How a Copywriting Agency 7x Her Recurring Revenue

How a Copywriting Agency Increased Recurring Revenue By 7-Fold

cash
… and never had to worry about feast or famine again.


Cha-Ching! Isn’t that the dream, guys?

First, I want you to meet Jean Tang. Jean had run a successful copywriting business called MarketSmiths for several years, and was earning just under $1 million in annual revenue. She had three employees and some freelancers to help tackle the workload. Not too shabby, right?

Wrong!

Jean was tired of working with agencies that white labeled her services, passing off her work as their own. Sure, her revenue was increasing – slowly, painfully – but she was tired of hustling, week after grueling week, always stuck on the feast or famine rollercoaster.

Jean came to ScaleTime because she wanted 1 thing: to optimize her systems

Table of Contents: For those of you who love to skim

  • ScaleTime Diagnosis
  • The Scaling Bottleneck
  • Identify your most successful service offering
  • See where your money is coming from
  • Identify the biggest pain points your clients have AFTER solving their initial problem
  • Create your offering
  • Set your monthly revenue goal
  • Results
  • Simple template

The ScaleTime Diagnosis

diagnoses
Tools

  • Client Relationship Manager – Jean was a hustler and she (wisely) kept all that juicy lead-generation info in a spreadsheet, along with a record of all her closed deals and client info. She needed a  Client Relationship Manager to be able to keep track of all her deal flow and know how much money she had in the pipeline.
  • Project Manager –  MarketSmiths are obsessed with quality. Jean created a 3-point quality checklist for writing all content that her staff of 35 used to make sure that each piece was on point. Jean needed a project manager to have workflows that easily tracked where employees were when she was out of the office.

Documentation

  • Jean had a bunch of Google docs packed with processes, instructions, and best practices to ensure she could delegate tasks and train new people quickly. She needed the team regularly update them.

Team Members

  • Jean had a group of good people, working on the company’s secret sauce: content. But she was still the one and only sales person.

The Scaling Bottleneck


traffic

After all the assessment we realized pricing and capacity were keeping Jean from scaling


Like many of our digital agency clients, we realized her pricing model was off. Jean took on a lot of project work. And she was damn proud of it because that’s what generated her biggest revenue margins.

It was tough to burst her bubble seeing how proud she was. But we were there to help, and sometimes that calls for tough truths. Projects were not her most efficient source of revenue. Once you calculated the hours that it took for her employees to produce certain articles and factored in the time and effort Jean had to expend to create proposals and onboard each client, it became clear that Jean was reinventing the wheel every time she brought on a new customer instead of just driving the car.

It was the project work that had Jean feeling like she was treading water – and her staff feeling too exhausted to actually spend time on activities that would grow the business. Delivering the product was too exhausting already.

So how did we solve this doozy of a dilemma? We had Jean follow these 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Identify your most successful service offering


Ask yourself what currently makes you the most money. Stop wasting time and energy tinkering with unproven offerings. That will cost you. This simple truth is the key to quickly bettering your business. Jean had been extremely proud that it was website copy that generated the most profit margin, but she eventually realized what it was costing her.


She described her epiphany in this Forbes column:  
[Juliana from ScaleTime] leaned forward. “I get that you close like a mo’ fo’. Sounds like you have to. But what you’re telling me is that’s a good thing?”

But in that instant, I suddenly realized how exhausted this had left me as MarketSmiths’ sole salesperson—and how depleted it may have left my staff.
“Imagine if you could cover your overhead with recurring business volume,” [Juliana] said. I thought about every sleepless night I’ve ever had—and became a believer.”

Step 2: See where your money is coming from


It is important to understand where sales originate because, when you do, you’ll start to see patterns. Those patterns eventually become your sales funnel. To uncover this, ask yourself questions like these and dig like hell for the answers:

How much am I making from referrals?
How much am I making from networking?
How much am I making from white labeling?
How much am I making from organic traffic?

