Do you feel bad about your HSP coaching rates?

When you are self-employed, you need to make a healthy income doing what you do. Otherwise, your work is not sustainable and won’t last.

Many of your clients will understand this perfectly and not resent you for it. Yet, there will always be people who think that you “owe” them and who will contact you to let you know that what you are charging is wrong.

As a business owner you need to balance compassion for others, with compassion for your yourself and your work. This can be tricky to say the least.

I’ll be the first to admit that I get accused of being “not very empathic” from time to time when it comes to confronting someone on an issue that needs confronting.

Being a caring person doesn’t mean you always give people what they want. It also doesn’t mean you always make everyone feel good. When people are stressed, they can be unreasonable and only see the “me me me” side of things. They are suffering, and therefore you should bend over backwards to accomodate them. Not so.

Besides, just making someone feel better to make them feel better does not actually serve them.You’ll find that much of the time, healthy boundaries serve everyone involved. It doesn’t actually pit you against your clients.

To have a healthy business and be a happy business owner, you need to strike a good balance between what you provide for others and what you get back. What you get back is basically money.

I know you might want to add some things to the list, like: fulfillment, kindness, appreciation etc. And those are all good things BUT you can’t count on them, and I don’t believe you should want to count on them.

If you’re in the business of helping people heal and tranform, then you are in the business of resistance. Your clients will resist you. They will get stuck. They will get upset. Not all of them. Not all the time. Yet, if you are counting on kindness and satisfaction, to balance out a lack of financial compensation, then you’re doing everyone a disservice.

My rates include bad client behaviour

So that, when they are stressed / unreasonable / don’t follow through / don’t want to hear you… you still get paid well. You still feel appreciated based on what you are being paid. This is really important.

It’s much easier to be o.k. with someone acting out when your rate “covers” that. It’s much harder when you have a “sympathy” rate that expects your clients to be perfect angels all the time.

The money covers some of the lashing out you’ll need to deal with (whether it’s bold and outright, passive aggressive, or in the form of unnecessary complications).

Let’s just say, when I hire someone to help me with something big and meaningful, I want them to build in some space for me to be moody and unreasonable. Making important changes in your life means your buttons get pushed.

The more you create a safe space for your clients, the safer they will feel to unleash their fear and frustration. That is a good thing. But it’s not the same as dealing with the “perfect student” who never makes a fuss. When you charge the right rates, it compensates for all of that. You don’t feel grumpy.

Compare that to what it’s like when you basically gave someone a lower rate in exchange for expected kindness and good behaviour which you didn’t get.

Sympathy rates come with all kinds of strings attached. You don’t want to offer that to clients. You want them to pay you a rate that functions like a real ticket to entrance. They pay you that much and they can really be themselves with you, ask you all kinds of questions, have an emotional meltdown, request explanations in three-fold… it’s all included.

An example of how healthy rates change lives for the better

I currently have a client who was abandoned by previous therapists. They considered her “too difficult”. I’ll readily admit, for a crucial while, she was one of my toughest clients. But, I am up for a challenge, and because she paid me a healthy rate for sessions, I felt well compensated even during sessions that were far from peachy. Basically, it allowed both of us to hang in there and get to the other side of the woods in one piece.

She wasn’t paying me peanuts and she wasn’t a charity case. She was truly contributing to my livelihood, and as a result, I could really invest energy and attention into sessions with her.

If my rates had been half of what they are, I would have felt resentful and probably not wanted to continue doing sessions. That would have meant that she wouldn’t have gotten the help that she needed. She had tried and been rejected so many times, do you see how crucial this is?

It’s not her fault that she behaved the way she did. She had a complicated painful history and a sensitivity to energy that few people really understand. Yet, had I only focused on that and treated her like a victim, I would have walked out on her. Instead, I treated her as a competent person, able and willing to pay for the help she needed and quite aware that she was no easy case. We could both be honest about that.

It paid off. She got to the other side of the resistance that she’d been struggling with for years, a lifetime even. It took a while to get that ball rolling, but now she can keep it rolling on her own.

Of course, all of what I’m saying here does not cover outright assholes. If you know of an asshole who wants to work with you, I highly recommend thinking twice and if you do proceed to charge a special asshole rate. This covers the costs of all the extra massages and time off you’ll need to recuperate from the abuse. I’m serious. It might be worth it. Then again, assholes being assholes (they want to get the most and give the least), if you actually charge them what it would truly cost you to work with them, chances are they’ll be the one to say “no thanks”, which is perfect too.

