When You Feel Like You’ve Maxed Out Your Productivity, Do This…

Aaron Hoos

As a copywriter, clients hire me to deliver copy that gets their prospects taking action. Along with my knowledge and experience distilled into words, they’re also paying for my time—for me to spend time on their project.

Of course I want to deliver great value but also I want to make more money. So, I can increase my rates (done!), I can fill my schedule with my clients (done!) but I can also become more productive to help me deliver great content faster.

When we think of productivity, we often think of working faster and more focused to get more done in less time.

I’ve tried them all and created gains from each of them, helping me to increase my productivity and get more great copy written for my clients.

And if you’re like me (a professional who sells knowledge + experience + time), you probably have done some or all of these things to increase your productivity.

But I’ve hit a wall and so will you: there are only so many hours you can add by getting up early; there’s only so much focus you can have, it doesn’t make you get your existing work done any faster.

In other words, there are limits and if you are focused on being more productive, you will hit these limits at some point. For example, for my situation as a copywriter, some limits include: the process of writing, my typing speed, the need to communicate with customers (I can’t ask them to talk faster!), the need to do research, etc. Of course in your professional situation there might be other limits… so the question we should be asking is: what can you do to break through those limits to become more productive when you think you’ve already squeezed out all the productivity you can?

The Breakdown

The key that unlocked it all for me was breaking down what I do into smaller pieces. Rather than asking: “How to I deliver my copywriting service faster and more efficiently?” I broke down what I do into individual pieces. When I deliver copywriting service, I really do the following…

  1. Connect with the client and get the project assignment from them
  2. Outline the project
  3. Research
  4. Write
  5. Revise
  6. Edit
  7. Proof
  8. Deliver

Depending on the project, it could vary a little but that’s generally what many of my projects look like.

Now, instead of asking “How to I deliver my copywriting service faster and more efficiently?”, I ask “How do I do each step faster and more efficiently?”

This opens up a variety of methods that I hadn’t considered before when I was thinking about this more generally. In other words, getting more specific reveal new productivity opportunities. For example…

  • Maybe I could have a fillable Google Form that my clients simply send projects to, thus eliminating the need to talk to them on the phone.
  • Maybe that filllable form also starts the outlining process for me by capturing the data and putting it into a project management spreadsheet with a service like Zapier.
  • Maybe my research could be outsourced to someone else.
  • Maybe I could use more templates that eliminate the time it takes me to decide how I want to write this piece.
  • Maybe the proofing can be outsourced to someone else (after all, my expertise is in creating the words, not in making sure that the grammar is perfect).

These are just a few examples but already I can see that applying even a couple of them can increase the amount of monetizable writing time I have while minimizing the other aspects of the project that can be time-consuming.

And once I’ve done this for one service, I can break it out in other ways too: perhaps for other writing and content services I provide, or my consulting services, or my investing… or whatever.

Breaking things down into parts and examining those parts in detail will reveal greater productivity opportunities than when thinking about your service as a whole.

Do You WOW Your Customers? (Many Say They Do But Very Few Actually Do)

Aaron Hoos

(Okay, ignore that silly picture of me. I’m apparently reflecting the same WOWed face of a statue of a famous Greek philosopher.)

Instead, let’s talk about WOWing customers…

Do you serve your customers? Do you WOW them?

You might THINK you do but you probably don’t.

Nope. Even YOU.

Customer Service: The Misunderstood Deliverable

Customer service is such a weird thing: customers want to be served, businesses want to serve them, businesses know that good customer service helps to cement the relationship…

and yet, businesses fail to understand the depth to which customer service needs to occur.

The result is: businesses think they’re giving good customer service (when really they’re not), customers barely feel served so they go somewhere else.

Customer service is the misunderstood deliverable. Many businesses believe they give good customer service but very very very very few actually do.

What Is “Good” Customer Service?

Businesses often tout their “good” (or “great” or whatever) customer service as a point of pride or a core value. They plaster their good-customer-service claims everywhere.

But when the customer engages with the business, they experience something entirely different.

That’s because the business and the customer measure “good” very differently.

