When you first started your business, the idea of being booked solid sounded like a dream come true.
But when you’re there, you realize that being booked solid comes with a whole new set of challenges. It can quickly become very stressful and overwhelming.
However, there’s a positive side to being booked solid: it’s the perfect time to think more critically about your business. It’s the time to look under the hood of your business and establish smart protocols that are based on your values, vision, and goals.
Besides, if you’re in this situation, you’re feeling stressed already. You might as well leverage that emotion to make necessary changes.
In today’s podcast episode, I walk through eight areas of your business that you should evaluate when you’re consistently booked solid.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts.
8 Areas to Evaluate
As we explore these eight areas, I encourage you to jot down any ideas that come to mind that you want to explore further.
You don’t have to make any decisions yet. You’re just brainstorming.
I suggest that you put these ideas in this format:
“When I’m beyond booked solid, here’s how I’m going to view/change/alter this area in order to ensure my business remains fun, profitable and sustainable.”
“When I’m beyond booked solid, I will _____________.”
- How and what types of marketing
- When and how frequently
- Rules and protocols to ensure it happens
When you’re beyond booked solid, what happens to your marketing? For most writers, it’s non-existent.
But that’s a mistake. Because invariably the work will eventually dry up.
Even worse, once you’re out of the marketing habit, it doesn’t come easily. You feel nervous and anxious. You don’t know what works and what doesn’t.
That said, it’s perfectly fine to scale back. In fact, I don’t really care how much time you spend on it, as long as you keep the habit.
This is also the time to shift your marketing from outreach and attraction to nurturing contacts. Stay in touch with people who weren’t ready to hire you before. Say, “Hey, how are things with you? How’s business?” or “I came across this article the other day, and I thought of you.” You’re not asking for anything. You’re just staying in touch.
If someone comes back with an offer of work, you can let them know you’re interested, but you’re booked for the next three months, without it feeling awkward.
- Fee structure and pricing model
- Raising fees
- Low-hanging fruit
This is also a great opportunity to look at your fee structure and pricing model. If you’ve been charging by the hour, this is a great time to shift to project-based fees. If you’ve been charging project-based fees, this is a great opportunity to start thinking about retainers.
It’s also a great time to raise fees with existing clients and new prospects. I encourage my coaching clients to raise their fee by 20% for new clients. They’ve got nothing to lose, so why not try it?
You can also use this as an opportunity to offer services you’ve been too scared to offer before too. Because being booked solid—and beyond—is a huge confidence builder.
- Blend of “head vs. hands” work
- Retainer-only or recurring revenue %
- What you offer / focus on
- Target market
You should also use this time to take a closer look at your business model. Is there anything you want to change, such as the services you offer, how you offer those services, and how you work with clients?
Do you want to start shifting to doing more work with ideas, insights, and strategy? Do you want to move to a retainer-only model?
Do you want to start shifting to a different target market? Maybe one where you’ve had some successes, but haven’t had the courage to really double down it?
Finances / Cash Flow
- Throttling lifestyle needs
- Passive income (real estate, investments, retirement income, side hustle, etc.)
- Financial buffers
- Other income sources (spouse, side hustle, etc.)
If you haven’t done a good job managing cash flow to this point, now’s the time.
You’re going to have a surplus—and it’s much easier to implement cash flow management systems when you have a surplus than when you’re barely scraping by.
You’ll also be tempted to upgrade your lifestyle, so be mindful of that and deliberate in your choices.
This is also a great time to build some financial buffers. Put away several months’ worth of income because you may not be booked solid forever.
Take a look at other income sources. This could be the time to work on a side hustle. Your time will be a constraint, but maybe now you have the funding to get your idea off the ground.
Internal Boundaries & Standards
- Your schedule (free days, # hours worked, etc.)
- Business standards
- Giving yourself permission to say no, make bold moves, etc.
- Triggers for getting back to introspection
- Engaging/fulfilling work
What are your non-negotiables? What do you stand for? Where you draw the line for yourself?
For example, what days are you going to take off each week, and how will you hold them sacred? How many hours will you work (and not work) each day?
Give yourself permission to say no to both prospects and existing clients. Make bold moves and hold your ground.
You now have the ability to say no to projects you don’t want and start pursuing more projects you do want. You have that financial flexibility now, so take advantage of it.
- Mutual respect
- Payment timeliness
Examine the boundaries you’ve set with clients. How are you upholding and communicating those boundaries? How are you handling deadlines, rush work, fees, payments, timelines?
How do you partner with your clients? Is there a mutual respect? Why or why not? Do you give in too easily? Do they continually push your limits? Be honest with yourself.
- Other (research, design, technical, etc.)
- Scaling up
When you’re just starting out, you have to wear every single hat. But if you’re beyond booked solid, this is an opportunity to look at all the hats you’re wearing and ask if somebody could help you with these things.
Administrative and repetitive functions are great places to look. Basic tasks, like transcriptions and proofreading, can be outsourced or replaced by technology. Bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes are all great opportunities for outsourcing.
Could you train a writer to give you a draft that’s 80% there? Can they take some of that grunt work out of your to do list? What about research? Design?
Are you still trying to figure it all your tech stack all on your own? That’s probably not the best use of your time.
This is also a great time to ask yourself some tough questions about the future. Where do you want to take your business? Do you want to scale up? Or do you want to stay a one-person business? When you have more work than you can handle, it’s much easier to get clarity on these questions.
Portfolio/Mix of Clients
- Client quality mix à client quality matrix
- Client multiplier scorecard
- Transition plan for existing commitments
- Letting go of the bottom 10%
This is a great time to take a closer look at your existing clients. (We talked about this in some detail in Episode 299.) Evaluate and score your client on factors such as hassle, profitability, and strategic value.
Take a close look at each client and see how you feel about them using these and other objective measures.
I’m a big believer in letting go of the bottom 10% of our clients every year. It’s great if you have clients who have been with you for four or five years or longer. But the idea is not to keep everybody forever.
- Go through your list of ideas in each category.
- Add more ideas if you think of any.
- Highlight one idea (no more) in each category you absolutely want to explore further over the next eight months. Eight categories in eight months = one per month.
How do we make all these ideas practical?
My suggestion is to go through each of these areas. Ask yourself some tough questions and brainstorm ideas, then consolidate those ideas into some statements and declarations.
Then, go through each of these areas and highlight one category in each. You shouldn’t have more than eight in total.
Next, pick the category that you feel is the highest priority. The idea or change that would also take care of a lot of other problems. It’s the lead domino.
When you’re struggling to make ends meet, it’s difficult to clear on these things and muster the courage to make tough decisions.
But when you’re beyond booked solid, it’s much easier. You just have to carve out the time to do it.
By the way… whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:
1. Grab a free copy of my book.
It’s called Earn More in Less Time: The Proven Mindset, Strategies and Actions to Prosper as a Freelance Writer. The title says it all. 😉 — Click Here
2. Join my implementation program and be a case study.
I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’re earning $5k+/month (or the part-time equivalent) from your freelance business … and you’d like to grow your income quickly with better clients … just email me at [email protected]
3. Work with me privately.
If you’re a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time, with less stress, I might be able to help you get there faster than you think. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Breakthrough” in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you with more details.