Posts

4 (or 15) Ways to Unfuck Your Business

Are you wallowing in your business? Is it swallowing you whole? Is the to-do list and the shit-I-should-have-done-but-haven’t list growing longer by the day?

Are you finding that you’re spending more time dealing with shit than doing shit?

It’s top of June and the ass end of Q2, which means it’s a fine time to get that business of yours unfucked. As I’ve spent the past five months working part-time and am now at the point of re-entry into being in my business full-time again, I know just how you feel. My inbox has been neglected, I have clients I’m excited to move from where they are to “hell yeah,” and the bottom line is:

I need room to move.

Let’s uncrowd your business and get you that room. And as you know I loathe the listicle, this is more than a list. It’s a how-to on unfucking what fucks you.

Your Inbox is an Asshole

There’s no reason for something to dwindle in your inbox. When you look at your phone or you desktop inbox and you see a metric shit ton of unread messages and flags, that’s a YOU problem. Every lingering message, flag, and unread message is a problem that’s keeping you from doing the kind of business you’re capable of doing.

How to unfuck this:

  • 10 minutes every morning: It’s as simple as taking 10 minutes a day to deal with your inbox. First thing in the morning, before you start clicking the “reply” button or end of day before you close the laptop, go on a filing and delete spree. As a 42-year-old woman, there is little in life that excites me more than deleting emails and clearing out my inboxes (plural). You just might find that by doing this 10 minutes a day, you’re deleting and filing as you go. As a result, that 10 minutes turns into five and all of a sudden — whammo. Your inbox is under control in seconds instead of hours.
  • Hire a VA for a project: My using remote login tools like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC, you can have a virtual assistant file that Inbox 10,000 for you. While you’re sleeping or out to dinner, they can simply log into your computer and start sorting and filing away. You’ll return to a tidy inbox. Pro tip: Set up an agreed upon filing system before you unleash your VA, such as my sender last name, company name, or sending website.
  • Set up a subscription-only email address: Stop sending all those blogs to your inbox. Whatever your domain is, create a “subscriptions@XXXXXX.com” email address and use this to get all those blogs and daily news.
  • Unroll yourself: if you use Outlook.com (including Hotmail, MSN, & Windows Live), Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail, or iCloud to get your work email, you should check out Unroll.me. It combines all of your subscription-based emails into a simple daily digest that you get once a day. It’s free. It has singlehandedly made the biggest improvement in my Gmail experience, even beyond using Inbox (which I hate).

You’re Not Treating Yourself Like a Client

No matter now many times I write about this, it’s news to someone. If you say that you don’t have time to blog (GUILTY!), your pipeline is down to a trickle, or you just can’t get shit done, it’s all because you’re not treating yourself like a client. Every day, the first hour of my day is spent ON my business and not IN it. This has been hard for the past 5 months when I’ve been time crunched, but that’s when I should have been doing it most.

You are your first client every day. If you don’t spend time on you, who’s going to? This is the time to talk about the redesign or updating of your website. The graphics you need created. The eBook you need formatted. The drip campaign you want to create. The call with your personal ass kicker. This is NOT when you pick up your dry cleaning, troll Facebook, catch up on Twitter, or any of that shit. It’s about doing work that will build your business. Here are some ideas for how to spend that hour before you ever hop on a client call or hit a “reply” button to a client email. YOU are client #1.

How to unfuck this:

  • Map out blog posts you want to write: Make a list of topics that are burning for you today. Stuff thate xcites you, not shit you feel obligated to write about. Keep it in a place where you can look at it daily. It’s your treasure chest for blogging.
  • Write a blog post: If it takes you more than 30 minutes to write a blog, I can’t help you. Have a VA create a rough draft for you, do the research, and then send you the draft for editing, you-i-fying, and making your own. Get it up. Use Canva to create a custom post image without having to use lame stock imagery.
  • Make a plan: What do you need to get done in your business to keep the mortgage paid, the kids in school clothes, the dogs fed, and you out of the crazy house? Make a list, for all that’s holy. Every morning, cross at least ONE THING off that list. And here’s a tip: make all of the things on your list bite-sized. “Create autoresponder campaign” is too big. “Write one autoreponder email” is bit-sized, my dear. Snack, snack, snack and you’ll fill up your business.

