For better or worse, I am an underachieving overachiever. I am constantly looking for ways to make myself and my business better, more efficient, higher performing. To get there, I’m completely obsessed with reading small business books. I have probably read every small business book you’ve heard of and many you haven’t: “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Rework,” “Crush It,” “The Purple Cow.” I want to say that all of these were a wonderful use of my time, but that just isn’t the truth.
Then one day I shacked up in bed with Laura Vanderkam’s “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” and it was truly life changing. It helped me restructure my business model, increase my profits, and trained me to think of my minutes as currency.
When I started my business, my business model was simple. As a freelance bookkeeper, I would show up at a business or art studio, put in my time, submit my invoice and get paid. I only clocked time in increments of 15 minutes to keep the math simple. It seemed cheap and unseemly to bill my clients for every minute worked, and, not to mention, it was a pain to calculate (in the days before smart phones!).
Then, I got better at my job. Much better. And my typing speed increased to ridiculous levels (my nickname is the Keyboard Ninja). I started working from home to take care of my newborn, and I realized that the value of the service I was providing was far greater than what I was charging. At that time, my rate was $50 an hour. But sometimes, on a good day, I could complete several months’ work of bookkeeping in a few hours (again, typing skills). There was way more value to three month’s worth of bookkeeping to the business owner than the measly $150 invoice I was submitting.
So I switched to a retainer model and starting charging a project fee. And this was great, for a while. I sold old clients on the value of what I was offering, instantly upping my fees, and I sold new clients, too. (“Hey! This is an all-inclusive, awesome thing, and you’re getting it for a flat rate!”) I didn’t have to track my time either, which was nice, because I really hated doing it. I knew I was making out ahead, and if my baby woke up or tantrumed, I didn’t have to punch a clock.
But then several years later, my business changed again.