About the Video Below

Anyhoo. Below is a video in which I unravel a complaint that I received about pricing for one of my programmes. I decided to share this one because the email is just so nifty and it is sure to push so many Kind Businessowner Buttons.

I don’t want you to reflexively go into “give more” mode just because someone insinuates that you are unkind, unreasonable and “wrong” for doing what you do in the way you do it. So I am sharing my “unraveling” thoughts on this and offering a different perspective.

Towards the end, I’m also including thoughts for those who feel like they’re always on the wrong side of poverty and can’t have what they need.

 

 

Mentioned in the video are my empath programme (bigger investment) and the Energy Sensitivity Starter Kit (small investment).

  • If you’re struggling with negative feedback (you can’t seem to let it roll off your back, no matter how hard you try)
  • If you have a big heart and tend to over-give to clients and get depleted
  • If overal you feel that you’re on the right track with your work, but would like to feel more energised and inspired doing it

…then I might be able to really help. You can find the services I offer to Highly Sensitive self-employed pioneers here.

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There is Nothing Wrong With Wanting a Business as a Hobby

I think nowadays with all kinds of internet hypes and the ability to work from home, a lot of people feel a kind of hyped, fake pressure to turn their precious and healthy hobby into something more.

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Suddenly, it’s not good enough to work on a project just for fun, as a creative outlet, or as an escape.

Suddenly it’s not good enough to be a parent full-time because since you are at home, you might as well work from home too, right?

Yet, here is one essential thing to consider about turning something fun into something lucrative:

A hobby is easy, a business takes push

When you’re a parent, or you already have a full-time job, or you are taking care of an ill family member more or less full-time, the day to day grind eats up a lot of your discipline.

There are things you must do, there are things you are responsible for, and there are things you’d rather do but that you don’t have time for.

A business-like project can seem like the perfect play-ground, until you have to do things you don’t like, your inner saboteurs pop up, and you have to try new things that make you uncomfortable.

When that happens, you can end up retreating to your comfy creative zone: with lots of ideas, starting lots of things, finishing very little and definitely not doing the work needed to sell what you created.

This is because a business that makes money – while fun when you do it well – is also work.

  • It takes disciplined, consistent action.
  • You’ll need to learn new things that are hard.
  • You’ll have to do some things you’d rather not do.
  • You’ll need to not just create things based on what feels good, you’ll also need to fact check: what are people interested in and willing to pay for?
  • How do you communicate with your customers? What sales and marketing skills are you missing?
  • How do you set up structures and processes that make recurring sales possible?

Suddenly, it’s no longer fun and breezy per se. You don’t get to jam in your pajama’s and do whatever. Looking at the numbers, looking at what you want to create, honestly looking what really is and isn’t working can be incredibly scary.

And since you’ve had a busy day that was plenty hard as is, you may just want to knit 20 more tiny hats without thinking about who you’ll sell them to. Because knitting feels good. Figuring out sales doesn’t.

Turning a hobby into a business takes push. You only have so much pushing you can do in a day, without getting exhausted. So when you’ve taken – let’s say – 15 decisions already that were hard to follow through on, you’re pretty much done for the day and can’t expect yourself to do any more than just knit.

In fact, knitting just for fun is the healthy thing to do. It recharges your creative batteries. It’s relaxing. It’s easy.

It doesn’t matter whether your thing is knitting or having interesting conversations, or teaching kids cool dance routines, writing a book, creating a podcast, advising your friends, organising a wedding or anything else.

Point is, doing it as a hobby takes the pressure off. Doing it as a business creates pressure. It’s important to evaluate whether your life is set up in such a way that you have plenty of push left to put into a business, or whether you really just need a fun way to unwind.

Otherwise what can happen is that you – somehow – end up with a hobby – for years! – while beating yourself up for not having a business.

It’s not a mysterious misunderstanding. It’s all a matter of what you need to put in day to day, and whether your life is set up to allow for that.

P.S. Not sure where you’re at and need someone to evaluate your situation with in an HSP friendly way? Book a Biz Clarity Call with me here.

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Energy Congruency is the Key to a Thriving Business

Energy congruency means that if you say you are all about something and that you help people with this thing, you make sure you are that person in your personal life too. And if you’re not, you do something about it.

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This means you need to be serious about what you choose to promote yourself as.

  • If you say you’re the vegan cook, but you’re racing to McDonald’s every other day… not congruent.
  • If you help people with their love life, but you’re terrified of dating yourself and have pretty much sworn off men… not congruent.
  • If you help people create a work-out they love, but you hate working out yourself… ehm, not congruent.

