At the end of this month, Shout It Out Design will be 1-year-old. And I’ve never had the problem of being “too busy.”
It’s not that I was doing a great job of spacing out my business, it’s just that I had exactly the right level of incoming clients and ongoing clients for about 11 of my first 12 months.
Then they came out of the woodwork. The clients I had all but given up on, the referral of a referral that had never called. The friend of my neighbor’s cousin who had heard about me but just hasn’t called. All in one week.
Not to divulge my ‘industry secrets’ but my business plan calls for growing 2 clients per month. Some months I’ll get 3, some months I’ll just get 1, but an average of two keeps my CFO (my wife) a happy lady – and more importantly, me just busy enough.
So what happens when you get 5 new clients in one week? None of which are able to wait too long to get started? Internally, I did a mix of a happy dance/panic shuffle. Having several new clients was going to be great for my business, but I worried about not only the short-term of not being able to meet the needs & timelines of the web sites I was building for my new clients but also maintaining and keeping my already established clients happy.
Luckily, I work from home, so I don’t have people walking into my office when I’m locked in to coding a navigation structure or an image gallery. It’s also important to note that I don’t have any kids (just two annoying kittens) so a crying baby, or a trip to the principal’s office isn’t in my scope of distractions.
I had several options when I was confronted with this ‘problem:’
Hire Out Some of the Programming
This would be a quick fix for all the coding that needed to be done. I could oversee what the contracted person was doing before the client saw it to control the quality of work. I would still run the risk of alienating my client by providing sub par work because I had to hire someone in a pinch. Beyond that, I’d be losing my profit margin by paying someone else to do my work!
Stop Taking New Clients
Obviously, not just by saying “I DON’T WANT YOUR BUSINESS.” But even being polite about it, I could still lose out on potential business if they decide to go in a different direction before I’m able to get back to them. I’m sure most people could wait 3 or 4 weeks to get started, but some couldn’t – so there’s lost business.
Turn of the Twitter, Email & Phone
Turning off my connection to the world would allow me more time to focus on getting the projects done for my new clients, but my current clients would become frustrated because the level of service that they’ve come to know from me (usually answering them right back and making changes on their sites within a few hours), that would come to a screeching halt. Unhappy clients can be a cancer to your business. In a business like mine, where 95% of my business has come from referrals, upset clients would eventually be the end of me.
Panic & Lose Everyone’s Business
This is an option I debated. How about I just tell everyone to bug off (in my best Ricky Gervais accent)
So what did I do?
I decided the best plan of attack would be a combination of a few of my options.
I have some panic time around the house (during the day of course, I don’t want my CFO to catch me screaming around like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.)
I’ve done a better job of spacing out initial meetings with potential new clients. I don’t put them off, but when they ask for a good time to meet, instead of what was my over-anxious “Let’s meet right now! I’m not busy!!” I give a date 7-10 days in advance and I try not to have more than one new client meeting per week. (Especially if they are more labor intensive projects) This also allows me some time to research my client beforehand to get a better feel of their industry if I’m not familiar with it, view their web site if they have one and see what their competition is doing to secure business online.
I haven’t hired any of my work out at this time, I’m not sure if I want to give the keys to my new car quite yet. I know it is going to be an inevitable addition to my business, but I’m not sure when or what position that outsourced job might be (sales, design, accounting, etc). Working from home also makes it tricky to hire someone else, because there would have to be a large level of trust to know that they are doing as high of a quality work as I would.
I just work as hard as I can, give realistic timelines to my new customers and still provide quick responses to my current ones. I might not get that verbiage changed on your site in 5 minutes, but I’ll still get to it that day. I still beat deadlines, which impresses my new clients and provides them opportunities to go out and brag about their shiny new web site to their network which may turn into new revenue for me.
So, is there an answer to how busy is too busy? It depends on the way you look at things. I might look back after the dust has settled on this recent influx of business and think that I was overreacting. But I’ve definitely learned to be more careful about taking on too many projects at once. It’s easy as an entrepreneur to just see the potential dollar signs and not consider the amount of work it will take to earn that money. I don’t think of my clients as $$, and that’s just part of the reason (in my opinion) that I’ve become so popular in such a short amount of time.
But, don’t call me this week – I’m busy. 🙂