If you’re a business owner, think about what you consider to be “good” customer service. For a lot of businesses it includes things like:

  • We greet you as soon as you walk in the store
  • Our staff are friendly, polite, and helpful
  • We make sure you are served with what you want and need
  • We have fair prices and good value; we’re not ripping people off
  • We happily refund purchases if they don’t work

I suspect that some business owners are reading this list and nodding in agreement and thinking: “yes, that’s exactly the kind of good customer service that we give! And we’re proud of it!”

Well here’s where things fall apart: You might think that is good customer service…

… your customers view that as the absolutely minimum baseline for what they can expect in any and every store they do business with.

(Yes, even your competitors probably deliver this, even if you don’t think they do.)

So, what stores are measuring as “good”, customers are expecting as the absolute bare minimum.

Let’s use a different example to highlight the disparity: Imagine a romantic relationship between two people.

The one person in the relationship believes that they are good in the relationship because…

  • They call
  • They go out on dates with the other person
  • They don’t smell
  • They remember the other person’s birthday

Person one is proud that they are a good partner. Problem is, the other person in relationship knows that there are a million fish in the sea who also have those qualities. Those aren’t “good” qualities, they’re the minimum baseline upon which the first person needs to do better if they want the relationship to last.

So, What Really Is Good Customer Service?

Good customer service is service that rises above the baseline. It builds on the minimum standard but goes further.

  • It’s not just greeting the person when they walk in the store but connecting with them later as well with a thank you call that doesn’t try to sell them anything
  • It’s not just a staff that are friendly, polite, and helpful; it’s a staff who very clearly go out of their way to drop everything and make the customer the sole focus of their attention (hire someone else to answer the ringing phones), and who become so friendly with the customer that the customer asks for them by name when they come back
  • It’s not just serving customers with what they want and need; it’s finding ways to add value beyond that, recommending additional products and services, giving away free information to support the use of the product, and following-up about the purchase months later
  • It’s not just having fair prices and good value; it’s about surprising them with much, much, much, much more than they were ever expecting
  • It’s not just a refund policy, it’s a guarantee with teeth
  • It’s not just knowing the customer’s name but using it regularly, along with their family’s names

… and that’s just scratching the surface.

Stop thinking of your customer service as “good”. Customers are getting the same amount of service from your competitors, so there’s no loyalty created. Instead, aim to SHOCK your customers with customer service that leaves them speechless and near to tears with your generosity and value.

(Does that sound like “too much”? Good! Now we’re finally getting close to what “good customer service” really is.)

(Edit: you know what’s funny? I stumbled across an old blog post I wrote back in 2015, with almost an identical name—Too Many Businesses Say They WOW Their Customers But Few Actually Do. haha! I’ve been thinking about for a while!)

How To Grow Your Freelance Business (Even If You Have Too Many Clients Already)

Aaron Hoos

For several years now I have had a problem…

With business growth.

The problem is: I have too many clients.

Why is this a problem? Because it actually makes me stuck. My clients book me for big projects, long-term work, and send a ton of referrals. I end up overwhelmed with work and stuck to my desk because I overcommit and want to help my clients and their friends.

(Yikes! That was totally a #humblebrag. Sorry about that. It wasn’t meant to be at first and I promise that this post will reveal my many imperfections very shortly.)

I know I’m not alone in this problem. I’ve met other freelancers, copywriters, coaches, and consultants who have faced this same problem. Usually it’s business owners who have a strong brand and a half-decent sales funnel in a tightly-defined niche.

Business growth often starts with those very things: improve your branding and your sales funnel and your target market so that you get more clients, but for me and many other freelancers and professionals, we want to grow our businesses but don’t actually want or need to start at those fundamentals.

Is it possible to get business growth without getting more clients?

I’ve spent some time trying to unlock this puzzle and I’ve found that there are 7 ways to grow like this.

#1. Raise Your Prices. This might seem might like a no-brainer to most people reading this but I’m mentioning it anyway in the interest of being thorough. I was really good at raising my prices years ago and I’ve improved in the last year or two, but there was a couple of years, just recently, when I didn’t do a great job of raising my prices and I saw my income plateau for a while.