Jean realized that many leads were coming from agencies. Yet they weren’t really quality leads that produced good revenue for the company. They weren’t even the relationships that she wanted to create. She wanted less white labeling, not more.  So she streamlined the sales process by weeding out clients that were white labeling her in favor of selling recurring services to her existing clients. She was only able to do this because she had a huge list of clients. Genius!

Setting your priorities looks like this (I know this might be hard to read. Access the nicer template version here):


Step 3: Identify the biggest pain points your clients have AFTER solving their initial problem

This is the one thing most people don’t even know they should think about; it’s a little tricky like that (and that’s why we love it). You’re already solving a problem for your client, but that doesn’t mean all of their pain is gone. Focus on what’s still there after you solve the initial problem and pick the pain point that is most lucrative for your business.

Jean figured out that after writing copy for her client’s websites, which was a foundational service that just got them a site on the web, those same clients still needed to drive traffic to their site. (The whole point of creating a site, right?) And what drove more traffic to her client’s websites? That’s right! More content. So, Jean focused on upselling ongoing blog writing services to the companies that came to her for website copy.

Now THAT’S how you address a pain point (and get yourself some sweet MRR).

Step 4: Create your offering

Again, it comes back to asking the right questions. Like these babies:

How long does it take to solve the problem?
How long does it make sense to offer a service?
Are you dealing with a 3- or 12-month cycle?

Find a monthly service offering, determine the cost per month, and then test that sucker ‘til you find your sweet spot.

We knew that it took 6 months of blogging to really create inbound traffic results for a business. Thus, the offering Jean created centered around a monthly package of blogs for a total of 6 months.

While you don’t want to waste time on product offerings you’re not sure of, once you know you’re addressing a real pain point, you definitely want to experiment a little here ‘til you find what works best. TEST THE MARKET.

ScaleTime Reminder: The offering you create has to work for your clients. Check in often to see where they’re at. Is it working for them? If not, there won’t be any recurring revenue.

Step 5: Set your monthly revenue goal

So, how much money do you want to make from this service every month? When in doubt, set your monthly breakeven point as your target. Pick the target, go to the existing list of clients, and just start selling—like the coffee-swilling closers in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Jean took the client list she built over years of hustling and identified how many people she needed to start selling.

And guess what else? Jean hit her goal within 12 weeks of working with us.

Mind. Blown.

Give it to me straight: What Happened?

placeit-1

The result: Jean got off the feast and famine roller coaster for good

MarketSmiths’ employees were being paid by recurring revenue from Jean’s new blog offering. Woot-woot! And Jean no longer wondered how much she was going to make next month or how close to payroll she was going cut it. Sayonara, stress!

Free Time: Forbes Column  

Jean fell in love with her business again. She was able to delegate the review process to her #2, who she likes calling her ‘lieutenant.’ She now has the bandwidth to grow the business and concentrate on things she loves, like her Forbes column. Which, by the way, helps to grow her business, too. (Such a smart cookie).

Delegate to scale

MarketSmiths made their first sales hire after creating a sales process, which took a huge, time-sucking weight off of Jean’s shoulders while fostering the continued growth of her business.

If you are struggling through the feast and famine cycle, I encourage you to explore the answers to these questions:

ScaleTime Questions to Remove Feast and Famine

  • Do you know your revenue for next month?
  • What is currently my most successful offering?
  • Where is my revenue coming from?                                                            
  • How long does it take to see results from your offering?
  • What is the single biggest problem my clients have after I solve their initial one?
  • What will I price my offer? How long will it take to deliver?
  • Which clients will see immediate benefit from this offer?



Want to figure out what’s bottlenecking your growth and what will increase your revenue? Have questions or need help? We are here to answer them. Schedule a 30-minute call with us now.



