work with clients

How and Why I Still Work with Clients One-on-One

Working with clients one-on-one gets a bad rap in online business circles, and honestly, I really hate it.

In this episode, I’m talking about why working one-on-ones is not at all what the celebrity entrepreneurs make it out to be, along with how and why I STILL work with clients one-on-one and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

If you’ve ever had that feeling that you were doing your business wrong as you run a service business or work with clients one-on-one, this episode is dedicated to you. I know exactly how you feel, and I want you to know that your service business is real, valid, and most of all, probably more viable than the majority of the courses and group programs being sold right now.

Since I started this podcast back in 2016, I’ve been championing the service business model as they’re seriously underrated and overlooked, especially in the online business realm.

The Backstory: Why I’m All About Service Businesses

My fierce commitment to service businesses (and cutting the BS around them) came out of my own experiences between 2014 and 2016.

During that time period, I found myself working with coaches who didn’t get my business and constantly encouraged me to launch a course so I could create “leveraged” income. Hell, I even fell for it and launched my signature course in 2015, and while it was moderately successful, I didn’t love the business model.

Plus, I really didn’t like the way launches were done. A lot of manipulative marketing and sleazy sales practices that simply didn’t align with my values.

The final straw was being in a mastermind that was for service business owners full of downright terrible advice. There was a big push around launching a course without any recognition of the fact that a course business is a totally different business model and you need an audience in order to sell courses.

Don’t even start me on the fact that in my single one-on-one session the leader didn’t even know anything about me and my business. Total waste of time and energy with zero value delivered, but I should probably send them a thank you card as they’re the reason Small Business Boss is what it is today.

Bottomline: With my skills, strengths, and values, a service business was way more aligned with how I wanted to do things. I already knew how to run a service business in a way that worked for me, so why would I jump ship? 

Why Does Everyone Talk Shit About Services?

Since 2016, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out exactly why so many service business owners are seduced by the one-to-many business model.

It’s a simple answer. Within this industry, services are seen as a stop-over as you work towards doing something else.

For years, celebrity entrepreneurs pushed the idea that working with clients on a one-on-one basis is a stepping stone to a course or group program. They say that burnout is inevitable if you work with clients or that your income is capped.

This is all marketing spin in order to position working with clients as the villain. Their message is that working with clients is hard, running group programs or offering courses is much easier and you’ll make way more money.

If only it were that simple. There’s rarely any discussion of the marketing, tech, and expertise required to build a one-to-many business from scratch. Or the numbers of people that simply don’t succeed with these types of offers.

So if you’ve ever felt like you’re weird for wanting to do services or like a fish out of water in the online business world, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in excellent company with people who are quietly succeeding and running businesses that really and truly work for them without the hustle or stress of building a one-to-many business. 

Why I Still Work With Clients One-on-One

Truth time: While I have the skills and marketing chops to run a one-to-many business, I have zero interest in a big group program or course. Been there, done that, and no thanks.

The one-to-many business model and everything it requires isn’t a good fit for me and how I like to work. Even with running masterminds here at Small Business Boss, they’re small groups that include one-to-one support and I’ve built real relationships and connections with my clients.

In a world full of one-size-fits-all business advice, I love nothing more than being able to provide specific, individualized support to my clients. I can consider everything I know about them and their business before I answer a question or make a recommendation. 

That’s what makes a difference for my clients and how they run their businesses, which is immensely rewarding. Plus, I genuinely adore the clients we work with and our communities, as they’re full of amazing humans. These are people I’m excited to talk to and generally have in my orbit. That’s why I still work with clients one-on-one and tend to have long-term relationships with them. Which is good, as I’m not someone who does shallow as an introverted, anxious human.

I’m sharing all of this to give you insight into why you too may love working one-on-one with clients and to show you that there are so many reasons that it’s legit to have a service business. No matter what online business celebs may say, it’s not a stepping stone to a different type of business.

How I Work with Clients

Obviously, I run an agency so I still work with clients offering done-for-you services every single day. That business has been good to me as it’s given me stability as I’ve built up Small Business Boss over the last six years.

That experience, as well as my eight years of freelancing before that AND my entire 20+ year career as a service provider, has given me some serious chops. When I say service businesses are my business, I’m not kidding.

No matter which business I’m working in, there are a few things that are essential in how I work with clients. And I honestly believe they’re big reasons as to WHY I still work with clients today as I have healthy working relationships, and I love what I do, whether it’s strategy work for a consulting firm, or figuring out how to solve a problem with a mastermind client via Voxer.

Strategy First

I’ve talked a lot about strategy this year here on the podcast, but it’s a big part of how I work with every client. For agency clients, strategy leads all the work we do, and for Small Business Boss, I’m strategic in how I think about their specific challenges or needs. I look at the whole and person business including target market, delivery model, marketing, sales, strengths, skills, and more. Many times that’s happening in the background, but I strategically fit all those pieces together as I provide guidance.

Clear and Kind Communications

One of the big messages about working with clients is that it leads to burnout. While burnout happens, it can happen for so many reasons, it’s not something that’s inevitable because you work with clients.

If you’re feeling burnt out on working with clients, one of the best ways to help eliminate those issues is through better communications. As a communications person, I’m hyperfocused on how/when/why I’m communicating with clients. It helps avoid issues that are frustrating or trap you in a cycle of wanting to burn down your business because everyone knows what to expect.

A big part of my communication approach with clients is about cutting the BS. But that doesn’t mean I’m harsh in my feedback. It’s just the opposite, I cut the BS by finding a way to have the hard conversation in a thoughtful and humane way.

Boundaries

I’m very invested in my clients, but I’m also all about boundaries. With corporate clients, building those boundaries is typically easier as we’re in the business of deliverables and not as integral in their day-to-day business. 

With members of our masterminds, we’re in the community every single day with multiple ways to get support including Voxer and Slack. That’s why we’ve established very clear guidelines for how/when I respond or give feedback. (And not in a “you can never look at me” celebrity entrepreneur kind of way!) All of that said, I have excellent boundaries, but I show up for our mastermind members so they have the support they need when they need it.

The other part of boundaries has been creating a space for the community where boundaries and expectations are set not just how they interact with me, but with one another. As we’ve put stronger boundaries in place for the community it just keeps getting better.

If you’re not clear on “how” you work with clients, I encourage you to spend a bit of time digging into how you approach your client work and relationships. The clearer this is for you, the easier it is to navigate the ups and downs of running your service business. (And the more likely you are to avoid the siren call of that ad promising you a 7-figure high ticket program business.) 

Your Service Business: Simple and Sustainable

By choosing to run a service business, you’ve opted to run a business that can be simple and sustainable, and that’s something to celebrate in my books. If you ever doubt that a service business is for you, I encourage you to remember why you work with clients and why you do what you do. If you’re struggling with client relationships, or simply want to make them better, dig into the how versus falling into the trap of thinking that another business model will be a quick fix.

If you want support as a service business owner, the BS-Free Service Business Mastermind will be opening up soon. You can check out the wait list page or send me a DM on Instagram @smallbusinessboss and I’ll send you the link.

We do masterminds a bit differently here at Small Business Boss, as you’re never a number. We put people first and as a group, you pull your peers up with you. The next cohort starts October 1st, so if you’re interested, now’s the time to raise your hand.

In the next episode, we’ll be digging into the cult of scale, and exploring why sustainability is more important. 

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