#2. Streamline For Efficiency. Whatever kind of work you do (whether copywriting, marketing, consulting, etc.), it is ultimately dependent on you to market your services, find clients, deliver your service, and perform administrative work to keep your business operational. Each of these can be improved and dramatically sped up by creating efficiencies. Maybe you track your time to measure when you work best, or maybe you cut back on some of the non-essential projects that you once did, or maybe you focus in even more on one type of work.

#3. Work Harder, Faster, And Longer. Okay, this probably sounds crazy to do since you might be reading this now because you are working too hard or too long. However, I’m listing it anyway to be thorough but also to encourage you to take a look at your work and decide when you work best and how you can work more effectively. As I write this, I just recently (nearly) doubled my income without any other changes than simply making sure that I’m focused for specific periods of time during the day and thinking about other things at other times in the day. Simply by tweaking my focus I grew my income. I also mention this because there may be times in your business when you need to burn the candle at both ends, so it’s a viable option as long as you’re not using this as a 24/7/365 approach to business.

#4. Build/Implement Templates, Systems, and Automation. This has been really big for me lately, too: instead of reinventing the wheel each time you do something, start with a template. Build it once and modify it whenever you need to do that work again. Use checklists and flowcharts as simple systems for everything you do. (For example, I write a couple of magazine articles every month so I have a checklist of things I need to do with those articles to make sure the project gets completed efficiently. The checklist keeps me on track and speeds things up.) Consider using software in your business to save time.

#5. Productize Your Services. Instead of providing a la carte services that clients can pick-and-choose, create productized services and offer those. It will save you a ton of time (especially if you used to spend a lot of time creating custom proposals and bids in the past) plus you get a ton of credibility AND can raise your prices even more with these.

#6. Create Products. I know you’re busy so this will be challenging to complete but a powerful way to grow your business is to create products, such as infoproducts. Start with a small book of collected blog posts or podcast transcripts, just to get something out there and get a bit of money for it. Once you see that passive income starting to come in, you’ll make time for other products.

#7. Hire A Team. I put this one last on purpose. A team is a powerful way to leverage yourself and build your business, however it’s often a stumbling block to freelancers because they either don’t see how they can hire a team, or they can’t find someone to hire, or they struggle with justifying the financial investment needed before they get a return. All those are perfectly understandable and I’ve had the same challenges too. (I have a team now but it took years to get it dialed in correctly.) A good starting point is to outsource some of your non-essential work. Do this slowly. I started by outsourcing my bookkeeping. Then I outsourced some of my really low-level marketing. Then I outsourced some of my research and editing. Today, I have a team that includes a couple of writers who write stuff in niches that I don’t want to write about and I use my marketing infrastructure to give them work and take a cut of the proceeds. But a few years ago I struggled to hire even one person! So, just start small with a virtual assistant working a couple hours a week and grow from there.

SUMMARY

For many businesses, the answer to “how do I grow my business” usually starts with better marketing, a better sales funnel, a more narrowly-defined niche, and a strong brand. But for businesses that already have those (especially freelancers), the question is: how do you grow your business when you don’t need more clients? These 7 ways can help you do just that. You can implement some right away and slowly add others incrementally when you can. Slow but sure, day-by-day, put these pieces in place and you will grow!

(Swipe-And-Deploy Template) How To Set Up The Financial Structure/Processes For Your Freelance Business

Aaron Hoos

Financials seem boring but they’re really not. They’re good practices that pay off in better decisions, more money, less stress, and extra time.

What’s not to love about that?!? Master your finances and you’ll master your business.

Problem is, a lot of people procrastinate on their financials because they think it is complicated and overly-detailed. However, it’s only complicated and overly-detailed if you procrastinate. But if you spend 2-3 minutes a week doing it, you’ll gain HOURS AND HOURS of time and save yourself a ton of frustration. That’s a lesson I wish I learned when I started.

For that reason, I want to help you by handing you the template for the financial structure and processes for your business.

