Everyone wants to work less, and earn more. There is no shame in admitting that your life plan does not involve being more intimate with your laptop than your significant other. I like to think the "Hustle until your eyes bleed" message is dead and buried. It's unnecessary, exhausting and outdated.
Culturally we are trained to consider a “normal” workday as 8 hours; unfortunately we can also often equate success with working more than 8 hours. We use “busy” as a badge of honor, as a sign of being useful and important. A “normal” workweek is considered 40 hours, but when is the last time you actually worked 40 hours? Many small business owners are working far more than that, but are they effective?
If you want to work 8 hours a day, that’s great! If it works for you and your business then even better! If you want to repeat that cycle day in and day out for the next 40 years then the choice is yours!
Now, maybe you are one of the brave few who know that working more does not equate to earning more. Maybe you don’t want to miss out on having life because you’re too busy working your ass off!
Sorry, this is not a quick fix...
Before we go any further I want you to understand that I don’t promote quick fixes, they suck... the people who promote and sell quick fix ideas also suck. There are no magic bullets or dancing gnomes, this takes time.
Don’t believe what you are told by friends and family, you can actually work less and earn more if you are committed to making some basic changes. I know this because I live my advice – I would be a pretty shady business coach if I didn’t.
I have helped Profit Lovers create the work less, earn more balance sometimes completely by accident. Life has thrown some unforeseen hurdles and challenges at them that forced us to change direction quickly, hurdles and challenges such as:
- Personal illness
- Family illness
- Relationship breakdowns/Divorce
It’s not just the bad stuff that inspires change
Then there are the Profit Lovers who were blessed to fall pregnant and knew that when baby arrived they would not want to be tied to their business 40 plus hours per week. Some Profit Lovers felt like their kids were growing up and they were missing out. What an awful feeling to carry with you day in day out.
Is that really what you want from your life?
If you are reading this and thinking, “I am perfectly happy with the way things are” then at least do me this favor – ask yourself what would happen to your business and income if you were to be hit with an unforeseen challenge? Would you survive financially? Would your business survive? Could you make the changes you needed to in time to save your livelihood?
Are you still reading? Well, I can only assume you are ready to be hit with the good stuff! The stuff that will actually help you create a work less, earn more business so here goes!
sET YOUR GOALS
No idea what you need to live comfortably, no idea what your business needs to help you achieve your personal financial goals? That is your first challenge to tackle. If you don’t know what income you need how will you set plans to achieve it?
Business and personal finances can easily become tangled together; cash flow is tight so you throw in some personal cash to pay expenses or max out the credit card to cover costs, cash flow is good so you draw out more than you normally would for yourself or spend a little more on business than you need to.
If you run your business and your personal finances in this way without understanding your cash flow needs you will be caught in a feast/famine cycle in your business.
Get a good understanding of your personal needs and goals, do the same for your business. Once you understand what you and your business need financially then set your goals – break them down into monthly sums and stick them somewhere you can see them.
You choose! How many hours do you want to work?
The choice really is yours! Stop fooling yourself into believing you have to work 40 hours per week. What number is comfortable for you?
Remember that this process will take time, if you go nuts and decide you want to drop from 60 hours to 6 you will most likely fail. Habits take time to change, you need to slowly replace good for bad, don’t rush it!
Start with small goals you can break down, reducing by an hour per month should be achievable for most. If you work a 50-hour week you will be down to 38 in just one year. Of course you can get a little ballsy and try for an hour a week. It will be a huge stretch but it is like a diet, do it slowly and you will benefit from the results long term.
Now, if you are poo-pooing me at this point have a think about what would happen if disaster struck and you could only work 20 hours per week from next week. Would you find a way to make it work?
identify how many hours ACTUALLY you work
Figuring out how to work less, earn more is impossible if you have no clue how many hours you currently work. This process requires no random stabbing in the dark so start recording what you do with your time now. Apps such as Toggl will help you out! Toggl is super user friendly, and comes with a desktop application to easily hit record and get workin'.
Some of my Profit Lovers completely transformed their business by doing nothing but tracking their time. One PL who always complained she was busy discovered that services she was offering were taking twice the time to complete than they should have.
