How to Grow Your Service-Based Business Without Working More Hours
I admit it. I’ve always been kind of a rebel.
If someone told me how I was supposed to run my business, and it didn’t sit right with me, I would ignore conventional advice and do whatever the hell I wanted.
This has usually worked out for me. In fact, I didn’t realize it the time, but I was ahead of my time.
I’m the antithesis of “get more patients into your practice” or “book more clients” mentality and the quantity over quality mindset that has run the show for years.
There’s nothing wrong with doing 1:1 work with clients or patients. In fact, it’s a necessary part of gaining experience and a rewarding way to interact with the human beings we work with.
However, I’m going to make a wild guess: The majority of us (especially us rebels) are really quite over the idea the only way to make money is to sacrifice one of the most rare and precious resources we have: Our time.
You can think about it in terms of how short life is. Or how much time we can actually devote to “filling the calendar.”
First, the law of physics gets in the way. Time is finite.
Second, let’s get realistic. Selling one hour of billable time means giving away a LOT more unbillable time. Including the time we spent in school (and the debt we need to repay) continuing education, research, onboarding, answering questions, and the jazillions of admin tasks.
Plus, we need to take care of the mundane stuff. Which consumes a pretty large portion of our daily allotment of TIME. This puts an upper limit on our earning potential.
But until a few years ago, the wellness and service-based industry was pretty dang slow about a solution for this very real problem. In fact, I think that many practitioners (still) only make the problem worse.
Before I share the 5 “things” that I think are key for getting out of this trap..
I’m going to make a bold claim:
The dependence on the 1:1 model for service-based entrepreneurs, and in particular wellness entrepreneurs, is outdated.
- It’s not accessible to everyone who wants and needs your services
- It doesn’t meet the needs of all your clients or patients, at any stage they are in (they need more options)
- It’s exhausting and low paying for the entrepreneur. It’s too much work and barely covers the bills, paying off loans, or the costs of running a business
- It is a lousy model for introverts who prefer to work deeply with a select few on a 1:1 and channel their energy into creating other resources, and thereby creating a bigger impact
- The transactional model is being replaced by a results-based transformational model
One might argue that within this model the best way to “scale” is by seeing multiple patients per hour, hiring associates, and renting out rooms.
With the exception of the latter, these are not what scaling or income diversification is all about. Scaling is about creating a business that can function whether you are there or not.
Cramming more bodies into your day or even hiring associates usually means either more work, spreading yourself more thinly, or creating a business that needs constant babysitting. Not to mention that this approach is about quantity, not quality.
I’ve seen service-based entrepreneurs over the past few years beginning to transition away from depending on time slots and the transactional model, and I love it.. I’m cheering them on!
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are abandoning 1:1 work.
Instead, they are choosing 1:1 work only when when they want to, not because they think it’s their only option.
And they charge appropriately for their time, because now their 1:1 services are more in demand, while at the same time, the supply is naturally lower, due to the limited resource of time.
Heart-centered service is not about rejecting technology or new business models
The newer model is NOT about “going online” for the sake of it. The fact that you can run an entirely virtual business or practice based on the outdated 1:1 only model shows that it’s not a question of whether technology is “good” or “bad” but how we choose to use it.
It’s also a myth that creating more innovative, supportive, and more rewarding business models are somehow “impersonal” or “de-humanizing.”
If this is a core belief, then going to a bookstore or buying music or any other intellectual property must also be a part of the “evil” of technology.
Damn those printing presses and recording technology.. Let’s go back to the days when we could only hear a spoken story, wait for the bard to roll into the village, or be part of the upper echelons of society in order to experience the arts.
Not me. Not to mention that I find this irritating because the only way I am able to interact with other friends and entrepreneurs who speak my language is via a screen. I assure you I am no less “real” or less worth talking to than the next person who shows up for a chat over coffee, “IRL.”
While I’m well aware that new changes aren’t always “wonderful and exciting,” I firmly believe that there’s no going back, only forward. In order to thrive as entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to learn about trends, events, evolutions, and even shake-ups and disruptions that may affect us either positively or negatively. (AI is a perfect example)
Then we need to discover how to play our own game. This can only be done when we know the environment we are working in and the tools available to us.
Technology is just the means to an end, which is to solve the fundamental problem that the old paradigm 1:1 only model presents: It’s too much work for too little income, it’s severely limiting, and it only serves a small sliver of the people you can potentially serve.