You Have a Team Problem

Maybe your bookkeeper and CPA missed something and cost you a ton of money (cough – not that I would know anything about this). Your “assistant” isn’t assisting. Your writers aren’t writing anything compelling. And maybe your clients aren’t participating, redefining daily the term “out of scope.”

That’s a team problem. If you’re spending more time dealing with your team than doing the things that make you happy and earn you money, you need a better team. Your team is supposed to make business a pleasure, not take the pleasure out of your business.

How to unfuck this:

  • Ask for referrals: Reach out to your colleagues and ask who they use for what. See what names come up.
  • Interview: Whatever your state of distress, you are never so desperate to trust someone with your business without vetting. Schedule a 20-minute call at the bare minimum. Do a test project — small, manageable — and see how the candidate performs. See what their email skills are like when NOT in “applying to get a new client” mode.
  • Be honest: When my business money got fucked by the two people I trusted most to keep me unfucked, I was on the floor of my condo crying on October 13 of last year. I was gun shy about hiring someone to unfuck this unholy mess. I took my time. The person I finally decided to hire took his time. Explained things to me in English. Didn’t make promises and aid how things were and what I could expect. I was 100% honest with him. In return, I got someone who was 100% honest with me and frankly, it’s about damn time.
  • Need financial help? Bench.co offers online bookkeeping for a scant $100-ish a month.
  • Fire clients: Srsly. Here’s the litmus test: when you cringe to see someone’s email in your inbox, that’s the firing time. Life’s too short and business is too damn hard to work with clients you don’t love. Your shitty clients are your fault, Jimbobarino. No one elses’s.

You’re Stuck Battling a SHOULD

Shoulds are assholes. They look like this:

  • So-and-so has a product. I should have a product, too.
  • So-and-so has a podcast. I should have a podcast, too.
  • So-and-so has a webinar. I should have a webinar, too.
  • So-and-so just redesigned his/her website. I should redesign mine, too.

Catch my drift?

Quit trying to do what everyone else is doing. Instead, do YOU. Me? I’ve tried to build a product multiple times. I’ve never finished. I have yet to find THE product that would make me proud and not feel like a smarmy doucheweasel for putting it on sale.

DO YOU. Do what sets you on fire. You know your brand and audience better than anyone ever will. If you need help sorting that out, talk to me. I can help (and for less than it’ll cost you to waste time on something you hate, won’t use, or won’t fucking work). For me, I’M my product. For you, you might have that eBook inside you yearning to bust out and be read. Stop playing a game of keeping up and try leading instead.

How to unfuck this:

  • Ask yourself what you hate doing right now. Make the list. Write down what’s HARD in your business that you just can’t seem to finish.
  • Look at the list. Grab coffee and really look at that beast of a list in front of you.
  • Make a choice. There are only 2 choices to be made about anything on this list — Fuck It or Fucking Do It.
    • Fuck It: You have no interest in doing it or paying someone to do it for you. It won’t serve your brand and sure, maybe it’ll make you a bit of money, but it’ll eat your soul in the process of getting it done.
    • Fucking Do It: Put this task into bite-sized nuggets and deal with it during your hour every morning or hire someone to do it for you. Get it done already. And when you do it, it damn well better be YOU and not a rip off of someone else’s THEM.

or, for the SFW folks:

Hard Truths, Day 22: Sometimes People Just Want to Vent

This post is a part of a crazy series I’m doing called 41 Years in 30 Days to celebrate my 42nd birthday. Which was December 10. If you’re on the tarmac and experiencing flight delays, you can read the whole series here.

I have an uncanny knack for selecting residences where Godzilla lives above me.