 

10 Reasons Your Employees Will *Never, Ever* Leave You

1. You are the bottleneck and everything needs to get approved by you

 

2. You are not accessible … so naturally, nothing gets approved

 

3. You complain that your employees don’t meet deadlines

 

4. You never give your employees feedback, well sometimes, kinda — you know it’s usually super vague

>> Download our easy Progress Review template and see how you can improve the performance of your staff.

5. You wonder why your employees don’t come into work happy

 

6. You never give them any structured reviews or progress — instead, you give them more work

 

7. You constantly ask your employees for SUPER-long meetings with no agenda

 

8. Most of your decisions are made from pure emotion and you are in reaction-mode most of the time

 

9. When you have a small team and one decides to take a vacation — you panic and, of course, pile on MORE work

 

The biggest reason they will never leave you is because…

10. You are an AMAZE-BALLS micro-manager

 

Does any of this sound like you?

If it does, here are some useful questions to ask yourself that will help make retaining talent much easier:  

  • When was the last time you gave them autonomy over a project?
  • When was the last time you gave a review?
  • When was the last time you touched any of your business systems?
  • When was the last time you rewarded them for good work?

 

Ready for the first step?

Let’s drop the doom and gloom and here’s a PDF to get you started on progress reviews…

>> Download our awesome Progress Review template and see how you can help your staff kick more ass!!!

What Choosing Your Systems has to Do with Dating

Let’s skip the small-talk… And no, this is not the speed-dating circuit. Grab a seat here at the bar, settle in, order a drink and I’ll jump right into sharing some of my secrets… Ready?? OK, great, let’s get started…

Whether it’s a project management system or a client relationship manager (CRM),

there comes a point where you realize you need a system to download your brain, track and keep up with your workload, you need to update your system or you need to switch to a new one.

“Juliana,  there’s so many systems out there; what’s the best system?”

Well… the app store comes out with a shiny new, friendly funded startup app for systems almost monthly, if not daily!

It’s overwhelming.

Of course it’s part of my gig to be playing with these new systems all the time — so I do have many thoughts, opinions and complaints on the matter.

But that’s not answering the question.

So let’s rephrase — What is the best system for YOU, Right NOW?

Tweet This: Here’s the kicker: what’s a great system right now, guaranteed, will not be a good system 5 years, or even 1 year from now. Annoying, right?

So, I like to think of the process of picking a system like dating.

“Whhaaaaat?!?”

Lesson 1 — Don’t get too attached and align with your values. (Ughhh I know — here come those attachment issues).

Lesson 2 — Play the field! You are going to want to date a few systems before you commit and see which one fits you and your team the best. (Did someone say poly?)

Lesson 3 — Your systems are like looking for Mr or Mrs right nownot Mr/Mrs future. You are not marrying it, you are just going to have a very adventurous short term relationship with it (ouch!).

>>>Want to make sure you’ve got the most crucial systems in play? Download this systems check to find out.

Here are some things to look for when you are in the dating phase of your systems search…

Think of this as your ScaleTime Systems Value Set:

#1. Is it user-friendly?

How is the user experience? Is it easy to navigate?

Better yet, is it easy to train your staff on it? (This will save time, money and headache).

It’s just a matter of facts — attractive apps get more action.

#2. Is it mobile-friendly?

When you’re running around closing deals and making it rain (oooooh yeah!), can you track what your team is doing?

Will you be able to see if milestones and deadlines are being met? Can you review on-the-go so you don’t become the bottleneck of progress?

A lot of business is done on the go — will you be ready for that or do you want to be called and texted and asked for the 50th time what needs to be done next.

#3. Is it visual?

Is this something that is easily viewed and maneuvered? Can you drag and drop? Or do you feel like you needed to go to a top programming school just to make an edit?

If it’s not easy to set up or edit, chances are you won’t use it and your staff won’t use it. Leaving you with another sad and lonely tool that is shelved and a full email inbox of “how do you do that, again?”

#4. Is it collaborative?

Can your team work on it simultaneously? Does it have templates? Can they share, review, edit and comment on it? Can you?

