Running your own business gives you the freedom to define your own working hours, your own pay and even the way in which you want to work. You have no boss and no contract, so it’s up to you how you want to play it.
In a perfect world, this would mean that you could create your ‘ideal’ way of working. Theoretically, this should allow you to decide what you want your working day to look like and then build a business around that vision.
But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. And the key factor to remember here is that while you don’t have a boss, you do have clients, customers and business partners. And unfortunately, those people will in many ways act like your boss.
Your biggest client doesn’t have any hold over you. There’s no contract and nothing to say that you have to do what they tell you. But that said, they are the people that provide you with the majority of your pay. If you don’t hand work in on time or if you ignore their emails, then you’re going to lose a lot of your income.
Likewise, if a client gets in touch with a question about your product, then it pays for you to answer them. Otherwise, you might lose their interest and thereby lose a sale.
Or what about potential business partners that have the potential to elevate your organization to the next level? When you get a whiff of an investment, a sponsor, or the chance to get your business seen by thousands, you can find yourself desperate to impress which puts the ball firmly in their court.
Introducing: Communication Overhead
Unfortunately, all of this means that it’s very possible you’ll end up spending a lot of time discussing business rather than actually doing business.
You’ll be wooing new clients, you’ll be answering customers’ questions, you’ll be dealing with complaints and you’ll be discussing possible business ventures with partners.
And sometimes, this is all just going to fall through!
So much for getting to choose the way you work or getting to set your own working hours! Suddenly, you’re losing hours out of your working day to answer questions or take Skype meetings and you’re spending your evenings answering angry or stressed questions by email.
This is called ‘communication overhead’ and it’s the bane of many businesses. It exists in any organization and accounts for every email sent and every meeting held. It’s called ‘overhead’ because it costs money. All the time spent answering emails is time spent not working. Time is money and thus you need to streamline your correspondence as much as humanly possible in order to make the most money. Especially if you run the whole ship on your own!
How to Avoid Time Wasters
And sometimes the whole thing is going to fall through and you’re going to lose the client, customer or opportunity anyway.
Some of this is unavoidable. Some of it is just part and parcel of running your own business and we have no option other than to accept it.
But what’s unacceptable, is when you’re dealing with a time waster. When you’re dealing with someone who never has any intention of actually hiring you, or offering you that big opportunity… well that’s just not okay.
And the unfortunate thing is that many of us will waste our time dealing with these kinds of people. It can be enough to take all the joy out of running a business – even enough to lead to the failure of your business altogether.
So how do you spot a time waster?
One tip is to look out for people who seem to want to ‘play business’. These are the people who are more interested in looking and sounding like big shots than they are in actually getting work done. You can tell these people right away if they ask for a Skype meeting when they only intend on hiring a small amount of work. They’ll probably ask to ‘discuss a project’ rather than just hiring your services.
Instead of indulging your clients and customers when this happens, a good tip is to ask if they could possibly try describing the brief via email first to save you both time. You can then follow up with a meeting only if the brief isn’t immediately self-explanatory.
If they insist on a Skype call or phone call, then always preface your conversations by explaining that you have to go in a hurry. Don’t allow the conversation to drag on indefinitely – in the past I’ve spent hours on the phone speaking with clients that ended up going silent when it came time to pay.
Another option is to ask for payment before the discussion – or even to charge for your time when discussing on the phone. If they send too many emails, then you can even consider charging per email!
Likewise, once you have a client, it’s always important to pay close attention to how much time they’re costing you and how much money they’re earning you. If the ratio is unfavourable, then drop them.
Making the Cognitive Shift
All this can feel jarring at first. When you start out in business, it’s natural to want to take every opportunity that comes your way. Turning down money does not come easily to most of us.
But you can only spread yourself so thin and you only have finite time. Don’t waste it on people who want to mess you around or massage their own egos. You’ll actually lose money in the long run by working with these kinds of clients and partners and you’ll be much better off focussing your time on the clients that deserve it.
Because the reality is that the people that are serious about doing business with you won’t want to waste their time either!
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