When I lived in Boulder, Godzilla would awaken at 2 or 3AM and proceed to crush tiny villages on the floor of her room. A room that was (naturally) directly above mine. Godzilla also owned a yappy little wiener dog that would crush tiny villages on the balcony during my client calls. And by crushing, I mean yapping from the start of the call to the end, and ceasing a coincidental moments once I hung up the line.

Here in Chicago, I bought a lovely condo in a building from 1924. Gut rehabbed, beautiful floor plan with tons of usable space. Hardwood floors, exposed brick and duct work. And absolutely no insulation. Put all that together with a new Godzilla who goes to sleep at midnight and then wakes at an ungodly 4:30AM, her every move wakes me and I’ve tried everything. Blown-in insulation, a white noise machine, changing bedrooms, talking to her, reporting her to the board…everything. Godzilla persists.

And sometimes when I’m sleep deprived and frustrated, I want to vent. So being a digital child, I post a Facebook update (and only to “friends”) about how I switched bedrooms and traded Gozdilla for the 6:30am crying of my downstairs neighbor’s son and that neighbors dogs barking. Can’t win. SIGH.

Then the Expert Opinions roll in.

You should turn a fan on.

Try earplugs!

You know, if you live in a newer building, the construction is usually shoddy and that’s just the way it is.

That’s why today’s hard truth is about Expert Opinions and why they might be better kept to your damn self.

I’m a “fixer” by nature. People ask for my help, they pay me for my expertise, and my job is to leave them better off than when they came to me. One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is that just because someone tells me that she has a problem, it’s not necessarily my job to fix it.

Nope.

And it’s hard. It’s hard because in a world filled with incomprehensible violence and racism with police officers being murdered in cold blood in “retaliation” for injustices they weren’t party to and an economic divide greater than our nation’s history has ever seen, the life challenges of our friends and colleagues seem small.

Manageable.

Hard Truths 22

And those things — those gnat’s ass, seemingly major but insignificant in the grand scheme of things THINGS — we can fix those.

WE MUST FIX ALL OF THE THINGS.

It’s easy to suggest that I get a white noise machine (even though I said I already had one in my status update).

HOLY SHIT I’D NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE — KILLING NOISE WITH NOISE.

It’s easy to throw “you should get a house” out there. Sure. If you forget that I live in Chicago and a house in the city proper with no shared walls will run me an entry price point of $600,000.

HOLY SHIT I’D NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE — LIVING IN A PLACE WITH NO SHARED WALLS OR CEILINGS.

It’s easy to tell me to move.

HOLY SHIT I’D NEVER THOUGHT OF SELLING MY CONDO AND MOVING TO ANOTHER ONE.

Holy. Fucking. Shit. I am booking my appointment with the optometrist now because I AM BLINDED BY YOUR BRILLIANCE.

The real fact of the matter is I DIDN’T ASK.

I didn’t ask for your opinion. I didn’t ask for you to solve my problem. In fact, I didn’t ask for anything.

I just typed something, pressed “post,” and you came crawling out of the motherfucking woodwork with your expert, pithy ideas and set about the business of fixing me when I certainly didn’t asked to be fixed.

Sometimes, people just want to vent. Be heard. Feel like they’re not in something alone and they’re not suffering in a vacuum.

And others, we’re not even venting. We’re just sharing. Or maybe we’re asking a question and then people want to ignore the question you asked and have their own fucking conversation right in the middle of your conversation.

Like the time I posted about my upcoming vacation — my first in six years (yes, I have a problem with downtime). I mentioned I’d be near Cancun and did anyone have any ideas of historical must-see destinations in the area?

And people started shitting on Cancun and how they had a shitty time in Cancun and would never go back and how people act like typical drunk Americans and how I shouldn’t be going to Cancun at all.

You. Assholes.

