One of the biggest obstacles faced by my prospects and clients is the inability to free up time to do important work necessary to scale. So often, the solopreneurs who’d most benefit from foundational scaling steps – documentation, delegation, and productization – simply don’t have the time to do it! So they’re stuck not because they have a bad business, or their clients or bad, but because they’ve put themselves in a no-win situation they can’t seem to break free from.If this sounds like you, then what you’ll read today may quite literally transform your life. In this article, I want to share with you the gameplan for getting “unstuck” so you can finally move forward and SCALE UP.
Why You’re Stuck and “Out of Time”First, we need to be clear on why you’re stuck. If you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed, it’s likely because you are what industry leaders call a “Visionary”, “Quickstart”, or “ADD Entrepreneur”. Simply put, you have entirely too many clear-as-day, full-color, rock solid business and project ideas than you can implement in any moment. For you, it’s probably hard to “give up” any one of these ideas and focus on one. Focusing on one means giving up the 2, 5, or 10 others which are perfect and ready for market. What if someone steals the idea? What if you pick the wrong path? What if you COULD do both? These are the ideas which pass through the mind of the visionary entrepreneur. Unfortunately, this is a no-win trap. Instead of guaranteeing you’ll bring one big idea to life, you hold on to two or three and successfully build none of them. Until you realize that one is better than zero, you’ll stay stuck in this no-win situation.
Step 1: Take StockFor many of my clients, especially the “overpromisers”, their time crunch isn’t real. That is to say, the crunch is entirely in their mind or was created by their desire to please. Let’s say you’re a service provider who consistently has “everything due at once”. Do you think it’s truly possibly that everything is always due at once, or that you prefer that type of setup so you can consistently prove that you’re a failure? Let me repeat that: “Is it possible that you are consistently ‘too busy’ because you like being in no-win, guaranteed failure situations?” This is huuuuuuuuge. If you continually set yourself up for failure, it’s possible that the deadlines really aren’t that severe… or if they are, there’s wiggle room. First, it’s going to be necessary for you to talk to the client and set a more reasonable deadline that doesn’t leave you rushed. If you speak to each of your clients, you’ll probably find that most are reasonable and happy to get a higher quality product even if it takes a little more time. The ones which aren’t are the ones you will need to prioritize and then not work with again. Once you’ve negotiated your deadlines with your existing clients, your next actions are multi-fold. First, rigorously remove any extra distractions and work keeping you from working on the most important items. Then, work on items one at a time until completed. Don’t worry about what isn’t due now, and don’t schedule 10 tasks for yourself in a day. Work on one or two in a day and be done… but make progress. Remember, one thing done is better than NOTHING DONE. Then, moving forward, make sure that you always give yourself buffer room when taking on new projects. (Step 3 will help, so keep reading.) If you do these well, you should finally have some free time to work on growing your business.
Step 2: FocusThe next step is to focus on the one core business, offer, and avatar you’ll focus on. This supreme focus is the core idea behind my “11P Marketing Formula”, which says that you need to have all your pieces in alignment to sell the ONE PRODUCT to a SINGLE AVATAR. Because let’s face it, you’re likely out of time because you’re doing things like…
- Working on too many projects of varying types and sizes, so nothing is standardized
- Recreating the wheel every time to speak to a prospect, so you have to use up all your creative energy to deliver a product or service
- Taking on too much “extra” in the form of training, “side projects”, creative work, etc which doesn’t relate to the building, selling, or delivery of your core offer
- Over-promising what you can do while also engaging in the previous two activities
- Under-charging for what you do, so you constantly feel the need to “sell more” to make up the gap
- Is an offer which can be “productized”, scaled up, and has a portion of work which can be delegated to others
- Is an offer which has a higher ticket price (e.g., over $1000 each sale)
- Is an offer which fits with your values, persona, and long-term vision for your life and career. Are you happy being known as the person who does this thing?
