When you are self-employed or run a small business, it’s terribly easy to get into the ‘more work, more money’ mindset, as it does seem reasonable to assume that if you charge £25 per hour and want to make £100 more per week, that you need to work at least 4 more (billable!) hours per week in order to achieve that.
If you feel as though working more hours is the only option you have to grow your business, it’s worth considering a few things:
1.) How many hours are you working already? If you are currently working 10 hours a week (including ‘billable’ and ‘non-billable’ hours – i.e. the hours of personal business admin work that you can’t invoice customers for), then working a few more hours is a reasonable plan of action. If you are already working a 50-hour week and consistently have to work evenings and weekends in order to keep up to date with the work you already have got, is it really a good idea to take on more work for you to cover yourself? Long working hours and non-existent ‘down-time’ can be sustained for a short time – I’m sure many VAs and Freelancers out there have had the odd project that required burning the candle at both ends for a short period – but it is just not sustainable long term. Your physical and mental health need to be prioritised, as if you run yourself into the ground and end up unwell, you don’t have the safety net of sick pay to support you.
2.) Are you charging a reasonable hourly rate, or could you move onto package rates for your services? It’s worth considering whether it’s time to increase your hourly rate if you haven’t done for a few years! Your business and household expenses are likely to have increased over the last 2-3 years, so the majority of your customers will understand if you have to implement a small rate increase. If you are concerned about losing customers with a rate increase, you could always offer special ‘packages’ for existing clients that give them access to a lower hourly rate if they bulk purchase your hours (to help guarantee regular work from them, especially if they are ad-hoc customers), but it could also be time to let them go if they do kick up a fuss; it’s likely that you have outgrown them if they are unable or unwilling to pay a fair hourly rate for your skills and expertise.
3.) Could an associate help you grow your business without working additional hours? Taking on a trusted associate to help you support a greater number of clients is a great way to be able to grow your business without having to spend every waking hour completing client work. Admittedly, you won’t receive the full hourly rate for tasks that your associate helps you with but you will receive a portion without having to work too many additional hours. It’s reasonable to expect to have to spend time here and there potentially liaising with the customer directly or helping to ensure that the working relationship between customer and associate is as smooth as it should be, but if you have a trusted associate who you know can carry out work efficiently and effectively to your exacting standards, then this is a great business growth option.
4.) Do you actually want to grow your business? Though we are surrounded by people wanting to hit 6 figure incomes every month and to transform their small business into a global brand, not everyone wants this, and that’s okay! If you are working full or part-time but are happy with your income and relatively content with your work/life balance, don’t feel compelled to keep pushing to grow your business. Of course, it’s important to keep your skills and business offerings relevant and up to date and ensure that you have products/services that you can fall back on should the market suddenly change, so don’t rest on your laurels when it comes to professional development, but don’t feel compelled to undertake courses and programmes in brand new subjects in order to expand your business if you don’t really want to. It’s okay to be happy! In fact, it’s great to be content in your business.
If business growth really is a realistic and desirable option for you, go for it! It’s great to aim for the stars, just make sure that you set yourself realistic and attainable business goals as you grow your business over the coming months in order to reduce your risk of burnout.