I work fewer than 20 hours a week, yet earn a very good income. Here’s how I do it and how you can do it too.

I was prompted to write this, after receiving an email from a reader. She is a marketing consultant, who established her business 6 years ago. She’s working long hours for a relatively small income and wanted to know what she was doing wrong.

Not all clients are the same

I asked the consultant about her typical clients and she said they were; “pretty average”. I then asked her about the kind of work she was doing and the fees she charged. It was easy to see why she was working so hard, for so little reward. She was working for the wrong type of clients, doing the wrong kind of work, for the wrong fees.

Allow me to explain.

There are 2 types of client

A tiny fraction of clients are high value clients. The remaining (99% or more) are the more typical, lower value clients.

The most successful service providers focus exclusively on working with high value clients. No late payers. No over demanding or rude clients. No clients who make us miserable. No clients who penny pinch. We work only with great people, who allow us to do amazing work for them. I’ve been operating this model since the 1990’s and seldom work more than 20 hours a week, often fewer than 10 hours a week.

The average service provider works with average clients, on average projects, for average fees. They don’t have the freedom to do their best work, because they charge too little for their time, which means they have to turn work around quickly. So, they work on lots of low value projects, never producing what they are really capable of. This leads to stress, because they need to work way too many hours. It also leads to financial insecurity, as working too many hours for low fees isn’t sustainable — something has to give!

Getting stuck in a damaging cycle

We choose, either deliberately or otherwise, who we work with and what we charge. It seems most service providers start off working for “whoever will pay them” and never quite break free from the cycle this creates.

It looks like this:

  • Money is tight, so I need to accept whatever work I can get.
  • Because I accept whatever work I can get, money is always tight.

Staying in that cycle is the riskiest thing a service provider can do. Ironically, it feels safer than risking a change of direction. That’s why so many stressed, over worked service providers carry on earning peanuts, when they could be earning a fortune.

Switching to a better cycle

If you want to enjoy a great family life, working fewer hours yet earning far, far more, make the decision to change direction. Be selective. Choose your clients and projects wisely. Charge what you know you are worth, so you have the time and freedom to do great work.

Interestingly, this approach also creates a cycle:

  • You are working on great projects for clients who value you, so your clients become a source of valuable referrals.
  • Because your clients are a source of valuable referrals, you’re always working on rewarding projects for great clients who value you.

In short: If we are not seeing the results we want, we need to make better decisions regarding who we work with and what we charge.

Tip: I strongly recommend you read this – How to build a successful business.

Marketing