For the last few months, I’ve been working on one of the biggest changes in my business so far – switching my main service set (online business management/project management) from an hourly, freelancer-based model, to a monthly retainer, almost more of an agency style model.
This is something that I really agonized over, and to be honest, it makes me nervous as all get out. But this has been one of my dreams for a while – in 2013, I want to focus on working like this and on doing more classes & workshops, like the 2013 Planning + Systems + Strategy workshop. (There’s still a few days to register for that, BTW! Check it out here or download the preview workbook here.) You can see all the new service deets here (shoutout to Tanja, who has been invaluable in helping with the copy).
I thought it’d (hopefully!) be not only interesting but useful & informative, as either a potential client or as a fellow business owner, for you to read some of the reasoning & motivation behind the new services and why I decided to make such a drastic switch.
Why retainer rates instead of hourly rates?
There are so many ways to answer this question.
For one, charging a flat monthly fee removes surprises for both parties. My clients know exactly what they’re going to pay each month, and I know exactly what I can expect to make each month from my client work. It also lets me work with other kickass service professionals, which is something I’d been wanting to do for a while – I liked the idea of moving to a more “agency” style service, but that would be difficult (nigh impossible, really) to do while still functioning in an hourly model.
For another, what I’ve realized with my clients is that they really aren’t just buying my time – they’re taking up residence in my brain 24/7. I’ll be thinking about my clients’ businesses while I’m eating or in the shower or on the bus – it’s not something I can switch off (or that I want to switch off!). Given that, I don’t think an hourly business model makes the most sense.
The last, and probably most important shift for me, was realizing that I want my business to feel high-end. I want to be Nordstrom, not Target. I want working with me to be a really fantastic experience loaded with bonuses, surprises, and fabulous service (think: yearly retreats, monthly self-care surprises, special gifts).
This is what sealed the deal in switching business models for me – I realized that I literally, mathematically could not provide that kind of service for my clients and still make a profit with the hourly model I’d been working in. I’d be actively losing money and unable to pay my rent.
That took a lot of the emotional money issues out of it, for me – I had to ask myself, “Is it more important to me to provide an absolutely amazing experience for my clients, or to avoid dealing with my discomfort of switching pricing models?”
Overall? It’s just easier, simpler, & more elegant, for everyone involved.
Why would someone pay for these packages instead of just having a VA?
You’ll notice that hours of VA work are included in each of the tiers, with the hours increasing as the price increases. Of course, you’re paying more at each retainer level than you would be if you hired just a VA. So you might be wondering – why not simply work with a VA?
My clients will get more out of these VA hours than they would be if they were working with a VA 1:1 – because the VA is working off of a clear, organized task list that ties into the bigger picture, instead of just handling things on the fly. That’s actually one of the problems that business owners run into when they start to delegate – they just kind of hand things off as they come up, without a bigger picture view of what they’re handing off and why, and what impact handing those things off (vs. handing other tasks off, for example) has on their business. Which, of course, is still effective, but it’s not the most effective way to do things.
Another thing is that since I’ll be working with several VAs at once within this model, I can give my clients’ work off to someone who specializes in that particular task – whereas if you’re a small business owner working with VAs 1:1, it can be difficult to have several “on hand” with different specialities. (Think tech wrangling vs. customer service vs. writing or editing.) And it might not even be financially feasible, depending on how your VAs structure their payment. This way, that’s taken care of for you.
Why not just have an online business manager (the way you used to work) instead of using this model?
Mainly, because I decided to make this switch for very specific reasons – it wasn’t just done randomly.
One of the things I’ve run into is working with clients who – to be utterly frank – have kind of shitty VAs. I’m not dissing on virtual assistants as a whole because there are a lot of incredibly awesome ones out there (and I’m looking forward to working with them in this new model!). But I’d run into issues like the assistant not having great communication or timeliness skills, assistants having issues accepting assignments from me, things like that. Having kickass VAs that I have an ongoing relationship with will solve a lot of that.
The other thing I’ve run into is that my clients are not usually natural system thinkers. Which is totally fine, obvs, because that’s where I shine. But that has some ramifications – namely, by the time I come on the scene, there are usually very inefficient, broken systems in place when it comes to teamwork & generally getting shit done. And, as with so many things, it’s really much harder to fix something that’s broken instead of creating a strong foundation from the get-go. This way, I can handle all of the system creation internally within my business, which sets things up for everything to get done super-smoothly.
It really comes back to what I said in point #3 about retainer rates, above – I honestly believe that this is the best way for my clients to get a seamless, frustration-free experience with better results than they’d get from the way I had been working.
What’s this mean for Bombchelle going into 2013?
Like I said in the introduction, in 2013 I want to focus on this style of work and on classes & workshops (including in person ones, which I’m super excited about). I’m going to be discontinuing my one-off services on December 31st (so if you’re interested in getting some 1:1 planning + systematizing done, make sure to book your’s now – you can use the service any time before January 31st). I love doing them and I get great feedback on them, but I don’t feel like they’re the highest leverage spot to put my attention and I don’t want to have too many things on offer at any given point and confuse people.
I’m also going to be working on doing more writing & creating more things like the planners – I’m in fact working on a Kindle book that should be out by the end of the month, and have plans for at least two more in 2013.
So – those are my reasons for one of the biggest shifts in my business yet, & some info about what that shift means for my biz. I’d love to hear your thoughts & stories of similar switches you’ve made in your business below!