The new model makes it possible for practitioners to work less and earn more.. AND for clients and patients to gain access to experts at any budget or stage in their care.
To me, this is what it means to own a business in general, let alone a profitable and impactful business that serves far more people than you could possibly fit into the confines of even an 80 hour workweek.
The Martyr/Elitist Model: Sacrificing yourself and others so that you can “serve” humanity (often from a place of privilege)
Nope. This idea sucks. Here’s why:
1. Lowering your prices in order to make your services more accessible isn’t the answer. It serves no one.. Not you, not your clients and patients, and not the industry.
Patient mills are based on high-volume models that don’t really get to the root of the actual problem. Although there are exceptions, generally patients need to keep returning to get another band-aid treatment.
Sadly, many times the “low cost” model is based primarily on transactional care. The result is that it is reduced to a commodity that feels more expensive to the patient or client, while at the same time not being nearly enough for you to earn a living. THAT sucks.
2. The “race to the bottom” mindset also makes it difficult to enter the wellness professions. It’s anti-niche and discourages the concept of focusing and refining an area of expertise. In other words, instead of positioning oneself as the “go-to” person who just “gets it” and attracts ideal clients and loyal fans, one’s services become a commodity by default. The only way to compete is via “competitive pricing.”
All practitioners deserve to earn a decent living, without having to work 80 hour weeks just to make ends meet.
Service-based and wellness professions shouldn’t be accessible only to the elite who can support a hobby business via other sources of income, a spouse, or other assets. Otherwise, who, or what.. is ultimately is footing the bill, and subsidizing it all? Shouldn’t our industry be able to stand on its own?
Service-based businesses need to be treated as real businesses.
A better way: Innovative and sustainable models for service-based entrepreneurs
Many entrepreneurs are getting VERY innovative with their offerings.
They are discovering how to create courses, memberships, programs, bundled packages of services and products, and more, by leveraging their expertise, intellectual property, and YES.. a willingness to take a risk, get out of their comfort zone, and put in some up-front work.
I believe this is a smart way to mitigate the inherent risks of being an entrepreneur. Especially as we get older. We may have less energy, but we DO have experience and wisdom on our side, along with the ability to generate passive income based on the intellectual property we create.
Creating “passive” income is also the hallmark of a real business: A model based on repeatable systems, one that won’t stop functioning if the CEO takes time off.
Freedom means being able to take time off and still get paid. (For starters) Or gear down for retirement. Or pursue other projects.
Why “winging it” and the “random tip of the day” don’t work
None of this happens, or is sustainable, with a one dimensional approach.
Just as you know that all the acupuncture treatments or supplements or coaching sessions in the world won’t help if the patient or client doesn’t have an overall plan, it’s pretty much the same when it comes to building a sustainable and freedom-based business.
It’s not about the latest platform.
It’s not about the latest social media trend.
It’s not about “that one thing” that the successful entrepreneur you admire is doing.
It’s not about asking your friends (who probably are just “winging it” and are just as overwhelmed as you are) what the next step is.
It’s not about another “tip” or even all the stuff you Googled but never managed to piece together into a coherent, easy-to-follow process.
Creating a sustainable and freedom-based business requires more than a one-dimensional, tactic-based approach.
That’s why there are experts who know how it all works together.
Just like your clients come to you with a problem, because of how you solve the problem by a thorough intake, diagnosis, and treatment plan/strategy, the person you work with to help you create a freedom-based business will do the same.
Building a Freedoom-Based Business
I use a framework in my own business and in the work I do with clients. It’s based on the principles of modern marketing, so I can’t take 100% credit for “inventing” it, but it’s also based own philosophy and what has been working
It’s founded on what I’ve learned over the years, keeping up with rapid changes, and working with many different clients.
It’s based on my experiences, including my successes and failures.
The mistakes I’ve made don’t just make me “one of you” nor simply a “relatable and vulnerable human.” (Although this is cool, because I also prefer to work with real humans rather than phony gurus)
It means that I’ve become an expert via taking risks and implementing my ideas, some of which work, and others of which have flopped.
It’s based on my experience as an acupuncturist who didn’t want to have anything to do with the traditional way practices were run (and are still run to this day) which tends to be a bad deal for everyone.
It’s not based on a magical number, (6, 7, 8, figure incomes) or on me waltzing into the scene and instantly making a killing, followed by a humble brag and a promise that you can have it all if you just do exactly what I did.
