When you first started your business, chances are you were keen to take on pretty much any client that came along — even if you weren’t 100% sure about them at the time. After all, you were more than likely still finding your feet and securing business gave you the confidence boost you needed.
But over the years as you and your business have grown, you will have come to realise that some clients just aren’t worth the hassle. And while you have now learnt how to spot potential problem clients before you take them on, you may still have a few whom you still work with.
The bottom line is that people and relationships change, and that’s fine. You just need to learn to know when to say goodbye and move on.
Now you might be thinking, why on earth would I want to actively get rid of a client, Jo!? And it’s a great question, which you’ll hopefully have the answer to by the end of this post.
Problem clients are restricting you and your business
Whether you realise it or not, problem clients are almost certainly restricting you and your business. That’s because more often than not you will be spending time satisfying their whims, instead of focussing on the stuff that matters to your business.
Then there’s the stress they cause you, which is sometimes reason enough to say goodbye. If there’s one thing that the recent coronavirus lockdown has taught me it’s that my mental health is more precious than I ever realised and it should be protected at all costs.
The problem for many entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners though is that they hang on to problem clients because they are worried about how they will fill the financial hole that would be left if they got rid of them. I know this because it’s exactly how I felt until I finally took the plunge.
But once I’d politely informed a couple of my clients that I wanted to part ways with them, I felt a huge sense of relief and renewed determination. The best part is that I managed to secure a new client the very next day — some of that newfound determination shining through perhaps?
5 problem clients you should consider dumping
While a client can become a pain for all manner of reasons, here are the 5 main problematic traits that I and people in my professional network have come across:
You know the ones. Those clients who always seem to have a reason for why they haven’t paid you yet this month, despite your agreed payment date having not changed for years. Clients who regularly pay you late disrupt your cash flow, cause you headaches and you simply do not need them.
These are the clients who frequently expect you to do stuff outside of what you’ve agreed. For example, they’ll ask you to carry out a task, which you do, then they move the goalposts and assume you’ll be okay with that.
Having your confidence knocked in your personal life is bad enough. It’s even worse when it happens in your professional life too. Clients who constantly make you doubt your abilities and tell you where you are going wrong are not good. They’re not good for your business, your confidence or your sanity.
There’s a good chance that you started your own business so you’d be the boss and not have to feel like an employee again. But this all changes when you’ve got a client who acts like they’re your manager. Remember, while you’re providing them with services, you are your own boss.
And clients you simply don’t get along with
As I’ve already mentioned, people and relationships change. If you find that you are simply no longer getting on with a client the way you used to, maybe it’s time to call it a day. There’s no point struggling along for either of your sakes. The connection will never be the same, unfortunately.
How to let your problem clients down gently
It’s never nice or easy sending a goodbye email or having a final telephone call, but it’s an inevitable part of business. To help you out and conclude this post, I’m going to give you a quick takeaway on how to let your problem clients down gently.
- Give them plenty of notice — follow what’s laid out in your contract and give them as much time as possible to replace you. It’s going to be hard after all, right 😉
- Stay professional — it’s never a good idea to burn bridges or make public any difference you had, especially in the business world. You never know when you might want a reference or similar.
- Finish any outstanding tasks — don’t leave them in the lurch with a bunch of unfinished projects.
- Refer them to someone else — maybe you have an associate who could help the client out. If they’re a better fit for the work or the individual, consider making an introduction.
Getting rid of problem clients might seem counterintuitive, but doing so can genuinely save your sanity, renew your sense of self-worth and end up strengthening your business going forward.
What a great plan, work from home, choose your own hours, no commuting, no need to even get dressed! How many of you are attracted by that concept? It sounds ideal doesn’t it?
One of the great things about freelancing is that you can choose your hours, and you can work on projects for people in different time zones to yourself. Work that they need completing overnight will be during the day for you. If you are a new freelancer you may need to stretch yourself and work weekends, and/or at night as you build up your business. This though should not be your norm, as it could be a slippery slope to stress within your relationships.