*hands you my morning bowl of Cheerios so you can shit in them*

I didn’t ask. Goddammit, I didn’t ask what you thought of Cancun bot nooooooooo — you just whipped out your fuckwittian behavior and decided to make this all about YOU and your agenda and the conversation you want to have and IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR SHITTY TRIP TO CANCUN. It’s about my vacation. That vacation that my assistant has been trying to get me to take for six months, emailing me hints about gorgeous destinations all over the world. That vacation that will be my last break for five months because in addition to running a business I love,  I’m in school 3 hours a day, five days a week come January 12. That vacation where I will unplug from THIS and plug into ME (hey you — you look nice today).

First, I’m not even going to be in CANCUN.

Secondly, I didn’t ask whether or not you cared for Cancun. I asked about sites of historical import in the area and recommendations.

Finally, IT’S NOT YOUR GODDAMNED VACATION!!!!!!11!!!!1!!!1!!!!11111!!!!

And it’s happened to you.

You’ve shared a thought or feeling, just to get it on the outside because inside is where it turns into something that eats you alive or will make you burst if you don’t set it free.

And whether online or in person, someone’s come along and tried to “fix” you or insert themselves and their BLINDING WISDOM into the conversation.

And it’s such a dick move. Here’s why:

Everyone you know (including you) is a grown ass adult and is perfectly capable of fixing his or herself.

You and your Expert Opinion and brilliant insights? Not required.

So, here’s a handy way to figure out whether you should offer your Expert Opinion and this is applicable in nearly every possible scenario except when someone is passed out drunk or otherwise not in control of their capacity to make a grown-ass adult decision.

how to give advice flowchart

It’s really that simple.

And it’s a lesson I wish I’d learned many years ago and one I still struggle with, as we want the best for the people in our lives.

I believe we truly do.

But the sooner we remember that everyone is a grown-ass adult and capable of making decisions (even though they might not be the ones we’d make), our communications will be much better off.

And it’s hard. But sometimes people just want to vent — joy or pain or frustration or the dog peed on the brand new area rug again (Penelope, I’m looking at you — we’re on Rug Three in 14 months.).

Not everything shared requires our ever-so-pithy opinions. And everyone here is a fucking adult.

Start treating them as such. And sometimes, that means shutting the fuck up.

Myself included.

6 Excuses That Are Ruining Your Business (and how to fix ’em)

6 excuses ruining your businessA question for you: When you look back at your business on December 31 of this year, would you rather see a track record of kickass or a track record of getting your ass kicked? Even if you’re a career UFC fighter, I’m betting the answer is “a record of ass kicking”.

There is one thing and one thing only that will put you on the track of ass kicking and keep your ass safe and sound.

Eliminating excuses. They’re the only thing in the world that keeps you from getting shit done.

Excuses are nasty little fuckers. They weasel their way into our lives and businesses and before we know it, they’re on the payroll and eating all of the Pizza Rolls out of the breakroom fridge. They finish the last cup of coffee from the pot (and never can seem to start another one brewing). They leave the naked roll of cardboard hanging on the toilet paper dispenser (even when a fresh roll is within arm’s distance). They’ll steal your customers, your girlfriend, and anything you hold precious.

And it’s all because you keep telling them that they have the most power.

They have the ability to run your business (even though you don’t like how it’s being run).

Today, we’re calling bullshit on these fridge-raiding fuckers and taking back the power that belongs to you and only you when it comes to your business and life. Cue unpopular thoughts and blunt advice.

Excuse #1: I don’t have time.

Frankly, you’re not that busy and you’re not that important. Neither am I. No one is that busy or important. We make time for the things that matter. If your business doesn’t matter, great. Quit. If your family doesn’t matter, wow. (Just…wow) Maybe you can go find a new one. I’ll say it again: we make the time for things that matter and when you say you don’t have time, you’re saying something or someone doesn’t matter.

Fix it. Odds are, that stuff matters and you just hate doing it. Find someone to do it so you don’t have to do it. And if it isn’t worth paying someone to do (note: “it” does not refer to one’s spouse), then it’s time to send it down the sayonara trail. Tell the people who are most important to you that they matter — and then show them. Often.

