Work smarter, not harder: How to scale a service-based business model

scale service-based business

Business Jump founder Natasha Stewart. Source: Supplied.

The online world is a land of opportunity. It’s where dreams come true, and anyone with formal or informal skills, knowledge or expertise, can start a business with a laptop and WiFi. But it can also be furious and demanding, and at times, it can throw you to the wolves. If you don’t learn how to master your time and energy, you’re out.

In 2011, I was fired from my full-time job. I will never know the real reason why, because there were no formal warnings or clues obvious to me — just an uncomfortable vibe around the fact I was a first-time mother and a payout to ‘leave quietly’.

Fast-forward to 2019 and I will forever be grateful for that blindside because it changed my trajectory. I woke up and was no longer willing to be trapped in a 9-5 job or be at the mercy of someone else dictating my salary and worth.

Like most entrepreneurs, I had heard the faint drumming for freedom over time, and now it was so loud I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I decided to honour it and become my own boss instead of finding another one. I leveraged off my existing graphic and web design skills and started a business. It triggered an insatiable hunger to thrive in the online business world and never have to be an employee again.

In just over a year, I was out-earning my old full-time salary, but the wheels were starting to fall off in every other direction.

I was working until 2am every night to complete projects and I couldn’t go away on holidays without losing income. I had reached a ceiling on how much I could earn because I had no more time to take on new clients and I was in a constant feast-or-famine cycle because I had to stop work in progress in order to find new work and vice versa.

There came a turning point when I intuitively felt there had to be a better way, so I started from scratch. But this time, I was determined to set up a business that was going to work for me, instead of me working for it, and that would reward me with the genuine freedom I was still searching for.

Armed with everything I had learnt about working smarter not harder, and all my expertise, I started Business Jump and scaled it to over a million dollars in under two years. Besides that though, my business has lovingly supported me within the currents of life, afforded true freedom and flexibility, and offered me fulfilment through sharing what I have learnt with others.

So, how did I flip this traditional service-based model and genetically engineer it to be the catalyst to afford me more freedom?

It starts with the good old saying ‘work smarter, not harder’, and to be constantly looking for how to create more time, while also concurrently saving time within our daily tasks and activities.

So, here are five strategies to save you time that is better spent elsewhere.

The right business model

Traditionally, in a service-based business model, we are selling our time for money and working one-to-one with clients. We get paid for spending X amount of time per client. The key here is to flip this so you execute a unit of time but scale the revenue from it.

For example, I have a client who has been a hairdresser for 20 years and ran a successful home salon. She was tired of the physical work, so we are templating her expertise into a coaching and membership model, where she will now teach other hairdressers how to start and run a successful home salon, through a sell one-to-many model. The same expertise, content and skills are being packaged, but it’s now able to be sold an infinite amount of times without any extra continuance required to replicate the service.

Another client of mine is a nanny and also regularly places other nannies into families with her connections. She was spending 14 hours per placement, so with some automating and outsourcing, we have reduced her time per placement to just four hours. She now has 10 hours left over per client to reposition herself into the profit-producing areas of her business, while working on the parts of her business she loves most.

I have another client who is a business and marketing coach. Again, traditionally this is a one-to-one model, however, we have moved her into a group coaching and a membership strategy where she coaches many students at once but gets paid in an ascending fashion. She also charges a premium to work one-to-one with her.

Once you have worked out how to absorb yourself out, then you can weave additional elements into your flow.

Times it by 1,000

In a service-based business, it’s so easy to get trapped in a cycle of completing a project, then spending significant time finding, engaging and onboarding a new client, only for it all to replay over and over again.

This is where a smart online marketing strategy can change the game, by leveraging off advertising platforms to compound the clients waiting at your door.

Why spend four hours at a face-to-face networking lunch reaching a few people when you can set up a Google Ad and get in front of thousands of potential clients in the same amount of time? Why send out 500 flyers to a non-defined audience when you can target hundreds and thousands of your ideal customers with Facebook Ads.

The key is to constantly ask yourself, how can I maximise what I’m doing to reach more people for the same amount of time. How can I create a process once and not have to do it again? How can I decrease time spent but still achieve the same result and value?

Build a team around you

Many business owners wait until they feel they have enough revenue to start hiring, however, the opposite is the path to more freedom.

Start hiring as soon as you’ve got a spare $50 every week. If your hourly rate is $100 per hour, why spend it on $10-per-hour tasks when you can pay someone from Upwork to do it for you?

Even if you start by outsourcing one hour of work every week, the flow-on effect will not only reduce your workload but also lighten the mental load.

Building a team is instrumental for scaling a business, and anyone can get started outsourcing with a wealth of freelancing platforms at our fingertips.

Flow with automation

We have so many amazing options and opportunities with technology these days, and I use it to automate and systemise my business, which, in turn, removes bottlenecks and frees my time.

Programs such as Calendly are great for making call scheduling a breeze. Zapier is fantastic for connecting the apps you use every day to make you more productive. Email marketing apps such as Active Campaign are brilliant for delivering information about your service so you don’t have to, nurturing dormant potential clients out of the woodwork and sending onboarding emails to new clients to collect the information you need to start the job. And Woocommerce is amazing for automating payments and subscriptions so you no longer need to chase clients to settle their accounts.

Mindset always comes first

I’ve saved the best for last. They say a successful business comes down to 20% strategy and 80% mindset, and I have experienced this to be so true.

In order to scale a business, we first need to scale our minds, let go of any inner doubts, and choose to look for the opportunity instead of the obstacles.

We must prime ourselves into position mentally, physically and spiritually so we can work within the flow and as efficiently and productively as possible.

Once we lead from this frame of mind our results will compound.

NOW READ: “It terrified me”: Why Tessa Court believes the biggest threat to scale-ups is mediocrity

NOW READ: Why Aussie startups fail to scale and how the local ecosystem can help


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