It doesn’t work that way.
What’s important is not just knowing what all the pieces are, but how they connect.
Regardless of who you work with, it’s also essential to know what ORDER to implement each step in.
Skipping steps is super common, and one of the reasons why many entrepreneurs struggle with overwhelm, frustration, and feeling discouraged.. Sometimes to the point where they want to quit or question their own ability.
I also know that every business owner is different, and that although there are certain steps to take in order to get from point A to point B, there is a LOT of room for customization and working within the parameters of one’s preferences, business goals, lifestyle, and personality type.
For example, I’m not into hanging out on social media for hours, dancing on TikTok, DMing, and time-wasting discovery calls, and tend to attract those who also don’t enjoy spending a lot of time on these tactics.
My infrastructure is now set up so that it can do most of the work for me. This includes my website, evergreen content, RWE membership, 2 signature courses, email marketing, social media channels, funnels, and more. They all interconnect in a holistic way.
This system also leaves plenty of room for growth. Some systems that appear “cheap and easy” are so confining that entrepreneurs outgrow them easily, and as a result, need to start a painful process of starting from scratch. On the other hand, too much growth/spending too soon isn’t a good idea either.
There is a “Sweet Spot” for everyone.
I won’t lie.. Having a system in place alone isn’t going to guarantee any amount of income. (It would be dishonest for me to make any kind of claim) Marketing isn’t a set and forget endeavor. It’s an ongoing process, a long game.
I will say that because I’m isolated in a rural village in a foreign country, I don’t have access to the traditional methods, opportunities, or connections that most do. I don’t have a safety net or a spouse’s income or a regular job. Because of this, I have had no choice but to rely on the systems I’ve set up. This has become a unique superpower, now that I think about it.
5 “Things” that have worked for me (and for my clients)
1. Taking the time to set up an infrastructure that does the heavy lifting for me. Now if I want to offer a webinar or low cost offer, or promote a signature offer, nurture/follow up with a lead, write an email, or even find a file, I can do it quickly.
There is a lot that happens automatically as well, such as pre-qualifying leads on my website/application process, emails that get sent to specific subscribers leading up to a low cost offering, bump offers, lead follow up, surveys, and more.
Read more about how to set up these systems in this article.
2. Getting clear on my niche and idea client, message, and story so that what I communicate.. I mean everything, from emails to landing pages, is relevant, nails what I’m offering and who it’s for. Without this, setting up any kind of system will be a waste of time.
This also helps me attract only my ideal clients, and yes, repel those who are not a good fit. (I can’t help everyone)
3. Developing a workflow and documenting every process. Without this I would be wasting many hours trying to figure out how the heck to set up onboarding for a new client or how to set up a free webinar or be wondering what to write in my emails.
Now all I need to do is go into Asana when I’m tired, click on a link, and open up a detailed checklist with screenshots to follow. I can’t even tell you how much brain power this saves me so that I can better focus on the stuff that is going to move the needle in my business.
4. Making data-driven decisions. Instead of relying purely on my emotions (which could have resulted in quitting several times) I focused on gathering objective data so that I could determine WHY something was either working or wasn’t.
I’m adamant about not relying purely on intuition. I consult with it when I make decisions, but even my intuitive wisdom knows that it’s foolish to make uninformed decisions.
5. Having confidence in what I’ve set up so far, and letting go of comparing myself to what others in my industry (competition) is doing
All this helps with MINDSET. When I’m no longer spending mental energy on the minutiae, over and over again, I’m free to focus on what really matters. This gives me more energy and confidence.
Want to more about the “nuts and bolts” of creating a new business model that doesn’t involve trading more time for dollars (or peanuts?) Read this: Work Less and Earn More in Your Wellness or Coaching Practice
Have I made mistakes? Hell yes! But I’ll save that for another article.
Ready to stop “winging it” and get the real freedom you deserve?
If you find that you are hustling to find clients, are working too many hours, or having to start from scratch each time you come up with a new idea, it may be time to start thinking about how to grow without working so hard.
If you have already begun, but feel overwhelmed, drowning in to-do lists, sick of spending so much time on social media, answering the same questions over and over, doing manual admin tasks, and generally “babysitting” your business.. you are in the growth stage, but you need some help.
That’s why I created my Freedom-Based Strategy Sessions.
2.5 hours together with a pot of coffee or tea.. and we’ll come up with a plan. Learn more and book a session.