O.k. and so these are the cartoon-obvious examples I made up, but they help to make the point.

In short, this is why much of the coaching business has a bad rep. There are too many wanna-be “got my life together” coaches promoting something they are not truly living. It’s incongruent, and it smells fishy.

You don’t want to make yourself too big to try and “win clients” only to find yourself falling short behind the scenes. It creates all kinds of weird pressure for yourself (you’ll never feel good enough) and for your clients too (because now they will try to live up to something impossible as well).

This is why it’s so important to be real in what you offer.

But being real is hard.

Seeing how what is obvious and “not that amazing at all” to you would actually wow clients and be something they want to pay you for… that’s where your real offer is at.

 

P.S. Not sure what your real offer could be? I’d love to help you find out here in a personal Biz Clarity Call.

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6 reasons not to become self-employed as an HSP

There are a great many reasons to become self-employed and also a great many reasons not to. There are already many articles out there promoting the ideal of self-employment. I want to add some reality checks too to make sure being self-employed doesn’t start to sound like magic faery land.

Don’t do it if…

1. You get very anxious not knowing how things will go, or what you need to do.

Some anxiety is normal. However, being self-employed comes with a lot of “what ifs”. There are a lot of open ended questions. There is no right way to do things. Even if you do your utter best, it may not work.

At heart, you – I believe – need to be someone who loves the adventure of not knowing what’s next. Of course a functional business is one that has a certain level of stability built in, but even then, there is a lot of not knowing. Are you someone who mostly loves that, or someone who mostly hates it?

Don’t do it if…

2. You want to escape your boss and do things your own way.

Reality check: if you struggle to get along with bosses at all, and you think being self-employed will fix that, I have bad news for you. Every client you have is your boss in a way. They don’t dictate what you should do per se, but they might be quite demanding, or not understand you, or only be willing to pay you if you do things their way.

Starting your own business doesn’t mean escaping authority figures. You’ll have a lot of different authority figures to deal with. Just like a boss controls your paycheck, your clients control your paycheck too. The government determines what is and isn’t allowed and what taxes you need to file etc. You may need particular licenses to do what you do or be bound by certification requirements. There’s plenty left to but heads with!

The only way out is through negotiating your needs, taking a stand (along with the consequences) and staying true to what you do and why. If you can do this in your job, you can do this in your business too. If you can’t do it in your job, you can be sure to face similar challenges in your business.

Don’t do it if…

 3. You expect instant success and crave self-employment as a means to have a dream lifestyle

In being self-employed, sure, a lot is possible. Long-term that is. Short-term you’ll be investing a lot, trying out what does and doesn’t work and building a reputation. All of that takes time. If you are mainly motivated by outside rewards like money and success, then chances are that you either won’t get very far or you’ll create a “bloated” brand (looks pretty on the outside, but is essentially empty on the inside)

I believe being self-employed needs to be about the work you want to do. And if you can only do that work part-time for now, because you need to earn money a different way, then you need to be happy – or at least willing – to start there.

This is also to say: Don’t quit your job to start your own business. Not unless you can stay afloat for quite some time without your paycheck.

A business is like a bicycle. You start with the training wheels on. The training wheels are your income from a different source (like a regular job). When your biking skills are good enough to go it alone, you can take the training wheels off and ride solo.

Don’t do it if…

4. You don’t want to learn about marketing and sales and how to best position and present yourself

Being self-employed means that there is nobody out there tooting your horn and telling people why they should hire you. That means you need to be doing that in some shape or form. It also means you’ll need training that is specific to how to build your own business. In other words, you need to learn new skills. Even if you’re a marketing expert already in your current job, marketing yourself is still a totally different thing.

Getting good at what you do and hoping people will just somehow find you is not going to work (not even if you do a beautiful and inspired ceremony to set an intention of abundance).

Even if you rely on word of mouth and don’t think you need a website, you’ll still want to have some kind of system set up to make the most of that and not just let the chips fall where they may.

If you’re a teacher and you only want to teach, then don’t become self-employed. Find an employer who will hire you so that you only need to focus on teaching, while they take care of the business side of things: getting the word out and finding students.

Don’t do it if…

5. You want to leave your years of work experience behind and do something totally new and different that you feel passionate about

Whether you like it or not, you have a lot of work experience. There is a reason you have that work experience. Chances are, you’re good at it, even if it doesn’t make your heart skip a beat per se.

Throwing it all away to start on a new adventure is like throwing a part of yourself away. How about taking your old skillset with you? You can infuse it into your new work.