Teams are becoming more flexible on how they work, where they work and on what devices they work — be prepared to set them for success no matter what.

#5. Does it report?

Can you run quick reports? Can you easily track progress? How do you know if your team is actually performing? How do you know when and  if the business is performing?

Sometimes systems can feel like a data sucking black hole. You just input input and input without any return. It’s important to view what the data is saying so you can see trends, seasonality, hiccups and challenges. Clarity allows us to make better business decisions.

“Everyday is a new day to make better choices”

(—my man Deepak. It just got deep in systems world).

#6. Overall: is it easy?

Running a business is hard; your systems don’t have to be.

Not every system will fit your style or your team; so flirt some and date around.

There’s plenty of apps in the marketplace sea!

Ready for the first step?

>>>Download this Systems Check and if there are any crucial systems your team is missing.

Well, it looks like the bar’s closing for the night. Thanks for the drink! It’s been fun so let’s do this again sometime okay?

Oh, and one last thing before I go… Disclaimer! Don’t actually use this or talk about this for your dating life!! LOL

Pricing; How to Do It & Get Rid of It’s Emotional Baggage

Juliana, how do I price myself?

Let’s not talk about breakeven points and operating models (you can call me for that). It’s truly hard to price a new service or an offering, but, we need to get over the emotions that come with it and start putting it out there.

I hate to say it to the ladies, but we are the worst. It’s the whole socialization of humbling values that have been instilled in you since you were a wee one. Guys, you don’t fall too far behind. You are an entrepreneur now, get over it. Own it. Don’t apologize for being “expensive.”

There’s all this emotional clutter that comes with monetizing your services. It’s like you are putting a price on yourself and for service providers, you are. It’s your discipline, your years of study and or practice. The amount of experience and crap you have to put up with to go out into the world and say, “This is how much MY TIME costs.”

A colleague of mine, Lisa Velazques who is a Love doctor, (I love saying that because it’s true) says that individuals either have a good relationship with money or they don’t. It encapsulates every dollar conversation I have. You have to start having a good relationship with your money, with yourself, and start owning your price point.

Juliana, But seriously how do you price your services?

The same you would a product – test the market.

It is the best way to start and in your field there will be a wide range. Your job is to figure out what components make that range, and then, where you fit in it.

For example: lawyers can get paid between 100 – 1200 an hour, and sometimes more.

Gasp. I know, mine charges me by the tenth of an hour. He is absolutely amazing: so, I pay.

ScaleTime’s Pricing Tactics:

  1. Figure out the market you want to cater to ranging from accessible to affluent.
  2. See what your competitors are charging in that market. There will most likely not be too keen to give out pricing to you, but you can always have a friend or associate ask for pricing on competitive services.
  3. Insert yourself in the market and start putting your price point in the hands of potential clients. If there is no pushback, you are probably pricing too low. If there are no buyers, chances are your price is too high for your offering or market.
  4. If you are not comfortable saying your prices, your leads will know, they will smell blood and they will pounce.

Pick a comfortable price point and stick to it.

You are the one that gets to go out into the world and say, “This is how much MY TIME costs.”

The Ultimate Hack for Improving Client Engagement

Luuuucy… You have some splainin’ to do!!! (Did I just age myself with this reference?)

I’m about to hop on a call with a client that may or may not have done their work for the meeting (ahem).

I ask myself: “Where are they in their business? And what’s on the schedule for today?”

But first, let’s rewind a few months.

I used to track my client engagement on a spreadsheet that I called Actions2Scale (fancy right?) in google drive. It had all the components I needed:

      • Meeting dates
      • What was accomplished during each meeting
      • What the deliverables were
      • Any notes my client or I had

The problem was that as a consultant, there are a lot of tangible worksheets and documents that my clients and I share, and since my average client is with me for about 7 months, this spreadsheet inevitably grew long, confusing and not easily searchable. Not only that, but with the mish-mosh of documents in google drive – we could never find anything quickly!

