In episode 4 we are talking about recurring client income.
How do you find those recurring work relationships as a virtual professional?
Let me start by saying, this is the place to learn how to become a Virtual Professional, build a business where you can do your professional work, do the things that you’re really good at that you love, but from home, and do them for people who value it, who value you. This might sound kind of warm and fuzzy, but I like to do work that brings more value into the world. So as a freelancer, as a virtual professional, I can pick and choose which clients I want, that line up with my values, that appreciate what I bring to the table. My client list is a group of people that I just adore and have become friends, colleagues and long-term partners. That’s what I want for you.
Money follows excellence. That’s not to say that you can’t make a ton of money as a virtual professional because you absolutely can. Money will follow excellence. When you do quality work, you will earn higher dollars and earn more dollars. When you want this recurring revenue you need to find out what are the quality services for quality clients, things that you do in a topnotch way and that people want done in a topnotch way and that can be done repetitively so that there’s an ongoing value add. The more you do something, the better you get at it. The more you do something with somebody else, the more comfortable you all get with that process, and the more efficient you are, and guess what? More money comes to you in your business, and more money comes to them in their business. See how that works?
Why do you want recurring work?
- Let’s just state the obvious: less selling cycles, right? If you only had five clients each month with six-month retainers, you’re not constantly selling. You only have to find five clients to last you for six months of work, whereas if you’re constantly selling $200 packages or even a $1,000 packages, to make the same amount of money you’re going to have to sell to a lot of different people. So less selling cycles is just more efficient in your process.
- Recurring work is also better service for your clients as well. If you have a one-time project, you’re going to get in, you’re going to do the work, and you’re going to get out. But when you can have a longer-term relationship with somebody, you’re going to be known for quality and excellence. They want to keep hiring you. You’re going to finish a project and they’re going to respond, “Oh, I want you to do this. I want you to do this next. Can you do this? Do you know how to do this? Do you know somebody that does this?” That’s the kind of relationship we’re talking about when you bring quality.
- You really get deeper, better experience when you’re doing ongoing work with a single client as opposed to doing one-off work. Why is that? Because you learn things together along the way. If you are a copywriter and you’re doing ongoing copywriting work with a client, you’re going to run into hurdles together that you then conquer together, things you might not find if you’re just doing short-term work. The longer you work with somebody, the more that client trusts you and turns to you for advice. You start to know their business and know what they have going on, they can ask, “Oh hey, Lori. What do you think about this? You know, I was running into this over here. What do you think about this?” You inherently grow in value to them, and you get exposed to more of their business, so it just gives you deeper and better experience along the way.
All my clients that I would consider my stars have worked with me for 12 to 18 months. Through that time, you really cover a lot of wins, a lot of failures, a lot of life, a lot of challenges, a lot of hurdles. That kind of relationship is actually kind of rare in this online world and in this online business that moves so rapidly. It’s definitely one of the perks and benefits of how I have designed my virtual professional business and why I’m such an advocate for it.
What type of clients prefer recurring work?
- When you start prospecting, when you start talking to somebody who is looking for a new VA, a new WordPress guru, whatever their special need is at the moment, listen to them closely to understand: Do they have systems in place, or do they understand the value of systems? Or are they more of a hodgepodge. Really listen in for people who value systems, or are at least open to your suggestions to put them in place. Bringing on a new team member for something that’s more than just a small project, does take an investment on the part on the client. It takes some time and upfront training of that new team member, but it’s going to pay off down the road. The clients who see this, are going to invest in you upfront. They’re going to understand, “The next time I give her a project, she’s already going to have access. She’s already going to know where my logo is, etc. That’s the value of efficiency in a long-term relationship with one of your clients.
- They value relationships. If you talk to somebody as a prospect and they seem to have an ongoing revolving door of contractors or short-term team members, maybe they’re not the easiest person to work with or haven’t figured out systems yet or maybe they’re just trying to find the cheapest way to get things done.
- Here’s a big one. Do they have ongoing sustaining income? Is their business model strong? There are people who run businesses who get caught up in, the messaging of their product, their programs, and that on fire-ness can disguise things like, they’re not making money yet, or are just starting a blog. Often times when I talk to people as a prospect, some of those who are most understated about their business actually are the ones who have the strongest, most sustainable business model. And that’s a really good question for you to ask in any kind of interview situation because it’ll show a lot about where they are as a business model. Somebody’s enthusiasm of, “Oh, I can’t wait to have you do this work,” can get you excited, but then it burns out after three weeks because they didn’t make the money they thought they were going to make in their online course launch, and suddenly there’s no more money to pay you. It helps you to understand how much you should be investing into a client. One caveat is if somebody is in a true startup, like they’ve got some other successful businesses running and they are truly investing in a new brand, a new program, then maybe they are using that funding to build up this next new product offering. Having ongoing sustaining income is a key.