So if you’re an accountant who wants to be a coach… how about starting with coaching people on their finances?

You may be excited to do something radically new instead, but what are you going to say to new prospective clients? “Hi my name is Ann and I have 20 years of experience in a job I don’t like anymore, so now I am a lifecoach with zero experience in helping people with the things I feel passionate about, and I’m very excited about helping you!”

Sure, you can dress it up differently, but that’s not the point. The point is that in order to be self-employed and real there needs to be something you do that you already have relevant experience in. If not, why on earth would people hire you to help them?

You’d do the same when applying for a different job, right? If you wanted to switch from primary education to events management, then you would stress in your interview that you have a lot of experience organising events (in the classroom, parent-teacher days, school outings, school camp) and so, even though you come from a different field, you have relevant skills and experience.

When clients hire you, it’s because they believe you can help them, not because you are excited about starting a new chapter in your life.

Don’t do it if…

6. When the going gets tough, you quit

You are going to hit the inevitable rough patches in your business. The question is: are you committed enough to find a way through, or are you going to tell yourself that you should be doing something else entirely, something that “will be easier”?

To keep going, you need to be flexible enough to do things differently, but committed enough to not give up on the essence of your work.

If you’re flexible but not committed, then you’re going to end up changing direction a lot, whether in your business, or by quitting a business. I’ve seen people do this: they seem to be rebranding themselves and re-inventing themselves non-stop (accrueing debt meanwhile). Or they start something, quit, then start something else. Each new venture involving high financial investments. It’s the self-employed equivalent of job hopping, but without the regular paycheck.

Yet, if you’re very committed to your idea, but not flexible enough, you might persevere at trying to sell something nobody wants to buy. This can mean having to eventually quit your business. This can happen because you are stuck on delivering your services in a particular format, or the people who want to pay you for you work, are people you’ve decided you don’t want to work with under any circumstances. If this happens, something will need to give.

Being successfully self-employed means always looking for that overlap between what people want from you and what you want to provide for them. If you are open to exploring options, I believe there are plenty of ways to make this work. However, you don’t get to dictate to people what they should want from you. Your clients want what they want, not what you want them to want. You need to be both listening to prospective clients and also creating from the inside out.

Did you make it through the reality check? If you’re not sure, just give yourself some time to try things. Treat your business idea like a hobby:  not a source of income (yet) but a fun thing to work on in your spare time. That way you can test the waters and see if the entrepreneurial lifestyle is really your thing or not.

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Why Being Sensitive to Energy can make it Scary to Run an Online Business

Full disclosure: I’m an empath. That means I am ridiculously aware of the emotions and thoughts of people I interact with – whether up close or at a distance.

It is no longer a source of overwhelm like it used to be, because I am now trained at handling this (and I train other empaths how to handle this too). Nevertheless, when someone gets nasty, it’s still a big blow and I need my tools to not just “rationally” deal with the situation, but also deal with the energy bombs that some people like throwing around.

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If you’re sensitive to energy, you’ll recognise this, although you may not be able to put your finger on it exactly.

You have dreams for running a business online, yet at the same time, you’re terrified of being too visible and getting bombarded with out-of-whack energies from the internet’s famous stash of “blaming, crazy and demanding”.

Doing something online can feel like standing in a brightly lit room with big windows, on a dark open prairy. Who knows what’s out there? What if they keep knocking on the window and you can’t leave or hide? What if they come in even though you said no? What if you get overwhelmed with inquiries and demands and expectations? What if you get hurt and discouraged?

These fears can stop you from getting out there and doing meaningful work helping other people.

That’s a shame, right?

Yet, it doesn’t mean you should just push yourself to be bright and shiny and deal with whatever comes your way.

When working with energy sensitive entrepreneurs, I teach them 2 very different and also complimentary strategies:

The first is how to deal with the energy of interactions. If you are an empath, then you can’t run an online business (or any business really, unless you don’t have to deal with any people) without understanding your own energy sensitivity inside and out. You must learn how to stop absorbing and getting knocked over by energy. You need to learn skills for handling anger and blame and other tough emotional energies from the people you interact with.

 

This is huge because energy travels long distances easily, so depending on how your inner energy “radar” is programmed, you could get thrown off balance by someone who only reaches out over email, or leaves a comment on a blog post. Obviously, you can’t run a business when you get slapped around that way. So this is why energy skills that allow you to maintain your own calm, focus and enthusiasm are crucial.

