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!

The One Piece Of Financial Advice I Wish I Knew Sooner

Aaron Hoos

If I could go back in time, that would be shocking.

But assuming I could do it, here’s the one piece of financial advice I wish I knew sooner:

Passive income is king.

I grew up in a household that believed in the value of hard work. My parents worked tirelessly to provide for my sister and I. (Thanks mom and dad!)

I appreciate the many great lessons I learned from them.

Unfortunately, there was one lesson that I wish I’d learned differently and if I could go back in time I’d tell myself this lesson:

(I’m not saying this to disparage my parents or their hard work; they were raised in households that taught them that lesson too.)

So, what is the better way?

THE BIG LESSON…

Your time is the most valuable commodity you have. It’s there one moment and gone the next. And, many people trade their time for dollars in a job. Unfortunately, when you do, that time is lost and you miss out on other ways you could have used that time.

Passive income allows you to continue making money without spending your time to do it, which gives you the freedom to use your time for other things… whether that’s spending time with family or whatever you want.

To illustrate, compare two people:

Person #1 works at a job. For simple math, let’s say they earn $50,000/year by working 40 hours a week. At the end of the year they’ll have “spent” 2,000 hours (40 hours a week for 50 weeks) to make that money.

Person #2 creates passive income. For simple math, let’s say they create something that earns them $10,000/year. They put in some hours and maybe a financial investment early in the year, and then this cash-flowing asset generates them money for the rest of the year with little or no additional input.

Let’s tally their results from the year:

Person #1 invested 2,000 hours and got $50,000 in return. They’ll never get that time back but they have money to spend.

Person #2 gave some up-front value (of time and money) and got $10,000 in return… but they also got 2,000 hours throughout the year.

… and that is the key. Because they can spend those 2,000 hours with family and enjoying life, but also building more passive income assets.

So, at first glance, Person #1 is financially better at the end of the first year but Person #2 has been able to enjoy (not sacrifice) their time PLUS they can use that time to create more cash-flow.

The following years will look much different:

Person #1 will continue to be trapped in a cycle of “spending” 2,000 hours to get $50,000. Although they were ahead in the first year, they are trapped in the same cycle the following years and largely dependent on raises or promotions to increase that annual income.

Person #2 is free. They can spend their free time each year creating assets that generate passive income, for which there is no ceiling; meanwhile, the time they have available can be spent on whatever they want. Simply put, Person #2 has way more options.

And at the end of their life?

Person #1 ends their working years and hopes they have saved up enough to live out their golden years.

Person #2 can retire (actually, they’ve lived a life of near retirement already) and their passive income assets continue to give them money through retirement.

PASSIVE INCOME CREATES FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY

That’s the financial lesson I wish I learned when I was younger: many people trade hours for dollars but you don’t get those hours back and you can end up trapped trading hours for dollars. The better choice is to build passive income to create freedom and to create more opportunities.

What kind of passive income can you create? Here are a few ideas:

I’m building all of these now, and I have been for a while. But I wish I’d known about the power and possibility of passive income sooner because it opens so many doors. It also gives options when things change: for example, when I was a lone freelance copywriter and I wanted to take a vacation, I’d put my clients on pause and go on vacation, then feel the financial pinch when I returned (since I didn’t earn any money while away). But now, thanks to passive income generated from the assets I have above, I don’t have to worry and I don’t have to dig into my savings to cover me until I’m generating income from clients again.

Wondering where to start? Start by figuring out something you do really, really well that other people want to know. Then capture that information in some way (such as a book or infoproduct) and make it available for sale, then market it to the right people. You may not make a fortune on that first thing but you’ll get a taste for the life-changing possibilities that come with passive income.

Even if someone else does the same thing you do and sells a solution for it already, you bring your own unique approach and personality to it. Start by building something and selling it for a low amount. Don’t try to get rich in one go. Sell it for a few bucks and learn from those sales; get testimonials and feedback, then improve and raise your prices.

SUMMARY

If you are wondering what the next few years of your life should look like, do yourself a favor and spend some of those years building passive income assets. You’ll get a taste of freedom and you’ll give yourself more options.

(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.

