Most solopreneurs I’ve worked with start small and bend the rules to establish themselves. It’s common to start by giving away some free services in exchange
for testimonials or referrals and offer big discounts to hone your craft and gain some momentum. Policies are only loosely enforced if they exist at all in those early days. What almost always happens is that at some point the business is humming along and the business owner still has clients who came on board in the early days and this can create tension for the solopreneur who now has to serve those clients under the old rates or service plan even though it’s no longer appropriate for the business. In those early days, it was fine to get a last minute cancellation since your days were wide-open, but now that means lost income from an empty slot you could have filled with more notice. Maybe some of those early clients are only paying about half of what you charge now.
So what do you do? How do you handle these growing pains?
Start by getting clear on what you want. What rate do you want? How much notice for cancellations do you want? What travel reimbursement do you want? What services do you no longer want to do? Don’t worry if you don’t think you can get all these things right away and still fill your practice – it’s important to know what you want so you can at least begin moving toward that model.
Decide on how much you are committed to the model you want. If you adhere strongly to your model, you may lose some clients off the bat. It may be okay to phase things in over time or give someone a grace period. You may decide to keep some clients even though they don’t line up exactly with your desired business model. When making a change like this, you can do it gradually or all at once depending on your comfort level and your market. If there are services or products you’ve offered that you no longer want to do, consider offering them at a premium price instead of not offering them.
This can be a painful and uncomfortable process but it is necessary to continue your business progress. Your policies, fees, business model and array of services will continue to change and grow with you. At least a few times a year, check in with how you feel about these areas of your business and see if it’s time to grow a little.