Good examples. Somebody who is running a membership site for a while, like a membership site that has some legs. It has some ongoing consistent revenue. Authors and speakers. In general, while their income is inconsistent because usually they get paid when royalties come for the books or when they’re out speaking, they have a need for ongoing brand building, ongoing social. Ecommerce that isn’t seasonal, somebody who has ongoing products that are sold year-round.
Some bad examples also. Nonprofits. I know. Breaks your heart, right? I run a nonprofit you guys, so I can understand from both sides of the fence putting this up here. You know, I appreciate that you really want to work in this heart-centered space where you can give back and give back and it’s mission oriented, but I have to tell you that the consistency of the income is not always there with nonprofits and kind of missional-based businesses. There are total exceptions. My nonprofit that I run, has enough consistency with our monthly donors that we can sustain a couple of virtual team members for the things that need to be done to keep things rolling, but I’m super, super cautious there about spending because it’s a nonprofit. So I would carefully scrutinize nonprofits.
Another bad example, somebody who’s just starting and has never run a business before. So I talk about the whole excitement, like the buzz, like, “This is going to be great. It’s the best thing, and everybody is going to want it.” But if they’ve never built a business before and they don’t have any capital to pull from it can become problematic.
If potential clients start talking to you about trading work, then I would also be really, really cautious. I’m definitely not a fan because it never ends up being equitable. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s hard to measure the equitability of trading work, and I would prefer to pay for the value of what was done and to be paid for the value of what I did.
What type of work can be recurring?
Creatives, I’m talking about designers, graphic designers, videographers, copywriters. Any kind of business that has a monthly blog, monthly newsletter, like that needs ongoing writing, somebody who has this content.
Having this piece of their content marketing systemized is a great type of recurring work. Almost always, especially if you’re writing or doing anything in the marketing space, once you get their voice, once you kind of catch their style and their vibe and the business owner sees that, they’re really going to value your services and look to go broader.
Social media is obviously another one because it just never stops. You can just never market enough or learn the next new things about social. One caveat here, it’s so fast-changing and volatile. Not just that Facebook comes out with another reason for why they’re changing the algorithm, but because social media is really a test and measure business. That might mean after analysis clients need to pull back on that service, change the way it’s done, or need a different type of voice or talent to make it work. Social media can be a good ongoing, but it’s not the kind of place where you can count on that long term because it’s probably the most rapidly changing.
Graphic designers. Find businesses with ongoing graphic needs. To find ongoing work in the graphic design space, you might try to find somebody who has a monthly membership, who needs new principles every month.
Technical. There is always a technical flaw somewhere. Always. This is why technical work is good work. There’s always a maintenance. There’s always an update coming. I don’t want to log in and be surprised. It’s hard to get people to pay for maintenance, I will tell you that, but the they see your value when you are month after month after month maintaining. Everything is up to date. Usually, clients see this value after they have a big scare or problem, then they run into issues where they want to have somebody on call, on staff like all the time. “I don’t want my website to go down because if my website goes down, I stop making money.” That’s kind of how you spin the website business.
Administrative. Bookkeeping obviously. It’s like pulling teeth to get me to sit down and do the detail work of bookkeeping. That is a great, great example.
Customer support. There’s an ongoing chain of customer emails. When you’re running a business, you’re going to have ongoing customer support, and the business owner should rarely, rarely be spending their time in there.
Blog posting. Very administrative. I’m at the point now with my team where I dump raw content to them in text and multiple tools. Sometimes it’s even verbal over Voxer and they format it all into our blog posts.
Launches. This is a big buzzword in online marketing right now, and launches take a lot of planning, implementation and support can last from three to six months. So a launch is a good strategic long-term activity.
Ongoing marketing planning and support, I do this for some of my clients, but it usually only comes after you do a good solid project. You really do a good solid project and then they go, “Oh, we want you to do the next and the next,” and then they’re like, “Hey, why don’t you look at our full marketing program and let’s lay it out from there?”
Here’s the thing about the strategic opportunities for recurring work. If you are not bringing them more sales and more leads, then your strategic recurring work is going to end. It’s that specific, because strategic ongoing work is high dollar and you really have to know your stuff. I am now even cautious of who I take on as an ongoing strategic client because there are people who come to me and I already know from the first conversation that maybe their business model is broken or maybe they personally don’t have the time and energy to pour into the business. If somebody comes to me and wants me to be their voice to give them a marketing plan where they’re spending less time talking to their audience, I run from that as fast as anything, because I can give suggestions on somebody’s voice, but I cannot go pretend to be you on your Facebook group.
When you screen for strategic work, there’s things like that you want to screen for to make sure that the person is really still retaining ownership and everything in their business and they’re not just stuck and looking to dump strategic work off to you and blame you if it doesn’t improve. Something to think about.
Bottom Line Best Ways to Find Recurring Work
Find the clients who value efficiency, who value relationship, and who have a steady income or a funding source. You can tell some of this stuff just by the quality of the post. Are they using good grammar? Have they put a lot of thought into the job description, the project description?