Here Are 4 VERY Simple Changes That Helped Me Lose 50 Pounds

Aaron Hoos

I lost 50 pounds in a year.

It’s weird to write that! For most of my childhood I was always super-skinny and had a crazy-fast metabolism. But my job is sedentary and I like to cook and my metabolism noticeably slowed down as I progressed through my 30’s.

By 40 or 41 I’d hit 215. By some standards that’s not a lot and on my 6-foot frame it didn’t look overweight but it’s more than I wanted to weigh.

More critically I was frustrated by the fact that I worked out regularly but didn’t have the trim physique I wanted; and I was mindful of how the pounds could add on in the years to come.

So, in the summer of 2017, I decided to do something about it.

I spent a year focused on it and got the result I am happy with. 50 pounds in a year is not a lot of weight, nor is it fast. But I’m not in a competition and I was learning as I go. But in case you’re curious how I did it, I’m going to share the 4 key lessons I learned along the way…

Lesson #1. Fitness Is Essential For Health But DIET Is The Linchpin For Weightloss.

For years I worked out very aggressively and grew increasingly frustrated at my inability to move off of a weight plateau. Then I read one thing that illuminated the problem and changed everything: “You can’t outrun your fork.” (I’d source that quote but I don’t remember where I read it… and I think it’s more of a maxim than one thing that someone said one time.)

You can’t outrun your fork. In other words, you simply can’t workout enough to burn off the calories of what most people eat in a day. I worked out for years and never lost a pound but what started the weightloss shift almost instantly was when I adjusted my diet.

Many people who think they can eat whatever they want if only they exercise enough—you can’t do it. You can’t exercise enough to burn the calories consumed in most peoples’ diets. Yes you can do workouts that burn a lot of calories, but go look at the caloric intake of what you are eating. There aren’t enough hours in the day to create a caloric deficit.

Lesson #2. I Cut One Thing Out Of My Diet But It’s Probably Not What You Think.

I know there are lots of people who swear by the practice of cutting out sugar or gluten or whatever. But me? I like food, I like to cook, I like booze, I like snacks. So, what did I cut out? I didn’t cut out a single ingredient…

… the only thing I cut out was volume.

I simply started to intentionally eat less. One sandwich instead of two; smaller portions of pasta; smaller snacks while drinking a smaller glass of whisky. (A few months in I realized that, without being intentional about it, I was actually eating exactly half of what I used to eat, although I never went into it with that goal.)

I didn’t miss a thing; it happened so gradually.

Lesson #3. I Weighed Myself Every Single Day… And Then I Did One Other Thing.

Look, I realize that weight is not a measure of health or even fattiness (since muscle weighs more than fat) but it’s the tool I had available to me to monitor (without getting complicated to measure body fat percentages), so that’s what I used.

I weighed myself every day and wrote it down, then I did one more thing…

I recalled the day before: what I ate, how I felt, what my activity level was, etc. (Some people actually journal this information but I didn’t. If I had trouble remember I probably would but I didn’t need to write it down.)

Amazingly, it got to the point where I could predict pretty accurately which days I’d see a weight loss and which ones I didn’t, based on my level of activity and food intake for the day. Yes, that sounds crazy and people don’t believe me but I became scary accurate by the end.

Lesson #4. This Is The BIG ONE: I Chose My Level Of Satisfaction.

This is the big one. Lots of people tell me that they struggle to lose weight because they like food too much. Hey, I love food too. The shift for me was when I redefined my level of food satisfaction.

When did I push myself away from the table? Was I happy with a smaller bowl of potato chips in the evening? Was I good with one glass of wine instead of two?

Ultimately, how full did I feel going to bed? (Full? Or simply satisfied? I learned that there is a difference and the latter is a weight-loser).

By the end I had shifted my level of food-satisfaction and savored each bite even though it was less than I used to eat.

Summary

I didn’t follow a hyped-up diet that brands itself as the Next Big Thing. Heck, I barely would call what I did a “diet” but rather a surprisingly minor lifestyle adjustment. More importantly, I realized the control I had over my life and health with simple decisions.

And the result? I got trim and I feel great. Now I’m looking at maybe cutting just a bit more weight just for fun!