The second strategy I teach energy sensitive entrepreneurs is to create practical filters that encourage the right people to contact you, and discourage the wrong people. Your website can function as a kind of body guard, welcoming friendly people and repelling aggressive, scary types.

If you don’t use your website this way then you’re missing out on a huge form of support that is available to you. There are so many ways now to create steps and processes and terms and conditions that will create an energetic safety net.

So never mind the celebrity coaches and marketers who love living in the limelight. It’s o.k. – and realistic – to be apprehensive about visibility. Rest assured: you won’t become a success overnight.

So enjoy starting small and being unknown and mostly unfound! This gives you the space and time to get the skills and filters in places that will allow you to shine brighter, and be more visible – comfortably – over time.

 

P.S. Do you know you that you need energy skills in order to be successfully self-employed? I can support you and teach you what you need to know, here.

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Don’t Worry about how to Make it Big

This is why the best productivity tools are the ones that force you to split up big goals into tiny doable steps.

Doable means that it’s clear what you need to do and it’s possible to do it.

 

Don’t Worry about how to Make it Big

Here are 2 ways to make sure your tasks are doable:

 

1. If you were to hand over this task to a very uncreative carboncopy hologram of yourself… the job would get done.

And let’s face it, there will be many times when you will feel like an uncreative carboncopy hologram of yourself and you just want someone to tell you what to do. Well, that’s when you’ll discover if your goals have clear steps that you can actually do, or not.

2. You create doable steps by making do with the tools, resources and abilities you have right now.

If you are thinking something like this: “I have this big amazing idea! But to make it work I will first need to get a bunch of amazing people involved, and I’ll need an amazing website, and I need to get a lot of publicity and and and…” then chances are, your big idea will never get off the ground. There are just too many Needs to Happen First Things.

If you have a worthwhile idea, then you can launch it on blogger.com, or start doing it by yourself or with that one friend who is interested. You can write your own publicity. You can host a small event at your local library or on meetup.com. If what you want to do is truly meaningful, then the small doable version will be meaningful too, and that’s where you need to start.

But what if you want to go big or go home?

If you’re only interested in the big fancy version then my gut says, it’s not really about the work and the idea and the impact it will have… it’s about status, success and acquiring a certain look, dressed up as “wanting to impress have a meaningful impact on a lot of people”

This may be because you have a secret wish to be the star of the show and you’re trying to get there in a complicated way. (My advice? Own your true desire! Find ways to just become the star of a show, without having to create that show from scratch).

You may also feel the need to go big from the get go if you have a lot of insecurities about “measuring up” . Having something big that you’re running, would validate your ideas and perspective – or so you think.

The reality is, any initiative comes with insecurities, and to start, you will be the lone founder, standing there by yourself saying: “this is meaningful!” to an empty room.

The point is not to get that room filled first. The point is to have the guts and drive to stand in that room, and keep standing there, until someone else peeps their head through the doorway and wonders what you’re doing. That’s how all attention for your cause will start. It starts with you standing there, pointing at something, that other people don’t see yet.

That’s why a big change is just a bunch of tiny changes.

All those steps individually don’t seem like much. They probably don’t seem big enough to mean anything or amount to anything. Yet, without your willingness to take the tiny steps, the big steps won’t happen. A big change is just a bunch of tiny changes put together.

You need to have fun with – and find meaning in – the small steps.

If you enjoy the small steps, without worrying too much about what they will or will not lead to, you’ll be o.k. Yet, if taking small steps makes you antsy because you want to know when big things will finally happen, then you probably won’t get very far.

If people are pushing you to go bigger, and the underlying message is “bigger is more meaningful”, I’d take their pushes with a grain of salt. Bigger is just bigger. Essentially, you’re still doing the same thing.

Meanwhile, for more tips on how not to let “dreaming big” stop you from moving forward, listen to my audio on why you don’t need to be “big” and you don’t need a beautiful website to get started with your meaningful work.

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3 Crucial Biz Apps for Self-Employed Highly Sensitive People

When you work (partly) online, there are lots of available tools that are both cost-efficient and effective.

Perhaps more importantly for us HSPs though, they also shouldn’t be overwhelming, right? No bright blinking buttons and thousands of options, dynamic content that moves around and confusing interfaces. Our brains have plenty of stuff going on, the last thing we need is cluttered tools that add to the noise!

So in this list I’m including some of my tried-and-true favorite tools, with a few notes on why I like them so much.

