The 5 hidden time sucks in your business (and what to do about them)

Janine looking scared and worried in front of multicoloured stopwatches and next to the blog title

How we all wish we could create more time and get more done in our small businesses.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could just wave a wand and magic you up a few more hours in your day? Better still, a few more days in your week? 

Or… *Genius Idea Approaching*… I could clone you! 

Step into my machine and five identical replicas of you would pop out. One to create your content, one to do your social media, one to do your launches and sales, one for admin and one to do anything scary. Leaving you free to focus solely on the work that lights you up; the stuff you’re actually paid for. Bliss! 

Well, you aren’t going to get either of those in this blog…

BUT you will get some insight into the lesser-noticed time-sucks and how to mitigate their effects.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I’m going to put my fancy-dress doctor’s outfit on and ask you a diagnostic question:

Why haven’t you got enough time?

The best advice for you will depend on your answer(s) to that question. Here are the common ones I come across with my clients:

  1. Too much good client work
  2. Too much bad client work
  3. Conscious procrastination
  4. Unconscious procrastination
  5. Serving too many audiences

Let’s take them one at a time.

Time Suck 1: Too much good client work

How does it happen?

You might be in the heady stage of your business where word has got out about how good you are. You’re working all the hours and you feel like you can’t say no to good business because ‘it’s all money’ and who knows what’s around the corner. Make hay while the sun shines. Right?

That’s fine if you’re happy to carry on working nineteen-to-the-dozen indefinitely. But in my experience, people who are working like this are making major sacrifices in other areas of their life. Family and relationships are suffering. Self care goes down the toilet. Hobbies; what are they?! 

What you can do about it

Here are some alternatives to you working your fingers to the bone:

  • Put your prices up. It’s a classic supply and demand scenario. If there’s not enough supply (i.e. your time) to fulfil the demand (i.e. the amount of hours potential clients want to work with you) then it’s time to even things out by charging more.
  • Do this in conjunction with limiting your working hours. I worked with a client recently who was working 8am-8pm every day and weekends too. She told me that she wanted to work 9am-5pm Monday to Thursday only, so we structured her pricing accordingly. The look of relief on her face was a picture!
  • Depending on the ambitions you have for your business, it might be time to consider working with associates. This means high quality service providers will need to be recruited by you, so if you’re already stretched for time, it might be worth implementing suggestions one and two first before tackling this one. But once you have a few trustworthy partners under your belt, you’ll have unhooked yourself from the time for money yoke.
  • An alternative to working with associates is to move towards a one-to-many business model e.g. group programmes, masterminds and DIY courses.

If you’ve already got a mixture of one-to-one and one-to-many services in your business, you might be finding it a bit of a juggle. Could it be time to stop working with people on a one-to-one basis completely..?

Time Suck 2: Too much bad client work

How does it happen?

Can you get bad client work? If you need to ask that question then congratulations, you’ve never had a situation where you’ve let a client get more than they’ve paid for! 
This isn’t necessarily the fault of the client and it can usually be fixed.

What you can do about it

  • If you haven’t already, make sure your service level agreements are in your contract. Better still, make it part of your sales and onboarding processes; put your key boundaries in your pitch document/ proposal and discuss it before they sign up.
  • Create content about what your boundaries are and why they’re good for you and your clients. Here’s an example of a blog I send to people who are about to start working with me: ‘Four things that will make or break our work together’. It sets the tone and avoids any last minute misconceptions about what clients might expect from me.
  • Add unwanted behaviours to an ‘anti-ideal avatar’. One of my favourite things to do when I’ve had a poor experience with a client is to work out what went wrong and fix it for future. If I accidentally recruit a non-ideal customer I’ll pinpoint the issues I had a problem with and make sure my sales copy is clear about who I work with.

Time Suck 3: Conscious procrastination

How does it happen?

Do you ever catch yourself procrastinating but then feel incapable to do anything about it? I do! This usually happens when I’m undergoing some major changes in my business. Perhaps I’m planning a big price increase or I’m pitching to someone who feels out of my league.

Very few business owners are devoid of mind monkeys. I’ve done plenty of mindset work over the years and can now notice when these things rear their cheeky heads.