Excuse #2: I can’t work on my business because I’m too busy with my clients/customers!

Bullshit. That’s because you don’t view yourself as your own customer. Which you are. Having recently dug out from under the Cobbler’s Children syndrome, I know that I was my only excuse.

Fix it. Make yourself your first client every day. Maybe your last client. Regardless, there should be time in your business schedule every day dedicated to working on your business. We owe it to our customers and clients to keep our shit together. It’s the only way we can best serve them and thank them at the highest level for allowing us to do what we love each day.

Excuse #3: It’s too expensive!

Did I already say “bullshit”? In case you missed it, bullshit. If you’re using money as an excuse to get things done, you’re not being creative and thinking about the value of the expenditure as the leading principle.

Fix it. Over the past several years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many talented individuals. Most of them, I didn’t pay up front. Installment payments are of an incredible value and allow you to get work done by talented people — at the rate they deserve to be paid combined with the time in which it’s comfortable for you to pay it. ASK. And if installment payments aren’t a reality, make your own installment plan. Move money into a savings account whenever possible until you have enough saved to get it done. The most important thing for your brand and company is to know you’re plugging into the best value for your business. The best value doesn’t always come with a high price tag. And if you need money now, check out resources like Lending Club or Kabbage — money (now) for businesses. We won’t always have the money to get everything done and right now — but using money as an excuse is weaksauce. Make more, find more, budget better, skip the $5 coffees. Make it work.

Excuse #4: I don’t know where to start.

Really? I get it that the blue dot of wonder on Google Maps doesn’t always appear when we need pointing in the right direction. But to use not knowing where to start as an excuse to keep from doing something (anything) is the lamest sauce of all.

Fix it. Your industry, whatever it might be, is filled with talented people who have fucked up long before you ever dreamt of fucking up. Learn from their fuck ups. Visit blogs, explore online courses, and if you’re truly dedicated to starting something, here are two fantastic ideas: (1) do something — ANYTHING. It’s amazing how liberation true motion can be. (2) Ask for help. Hire someone for an hour of their time. I do at least 4 meetings each week like this to help people get UNstuck. When I ask them how they feel at the end of the call or meeting, here’s what they say: relieved, empowered, jazzed, motivated, excited about finally having direction and resources, grateful, like they have permission, energized by learning about resources they never knew existed. If you want to feel like that, see what an hour of someone’s time can do for you.

Excuse #5: It’s not good enough.

Neither were Edison’s first 1600 attempts at creating a filament for the light bulb. If you don’t try something that might not be good enough, you’ll never get the data you need to create inarguable fucking awesome.

Fix it. Got an idea? Try it. See what sticks. The worst that can happen is that it blows up and you end up in traction in the hospital where some hot doctor starts hitting on your fiancée in front of you, knowing full well you can’t do anything because you’re in traction. And since we don’t live in an episode of Days of Our Lives, that shit isn’t going to happen. When you try, one of two things will happen: a glorious success or a failure that gives you data to launch the next version of the idea. And yes, some data tells us to scrap things altogether. But you’ll never know if that “not good enough” idea is good for anything unless you sack up and try some shit.

Excuse #6: I’m not good enough.

With words like that, of course you’re not. I don’t know what makes you think you’re not good enough but here is what I do know:

Michael Phelps didn’t win a gold medal his first time in the pool.

Babe Ruth didn’t hit a homer his first time at bat.

The first version of my TEDxBoulder talk was sheer crap.

Richard Branson has launched companies that have failed.

And I’m nowhere in the league of any of those people I’ve sandwiched myself between. But I am good enough — every day — to take a step towards to be better

Fix it. And here’s the rough one — I can’t fix how you perceive yourself. Only you can do that. But maybe it’s time to break up with some friends and surround yourself with some frontstabbers — people whom you can believe when they say hell yes or hell no. People who want you to be that next better version of themselves and are relying on you to do the same for them. The people we find surrounding us are often toxic — and we’re the only ones giving them permission to stay. Like those excuses.