So how do you manage your time? How do you provide yourself with at least some loose structure. How do you persuade your family that you are indeed working even though you’re in your dressing gown and at home? How do you persuade visitors that you’re working when they call by for a chat and a cuppa?
From experience, this is not so easy. Upon giving up a job where your hours are monitored, your start and finish times are fixed and where there is perhaps some sort of dress code, one needs to find a way to structure and plan working hours whilst enjoying the benefits of the new freedom to live a life less structured.
On a personal level, I am at my most creative and strangely most awake between the hours of 10pm and 1am. This is not helpful when a partner may have been at work all day (out of the home), and is looking forward to some ‘us’ time after the evening meal. This is also not useful after midnight when a partner might be expecting you to come to bed. In fact this will be one of the most difficult relationships to manage and manage well. If you are able to manage this, the rest will be much easier.
It’s probably a myth that becoming freelance takes you away from timetables and start and finish times, and it may be this myth that can send you onto the rocks. Yes, you are now no longer answerable to another’s timetable and working hours, yet it is still important to implement your own timetables and working hours. Doing this for yourself, and letting those close to you know what your hours and timetables are will avoid the inevitable disagreement when wants and needs conflict. If your friends know that you work between certain hours and cannot be disturbed then, it will avoid that untimely knock at the door and the difficulty of saying No. During these working hours you will need to be short with social phone calls and let the caller know you’ll call them back when you’re not working. If you manage your time assertively, your friends and partner will fall into line.
The other relationship you’ll need to manage will be that of yours to work. How many freelancers feel bad if they are NOT working and find themselves either continuing not to work and feeling bad, or working at times when others may not be working, weekends for instance. Setting yourself a timetable and a structure will allow you to enjoy your social life without the guilt, and will give you time to revitalise yourself and aid your creativity when you are working. How many freelancers keep going without a break? Taking breaks, even if only short 15-20 minute breaks (timetable them in) will keep you fresh and creative.
There must be many more time management ideas; these are just a few, feel free to let me know your own time management ideas by leaving a comment on this blog post.
I can’t believe that in just under four weeks’ time, my Online Productivity Tools & Applications Facebook group will be celebrating its first birthday. Wow! Where has that year gone!?
Even if I do say so myself, the group has gone from strength to strength. We’ve now got 342 members (at time of writing) and are getting new member requests on a pretty much daily basis.
If you’re not already a member (and why not?), the group is designed to be a place where people can seek advice, discuss and tell others about all the cool tools and apps they use on a regular basis to help them be more productive in their work.
The group’s got a great community spirit and positive vibe about it, with absolutely zero spam – something that’s a pet hate of mine, which I think ruins many great groups.
Group members are also among the first to hear when Phil Byrne and I release our monthly podcasts showcasing our favourite apps that have made a difference to our online lives that month.
If you missed our latest one, check it out now here. I talk about two Slack apps I’ve been using, one of which enables me to read and reply to emails, tweets and Facebook updates right from within Slack itself.
Talking of Slack, I’m also hosting a webinar dedicated to the tool on August 10. You won’t know about this unless you’re a member of the Facebook group.
The webinar will focus specifically on Slack Productivity Power Tips & Tricks.
In addition, I have created a bespoke Slack channel* to complement the Facebook group, which I will use in conjunction with the upcoming webinar to demonstrate functionality.
There are a lot of people who use Slack on a daily basis and would be interested in being part of an ongoing Slack channel* that serves as an extension to the Facebook group (as indicated by a poll we undertook in the group recently).
I envisage the Slack channel* being an ideal place for people who aren’t on Facebook all the time to ask questions of the other group members.
See you on August 10 for the Slack webinar!
*Please note the Slack channel which was set-up for the webinar is no longer running.
You’ve built (or had built) a shiny new website and you’re excited about getting it out there in front of people who may want to buy your products, avail your services or simply read what you’ve got to say. But after a few weeks or months of it being live, you’ve still had nobody visit it other than the people you’ve promoted it to directly.
Concerned that your website could be missing out on vital organic traffic from Google and other search engines, you decide to look for it yourself using some of the search terms you think it may appear under.