What you can do about it

  • First of all, take notice of what your frequent procrastination triggers are. Is it that you nip on Facebook to message a potential client then two hours later you realise all you’ve done is learned how not to do your eye make-up when you’re over forty? Only me..?
  • Next, try and catch yourself in the act. When you find yourself procrastinating, work out what you were trying to avoid. Were you trying to avoid an unpleasant task or a scary activity? Unpleasant but ‘must-do’ tasks are best performed in a brisk fashion or outsource it! 
  • Scary tasks however might need some more digging into. Our mind gremlins are trying to keep us safe. Deep down if you have some unhelpful beliefs about who you’re meant to be as a business owner; or perhaps more pertinently as a woman/ mother/ wife/ friend etc. there might be some internal clashes in how deep down you feel like you should be acting and how you consciously want to act to move your business forward. I highly recommend digging into this through journaling or even getting some one-to-one coaching. A-hem. You know where I am.

Time Suck 4: Unconscious procrastination

How does it happen?

One of my former clients is the most productive person I’ve ever met. She handles a large load of one-to-one work, runs massive training programmes as well as regularly publishing books, blogs and a podcast to boot. 

But nobody is infallible. We’d be merrily working away when suddenly, out of the blue a genius MUST DO idea would strike that HAD to be launched immediately. This meant some of the other work that was better aligned to her long term goals was in danger of being parked for a few weeks or months. (Not on my watch.)

This kind of procrastination can easily go under the radar. It’s insidious. You feel like you’re getting loads of work done, working on the next launch, then the next then the next, but actually you’re treading water and not really moving your business forwards in the way you want.

What you can do about it

  • Put aside a day per month or per quarter to step back and get clear on where you see your business going. Your goals don’t have to be detailed. They don’t even have to be written down, but you do need a direction or you’ll be meandering all over the place; not actually moving forwards at all.
  • Write down your mission. Don’t worry, you can always change it in future! By writing down why you’re in business, who you’re serving and how you help people this acts as a yardstick for your business decisions. It’ll make it easier to spot when your mind gremlins have taken control and put another shiny must-do idea into your head to distract you from your bigger (scarier?) long-term goal.
  • Remember that saying yes to something new means saying no to something else. What are you saying no to by allowing this new potential cuckoo into your nest?
  • Work with a marketing coach! This is absolutely in my wheel-house. Book a call with me to see if we’d be a good fit. 

Been thinking about working with a coach, mentor or consultant for your small business but not ready to chat? Download the Buyer’s Guide To Marketing Coaches for a full run down of your options.

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Time Suck 5: Serving too many audiences at once

How does it happen?

There are many ways this can happen, here are the most common ones:

  1. You’re resisting ‘niching’ because you don’t want to cut down your options of who’d want to work with you.
  2. You want to scale your business so you’re adding some new higher or lower ticket services that appeal.
  3. You’re pivoting your business towards a new audience but haven’t let go of the old one yet.

Whichever situation you’re in, serving more than one audience is exhausting if you haven’t got the structure, resources or support in place to accommodate their differing idiosyncrasies. 

Also, when you’re appealing to more than one audience, it can muddy your messaging. I’ve seen people present several very different offers to three sets of people with contrasting needs and business sizes on the same sales page and even in one social media post. The result is off-putting and confusing. 

If you needed a new kitchen fitting would you go to a jack-of-all trades builder for who ‘no job is too big or too small’. Or would you go with a kitchen fitter?

Ideally, every piece of marketing communication you produce e.g. blog, email, social media post, should be written with one audience in mind. And certainly, if you have a specific service to sell, the sharper you can be with how you’ve defined they type of person who’ll want it, the better.

Let’s say you have high ticket services that costs £5k a pop; working one-to-one mentoring experienced dog salon owners to franchise their business. You like the idea of launching a membership and get some of that recurring income action.

In this scenario there are two things to look out for:

  1. The same people who are buying your £5k programme, aren’t necessarily the same people who’d want your membership. This means that you have to put in the effort to define your target market for your membership, learn what their pain points are and craft the messaging to this audience. If you don’t get this right, it’ll be impossible to recruit members and even harder to get them to stay.
  2. OR your membership does appeal to your current audience, so your high ticket leads join your low ticket offer instead and you ‘cannibalise’ your revenue.

What you can do about it

Both of these outcomes can be managed by adjusting your content strategy and reallocating your resources etc. But if you launch without thinking it all through, you’re in for a mad scramble as the dice fall where they may! 

Read more about serving new audiences as a way to grow your business in my blogs ‘Which growth strategy is best for your business?’ and ‘Three accidental business decisions that could derail your business’.

What next?

I love sharing advice on how to manage the complexity of running a small business in the most effective way possible. Marketing at it’s core is so, so simple. This is the kind of thing I send out regularly to me subscribers.

Speaking of which…

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