BUSINESS


 

  • Understanding your business
  •  
  • Working with clients
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  • Taking your work on the road
     
    – The essential guide for keeping clients while you travel
    Find out how to re-design your business so your clients remain happy while you are location independent. With this resource you may not agree with all our points, it will be interesting to hear your views in the forum.
    [Review and Action – 1hr]

    The 5 pillars of location independent business
    Are you covering each of these 5 key areas?
    [Read – 20 minutes]

    Taking the business with you and making it pay
    Hannah talks you through how to take your business on the road.
    [Audio – 40+ minutes]

    – Coming Soon! Opening the door to passive income
    Passive income is the holy grail- doing the work once and having it pay you again and again. As much as most people like the idea of adding this income stream to their business they lack confidence in being able to get it off the ground. In this audio we talk you through how we developed the passive income streams which form the foundation of our business, and provide plenty of tips on how you can do the same.

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  • Improving your business
  •  
  • Accountability
  •  
  • Summary
  •  
  • Your video
  •  
  • Strategy Session

The Essential Guide to Keeping Clients While You Travel

 
There are some businesses which will be more mobile than others. But WHATEVER your model, the fact that it is YOUR business means you can adapt it to give you all the freedom you want.
So here are the essentials to re-designing your business to be ‘location independent’ when it comes to keeping your clients happy.
 
1.Find trusted associates
There is nothing more satisfying than waking up in another part of the world knowing that someone you respect, trust and like is taking care of a client project while you have been asleep.
 


 
There are a hundred and one tasks you can do remotely. But sometimes there are tasks which need to be handled in person. You just have to make sure that YOU don’t always have to be that person.
 
It can be difficult to hand over the reins for the first time. A lot of people struggle to delegate, even to a peer or colleague. You can feel like you’ve worked hard to build a relationship with that client and are reluctant to hand it over to someone else. That’s why it is important to find someone you like and have professional respect for. They can become a trusted part of your business and a real asset. You may find in the end that you prefer them to do the work so you can focus on the things ONLY you can do.
 
If you are new to business or the money isn’t coming in as regularly as you would like it can be hard to imagine ‘handing over’ work to someone else. But you will get to the stage where you have enough to go around and you will need some help. Try to re-frame it- you aren’t so much losing half of a potential fee but earning the same as your associate without doing the work! Not forgetting that this will free you up to be working on something else from another location- being the ‘brains’ of the operation rather than getting tied up being too ‘hands-on’.
 
Tip
Make sure you have clarified with the associate about travelling expenses. You don’t want to have to pay costs out of your own pocket. Ideally the client will cover these so you can pass them on to the associate, or you will have built it into the fee structure.

Case study
Katie works as a freelance trainer. We met her at an industry conference. Katie is a mum with two young kids so doesn’t really want to set up her own business but is more than happy to support the businesses of others using her professional skills. Katie handles any training courses that are booked while we are away. If the client is expecting Hannah to deliver the training we simply explain she has other commitments on that day so another member of our team will deliver the event. This is how larger consultancies operate because they have large teams. We trained Katie by asking her to co-deliver a couple of training courses with Hannah. We were then confident for her to manage alone. Katie is incredibly professional and loyal to our business; however we also have contracts in place to safeguard our business by prohibiting associates from ‘poaching’ any of our clients. You can often find examples of these types of contracts on-line which you can adapt to your business.
 
The benefit of this arrangement is that we trust Katie to represent our brand with integrity; we have been clear about what our company values and how we like to be represented. Katie usually takes home half the fee from the training. We design the materials so we know exactly what is being delivered, and take a minimum of 50% of the fee. It took a bit of effort to set up but now it can feel like we are being paid while she handles the hard work for us.

 
2. Find a super-star virtual assistant
Finding a good team to work with is very important, it allows you to free up your time to focus on what is crucial to the business. We cover this in much more depth in the ‘Relationships’ module.
 
3. Make the rules your way
Set the power balance
When we don’t have all the clients we would like we can sometimes fall into the trap of feeling grateful for the work and overly reliant on the ones we do have. It is important though to establish the balance of power early on in the client relationship if you are going to do business on your terms, and this is essential if your terms are being out of the country for portions of the year.
 
They need you too!
As an expert in your field it makes sense that you wouldn’t be too accessible and won’t always be available. When people approach you for help it is because you have sold them both on you as a person and also on what you can do for them. How you deliver that help is up to you- after all, you are the expert in fixing the problem they have! So if they are going to be demanding and have decided on the format of the help they are seeking e.g. it has to be face to face, they might be quite difficult to work with anyway. It would be like hiring a personal fitness trainer to help lose weight but then telling this ‘expert’ what sort of exercise you insist on!
Of course, your clients will have an idea of what they are looking for and you want to meet that. But if you can’t do it personally, that’s where having associates can help; after all, these are people trained by you in your systems and approaches, and that’s what matters. You take responsibility for quality and outcomes even if you aren’t always there in person; it’s your name your clients are buying into. Just remember, none of us go to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant expecting Jamie himself to cook for us!
 
Work out the parameters
Setting clear boundaries and expectations is very important. Clients won’t feel short changed if they are clear what they signed up for- particularly as you will have explained the benefits of working this way. You can negotiate; it can be helpful to be flexible. However, know which areas are non-negotiable and don’t shift on these. You will only resent it, and you don’t want to get in the habit of sacrificing your lifestyle plans to satisfy your clients demands, especially when you know you could meet them just as well according to the arrangements you are proposing. You may find that you establish a pattern for your clients e.g. you are available for face to face consultations at the beginning and end 3 months of each year, but are unavailable for the middle six. Whatever you decide, it has to be of benefit to the client but also fit in with the way you want to do business.
 