And that’s when it hits you, you can’t find your website for love nor money and apparently, it doesn’t appear in Google anywhere.
There are many reasons why this could happen and you shouldn’t despair because I’m about to give you a few pointers, which will help get your website featuring in Google search results going forward.
Google Webmaster Tools
Search engine spiders crawl the Internet and look for new websites all the time. However, they can sometimes take their time discovering them, so it’s always best to tell Google directly that your new site exists.
The best way to do this is via Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) – a suite of tools designed for webmasters, like you and I. As well as allowing you to inform Google of your website’s existence, it also boasts a plethora of features to help boost your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO).
Here’s what you need to do as a minimum:
1. Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools and login using your Google account. If you don’t already have one then you’ll need to register one.
2. Once logged in you’ll need to add your website. Click ‘Add Site’ and enter the full URL as shown below. Be sure to do this twice: with and without the ‘www’ prefix
3. Now you’ll need to verify your site and prove that you actually own it. You can do this in one of several ways and GWT will give you a recommended method and several alternative methods. They all achieve the same purpose, so choose whichever you feel most comfortable with.
4. Open your newly added and verified site from the main dashboard and down the left hand side look for ‘Crawl’. Under this submenu you’ll see ‘Sitemaps’ and this is where you can submit your own website’s sitemap to Google, so that its spiders know exactly how your site is laid out. My own sitemap was created using a WordPress plugin, but there are many other online resources to help you make one.
Search Engine Optimisation
When the search engine spiders crawl your site they are looking for meta content, keywords and other relevant information, so they can report back to the main Google database what they’ve found. If your site is lacking in any of these then its database entry may not reflect its content or purpose.
While littering your site with keywords is definitely not best practice, it absolutely has to have some. Otherwise, how can you expect Google to rank it in searches? As a rough guideline, try and have your keywords in the title of your page, subheadings and naturally and evenly distributed throughout.
Whatever you do don’t try and shoehorn keywords in where they don’t look right. It’ll not just annoy your readers, but Google won’t appreciate it either. We keep hearing that ‘content is king’ and that’s never been more true than today.
Google doesn’t always discover the latest and greatest content and sometimes has to rely on signals from social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. If a particular article or piece of content is getting a lot of attention in terms of shares, likes comments, etc. Google may choose to rank it more favourably.
In a similar vein, content that attracts a high bounce rate i.e. a visitor clicks through to it and then leaves almost immediately may be frowned upon by Google. This is because the visitor obviously didn’t find what they were expecting when they reached the content and so Google may decide that it shouldn’t be ranked so highly for that particular keyword or phrase.
Providing your readers with high-quality content and information, which makes them want to come back again and again, is fundamental for improving your site’s chances of appearing in the Google results pages.
If you hire me to set-up and design your WordPress website, then this step is included, free of charge – get in touch for more information.
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There are many big questions that are difficult to answer; what is the meaning of life? Does God exist? Did the chicken or the egg come first? But the biggest and probably the most relevant in today’s society has to be:
How to juggle home and work effectively
It is a subject that most working people will contemplate at various points in their careers but one which is rarely answered thoroughly. In fact it is so relevant that interviewers often ask candidates how they achieve an effective balance when deciding who to give a job to. I have therefore put together 5 tips that should help you achieve the holy grail of work/home balance.
1. Keep your phones separate – if you need to take work calls then ensure you have a separate mobile phone. This way when you aren’t working you can turn the phone off and can’t be tempted to answer a call or quickly just check your emails.
2. Set realistic working times – most people don’t work the usual 9-5, they often put in more hours to ensure a job is completed well. There is nothing really wrong with this as long as the 9-5 doesn’t turn into the 6am-11pm. That’s not to say stick rigidly to schedules; be flexible as things change but on the whole make yourself stick roughly to realistic working times and if something isn’t finished, do it tomorrow.
3. Don’t take your work home – if you work away from your home and you stick to number 2 then don’t take your work home with you. You will be better off spending an extra hour in the office and getting more done than taking it home as you will be tempted to spend all night working on it. Just because you aren’t in the office doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as work time.