Identifying this flaw in her time management reduced her work hours by 48%. That is huge!! She chose to split her new found time into income generating work and regular visits to swim laps at the local pool.
don't let tasks take undefined amounts of time
As you saw with my Profit Lover I mentioned above, your tasks will take as much time as you allow them to. It is a weird phenomenon called productivity (or lack thereof).
I, myself noticed this a few years ago when I was hit with glandular fever (dirty bastard of a bug). Prior to getting sick I worked about 38 hours per week and thought I was so busy. Glandular fever hit me hard one night. I thought it snuck up quietly, slowly dragging you down. It didn’t. I was fine one day, bed ridden the next. I reduced down to 18 hours per week yet I still fit everything in – how is that possible?
I was filling the time I had with the task I had to do instead of doing the task in the time they required. You can work 50 hours per week at 70% productivity or 35 hours per week at 100% productivity – the result will be the same!
know your hourly rate
Once you have decided what income you need from your business you can easily calculate your hourly rate – remember to use the hours you want to work, not the standard 40 hours. Your hourly rate is important to your business for following reasons;
- You give yourself a value that is equal or greater to what you would earn if you were employed by someone else
- You can measure if your business has the ability to provide the income you need, if not you can make changes
- You can make decisions about outsourcing tasks that could be done faster and at less of a cost than you can complete them
- You will understand what it would cost you to replace yourself if hell breaks loose and you need to take extended time away from the business
- You will understand what it would cost to replace yourself if you would like to step away from the business and let someone else do the hard work for you
Now lets look at the calculations:
You want to earn $100,000 per annum
*The information is based on 52 weeks a year and does not take into consideration income earned from employees – that’s a whole other calculation – lets focus on YOU for now!
As you can see the jump from 60 hours to 10 hours looks scary – so stop looking! Instead look at the small increase of hourly wage from 60 down to 50 hours and then down to 40 – that’s doable!
Every repetitive task in your business should be performed the same way each and every time. Not only will you save valuable time and find ways to avoid errors you will also produce a handy little manual that can be used to replace yourself. Trust me when I say you want to start systemising now! Once again, don’t wait for life to shove you so hard you need to hire someone and then spend hours and hours training. When life shoves you, you won’t have time.
You will also be in a better position to make decisions about what should and shouldn’t be outsourced once you know exactly how a task should be completed and the time it takes to do so.
focus on earning tasks
There are two different types of tasks in your business – those that earn you money and those that cost you money. Now you know your hourly rate you can assign a cost expense every time you pfaff about on Facebook instead of calling clients or marketing your business.
An easy way to decide if your task is creating income or costing income is to think about paying someone else to do it. If you paid a sales person (assuming you didn’t hire a dick who couldn’t make a sale) you would make money – sales make money! If you hired a bookkeeper they would cost you money (note that I said ‘cost’ not ‘waste’). If you hired someone to read “cat doing funny things” emails all freaking day they would WASTE money.
Cost is not a dirty word, costs are essential to running a successful business.
Waste.. now that is a dirty word!
I am not suggesting you kill all costs, just that you become aware of the true value of spending time on cash positive tasks instead of hiding out doing the cash negative ones!
You can’t do everything in your business. Well actually that is not entirely true, you can’t do everything and work less, earn more. Choose the tasks that you know you waste time on, the ones that you hate doing or those that could be done by someone at a much cheaper hourly rate. Invest the time you have saved into income creating tasks.
There are fantastic sites that allow you to outsource a range of activities in your business. Check out oDesk and Fiverr just to get you started. Virtual Assistants are easy to find, and super easy to integrate into your business. It can feel like a huge leap of faith to bring someone else into your business, the investment can be scary! It can also be the key to freeing up your time and focus to work on the income generating tasks in your business.
A good Virtual Assistant will even be able to guide you through identifying where you need help, and put systems and automations in place to make your life and business so much easier.
It's not just business that you can outsource, don't forget about those life tasks that distract you or drain your energy. Denise Duffield Thomas wrote a great piece on becoming a self-made millionaire and how much help she has at home to achieve that.
know your time sucks
Time sucks are killing your ability to work less, earn more. They are the little things you do that get you nowhere. If you follow me on Instagram (which I strongly suggest as I promise I post good stuff and only the occasional “cat doing funny thing” video) you will know about my hate of email.
Email is a major time suck. If you are tracking your time correctly you will see these time sucks turn up everywhere. Here are just a few to look out for:
- Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, my personal favorite – YouTube or anywhere else social and media-ish
- Emails – pick up the damn phone people!
