In our case there are only 2 of us ‘in the office’Â although as you know we work with many other companies, but in the grand scheme of things we can discuss an idea and pretty much put it into practice the next day – complete flexibility!
As Barry mentioned in his comment, us Brits are known for being a bit ‘tight’ sometimes especially when it comes to paying for something that we can’t touch i.e. SEO or Internet marketing.Â So we decided to change the way we work.Â The upshot of this is we are keeping our customers longer, they are actually spending more money with us, they are definitely recommending our services more and they are enjoying the freedom of complete flexibility.Â Â So what do we now offer:
- different types of packages for smaller businesses
- no annual contract unless specifically asked for
- flexibility to ‘dip in and out of our services’ whenever the customer wishes
- a transparent pricing policy – ongoing work is ‘by the hour’ rather than a contract figure per month
Obviously there are limitations to our flexibility and quite often there has to be a compromise e.g. if we recommend a project requires 16 hours per month for 3 months to achieve the customer’s requirements and they only want to spend 8 hours for 2 months the reality is this will have a direct impact on our ability to produce the desired results – as long as the customer is aware of these consequences then there is no problem.Â The absolute key to our business is absolute transparancey and ultimately an amount of flexibility that will ensure the customer is happy with the level of service for the price they are paying.
And, when Barry asked if we ‘stick to our guns’ regarding not lowering our price just to get a sale – then answer is absolutely yes.Â There is no point in making a sale if it is going to harm the profitability of your business.Â Who wants to work for free unless you are a dedicated volunteer?
We have recently been getting more involved with local / regional business networks and it is amazing the amount of home workers there are in the area.Â Is this because we are in the Highlands and it is more convenient and more accepted or is it UK wide, not sure, but either way whilst it is great working from home there is a very fine work/life balance and sometimes we can get to the point where the clock is ticking and the stress is rising.
No matter how professional you are, there will be times in your life that you are also faced with external pressures, family issues, health issues, they all combine and whilst most of us can appear as calm business people 99.9% of the time this can sometimes prove just a wee bit much of a struggle.
So, my tips to help beat the stress of the work/life balance, following on from a great article I read on Jobs2U are as follows, and yes many of them will seem like common sense, but sometimes you need to be reminded!
- Make a list – what needs doing, what can you do, what can be left for a day or two, what is priority – sometimes just writing or typing things down can make you realise that there isnt quite as much to do as you thought there was.
- Take breather breaks – make an excuse to go for a walk or the shops, even half an hour away from you desk can put things into perspective.
- Delegate where possible – you are not invincible, accept the help of others if it is available.
- Don’t skip meals, don’t survive soley on strong coffee and don’t sit up working through the night when actually you should be in bed!
- And last but most definitely not least – yes your business is important, but so are your family and friends, they need you too sometimes, so re-schedule, give realistic time estimates to customers and schedule in some days off – we all need them!
One thing that has confirmed that we are not alone in our self-employment crusade, was the amount of people we have spoken to over the last couple of months who never take the statutory 20 days holiday a year.Â The old adage that ‘if you don’t work you don’t get paid’ is a real worry to many self employed people, however, with clever planning and some extra hours prior to your holiday, it is possible to take a proper holiday.Â Saying all this, I have to confess that this year will be the first year we have ever taken 2 weeks off in the whole of the 8 years we have been self employed, so it may be a case of ‘do what I say, not do as I do’!
Interested to hear other techniques that you use to keep the balance right and work effectively.Â I think we have finally got to the point where we know our limitations and plan properly, something we definitely did not do in the early years.