1. A Tidy Mailinglist: Mailerlite

First off, you know it’s important to have an email list of people interested in your work, right? Even if you’re very active on social media, you don’t control those algorhytms and you don’t control the potential clutter on those platforms (what starts out as a great platform can change over time, and if people leave or tune out, how will you contact them?)

If you don’t do much online and work with clients locally, it’s still helpful to send out a newsletter from time to time. Sending an informative email sure beats calling a list of people on the phone. It’s easy for people to keep an email to refer back to later, as well as forward it to friends. It’s also a very cheap way to share your news and services and try which approach works best (without running to the printer’s to make flyers each time!)

I have tried a variety of newsletter services, including Mailchimp, Getresponse and MadMimi.

I was with Mailchimp for quite some time but as they kept adding functionality, their dashboard just seemed to get more and more confusing. I longed for my newsletter dashboard to be more like a yoga room: tidy, and when you walk in, your mind clears, ready to write and edit.

Why I chose Mailerlite:

  • Very clean and simple dashboard
  • It has a lot of extra functionality but if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to ignore that (like leaving the fancy silverware in the drawer, tidied away).
  • Mobile friendly. The standard template is simple and adjusts well to any screen (without any work from you)
  • Cost-efficient: both due to price overal and because you pay for unique subscribers, you do not pay for every “copy” of an email address that is added to an additional sub-list.
  • Friendly and very quick chat support. (so you don’t have to freak-out all by yourself when something doesn’t work as planned)

Try Mailer Lite and Get 20$ credit for free by using my link

 

2. Create Scheduling Boundaries with Acuitity Scheduling

I admit, it’s not the prettiest scheduling service on the planet. BUT for what you’re paying, it goes far and beyond other schedulers in functionality. You can start out on the free plan and upgrade as needed.

Here’s how I use Acuity:

  • Block off time between appointments automatically (No back-to-back meetings if I can help it! I want to be really present for my clients, and that requires a little tea-break inbetween calls)
  • Have a max. number of appointments per day (Acuity takes care of this for me, even if I technically “have open slots” on my calendar, they show as unavailable when I’ve hit my max)
  • Send customised appointment reminders with all the things that experience taught me is helpful to remind clients about.
  • Clients can pay for appointments in the Acuity Scheduler. I can also create discount codes or session packages easily. (I don’t use this as much, but still, it’s cool!)
  • Clients can schedule and reschedule appointments themselves and I can also do this on the back-end (For whatever reason, many schedulers are either/or about this)
  • All my appointments have customised booking forms where I can make sure someone read my terms (required to tick a box), provides their skype info etc. The only thing that would make this even more awesome is conditional logic (A girl can dream, right?)

The very best thing about Acuity is that it gives you lots of practical ways to create boundaries:

  • Boundaries as to when you’re available and how much
  • Boundaries to require particular info upfront
  • Boundaries by sending clients reminders so they can’t say “but I didn’t know!” (Well, they can say it, but when it’s included on the booking page, in the confirmation email, in 2 reminder emails and potentially a text message, then you’ve certainly done your due diligence)

Sign up for a free account here.

 

3. No Message Lost: Cognitoforms

If you google contact plugins, you’ll probably find Contact Form 7 for WordPress, and Gravity Forms – presented as the bees knees of forms.

Sadly, both those options have major issues along the lines of a girl I knew from softball practice in High School. (This is a diversion with a point!:) This girl, let’s call her Tess was a mailwoman in her spare time. But she was also kind of messed up. On Valentine’s Day, she threw away half the packages and cards in a fit of “I don’t give a shit”. And then she bragged about it (that’s how I know).

Yeah, you don’t want that happening to your mail. You definitely don’t want that happening when potential clients contact you via the form on your website. It doesn’t matter how things get lost. It doesn’t matter if the service itself has the best intentions. If some weird internet Tess-glitch creeps in, you have a big problem (and you’ll be forever wondering if a message went missing that day, because…it happened before!).

And yet, that’s what kept happening on my site with Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms. Messages just.. disappeared. The only way I knew is because people would tell me that they filled out a form and didn’t hear back. Then I’d look for their message to see if I’d overlooked it, but it was nowhere to be found. Not in my inbox and -with Gravity Forms – not on my website backend either. Not cool. And kind of scary.

So – as I’m wont to do- I went on a 3 day obsessive hunt for a solution. I compared endless forms and then tested them. When I settled on Cognitoforms, I asked subscribers to test the form for me and I got over a 100 test-users. All of the forms arrived perfectly. So yeah, I’m sticking with Cognitoforms.