- Unnecessary meetings – lets talk about stuff and then do nothing
- Poor planning - constantly trying to figure out what you need to do
- Other people – the ones that are not connected to business that call to chat or expect you to allocate them time during your workday
- Wasted travel – often caused by unnecessary meetings or poor planning
- In-between time – that time in-between meetings that is so easily wasted as you don’t want to start a new task
- You can add to the list, there are literally thousands! Once you know what your time sucks are, kill them dead!
Automation often costs money (to get started) so small business owners don’t want to do it, however, remember that some costs are good because they in turn make you money! Automation is one of them. If there is a machine or a program that can cut down a task and save you money then start budgeting to buy it!
Automation often won't just free up time, it will also create consistency for your customers and clients leading to a better experience for everyone. If you're not sure where to start, let me suggest a good Virtual Assistant again. They're often more skilled in identifying area's for automation, and have seen what works in other businesses.
One area of business that everyone should automate is customer and or client payments. Make it easy for people to pay you! Your cash flow and your customers will thank you for it.
frequently asked questions
Sick of customers calling to ask you questions? Then start recording the questions they ask most often and post it on your website or email it to them! It takes a whole lot less time to email a list of FAQ’s than it does to enter into some email ramble about the issue.
Don’t confuse responding to every customer question as good customer service, its not. Good customer service is something you do that goes above and beyond your competitors such as providing outstanding FAQ’s that your customer knows they can access when they need. Information that is clear and concise and allows them to get on with their own day!
PRICE your PRODUCTS AND SERVICES correctly
Every 10 or 15 minutes you give away for free costs you money! Lets consider you have calculated your hourly rate to be $60. That equates to $10 per 10 minutes. If you give away 20 units of 10 minutes every month you effectively waste $200 per month or 3.3 hours of time you could have spent doing something you enjoy!
Charge your time correctly and set limits with customers early on. Good customer service once again is not about extra time it is about the quality of the service you provide in the time they have paid for.
Same rule as above applies for your products. Don’t give stuff away for free or constantly ‘round down’. Watch the discounting too! It is one of the worst inhibitors to business success and it attracts the wrong type of customer.
Invoicing is another area to pay attention to. I helped a Profit Lover save $11,878 by forcing him and his staff to actually track the parts he used when providing servicing for clients as they used them. Prior to this they waited till the end of the day and guessed at what they had used. My PL had found an extra 125 ($11,878/ his hourly rate of$95/hr) hours of time per year by doing this simple task that took no longer for the service staff to complete.
check your prices
If you know your product or service is better than your competitors then charge more. It is that simple. If you have not put your prices up in years then do it now!
Just small increases in pricing can give you huge work less, earn more gains. I worked with a Profit Lover who had an annual turnover of $479,000 but was also working 40 hours per week. She could not see a way to increase her income without working more.
Here is how we did it:
- Increased prices 4.3% (the most I could negotiate with her!)
- Employed a bookkeeper 4 hours per week
An extra $20k in profit (it costs no more to make or sell the product so the 4.3% increase was pure profit!) which paid for the bookkeeper ($15,600) plus some spare change!
The net financial result was $4,400 which you may be thinking is not a lot but don’t forget we now have a bookkeeper on board! Previously bookkeeping had sucked 10 hours per week of my PL’s time (much more than the bookkeeper took to complete the same task), my PL's hourly rate was $32/per hour – that is an actual cost of $320 to the business!
So now my PL has an extra $4,400 of profit to enjoy and an extra 10 hours of time per week. She split the time into 6 hours of “sales” time to generate even more income and 4 hours of leisure time. I know that is a long story but essential to illustrate my point.
know your gross profit
Gross profit is the income you make minus the cost to make that income. Clear as mud? If you bake cakes then your gross profit is the dollar value of the sale of the cake minus the ingredients to make the cake. That is a super simple explanation but it gives you a basic idea.
You need this figure per item or service sold and as a monthly and annual figure. With this figure you have the power to better understand how much of what you sell lands in your pocket.
If your business is baking cakes and know you can bake and sell 30 cakes per week at a gross profit of $20 per cake you can calculate your profit to be $600.
know your net profit
Net profit is gross profit minus running costs of the business such as electricity and rent (overheads).
