Is It Time To Close Your Service-Based Business?

Is It Time To Close Your Service-Based Business?

I received a great question from a member of the Facebook group last week. I know many entrepreneurs have many passions and would love to run various kinds of businesses. I also know many technician-turned-entrepreneurs out there, to quote The E Myth, who are drowning in work they hate, when they're supposed to be "living the dream" of self-employment. So, when she asked about closing her business and moving on to something else, I knew it was a good subject for the ol' blog:

Kelsey, I have a question for you and maybe other people ask themselves this very same thing: what do you do when you have a business, and you've been doing it for a few years, and you realize that there are a lot of things you really don't love about it? I had another business before this one. I loved it but I never made a very good consistent living. While I have made a decent living with my current business, there are so many things I really don't like. How do you know if you're just being a baby and you should suck it up and march out there and continue, or you should give yourself permission to dismount from that horse, put it out to pasture and find a new steed.

There are a few key things I want to point out here, she IS making money, it's not that the business is failing. She does like some things about it, so it's not as simple as "if you don't like it, move on!" Making my work to answer to her question all the more difficult. {Thanks for the exercise, Kellie!}

1. Be Honest About Which Parts You Dislike

There are some parts about business that you will just have to get over. Invoicing, customer service, promoting yourself, engaging in social media with and about your industry, these kinds of things will be waiting for you at the next business you pursue. If it's those little tasks dragging you down, outsource them! Adding the most value you can and being the best at your business means you stay in your sweet spot, right? So outsource the non-sweet stuff! The second I outsourced all of the html and web stuff for my business, a big part of my start up success package I offer clients, I felt SO relieved. It is a disservice to yourself and your clients to spend hours on something you hate or are not good at when that time could be spent solving their problems or improving the product they want to purchase!

Now, If the meat of the work that makes you money, also makes you want to die, you've got a real problem. If your business grows and becomes super successful, you'll have more of it to do! Does that sound like a dream? To be super busy doing the work of the business, for example if you are in PR, does it sound awesome to ONLY come up with strategy and write copy and manage press for your clients? If there were NO small tasks to suck your time away? But if you are a PR consultant and what I just described sounds miserable, yet you love the hustle of networking and social media and selling and promoting of services, maybe you need to apply all that energy in a different industry.

2. Be Honest About Actually Making Money

With what I wrote above, I feel I need to add the disclaimer that you can't make money from just networking, social media-ing and promoting. You HAVE to actually do the work you promote! You have to have a product or services to sell, you can't just grow a platform for platform's sake. Well, unless you're independently wealthy I guess. You have to have both parts. A writer who loves to write, but never sells an article, completes a book, or promotes their writing is never going to make a full-time living as a writer. A writer who hustles and does tons of marketing and networking and awesome social media-ing but only dabbles in writing, same bag. Can you outsource the actual meat of the work? Well, possibly, but the chances of earning a living yourself AND outsourcing all of the actual work are pretty low unless you've grown to the point of being able to afford full-time employees.

What about passive income?
Ah, yes, the very sexy idea of running an entirely passive income business. It can be done, as we know from all of the people who have done it and then wrote blogs and books about it. But as, the experts in the area will tell you, it's not passive it was at the beginning. They had to set up the million moving parts that eventually added up to a full-time salary. Putting up affiliate links only works if people are going to your site, right? How do you get people to your site? A lot of hard work, that's how!

3. Be Flexible

In her question she said, "give yourself permission to dismount" which is interesting because it sounds like her gut has already told her this business isn't the right fit for her. Don't get stuck in Shouldland - "I should keep up this business because it makes money." "I should keep up this business because I've been doing it two years," "I should love running my own business", etc. 

Greatness is a moving target.

Your best self, your best life, and your best business, it's all a moving target. I think that is why so few people will REALLY define their brand, as I wrote about last week on Entrepreneur.com. I think it's why so few choose a theme for the year or long term goals for themselves. They don't want to layout their entire journey right now. I'm not suggesting you do. I'm suggesting you choose a direction.

Over the next year, even six months, you will grow and evolve and so will your business. So give yourself permission to tweak some things. If you only like one of your services and the rest are a struggle, scrap them. It may have to be gradual so you don't lose a giant chunk of your income, but work to become the absolute best at the one service or product that is closest to your sweet spot. Once you're a master at it, you can also charge more for it.

4. Be Strategic About What's Next

So, it's time to go or time to change? Don't lose all the hard work you've put in over the years by radically jumping out of one area into another. I imagine it would be challenging for an accountant to suddenly open a creative marketing consultancy. It would definitely seem random and odd to the list of accounting clients that he had grown throughout building his business. Why would any of those clients switch over and suddenly starting sending him their advertising dollars? It wouldn't make sense. If he has a burning passion to create a creative agency, he could transition to general business consulting. Strategy for business seems like a logical side step for an accountant, right? Then after a year to 18 months, during which time he started to propose creative ideas and outsource some design work, perhaps he could begin transitioning from general business consulting to "creative business problem solving" or "marketing consulting."

You've heard it before, your businesses shouldn't run you, you should run your business. If you saw the headline to this article and thought YES! It's killing me! Friend, it's your time to make a change. Don't wait!

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3 Comments

  • Kellie Sue January 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Kelsey, such a great article, and a very well thought out strategy for analyzing where you are and where you really want to be — all without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 🙂 Your response to my question on Facebook really helped me to do some re-tooling this past month. It was a scary question to ask, but I’m so glad I did. Thank you again! I’ve decided to keep my company, but to return to the original intent and my original motivation for doing the work I do, and to take new clients only if they fit into this mold. Your point about not trying to do everything is so accurate. I took a lot of projects on that didn’t fit into my original business plan just because I needed to get income happening in the beginning of my business, and those ended up being either jobs I didn’t really care for and in some cases for clients who were just not fun to work with (unappreciative, disrespectful of my time –). I kept telling myself that I just needed to be more accomplished at client management. But I have also come to know that some people are just not manageable — and that it isn’t my fault. Some people just treat other people badly because it’s been working for them their whole privileged lives and they will never behave in ways aligned with my “do unto others…” values because for whatever reasons, they just don’t care about other people. And those people will absolutely make you hate your work, your job, your company, etc. I realized too that I need to have the faith to release the projects and clients that have been making me miserable, and to know that they will be replaced by ones more aligned with my values and abilities. I think that you kind of need a lot of faith to run your own business – as well as knowledge and skills. 🙂

  • Ralph C. Edwards February 3, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Love this!

    • Kelsey Author February 3, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Thanks Ralph!