In the last 6 months there’s been an overwhelming number of new clients in my consulting business. That means that most (no, all) of my time and effort in business has gone to the services side of the business.
No new Etsy offerings, no new copywriting clients and little attention paid to social media (including this newsletter).
My business was moving fast and I felt grateful. It led me to ignore any analysis because why bother, right? Everything must be working.
And then on a discovery call a potential client said this to me:
“I don’t understand the difference between your consulting services.”
I chalked it up to confusion on her part. Without a pause, I went through my typical pitch and explained everything.
But something didn’t feel right. And over the next few days I realized that deep in my heart I totally understood what she was saying. I had been ignoring what was glaringly obvious to me.
My services were not well defined.
Over the next month I strategized about how to make them different in a truly meaningful way. Nothing felt right and I finally had to acknowledge that little voice that had been telling me the answer the whole time.
You only need one service. In the end I ditched the other service and am focusing on just one consulting offering now.
There are valuable lessons for all of us small business owners in this story:
😎 LESSON 1: Simplicity wins every time.
Life and business are easier when we simplify. Just like you don’t offer your kids or partner 5 or 6 different options for dinner every night, the same simplicity can help with your business. Start by asking these questions:
Do you get excited by inquiries around all of the services you offer?
Are your clients ever confused by which service is best for them?
Are you overwhelmed by your business?
Would reducing your services lighten your overwhelm?
☀️ LESSON 2: Have a niche and stick to it. This will intentionally exclude some people.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to eliminate any inquiries. What if you explore the alternate perspective…
By having a defined niche you’ll filter out clients that aren’t a perfect fit for your strengths.
If you look outside of the interior design industry you’ll see millions of examples of successful companies that niche.
Hello Fresh is a meal delivery kit. They don’t offer chef services or grocery delivery services. Just one simple service.
Tesla sells electric cars. Don’t want an electric car? There’s nothing for you at Tesla.
Louis Vuitton offers luxury items. If you can’t afford it, they have nothing for you.
And to bring it around to our own industry, look at Maria Killam. She is a colour expert who offers courses and services related to picking paint colours and she’s built a small empire.
🚀 LESSON 3: It’s ok to start small and grow over time.
My first iteration of business was sooooo small. I offered colour consultations and bathroom renovations. It took me over 10 years before I had employees and offered full-scale renovations. If I had tried to offer those services initially I would have failed miserably.
I wasn’t ready.
Likely I didn’t have enough confidence.
I didn’t have enough trade connections.
For sure I didn’t know enough about sourcing.
I was frustrated by my smallness but I couldn’t be any bigger at that time.
Now looking back I can see the immense value that came in growing over time. I grew in baby steps until I was confident enough to take the next leap and offer kitchen renos, main floor renos and then whole home renovations and new build construction.
In the final years of my career as a designer I was working with developers on multi-residential developments.
I would never have believed I could get there. It was all just one baby step at a time.
💛 LESSON 4: STOP LOOKING AT OTHER DESIGNERS TO DECIDE WHICH SERVICES YOU OFFER.
There’s a strange phenomenon that exists within the design industry. I don’t think it’s as prevalent in other industries but I see it everyday.
We are all copying each other.
Most designers can list all of the competition in their city (which is a good thing) but they can also name their services (this is a very bad thing).
There’s a fear of being different. We want clients so badly that we throw up every service we’ve seen offered without considering whether we’re good at it or more importantly, if we like it.
I rarely have a phone call with a designer who offers less than 5 services. It’s hard to be great at 5 things. Yes they’re all related to design but there’s nuance to each service and we have to understand each one well.
Would it perhaps be better to pick the parts of your business that really light you up and go in full steam on 1 or 2 offerings?
My friend Karla is a designer who specializes in decorating and has created an amazing business around that service. She’s a contributor on a tv show, has been featured in a lot of shelter magazines, has a program that she launches once a year and offers services to both designers and consumers.
She expanded her offerings into full-service renovations and found it wasn’t satisfying. She’s back to decorating and is filled with joy around that.
If you need it, I give you permission to scale down to just the services you love.
💻 LESSON 5: Consider the IMPACT MULTIPLE SERVICES HAVE ON YOUR MARKETING EFFORTS.
How do you feel about social media? What about your blog? Or your newsletter?
Most of us know that clients (particularly luxury clients) will be watching us for quite some time before engaging with us.
We should be doing enough marketing of our business that we can lead someone from social media to our website and then onto our email list. This is how we create a funnel to start the marketing process.
It’s so much harder to write an email when you have various types of clients on your list.
Your renovation client might not be interested in how to decorate seasonally.
The colour consultation client probably isn’t concerned about things your builder needs you to understand.
You can simplify your business by focusing on services you love. Even if you keep 2 or 3 services, it’s likely they’re going to be for the same client.
If you love renovations you can have kitchen, bathroom and whole home renovation services.
If you love decorating you can offer styling, colour consultations and shopping services.
These clients are all interested in the same thing and marketing to them is effortless.
I hope some of this helps you in analyzing your business and getting clarity around what would be the ideal business for you.
If you need extra help in your business specifically related to your systems and processes, check out my service The Design Roadmap.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate you and your time.