Since most of my clients are visual thinkers, I thought I would give Trello a shot. And boy am I happy I did! Here’s what it looks like:

ScaleTime Roadmap Trello

1. Creating a Visual Roadmap

The first thing I do with my clients now is create a roadmap with all the modules of our engagement on the first few lists.

Keep in mind that pre-Trello, there was no visual roadmap for the client to know where we were going. No matter how much I listed out the milestones and talked about the direction of the engagement and what we were going to do next, there was NO VISUAL REMINDER.

It was like being on a road trip with my client, who kept innocently asking “are we there yet?” every 5 minutes.

In their defense though, it wasn’t their fault!

The problem was they didn’t know what had already been done, and what was still left to do. For the productivity geeks out there – I implemented some kanban-esque methodology. Fortunately, in Trello when we are done with a topic I can change the color (nifty right?). Take a look:

ScaleTime Trello Program

2. Forget About Client Amnesia

Client amnesia is a common condition in which the client can’t seem to remember the amazing work we’ve done together.

Symptoms include saying things like “I love this system – it literally takes me 2 minutes to do a proposal. Oh, was it you that helped me implement this?”

This used to raise my blood pressure and frustrate me to no end. Now, I just point them to the Trello board as I gleefully put my feet on my desk. After all, it’s a great way to show a historical record of everything that was accomplished. All without saying a single word. Not bad if you ask me!

3. When Clients “Hijack”

This doesn’t happen as much in my practice anymore (thank the lord!), but in the past I had clients take over the session with “emergencies” or what they thought were urgent questions. In other words, “Drop everything and help me now!”

Ever since I started using Trello however, clients can see for themselves when a task moves from this month to next month for example. Suddenly the urge to hijack a session is trumped by the urge to complete what they started.

Tweet this: A client’s urge to hijack a session is trumped by the urge to complete what they started.

It’s a beautiful thing, really. The psychology of wanting to see the white cards turn blue ( labeled complete) and knowing that this particular urgency will be covered in a systematic way puts a cease and desist on wasting time. (Can I get an amen!?)

4. Say Goodbye to Inbox Flooding

With Trello, there is simply no flooding of inboxes with back and forth updates, deliverables, homework, pre-work, or any kind of work really. It’s all in a nice checklist where clients can reference their tasks whenever they want, from anywhere in the world.

I’ve actually had clients text me in their PJ’s just to tell me how much they enjoyed checking a few items from their list.

Do NOT underestimate the need to complete things!

5. Delegating Tasks Has Never Been Easier

My clients can now share their board with their staff to strategize or delegate the work, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Nuff said.

6. Get Organized!

Out of all the benefits, one of my favorites is never hearing this question: “Where is that document again?”

Whether your documents are located in dropbox, a company server, or google docs, you can link to them inside the topics in Trello. Everything has context and searchability.

Yeah baby!

To sum up, here are all the benefits of using a project management tool to manage your client engagement:

      • Clients have a visual roadmap
      • Client Amnesia cured
      • No more session hijacking
      • Inbox flooding eliminated
      • Easy to delegate tasks to team members
      • Great way to organize documents

So let me ask you… How are YOU tracking your client engagement, and giving your clients direction in the process?

I recommend Trello (obviously), but I’m also open to learning about other options that would incorporate some or all of the concepts I discussed in this article.

I would love to hear from you either way!

Lasting Teams That Are In It To Win It

“Juliana, how do I hire the right team members, the ones that are going to stick around and do a great job?”

Almost 35% of people quit a job within the first six months of being hired.

That’s a pretty big turnover rate when you stop to consider the time and resources devoted to recruiting, especially when you take lost revenue for business both large and small into consideration. No matter the size of your business, your goal is to keep profits — and your employee retention rates high – but, you may need to change your tactics in order to succeed.

