Have you ever gotten to the end of the day and, for the life of you, can’t figure out what in the world you did all day? Sometimes our days get gobbled up by a hundred little urgent tasks leaving the bigger, more important ones—the ones you really wanted to tackle—to wait for another day.
I suppose there’s no way to completely avoid those days. But what do you do when most of your days suffer under the tyranny of the urgent? What do you do when you find yourself under constant pressure, responding to urgent time demands—rather than accomplishing more important goals? You need to liberate yourself from the tyranny of the urgent.
Better Time Management
There are many resources that can help you gain better time management skills. By all means, avail yourself of whatever help they can provide. But improving time management can become mere symptom treatment when what you really want to do is cure the disease. If you want to be free, if you want to be giving shape to your days, directing your own productivity, rather than being led by them, then you’re going to have to gain control over your business.
The first step toward gaining this life-freeing control is to master your marketing.
What Marketing Is Really All About
As I devote significant time to my marketing, I don’t think of these efforts as being merely about finding new clients. That may be the first and most obvious result of marketing, but really, I count my marketing investments not so much in terms of client acquisition, as much as in control acquisition. Let’s connect the dots between marketing and control.
Let’s start by considering the alternative—the impacts on your time when you don’t have great marketing and therefore lack control.
Bad Clients Are the Biggest Time Drains
When you don’t control your marketing, you cannot control and shape your client base. Instead, you end up taking on clients through the more typical channel of referrals. The quality of those referrals runs the gamut: you can find great clients, but you also may end up with some nightmares. Of course you can say “no” to bad prospects, assuming you’re able to sniff them out in your sales process. But if you are not in control of your marketing, you probably suffer from frequent feast or famine cycles. That set of circumstances trains you to take all the work you can while the gettin’s good. Which means you’re more likely to accept bad clients. You know the kind, the ones that scoff at your rates and fees, that “can do it themselves if they had the time,” that want the work done ASAP, but then disappear whenever you need their input—and complain when the schedule slips.
If you investigate the hundreds of causes that eat up your time, how many of these little “urgent tyrants” can be connected back to demanding, disrespectful, and dismissive clients?
Other Factors That Pressure Your Time
But maybe you do have really nice clients and you’ve avoided the bad apples. There are other reasons why your time may constantly get gobbled up. It all comes down to profits. Often we accept clients that are great people, they just don’t have huge budgets. And because they are good people, we take them on—counting it as doing them a favor. Which is fine if you really do have the wherewithal to give your time away. But if you’ve been building your business on these kinds of clients, then you’ve probably collected a lot of them. Since they all have low budgets you have to “make it up in volume.” The negative time impacts of managing all these nice clients is obvious.
If all these clients were paying you reasonably, you could compensate for their corresponding time demands by hiring an account manager. But low-budget clients will never provide you with profit margins sufficient to add that kind of overhead to your practice.
A Better Alternative Reality
Now, imagine that you could wave your magic wand and poof away all your bad clients and transform all your good clients into your best-paying clients. Instead of responding to many clients, some of which really take advantage, you have fewer clients, who respect your time and pay well for your services. Imagine that your client base is strong enough to not only pay you well, but well enough that you could easily add an account manager. Do you suppose such a magical transformation would free you up for those important projects you want to accomplish, or to do your very best work for every client? Of course, it would!
It’s Not Magic. It’s Marketing.
Magic can’t accomplish this transformation, but marketing can. Good marketing will attract the best clients—clients that want to work with you because of your particular expertise, and who are willing to pay a premium for it. Effective marketing keeps your pipeline full, enabling you to select just the best of many qualified clients. This is the freedom and control that marketing delivers.
I’m always sympathetic to my clients, when we’re on the front end of getting their marketing fixed and functioning, because there are no magical shortcuts for gaining control. In the short run, their hectic days will continue, and a few more tasks will be heaped onto the pile. Things get a little worse before they start to get better. Our 12-month program helps a lot by doing much of the heavy lifting for them, but there are still some tasks they have to perform on the way to gaining control. This is the only path to freedom. Freedom never comes cheap, but it’s always worth the price.