Get Paid Faster (and What to Do When Clients Won’t Pay)

how to get paid cash flow problemsIt’s the damnedest thing — you do the work, the client loves it.

30…60…70…86…124 days later, there’s still no check in your mailbox.

The other damnedest thing is that the client was probably all up in your grill when they needed something done. And now that you’re looking for the cash, they’ve gone down-periscope.

I’ve always found it amazing how difficult it is to communicate with people to whom we owe money.

Just this morning, I emailed two contractors with the following information:

1) I’m out of town

2) I arrive back home on Monday

3) I’d be sending them a payment on Monday

4) I’d have an ETA on full invoice payment on that date as well.

It took me 2 minutes to be 100% honest so they can plan their finances.

So how do you handle a client that won’t pay? I’m sure there are plenty of you with tips to share on the subject — and I look forward to hearing them. But I’ll start with things we can all do for our businesses that can help alleviate the Kobiyashi Maru of business: the No-Pay Scenario.

Get an Ironclad Contract in Place

Before you commence a project, state your payment terms loud and clear. I have a simple two-page Scope of Work that’s been reviewed by my attorney. It’s ironclad, will hold up in court, and states:

  • How I get paid
  • When I get paid
  • What I get paid
  • What happens if my invoices are paid late
  • How we settle disagreements if we disagree about something

In fact, I cover all of that in a paragraph. Here’s what it looks like:

To commence work, a 50% deposit is required. RHW Media, Inc. accepts checks and online payments via eCheck and all major credit cards. Regrettably, work cannot commence until commencement funds are on deposit. RHW Media, Inc. does not engage in trade unless you have an awesome Ferrari in showroom condition with pink slip and keys. Balance on all projects is due Net 10 from invoice date upon project completion and will otherwise accrue a 10% late fee beginning on the 11th day following the invoice date. All work contracted during the project period that is above and beyond this scope of work will be billed at project completion (I call this “when we’re done”). All additional work must be agreed to, in writing, by both client and RHW Media, Inc.

I didn’t used to have late fees, but you can bet your sweet ass I do now. Why? Because I am more than happy to wait for you to pay me whenever you feel like it. Just like my credit card companies, my landlord, my car finance company…and they charge me for taking my own sweet time to pay up.

On occasion, clients have an Independent Contractor agreement that is part of their standard practice. In those cases, I simply add an addendum to my Scope of Work, saying we’ll be abiding by the agreed upon terms in that agreement. My late fees, however, still apply.

Want to make sure clients can’t come back later and say they had a problem with your work? Work in an Acceptance Clause. Mine looks like this:

Acceptance: From draft submission, client has 5 days to review and respond with feedback. We believe in keeping your project moving! If we don’t receive acceptance/requests for revisions in 5 days (weekends are not “days” – those are days we ride bikes), we’ll assume you feel the work is Pulitzer-worthy and in no need of additional revision.

And get it all in writing. I’m personally not a fan of snail mail for contracts, so I use an online document signature service called EchoSign. It’s free for up to 5 documents per month (you can get another 5 for free if you agree to let it post a Tweet for you when you get a document signed…oy). It sends you a PDF when everything is signed. File this away, mkay?

Now, you’re welcome to steal my Scope of Work verbiage. If you do, get it reviewed by an attorney. You want to make sure both your ass AND your clients’ collective asses are all covered. Money’s a bitch — but only if you allow it to be.

Project’s Done — Get Paid!

