This phrase was recently shared with me in an online group, “We are all in between swims”. It is a kayaker’s saying and it stuck with me. The person who shared it is a kayaker. She told me that this is a saying they have out on the river. The reason is that when a kayak flips they can either 1) flip it back over and keep going, or at other times 2) they have to swim forward and escape for fear of drowning. We are also in between swims as online business owners, because we take risks every day that could easily flip us into the river.
I really liked this saying and wanted to develop it into an analogy related to all of us, online service providers. You may be asking, “What risks?” right now. You probably do not think you take many as a business owner, especially if you have been doing it for some time online. The truth, however, is that we all take risks every day in business and in life.
It is actually a powerful tool – risk-taking. The ability to take risks means you can evaluate, analyze, and decide whether a risk is worth taking or not.
Risks Facing Online Business Owners
There are multiple risks on a regular basis that would flip our proverbial kayak. You have probably become accustomed to most of them and may not even realize you are taking a risk. In fact, most probably don’t bother you at all and are on autopilot for you.
Let’s, however, take a look at some of these risks regularly involved with your online business.
- Payments From Clients
- Choosing Providers & Partners
- Choosing Team Members
- Creating New Pricing and/or Service Packages
- Creating New Programs
- Paying Your Own Bills
- Communicating with Clients
#1 Risk – Payments From Clients
Although we have our clients sign contracts we are never guaranteed payment. If you count on being paid after the fact the risk is even greater. Going into an agreement you hope that you will receive payments from clients, but you truly do not know until it is time to receive payments from clients.
If you currently are paid after your services or at the end of the month I implore you to please reconsider or at the very least request a deposit for half of what the estimated invoice will be up front.
I learned this the hard way, by not getting paid nearly $2,000 years ago. For those not sure, yes, for online service providers that is a lot! From that point on I didn’t take any more risk with payments and being able to get paid because I began charging at the top of the month prior to providing services. That was one of the best things I ever did in my business. To go from hourly to package and to get paid before services were rendered.
#2 Risk – Choosing Providers & Partners
Choosing whom we do business with certainly is risky business also, isn’t it? We develop partnerships, shake hands and switch our insurance providers, or even change banks. Do you, however, do any research before making these changes?
Often we feel like we clicked with someone at a networking event and think they are trustworthy and suddenly we are changing things around. These are all big risks in the long run. Next time, please do a little research or at the very least Google them first.
Who we decide to get into business is so important to your business and your reputation as a business owner. Make sure you know the person you are ready to support whether through referrals or money spent on their product and services.
#3 Risk – Choosing Team Members
When it comes to choosing team members perhaps that is the biggest risk of all. If you do not know the person and have not gotten any referrals it is a big risk in your business.
Bringing on new team members should be a process that involves them showing that you can trust them in some way. After all, you will entrust your client or clients to this person. Sometimes even providing password information. Not to mention that they will learn all of your processes and systems.
#4 Risk – Creating New Pricing and/or Service Packages
We all have to reevaluate our pricing and packages offered on a regular basis. For online service providers, I highly recommend setting up recurring packages instead of billing by the hour. Yes, this can be a risk.
This means if you provide social media service you charge for the service you provide. You may have 2-3 packages or programs you offer. Each one should give more services than the others. So, you have a package A, B, & C let’s say. Package A would be less expensive than Package C. You decide what you include with each one.
When I was doing digital marketing I had three packages. The first may not offer engagement, while the other two offered it on differing levels. It is important to give at least a couple of offers for your prospective clients to choose from when they are ready.
Creating new pricing and/or packages can be a risk in the market, but it is worth trying at least every 6 to 12 months. You can always back it down if you find clients feel it is too much. I do not recommend pricing so high that you have no choice but back peddle. Do competitive research so you are armed with similar services and price points. Do not be the highest but also do not be the lowest. Mid-range is what you are shooting for with pricing.
#5 Risk – Creating New Programs
Another risk is when you have the need to create completely new programs. You never know how they will be received from your audience. I went through this myself recently.
In the end, you only lose your own time (which can also be valuable). Creating a new program to try is something, however, that can pay off big if it works. So weighing the risk versus the reward is always a consideration.
#6 Risk – Paying Your Own Bills
Let’s face it today it’s so hard to make it in general. So, working your own full-time gig is risky and you probably were not 100% certain it would really pay your bills. Am I right? But it was worth the risk of not having a boss to answer to you except yourself (and clients). It was worth the risk to be able to make all the decisions (at least in the beginning). Wasn’t it?
Perhaps for you every month is a risk as you are not guaranteed work. If you have recurring revenue that is wonderful and really is key to making it. That along with good contracts.
If you are on monthly retainer/recurring invoicing please be sure your contracts read that you need 30 days’ notice before a client can leave. This will help give you a little security as well. All monthly recurring clients should not be given the standard two-week notice, that can be reserved for hourly clients.
#7 Risk – Communicating with Clients
The reason I put Communicating with clients is that this can be, at times, tumultuous. Keeping your clients updated and in touch can be difficult. I often tell my own clients that they have to teach their clients what is expected in communication with them.
They want to know you are working on their items but don’t always have time to stop and answer you. It can be frustrating at best. This is why good Client Support is invaluable.
This is another thing that can add to your security as a freelancer. How do you treat your clients? Do you treat them as if they are the only client? It is important that clients know you value them and their time.
We always talk about our own values with clients but it is essential to remember to value your clients as well.
Taking risks is part of owning a business, however, you can minimize them. By considering each one and the cost versus the payoff.
I take risks weekly with my business. Some are more costly than others, however, most of them are worth it. And those that didn’t pay off in revenue still paid off in my learning something from it.
Take care and keep dreaming big!
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