Your net profit is another highly valuable number that you need to know. It is a number you should be checking monthly to ensure your expenses are not eating up your profit!
Take the example of the baker again, we know that the gross profit is $600 per week (sales of cakes minus the ingredients to bake the cakes and the cost of the boxes to package them). Now we can take the overheads or costs of running the business (costs that remain the same even if the baker sells no cakes) of $400 leaving the baker just $200 in net profit per week.
Many small business owners know there is money coming into the business but don’t understand why there is no money in their bank account. Knowing your gross and net profits will help you understand where your money is going.
Sales budgets, marketing budgets, stationary budgets, staff cost budgets... all of them!
Budgets allow you to predict the future income vs profit of your business. It stops you from wildly spending money that you don’t actually have. Just like many families have household budgets, you need a business budget.
The easiest way to start is to look at last year’s profit and loss report. What did you spend money on? Was it necessary? was it enough? what should it be this year?
Are your expenses needlessly eating your profits? Then you will have no choice but to work more – that is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve. I see this happen when Profit Lovers make rash decisions such as “Oh I might have a new flyer designed”. There was no plan behind the flyer, there was no budget allocated to it, there was no tracking of the results. It was a cash wasting activity.
Let me put some maths behind the scenario to really shove my point in your face (yes, this is a real life example):
Flyer design - $180 Flyer printing - $860
Number of hours wasted communicating with designer, getting print quotes etc – 1.5 hours at a cost of $53 per hour - $79.50
Total cost - $1119.50 or 21.1 work hours
Do you want to work an extra 21.1 hours to fund flyers that don’t bring in any cash? Probably not....
control cash flow
Cash flow is the number one killer of small businesses. Over 90% of failures can be attributed to poor cash flow. That number should scare the pants off you.
Cash flow control can sound boring (it isn't, it's super sexy!) but it is essential to your business. Knowing what is coming in and what is going out is a small business fundamental. With out some sort of cash flow forecast you are tempting fate to serve you up a big old bag of FAILURE!
Think your fine because your bookkeeper controls cash flow for you? It is YOUR responsibility to have at least a basic understanding of your own cash flow. Don’t leave success or failure with someone else.
get rid of bad staff + BAD CUSTOMERS
Often we tolerate poor performing staff because the fear of the “you’re out” conversation is so great. The idea of then replacing that staff member and training them can seem like more of a burden than just letting them stay.
Here is the thing about bad staff. They spread badness to good staff. Yes, badness is contagious. Your good staff will either leave or lower to their level. Unproductive staff or those who appear super productive but also super f*** things up will mean more time in the business for you.
How many times do you go into work just to make sure staff are doing what they should be?
Strap on your big kid pants, let bad staff go and invest time wisely in finding the right fit for your business. Get the mix of staff right, train right and provide incentives for performance – I guarantee your profit will increase and you will have the freedom to step away from your business more often.
Likewise, if you have bad customers or clients that don't respect boundaries, time, payment terms, pricing or anything else that robs you of life and profit, then it's time to say a polite goodbye, farwell... so sad to see you go (not really). Yes, you're absolutely allowed to let customers or clients go.
Before you bid a not so fond adieu to bad staff, customers or clients it's worth taking a quick moment to review how you got there. Were their no boundaries in place? Did they not know the boundaries? Were you too lax on your rules? Where did it all go wrong? What can you do to avoid a repeat in the future?
Don’t have time to take a lunch break? I call bullshit on that old chestnut! You not only ‘have’ time you can ‘make’ time. Working through lunch slows productivity and increases the chance of errors. It's a false economy, and a smart lady like you deserves time to re-charge. Even Wonder Woman needs to stop for a snack.
I could go on and on about this but I wont. It is simple biological fact. Google will deliver you thousands of studies proving this to be correct if you should feel inclined to research the topic....
You are not a super hero. You need to take breaks.
Read above, enough said.
know your productivity patch
Your productivity patch is that happy part of the day when you are on fire. You can churn out the work at break neck speed. You could fight off dragons and Justin Beiber fans whilst completing the task at hand.
Don’t shove time wasting and mind numbing tasks into your productivity patch. Use this time as your key income generating time. If you find income generating activities such as sales easy then use the time to tackle tasks that you find yourself procrastinating over. Turn off your phone, lock your door, ignore your email and get shit done!