With just a few simple changes to your hiring process, you will find yourself ahead of the game with a dedicated team behind you.

But first, let’s examine the numbers: Did you know that US companies spent a staggering $124 billion on recruiting efforts in 2012 alone? When it comes to hiring the right people, large firms lose when their dedicated HR departments waste resources hiring the wrong people. Small business owners lose even bigger with the time and effort the recruiting process takes from day to day operations. Sure, you played the game, asked the right questions, and are confident you hired the right people. And maybe you did hire the right people for the positions advertised. The question to ask yourself, however, is if you hired the right people for your team.

Did you know that most people leave because there are different expectations in the recruiting cycle, from the job posting to the interviewing process, which did not match the reality of the actual gig?

Perhaps they were holding out for another position with a different company and your offer was simply a waiting post. The “Maybes” behind why employee retention is such a gamble are numerous and can range from your business’ relaxed work environment and dog-friendly office not being the right fit to them taking a look at your five-year vision and deciding they might fit better elsewhere.

These are the very uncertainties you, or your HR team, should be addressing while actively recruiting new team members. It is during this crucial time for discovery that you should be making sure you are seeking out the people that are not only going to stick, but also help your business grow in the process. Your goal is to ultimately extend offers of employment to individuals with whom you will enjoy working and with whom you’ll probably be spending more time than you are willing to admit. So how do you do that?

For starters, realize that a perfectly written resume is only a part of employee retention and the big picture.

By paying attention life patterns or circumstances, you can predict a lot about your new team member’s longevity with your business. For example: A person who moves every two years, will probably move again. It’s possible their spouse is in the military. But if you do not do your due diligence, you shouldn’t be surprised when they do move again. What about the college student working for you part-time? They have graduation date that you must prepare for. Be ready to absorb them or replace them.

Now that you are thinking not only outside of the box, but beyond the resume, as well, it’s time to consider your options as a business owner. Start by putting yourself in a new employee’s shoes:

In order to make the transition from the newbie to a seasoned and valued member of your team, they need:

  • Solid infrastructure already in place; one which will allow access to systems, technology, and communication
  • Time to read your business literature
  • Business cards
  • Time to learn — and become acquainted to — their contacts

Without at least these building blocks already firmly established for your new team member to gather their bearings during the critical first five months, which, coincidentally, is the average time it takes for a new hire to fully acclimate to their work environment, the transition period will only be made all the rougher for them. Whether you are operating out of a corner office or half of a full tech garage, those operating manuals and trainings will increase the chance of getting your new hire up to speed and optimized.

Okay, so you’ve done your due diligence and are comfortable that your new hire isn’t moving overseas in seven months, checked their college diploma yourself to make sure the ink is dry, and their skill-set matches your needs for the open position perfectly. Even the office dog loves them because they’ve been bringing in dog biscuits and know how to give a good belly rub.

What if they still aren’t a good fit? What did you miss?

Through no fault of their own, your new hire may just not gel with the culture you have or are trying to create. Your best-case scenario is they are great, but the rest of your team doesn’t enjoy working with him or her. This is where you have to step back, reassess, and put the needs of the many before the needs of the one. In other words: don’t let the entire ship sink because one crew member isn’t working out or you end up with communication lapses and inefficiencies in cooperation. How do you do that?

TIP – By creating a personalized work culture test that applies specifically to your business’ personality and applying it during each and every recruiting and discovery period.

A friend asks people when referring potential hires to his team if they would introduce this person to their own mom. His clients are family units, thereby making it essential that each team member present themselves in a certain manner. I ask my own team to imagine a flight delay en route to a business trip mean three hours in the airport bar — which happens quite often. If they give the green light for inviting the potential newbie along for a cocktail, it’s a pretty clear and cut decision from there.

We can’t cage the superstars to stay forever, but we can try to figure out how who’s in for the long haul as we build our teams and continue moving forward.

The key factor, of course, is foreseeing who’s going to stick around.