 
Need to know
There may be times when clients don’t need to be aware of our whereabouts. After all, when we are doing design work it makes little difference if this is done from a laptop in Australia or a desk in Dorset! Give some thought to whether your clients need to know too much about your lifestyle or location. If it doesn’t impact them and there is no benefit to them knowing, there is no problem in keeping it to yourself. If it serves a purpose by them knowing i.e. it is relevant to what you are teaching or will inspire them to achieve similar goals then by all means share as much as you feel comfortable! But bear in mind that not all clients will be as supportive of your lifestyle as others, so if in doubt keep the specifics to yourself. It’s funny the judgements people can make if you think you are taking more overseas trips than the ‘norm’.
 
If there are meetings you have to attend, plan your trip around them. If you aren’t given enough notice, send someone in your place, or ask to reschedule. When you say you are overseas most people will assume it is a business trip (we would say ‘I’m on holiday’ otherwise!) Most people don’t tend to consider any other alternative to those two reasons for being away.
 
4. Be super reliable and efficient
Clients aren’t going to complain if you are reliable and efficient, even if it means they can’t always get hold of you directly first time. The business arrangement should be on your terms but you also need to show you respect their time and needs. The more value you deliver the less clients will be bothered by whether you are in the same country as them!
Many people end up travelling big distances to see customers face to face. It can work for one-off training or project delivery but is less realistic for longer term commitments. Unless you live in the same town as your clients (which limits your market a little!) there will usually need to be an element of remote working unless you want to be tied to a great deal of (often unpaid) travelling times.
 
Tip

Draft a list of how you prefer to work and what you can promise in return. The hints below might help:

  • Will you be available for some face to face contact?
  • What will be your average email turnaround time?
  • What’s the shortest notice you would be prepared to schedule a call?
  • What support can you guarantee to provide?
  • What follow up will you provide?
  • If you can’t attend, who will go on your behalf?
  • How can you be sure your absence won’t have a detrimental impact? (If you worry about this just think, how often do you get the consultant in charge of your care to see you when you go to the hospital? If doctors can delegate, so can you!)
  • What values are important to your business which your clients can expect from you?



 
5. Stay in touch
We can’t recommend this final point strongly enough. You need to massively stay on top of your emails. It won’t work to check them a couple of times a week or even just once a day. You need to stay up to date. We’ll cover a lot of ‘how’ in the technology month.

When we are ‘at home’, wherever that is in the world at that time, we are connected to the wireless internet. When we go out we make sure we have the capability to access the internet most of the times. This works for our business because we are running a few different businesses. It may not be as necessary for you at the moment so you can judge it for yourself. Much of the principle should apply though; you need to know what is happening in your business even when you are away from your desk.
 


 
Your attitude to this is just as important. This may not sit comfortably with some people i.e. they want some ‘off’ time. It’s up to you what you are comfortable with, we are just advising on what seems to work best in terms of client relationships (whilst also of course bearing in mind the boundary issues discussed earlier). The way we see it, it’s a small price to pay to combine having a successful business and the sort of freedoms we enjoy. Time zones will have an impact so for instance you may see an email come through when you are enjoying a glass of wine and a nice sunset while it is midday in your home country. It’s up to you to judge whether the message needs a reply there or then or can wait. But at least you will be aware of what is coming in and be ready to respond if it needs a quick turnaround. We tend to check emails two or three times in the evening but only respond if they particularly require it. Our perspective is that there are some UK ‘working hours’ when clients are not going to get a quick turnaround from us because we are asleep! If we can balance that out by being very responsive when we are able then customers won’t mind waiting on occasions because generally they know us to be reliable.
 

Case study
“I think that the way we run our business and lives now means that there aren’t clear boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘leisure’. It doesn’t feel like a problem to check emails if we are out having lunch or at the beach because work is something we enjoy and we have a big investment in making it work. I think people have to have that cut off if they don’t really enjoy what they are doing. Mobile technology means that fewer people are able to completely switch off after work which I think I’d have an issue with if I was making profits to go in someone else’s pocket! But when it’s your own business you know your efforts and commitments will pay off.
 
It’s pretty rare when we lose all connectivity (once so far in two months in Thailand in a national park!) If we are taking a day off for a hike we might only check before we leave the car and when we return to it, but we aren’t leaving it for days. Obviously weekends are a bit different because we don’t get the same volume of emails, but we do take days off mid week to meet friends or go exploring. If interrupting days out with a couple of emails means we can be doing this at all then I’m ok with it!
 
Phone calls are a bit different, and we are clear that these need to be scheduled. Mostly it’s because it’s a bit more complicated to set up than just picking up the phone which we’d do at home. But also because I think answering a quick email from a cafe isn’t a problem, you can still feel relaxed and enjoy being out (unless it’s one of THOSE emails!). An unexpected call would feel a lot more intrusive, but we rarely get any of those- most people disconnect when they hear an international dialling tone on our mobiles and our landline number goes to an answer phone which our VA responds to”.

 
Questions

  • How do you feel about being aware of your messages outside normal ‘office hours’?
  • How often do you check messages now?
  • How quickly do you reply?
  • Do you think you would find being so ‘connected’ too intrusive on your day?
  • How could you get a balance of being aware of your business needs and having ‘off’ time while you are away?

 
© 2015 Love Play Work