- Is an offer which has had success in the past, or which people consistently ask from you or are particularly happy with
- Is an offer the market actually wants and which can be sold relatively easily
Step 3: ProductizeThe third step, once you have time and have narrowed your work down to one core offer, is to productize that offer. “Productization” is when you take a complex service and standardize it into repeatable tasks, deliverables, and timeframes so that it’s as consistent as a product. This is important, because productizing your service is what will allow you to scale by documentation, delegation, and automation. If you’re a visionary-type solopreneur, expect to face a lot of internal resistance about this step just as you probably did with the previous step. I find that even when solopreneurs are able to focus on one business, they then try to complicate things by adding multiple product lines. DO NOT DO THIS. Stick to ONE BUSINESS and ONE CORE OFFER you can do well. It may take a bit of repositioning and playing with what you do until you can productize it, so give yourself a few weeks. For example, let’s say you’re a copywriter who writes lead magnets. You could say that you write lead magnets, but that’s not very sexy or productizable. Instead, you could productize on something like, “Guaranteed Lead Generator”, in which you perform a consistent set of steps to give the client a lead magnet funnel which grows their prospect database. Now, you have something which you can estimate more effectively, schedule appropriately, and delegate portions of without a lot of headache. Remember – you want to GET OUT OF THE CONSISTENT “BUSY-NESS” CYCLE YOU’RE IN. Productization solves that problem beautifully. One warning: It’s very, very easy to make this way too big. For example, the first time I launched my “Scale Fast System”, I had over 100 deliverables and was charging 1/10th the fee I should have. It was a no-win situation for myself and my clients. Now, I’ve cut it down to the most efficient and effective components necessary for my clients to see success. So it’ll be good for you to continually check yourself by asking, “Am I creating a no-win situation or guaranteeing failure?” Your natural inclination is to overwork yourself to please, which is why I suggest that when in doubt, reduce your offer deliverables and raise your price.
Step 4: Know Your WhyThe fourth step is to know your way. I previously wrote an article on this topic, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Basically, you need to figure out if you’re in business to experience freedom, have an impact, or grow a community. Which “type” you are will determine how much effort you put into each of the “5 areas” of business growth – documentation, delegation, automation, optimization, and conversion. You can read that article here. Below, I’ll simply give you generic advice suitable for any of the types to help you get “unstuck”. These should only be undertaken once you’ve done the previous steps of taking stock, focusing, and productizing.
Step 5: DocumentThe next step to getting unstuck is to document what you do. That is, document the core activities and functions of this offer. What does the offer entail? Who is the best client? What does the client project look like from start to finish? What are all the deliverables? Only when you know these components can you document, delegate, automate, and optimize what you do so you SCALE UP. So you’ll want to at least list… and then write or record… the following:
- What are the components of the package you sell?
- What are the deliverables?
- What are the client journey steps from start to finish? (e.g., welcome call, research, writing, training, offboarding… etc)
- What information is needed from the client?
- What are all the tasks, both internally and for the client? (e.g., invoicing, adding the client to a project management tool, filling out a research document, etc.)
- What do you find yourself teaching the client each and every time? For example, I teach my clients the 10/3/1/90/1 methodology each and every time. (This is one area you’ll automate, so you can spend your time on fostering the client relationship.)
Step 6: Delegate & AutomateFinally, you’ll delegate the tasks you’ve documented and which are “low level”. For example, you could hire someone to invoice the client, send the welcome email, add them to the client portal, perform basic research, etc. You can also delegate other tasks, like checking and answering your emails, scheduling meetings, and sending clients basic information. You can even outsource the sales process. You’ll also automate what you can. I find that the best places to automate are things like:
- Sales emails and lead magnets (templates)
- Client-facing welcome emails and project messages
- “Theory” trainings that used to be delivered one-on-one each time
- Onboarding questionnaires
- Invoicing and invoicing follow-ups
- Prospect nurturing (e.g., email automation)
- Content Marketing (e.g., my “Marketing for a Year” blog and social media process)