4. Shut down your home office – working from home is a minefield for work/life balance because it is difficult to draw the line. Number 2 is even more vitally important in home working. Outside of your designated working hours shut your office down, turn off the lights, close the door and pretend it isn’t there until it’s time to work again.
5. Delegate – if you are the only person who can complete every task you need to do then you are never going to have a life. There is nothing wrong with delegating tasks that can be completed by others. Virtual assistants are cheaper as you don’t have to hire them on a contract or give them an office and stationery. You also only pay for the work they do not their breaks, holidays and sickness.
If you manage to stick to all 5 of these tips then you will be well on your way to a healthy work/home balance. Of course these are not the only tips that you could follow, there are many ways to achieve a healthy balance as it is possible! Unfortunately for now it is past my set working times and so I must shut down my home office and spend some time doing non-work things.
Good luck with your balance!
Are you a fan of Time Management?
I would love to be the queen of time management, get everything done I want to, but realistically, it just doesn’t happen when you work for yourself!
So how do you get things done and not feel guilty about the things still on your list day after day?
I often have a long list of projects I need to complete, to give you an example my current list looks something like this (in no particular order):
- Write more blog posts for both my websites (tick… well half a tick!)
- Set-up an eCourse for authors (I’ve started it…)
- Start writing my book!
- Transfer my late Grandfather’s website over to WordPress (again, started!)
- Put all my blog posts for the last year in an eBook and sell it for pennies on Amazon, Smashwords and my website (…started)
- Get the eBook review service up and running, not just for clients but for other authors too!
- Update this website, change to Genesis and update it with a top notch theme
This is just my list of things I have to try and fit in around client work. That’s the problem, when you’re an entrepreneur and you don’t have lots of different people working for you, you either have to do things yourself or…
Outsourcing is a great way of lightening the load if you can afford it. If you have a specific project that will make you more income in the long run, then outsourcing it to get it finished quicker would be the best thing you could do. Sometimes outsourcing doesn’t have to cost the earth, you can check out some freelancer sites where you can often than not find someone within your budget.
If you really can’t afford a virtual assistant like me, then doing it yourself is the only way… But what if you don’t know how to do something? You then have to learn the ropes before you can take on the task. This is where swapping services might come in handy. I’ve done this a couple of times, and most recently have collaborated with a writer in Nigeria (check out his guest post: How to Fully Utilize Google Plus for More Traffic and Income). I am helping him with his website and he’s doing some writing for me.
Look through all your contacts and see who you can approach about one of your projects. I have been lucky, people have approached me, but when you approach a contact ask them if they would consider swapping services with you, tell them what you offer. If nothing comes of it, then don’t worry, something might turn up eventually.
Your next option would be to block out some time each day to work on the task. To start with you may have to learn a few things before you can get started. For example, I outsourced the design of my website at the beginning but as I have grown more comfortable using WordPress and learning how it works, I now offer that as a service. Learning new things means you have something extra to add to your skills, whether it makes you money or not.
I read a great blog post the other day by Jess Green of Pink Chilli Virtual Assistance, it was called Power Hour. I was so enlightened by the post that I decided I would do exactly what Jess suggested, block out 1 hour per day to work on my business. Now, between 1 and 2pm each day I have my power hour and work on my above project list.
Don’t Feel Guilty
Above all, don’t start to feel guilty about your projects not being completed. We all have good and bad days, emergencies come up, client work needs to take priority.
Here are a few tips on how you can prioritise your project list:
- Look at the list and work out which project will earn you the most money, work on this project first.
- Decide which projects will take less time to complete and work on those next, this will thin out the list a bit to stop you feeling overwhelmed.
- Allocate one project to your power hour each week, eg. this week I will work on my eCourse, next week I will work on my website
I hope I have given you some food for thought. Sometimes just some quick prioritisation and planning can stop you from feeling stressed out by your long list of projects. You could even use these tips for client work, as long as you get the work done within the client deadline of course.
Do let me know if you have any further time management tips?