This blog post contains the step-by-step instructions and a swipe-and-deploy financial structure/process template for freelancers who want to set up a good financial process for their businesses. It includes the step-by-step info in this blog post, plus a folder in Google Drive that you can download to duplicate for yourself.

THE BACKGROUND

I was recently working with a photographer who was just getting started. She’d reached out for help and we were talking about branding, marketing, list building, etc. Of course we were also talking about the important administrative side of it too, including financials. I had recommended a couple of books to her and sent her some financial resources but, in retrospect, I overwhelmed her with too much information.

I didn’t realize that at first until I followed up a week or so later and asked her how it was going. She admitted that she’d been procrastinating on the financial side to do other things in her business. Realizing that I’d overwhelmed her, I offered to set it all up for her.

After doing that, I replicated it here for you.

WHO IT’S FOR

I run a bunch of businesses but fundamentally I am a freelancer operating a sole proprietorship in Canada. So, these processes will probably work for other types of businesses and corporate structures, for larger sized businesses, and in other countries. However, this financial structure/process template is built for Canadian sole proprietor freelancers. It’s for new businesses that want to start on a strong foot with their financials, and it’s also for existing businesses that need to get a handle on their financials.

DISCLAIMER

This works for me. It may also work for you. However, you will probably need to make adjustments, depending on what you sell, your corporate structure, additional tax or reporting requirements, the country you operate out of, and many other factors. This is a starting point and you can build on it.

CONTENTS

This swipe-and-deploy financial structure template contains two things: (1) a Google Drive with downloadable templates for you, and (2) instructions that you can follow step-by-step.

(1) THE GOOGLE DRIVE FOLDER

There is a folder in Google Drive that you can view (and download). It’s a folder called “Financials” and inside are 3 things (pictured below)…

  • A Records folder
  • An Income and Expenses spreadsheet
  • An Invoice template

You can view and download this folder structure and upload it into your own Google Drive for a fast start to your own financial structure and processes

(2) STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Whenever you need to invoice someone, do the following (total duration: 2 minutes):

  1. Right-click and duplicate the invoice template, renaming it the name of your invoice number.*
  2. Customize the contents of the invoice with their name, with their information.
  3. Download it as a PDF and email it to the customer.
  4. Keep it in the main folder.
  5. Put the information into your income/expenses spreadsheet (in the Income tab).

(* Keep your invoice numbers simple. I like using the year, month, and day in reverse order, plus the client’s initials, for very simple filing. For example, if my client is John Smith and I created the invoice on July 18, 2018, then the invoice number would be 20180718js. Nothing fancy, and I can tell at a glance when the invoice was made and who it was for.)

When customers pay, do the following (total duration: 30 seconds):

  1. Update your income/expenses spreadsheet (in the Income tab).
  2. Drag their invoice to the Records folder.*

(* Only drag PAID invoices to the Records folder. That way, anyone who hasn’t paid yet is front and center when you open the Financials folder and you can still see their invoices right away. The goal is to keep this clean by following up on receivables often. Don’t let unpaid invoices pile up!)

Every weekend… Yes, EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND… do the following (total duration: 2 minutes):

  1. Pull out the receipts of stuff you’ve bought that week for your biz. (Oh, pro tip: keep your receipts! Haha!)
  2. Enter the receipts into the income/expenses spreadsheet (in the Expenses tab).

Every year, in January-ish: (total duration: 5 minutes):

  1. Duplicate your income/expenses spreadsheet and rename it for the new year.
  2. Delete last year’s content from the new year’s spreadsheet so you are starting the year with a blank sheet.
  3. Drag the previous year’s spreadsheet into the Records folder.
  4. Go into the Records folder and create a folder for the year (so in January 2019 you will create a folder inside Records for 2018).*
  5. Drag all of 2018’s invoices plus the income/expenses spreadsheet into the 2018 folder.

(* After a few years of business you will end up with a bunch of folders year-by-year for every year you’ve been in business. If it gets to be too much, here’s an optional step: just create another folder in your Records folder called Archives and drag all previous year’s folders into your Archives folder. That way, you minimize the number of folders that you see when you open the Records folder.)

