fit into the schedule for your work time or the schedule for your personal time.
4. Be friendly, not friends
That non-business side of you will keep popping up if you’re not stern with it.
You can have friendly, professional relationships with your clients without crossing over into “friend territory.”
I’m not saying that a friendship with one of your clients can’t or won’t develop organically over time.
But a “I’m friends with all my clients!” attitude does not establish boundaries that enable you to take care of your business, your clients, your actual friends, or yourself.
5. Give a simple, straightforward first impression
A lot of well-intentioned solutions turn off prospects because they’re overly complicated.
When you explain your offer in a simple way, it demonstrates that you’re results-oriented.
As a side effect, “simple” tends to — not always, but tends to — attract people who value no-nonsense transactions.
If your business style is unorganized or complex, you’re more likely to attract chaotic or dramatic personalities.
6. Provide a terms of service
A terms of service agreement can help keep you in the “friendly, but not friends” zone.
On the surface, it’s a boring business document, but you can actually use your creativity to establish a set of guidelines that allow great working relationships to flourish.
Instead of making your terms of service dry, demonstrate what it’s like to work with you and how the client can contribute to the relationship in a productive way.
You can answer frequently asked questions and outline your customer service procedures.
For example, you don’t have to return emails or calls within minutes. In fact, if you set yourself up to operate like that, you’re likely to get stressed out and resent work (See #3 above).
So, your terms of service can state your business hours and when clients can expect to hear back from you.
7. Establish a payment policy and schedule
A payment policy and schedule is an extension of your terms of service.
Without one, you don’t have rules for getting paid other than “when the client gets around to it,” which is no good for your cash flow.
Many writers who get paid per project ask for half upfront.
- If the project went as planned, the writer will invoice the remainder when they finish.
- If the project didn’t go as planned because the client needed more work than they originally requested, the writer will invoice the remainder when they finish, along with fees for the additional work.
As a freelance editor, drafts that prospects sent me dictated the price quotes I gave them, so my payment policy had a penalty if a client needed to send me an updated draft to edit after they already paid me.
It not only discouraged clients from making mistakes when sending me their documents, it put a clear procedure in place if a client changed their needs once I already began working on their project.
8. Have go-to plans for common issues
Even when you take preventative measures, some clients may innocently cause problems.
I say “innocently” because they might be completely unaware that they are asking too much (or whatever the aggravation is), without any ill intentions.
If the client is not out-of-line, assume a “get back on track” mentality before you get too frustrated.
Anticipate common issues that will throw you off balance, so even if you get a little frazzled at first, you’ll know how to proceed.
Your go-to plan could be as simple as referring to the part of your terms of service that states the protocol for what the client wants.
Regard your terms of service and payment policy as “living documents” you can always update for future clients, if you think of additional business standards.
9. Label and archive your emails
Everyone is going to have different systems for staying organized, but one thing we all have in common is email.
My inbox stays manageable without a fancy or strict system. I mostly use two features in Gmail: labels and archive.
If you don’t use Gmail, there are probably equivalents in the interface you use.
The idea is to have different labels for each client, so you can easily find all of your correspondence.
The archive function will take an email out of your inbox once you decide you don’t need it there anymore. And since you’ve assigned a label to each email, the email will remain under that label in your sidebar.
10. Continue learning
An open mind about learning is win-win.
If you don’t gain any new knowledge in a seminar or at a conference, you’ll get confirmation that you’re up-to-date in your field with some of your peers.
And you probably will learn something new, even if it’s a small tip that will optimize how you run your business or the services you offer.
Focus on serving, rather than second-guessing
If you find yourself second-guessing your capabilities, put that energy into new or better ways to serve your clients. The productivity will distract you from self-doubt and make you feel accomplished.