As part of my efforts to systemize and streamline Socialexis, I’m working with business coach Charlie Gilkey. He’s helping me tighten up my team, put systems in place that will help us do better work, and navigate a few issues I wasn’t sure how to tackle on my own.
In one of our recent sessions, we took a proactive look at the company’s finances. Something came up during that conversation that changed the way I see my business, and it’s such an ah-ha that I want to share it with you.
Charlie and I were talking about the big topic of revenue, and how my products bring in between $2,000-$5,000 each month.
When we’re at the high end of that range, I explained to him, it’s usually because we’ve run a sale or developed a new partnership or released a new product. When we’re on the low end, we’ve typically done next-to-nothing on the product front but still see purchases come in from search, as well as readers who have bought other guides and come back for more.
“So you’re telling me,” Charlie said, “that when you do nothing, your products bring in about $2,000/month?”
That’s what I was telling him.
Sometimes you need someone else’s brains and fresh eyes to see the bright spots in your business. As Charlie and I talked this through, we identified two key takeaways:
1. Generating revenue from products takes far less work than client work that brings in the same amount of cash.
I learned when I sold my first ebook (which is still my most popular guide) that creating digital products is smart because of the high profit margin and low time investment after the initial work on the front end: you create something valuable once, then sell it again and again. But while looking at my company’s portfolio of clients and products over the last six months, I mistakenly saw client work — working on other people’s projects — as more lucrative than my own products, perhaps because that’s where we put most of our hours.
This might sound obvious, but when you offer a myriad of services to 10 clients and manage just as many team members, sometimes you forget to look at the big picture. And the big picture is that my products bring in as much as a client.
2. If I put just one hour each week into promoting my products, I could easily increase product revenue.
And if I could carve out time to release new products, that revenue could grow even more.
Unlike most clients, who pay the same retainer month after month unless they add services or we increase our rates, products have the potential to bring in lots more cash over time.
Again, this is something I knew — that my products have serious potential — but it got lost during the last year as the client side of the business grew. When someone wants to pay you to do something, it’s hard to say no! And in this case, saying yes to more clients had meant pushing my products to the back burner. This, by the way, is a perfect example of how sometimes you have to say “no” to an opportunity so you can make room to say “yes” to a smarter one.
This is all good, right? Smart insights?
But here’s the biggie. Here’s what Charlie told me that changed everything:
“You need to treat your products like a client.” (Click here to tweet this idea.)
BAM. That was the ah-ha I needed.
Over the last year, I’d been doing the opposite, letting my own products fall through the cracks. I haven’t released a single new product because the client side of my business has grown so rapidly, and I was eager to meet that demand.
I have accomplished a lot of other things that will help my products succeed, like growing my email list through webinars, speaking at events, and launching The Write Life. And I’ve been working on new products little by little — a Kindle book on careers, an email productivity course, and an ebook with my accountant dad about all the financial stuff you need to run your own shop.
But I haven’t spent enough real chunks of time on these products to finish them. I’ve been working my butt off on other things, and I haven’t made my products a priority.
This conversation with Charlie prompted me to dig deep to figure out WHY. Why hadn’t I made time for products?
Here’s what I realized:
1. It was partly because of money.
I want to make money, and client work is lucrative.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m not against trying to make a good living; in fact, over the last few years, as I get to the point where I want to support a family, making good money is more important to me than it was early in my career. Plus, I love this business, and I love working with our clients, so I wasn’t choosing money over work I enjoyed. I was simply choosing to grow the more lucrative arm of the business.
Except I was wrong. I was wrong that client work is more lucrative than products. Even now, even after looking at the hard numbers, I have to keep repeating that to myself to truly believe it. Which brings me to the second reason…
2. I hadn’t given myself permission.
Me! After how much I write about why you deserve to love your job and the importance of creating a career that allows you to live the life you want, I hadn’t fully believed that I could really make a living selling products I loved creating.
Now, looking at my products in this new light, I can justify spending just as much time if not more on that side of the business — because my products make just as much money as a client and with less work. I can justify passing on a potential new client and instead put that time and energy into products, because it makes sense financially.
So how do I treat my products like a client?
It’s never easy to do for yourself what you do for others.
But here’s the truth: I need to schedule time to work on my products just like I schedule time to work on client accounts. I need to create a strategy and deliverables for my products and record them in our task management system, Flow, just like I do for our clients. I need to develop a system and schedule for my own social media, just like I do for our clients. And I need to figure out how to increase traffic to my own blog, just like I do for our clients.
I need to invest in myself and my products just as much — if not MORE — as I invest in others.
You know I love action items and EXECUTING.
So this Sunday, I’m releasing a new course called Social Media for Writers. It’s an email-based course, one that will help writers finally make real connections and see big results on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Take a sneak peek here if you’d like.
This has been in the works since long before this ah-ha moment, but realizing the value and potential of my own products made me buckle down and actually GET IT OUT THERE. More on the thought process behind that new course on the blog next week!
Are you taking the time to invest in yourself? If you looked at your income and potential in a different light, how might you choose to move forward?