Are you lazy about invoicing? Quit that shit. I talk to more talented business owners about cash flow problems than anything. Mine’s getting better every month, but invoicing is something I’ve never had a problem with. Here are a few steps that can help you get paid faster:

  • Make it a reflex: Invoice the day you deliver a project.
  • Retain Rights: If you do creative work (web dev, writing, design, etc.), consider an additional clause in your Scope of Work like I have (following). This makes sure that people can’t pay you a deposit to get started and then legally use what you create without ponying-up the final dolla-dolla:
    • “Right to all materials created under this Scope of Work will be released to the client upon receipt of final payment for services rendered. Until that time, all rights are reserved by RHW Media, Inc.”
  • Get a reliable invoicing system. It’s not Paypal, I assure you. I’ve talked about multiple invoicing systems that all have auto-generated reminder capabilities.
  • Accept online payments. Seriously — if you want to make it easy for clients to give you excuses like “check’s in the mail”, skip online payments. But when you make it easy for people to pay you, you might find that they run out of excuses. You can write the transaction fees off on your taxes at the end of the year.

Still Not Getting Paid…FML (How to Fix It)

It sucks. You can’t drive off a car lot without signing a metric ass ton of paperwork saying you’ll pay. You can’t show up at the doctor’s office and expect to be seen without handing over your co-pay.

And now a client thinks it’s OK to go down-periscope on you when you’ve delivered everything contracted — to the client’s great delight, on their timeline, and with a smile.

First, stop with the emails when you’re trying to collect funds. Pick up the everloving phone.

Don’t have a phone number? Find one.

If it’s been this difficult to get paid, you’re probably not interested in going through this again and the client is off your “favorite” lists. Let’s get paid.

  1. Leave a voicemail for your contact, stating that you’re following up on why payment hasn’t been made on your invoice. You’re sure it’s an oversight, but the invoice is now X days past due. Would they kindly return your call within 48 hours with an update and expected timeline?
  2. No response? Not uncommon. Find their supervisor. Just call the company’s main line and ask to be put in touch with John/Jane Doe’s supervisor. Got voicemail? Let them know who you are, the date work was completed, and that you’re having a dickens of a time getting paid. Would he/she call you back within 48 hours?
  3. No response? Not uncommon. Call that receptionist back and ask to be put through to Accounts Payable. At this point, offer to send them a copy of your signed contract and that you’re about to pursue collection measures due to nonpayment. You’d LOVE their assistance in getting this worked out!

Now, when you’re dealing with a smaller company without these ladders to climb, it’s harder. The whole company can be one person and they can hit “ignore” every time you call.

When all else fails, be prepared to write-off the invoice as a bad debt at the end of the year. Keep track of all of your collection efforts (as the IRS might want to see them) and call it a day. You could also pursue hiring a collection service for larger invoices. They will screw up your client’s credit and go after them with guns blazing. Should they recover the funds due, you’re looking at fees ranging from 10-15% of the invoice total. If some of everything is better than all of nothing, this might be a viable solution.

So…on that “Getting Paid” thing

The best defense isn’t a good offense. It’s being a smart business person. Have a contract that clearly spells out terms. Get a grip on your finances and don’t be a lazy invoicer. Also, bill retainers in advance instead of in arrears (always smart). If problems arise getting paid, run it up the ladder. You know your contract is ironclad and if they’re not paying, be firm and request a response. Run it up the ladder if you need to. In the end, be prepared to write it off if all else fails. Move on — and think about this:

Why did you decide to do business with this company in the first place? Were there any warning signs that you might have problems later on down the line?

Chances are, the answer is yes. So stop doing business with those people and start doing business with people who understand that cash = work. My world is filled with wonderful clients that pay me on-time and cause me zero stress in the payola department. I can only hope I cause them zero stress in the product and quality departments in return. We can ALL think of ways to do better in business — but getting paid, and in a timely fashion, is usually a byproduct of committing to doing better business (and with better people) on every level.

Now — have ideas for the others here on how to get paid (or what to do when you can’t get paid)? Pony up and share!

The Costly Business of Being a Cheapskate

cheap businessIt’s one thing to order a replacement power supply or iPhone charger off Amazon or eBay and be stuck the $9 to $60 when it turns out to be an immortal piece of crap.