And if you’re thinking, “oh, but I don’t use a contact form anyway!”… think again! If you’re asking people to just “contact you” and you post your email and that’s it, you may think you’re being super approachable, but it’s kind of like standing in a bar and expecting people to come up to you spontaneously with a great opening. Even if you don’t expect anyone to do that, many people will still be intimidated. (“I want to talk to her, but I don’t know what to say!”)

A contact form makes it easy for people to reach out. All they have to do is fill out the boxes. Its also a way of making sure you have the info you need upfront. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I hate more than having someone be super casual about “just reaching out” and then when I do (“Hi! Just reaching out…”), I get an email back with a whole list of required info. Now I need to sit down and email again (sigh) and it makes me wonder how many more times this will happen…

Besides being reliable, cognitoforms has great functionality (for free):

  • Conditional logic. This means you can give people different boxes to fill out, depending on which box they tick. You’ll need to sit down for this one, but it really helps streamline things if what you need to know “depends on x”.
  • Customised confirmation emails. You can send people a copy of the form they filled out or pretty much anything else you want to send them.
  • People can download their filled out form as a PDF right after sending. This means that even if their form didn’t send they don’t have to fill it out again and can forward you the PDF instead. Like I said, this service is reliable so technically you don’t need this option, but I always like my back-up plan to have a back-up. So if clients took the time to send me detailed answers to something, I encourage them to download that as a PDF just in case.
  • You can easily embed the form in any website, but you can also just give people a link. Cognitoforms will then show a page with just your form on it. (So if you have an email list, a scheduler and no website, you can still create forms and link to them in emails).

Try Cognitoforms here.

 

There you have it! My 3 crucial time-tested tools that I think you need if you have any kind of web presence. Plus a free audio below with more ins and outs on how to make sure potential clients can – and will – contact you through your website.

 

help clients contact you

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3 Big Reasons to Choose a Focus (niche) even if you really don’t want to

 

Helping everyone sounds great, right?

And I’m pretty sure that that special thing you do would help lots of different people.

How could you possibly choose a niche and narrow down?

 

helpingeveryone

 

So here are three big reasons to niche:

1. Helping everyone means that you cannot say no to anybody’s problem. It makes you potentially responsible for EVERYTHING.

How’s that for a good night’s sleep?

 

 

I don’t know about you, but one of the things that helps me sleep is knowing that I got things done and that I don’t have a long long list of things that still need doing.

If you try to help everyone, then your to-do lists will become endless. There is always something more that you could or should be doing for someone out there who deserves help.

Do you see how that list could get really long?

When you niche, you decide: I help this group and if a different group comes a-knockin’ I can refer them to another professional who is specialised in helping them.

It doesn’t mean you have to be a meany, slam the door in someone’s face and yell “boo-hoo!”.

 

2. You don’t build expertise if you don’t focus.

Yes, I get that what you are doing is an expertise in and of itself, yet, it will become even more of an expertise when it’s what you do for a very specific group of people or a very specific kind of sub-problem (or both).

When you niche, you will no longer give people generic advice that works “in general”. Instead, you’ll become intimately acquainted with the very specific struggles and hang-ups of your very specific group of clients. Over time, you will stand out more and more in the sea of practioners who are doing what you used to do once: help everyone.

The good news? Literally the only thing you need to do to become an expert is choose (and stick with your choice). As you work with more and more clients on a very specific issue, you will become an expert on that specific issue. Nothing beats experience, and if you niche, you’ll have a LOT of experience in a few short years.

 

 

3. A clear focus (niche) helps you to organise your business.

You’ll be able to create all kinds of very handy templates / cheat sheets / exercises / payment solutions and what have you not that make sense for those people that you help.

This means:  less overwhelm. It means you can do your work a few different ways, instead of a million different ways depending on who comes a-knocking.

 

 

 

P.S. Are you struggling to get specific and say no to some people that you could in theory help?

The good news is, when people outside your chosen niche come a-knockin’, you don’t have to turn them away.

If you run a cat salon, you may still choose to wash and dry the occasional poodle. You just won’t have any doggie snacks, because you run a cat salon, and you won’t invest in doggie snacks, because you are not aiming to get more dogs into your salon. See the difference?

When you promote yourself as welcoming all animals, then your salon needs to be big enough for giraffes, the floor sturdy anough for elephants, you need a machine for cleaning bird poo, and on and on. 

If you just work with cats, you only need to be set up for cats. If the occasional giraffe doesn’t mind squeezing into a tiny bath because they love your tender love and care… that’s absolutely fine. 