Every year, when doing your taxes*, do the following (total duration: 15 minutes):

  1. Go into the relevant year’s folder inside records and open the income/expenses spreadsheet.
  2. Record your total year’s income as “Business Income” in your tax return.
  3. Record your total year’s expenses (by category) as “Business Expenses” in your tax return.

(* Like everything else in this blog post, these points may differ depending on your corporate structure and the country you are operating in. However, the principles will be generally the same from one country to another.)

SUMMARY

That’s it. All built for you. It’s simple, and if you stay on top of it, it’s fast. Just download the Google Drive folders and put them in your own Google Drive, and bookmark this blog post and come back to it each week (and at the end of the year) to follow the steps to manage your financials.

Marketing, Simplified

Aaron Hoos

I talk to a lot of business owners.

Many are baffled by marketing.

It’s not their fault. The world of marketing seems complex… to the point of being confusing and even overwhelming to some.

It’s made more-so by the constant barrage of gurus who promise that if you “hustle” hard enough and use [whatever their specific method happens to be] you’ll win the game.

But that’s BS.

Want to win at the marketing game?

Here is marketing, simplified…

MARKETING, SIMPLIFIED

Step 1. Find the people who have the problem that you solve.

Step 2. Build a relationship with those people.

Step 3. Tell them about your solution.

Step 4. Get better at telling them about your solution.

That’s it. That’s marketing. Four simple steps.

Just do those things, and get progressively better at it, and you’ll master marketing.

The key points are NOT which platforms to do it on, or how often in a day you should do something, or how much you should spend, or what keywords to use.

Those are factors but the most important pieces are: (1) the solution you have, (2) the relationship you build, (3) the act of telling others, and (4) your progressive improvement.

Boom. There’s your marketing plan.

MARKETING MASTERY IN DETAIL

Let’s dig into those four steps in greater detail…

Step 1. Find the people who have the problem that you solve..

First, this presumes that you have a solution to a problem—something of value that other people want or need.

Next, you need to find the people who need help. I can’t tell you how to easily do that in this blog post since it’s often specific to your audience. Building a presence on social media is a great start. Advertising on social media is also a smart move. It won’t hit every potential audience but chances are you’ll find some.

And no, there is no panacea. A viral video or SEO optimization or retweeting memes is not going to do it.

Step 2. Build a relationship with those people.

As you find your audience, connect with them. Use empathy and establish rapport. Don’t be weird, be a human being and connect with other human beings as if you were at a social gathering. People don’t like being marketed to in a gimmicky way; they want human interaction.

Step 3. Tell them about your solution.

Use a compelling promise, urgency, risk reversal, and other copywriting strategies to tell your audience about how you can help them.

(Want to make sure they really get what you’re offering? Use this Value Gauge to help them understand the return on the investment of their purchase.)

Step 4. Get better at telling them about your solution.

Now, go back and look at how you are telling them. Use analytics to understand the answers to questions like:

  • Are people buying?
  • How many people are buying?
  • How much are they spending?
  • When and where are they buying?

That’s it. That is marketing.

If you want to take it to the next level, draw it out in a simple chart (called a Sales Funnel) and look for ways to do more of each step, and to get constantly get better. (You can master your marketing by mastering your sales funnel. Do yourself a favor and check out my short blog series called Sales Funnel 101, or pick up a copy of my book The Sales Funnel Bible.)

Here’s the best part: you don’t need to do anything extra or invest in anything more. You can start marketing right now (even before you have a product or service). Just go out and find someone with a problem you can solve and strike up the conversation with that person about their problem. Ask them questions. Listen. Engage. If they ask you how to solve the problem, tell them. Even if they don’t ask right now, that’s okay because you have gained a great contact and invaluable information about the problem.

SUMMARY

Marketing is not magic. It’s not even that complicated. Marketing is simple. It’s just these 4 simple steps done over and over through trial and effort, without tricks or mystery… simply to connect with other humans and to tell them about how you can help them.

A marketing master is not someone who has more tricks up his or her sleeve; a marketing master is simply someone who has figured out how to do the four steps listed above and does those steps increasingly well.