It’s another to activate your cheapskate mode and make your business suffer because of it.

And we’ve all done it — fallen prey to the ever-so-shiny allure of OMFGIT’SSOCHEAP. Sometimes, we get a screaming deal.

Others, we’re straight-up screwed.

That screaming deal of a $499 website turns out to be something we wouldn’t fess-up to having spent $49 on.

We can’t bring ourselves to admit that hiring the receptionist’s 19-year-old niece to handle the company’s social media accounts probably wasn’t such a great idea (at least it was a $15-per-hour mistake, right?).

That content you outsourced to India for $7 per 300-word article reads like a script you hear when you call Capital One’s or United Airlines’ customer service center. Its as devoid of feeling as your ex-spouse (before she slept with the pool boy).

When we screw up and make business decisions on the cheap instead of guided by value, odds are, we’re going to be stuck dealing with those same problems again. The only difference is that now, they’re even bigger AND more expensive problems, because we’ve already paid to solve them once.

So, in this month’s column in Entrepreneur Magazine, I asked the hard question: how do we rescue our businesses from the pitfalls of cheap?

There are 3 simple tips to help you stay on track. But the best part? You’re going to meet a cool (very cool) company that shares some tips on where it’s OK to cut corners. I’ll give you a hint: it starts with beer.

Click here to read Why Stretching the Budget Is Worth It over at Entrepreneur Magazine and meet Frozen Pints — they make craft beer ice cream. And yes, I taste tested it. I had a moral responsibility to you, my readers.

The Bitch Slap: Be Your First Client Every Day

be your first client every dayEver wake up and realize that you haven’t:

Posted a blog in a week
Started that website redesign your aching website yearns for
Contacted that person who can help get you UNstuck
Dealt with the everloving clusterfuck that is your bookkeeping

Yeah. Me too.

Above every other piece of advice I’ve been given in my business career, the practice of making myself my first client every day has topped all other morsels of knowledge.

It’s hard — we get sidetracked.

It requires commitment — and even the most important of commitments get deprioritized sometimes.

Whatever your reasons for not taking care of your business shit, they’re bullshit. If you have time to work for other paying clients, you have time to pay yourself first and work on your business.

How I Do It (most of the time)

I use my calendar. I block time out for specific tasks and have three separate calendars:

  • Erika (red)
  • Speaking Events (blue)
  • Buy Me Coffee Sessions (green)
  • Client Projects (yellow)

The first activity every morning is ALWAYS red.

The last activity of the work day is ALWAYS red.

How I Keep from Cheating on My Calendar

I look at weeks like this week and think, “Wow — that sucked.” The only thing that should suck in my business is the vacuum cleaner on the area rug.

On Friday, I set my calendar for the following week and ensure that I have My Business Shit on the calendar.

What Helps

There’s shit I hate doing. Hates it, preciouuuuuuuus. There’s also shit that’s not financially worth the time cost for me to do. Thus, I have a Virtual Assistant. I have a bookkeeper. I have a CPA.

Whatever I pay these folks, it’s fucking worth it. I’ll be publishing a list of Virtual Assistant resources very soon for you to review so if this is a potential solution for you and your shit that needs to get done, you can start on it and quit with the excuses.

So…Who’s Your First Client on Monday?

It’d best be YOU. Because it’s the only thing you can start doing today that will grow and improve your business by metric ass tons.

Don’t believe me?

On February 5, I launched my rebranding and new site. I also launched my Buy Me Coffee offering.

In 24 days, I booked and completed 17 (SEVENTEEN) Buy Me Coffee sessions. I’ve booked 3 paid speaking engagements. I’m interviewing 2 new full-time clients.

Completed WIN for my business? $25,593

Potential additional WIN for my business? Around $14,000/month for the next 12 months.

And none of that would have happened if I’d told my business to take a back seat to everyone else’s.

Today, all I’m wondering is why I didn’t take my own advice sooner.

You — and I — have both been slapped.