 

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Why You Can’t Keep Over-giving to Your Clients

There are people out there who need you.

Not all of them have money.

Not all of them have time.

Not all of them are motivated.

Not all of them understand what it takes to get results.

If you’re on a secret mission to save the world, you’ll feel that especially the people with no money, no time, no motivation and no perspective NEED your help.

If only you could make them see.
If only you could offer them some of your expertise.
If only you could help them in some way to get the ball rolling.

So you give them your time for free. You do things for them that they should be able to do themselves. You squeeze around their schedule. You cheer them on.

And you get little in return.

But it’s ok! Because you can see that divine spark, that potential, that yellow brick road that will take them home… if only you can get them to take the first step.

And the next one. And the next one. And…

And before you know it, you have a bunch of clients like this. You don’t get paid, not really (there is always a good reason). You spend more and more time and energy on them, even though little happens in terms of results (it’s just a matter of time you assure yourself). You feel deflated, but you don’t feel justified in feeling low (after all, those clients are worse off than you! what do you have to complain about???)

So you keep going. But hopefully, one day, you meet your “last-straw” desperation client.

You read them the book. Go home to complain to your spouse. Then, things click. You realise the “evil” inevitable:
You don’t actually enjoy working with people like this!

Pfffff

Are you allowed to think it?
Let alone say it?

Yes you can and yes you need to.

Unless you have a trust fund, a foundation, a wealthy backer or some other way to make your work into a charity that doesn’t bleed you dry, you will need to say no to clients who can’t invest, can’t be bothered, and just can’t get anything done somehow.

(If you had a charity, it would be smart to say no to most of these people too, but you would have a bit more space in terms of being able to help people who couldn’t invest financially, as long as they were sufficiently motivated and action-oriented.)

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3 Overlooked Ways to Invest in your Business

As a business owner, you need to invest in training and resources that allow you to have not just a service or product, but also the marketing and support and know-how around that to make money with what you do.

However, there are other important ways to invest in your work that are generally overlooked:

  • relaxing
  • physical movement
  • creative practices

Why are these important?

As a sensitive business owner, it’s important to remember that the core of your business and your work is YOU. If you are not functioning, not happy, not feeling good, then this will become obvious in your work.

It’s different if you work for a boss, at a big company. You can come to work tired and crabby, hang out at the water cooler, secretly watch funny cat videos throughout the day and then go home. You can’t do it every day, but even in a pretty intense job, you can get away with those “whatever” days.

In your own business though, things are very different. Everything you do, all of your work, is an extension of your energy. Whatever you send out into the world that day (by how you are being) has an impact. This may sound really woo-woo, but you can compare it to dating. Typing some documents for the boss while you’re feeling crappy? Whatever. You’ll get it done. Going on a date while you’re feeling crappy… uhm, problem. Especially if it’s a first date!

In your own business, you’ll have a lot of first dates: new clients, new exposure, and delivering important services to people who specifically chose you.

So besides business training, you need you-training. You can’t afford to stuff down your feelings or get stuck in a rut. Being happy, healthy and vibrant is part of what will make you attractive to potential clients. After all, why would they buy “you” if “you” is all “blegh, whatever”?

So what do you do on those blegh, whatever days?

Maybe watching cat videos is just the thing. Chances are though that you’ll need to dig a little deeper. If you’re overworked then take some time off a.s.a.p. Don’t wait until you can take a 3 week vacation. See if you can squeeze in an hour of R&R stat. Is there something you can put on hold so you can relax a bit and get some of your mojo back? If so, do it.

Re-evaluate your life-work balance. Are you having enough fun? Do you have enough things scheduled throughout your week that will give you a pick-me-up? (Time with friends, work-outs, dancing in the kitchen, spending time outdoors, creative pursuits etc…)

Don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut. Keep your energy moving. If a sweaty work-out doesn’t fix it, then you may need to sit with some deep icky feelings that are surfacing. It happens. Don’t let them pile up (you’ll just end up dragging them with you wherever you go).

What are the things that nourish you? Are you doing enough of them to keep you happy and healthy?

If you’re feeling yucky and working hard to get new clients…you’re probably better off doing something fun (non-work related). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been out and about having fun and then when I got back, bam – a new client inquiry, some new sales etc. (Yay!)

Of course, there needs to be a way for people to find you. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to put in more work to help people connect with you. However, if you’ve done the work to reach out and let people know about your services, but you’re not hearing back and you’re feeling stressed… go have fun. Take time to shift your vibe. You might be surprised at what you find when you check your email a few hours later.

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