Bad advice for service business owners

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Episode 96: Bad Advice for Service Business Owners (Lies People Tell You on the Internet)

You know, we love the Internet. It’s amazing. We even met on the Internet. But here’s what we don’t love…the downright BAD advice we see floating around on the Internet! In this episode, we’re talking about the lies people tell you on the Internet.

We’re SO excited to dive into this topic, partly because we’ve been keeping a running list of the BAD advice we see on the Internet. We’re going to share some of our faves with you today.

What we’re not talking about are where it’s super duper obvious things aren’t quite right, like outrageous revenue claims or promises that just can’t be true.

We’re talking more about generalized advice that people dish out in Facebook groups or as the only way to be successful with your services. The stuff that gets in your head and confuses the hell out of you.

Lie #1: You Must Pick a Niche

  • This is one of the most common pieces of advice that’s dished up. If you want to grow your business, you need to niche. Want better clients? Then niche. Raise your prices…niche.
  • Niching isn’t necessarily bad advice, but it’s not something that every business needs to do. The idea is that you need to niche around an industry, and for some people that’s fine, but it doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it’s actually to the detriment of many businesses.
  • Niching doesn’t have to be vertical — it can be horizontal — and that’s the way we choose to niche. You don’t have to go after the industry, but rather the specific type of service you offer or how you approach it. This has been our method, and it’s worked just fine.
  • Next time someone tells you to niche, question it. It’s generalized, one-size-fits-all advice.

Lie #2: Charge What You’re Worth

  • This is truly the worst advice ever. It’s so subjective and non-specific that it’s next to impossible to know what you’re worth.
  • You shouldn’t undercharge, and you probably even need to raise your prices, but trying to figure out “what you’re worth” is an exercise in futility.
  • Instead of coming up with a number based on “worth”, do the math to figure out what you should charge. Because, honestly, if you’re going to focus on worth, our ego says we’re worth Beyonce money.

Lie #3: Build Your Email List

  • Yes, email marketing is part of our bread and butter with Scoop Studios, but email list building isn’t for the weak. It takes time, skills and patience.
  • We have a sizable email list and we can count on one hand how many clients come from it. Clients come from relationships — they aren’t just random email list people. Our clients (who AREN’T on our email list) don’t want a freakin’ checklist, they just want the job done.
  • If you’re in the business of services and you want clients, an email list is probably not the thing you need. It’s a distraction and isn’t going to bring you clients — at least not high ticket ones.
  • With services, you need to focus on building relationships, which means making a real connection — online or in-person.
  • Email list building is fine if you have a long-term plan for a group program or other offerings, but email list people aren’t going to be buying $5k of services from you.

Lie #4: Talk About Being “Booked” Up

  • For the love of services, this one is really terrible advice. It’s a weirdo status thing and we don’t think it’s good. Not at all. It’s game playing and posturing. “Look at me…I’m booked up for a million zillion months!”
  • We get why people do this — it’s a credibility thing — but it’s also sending a message you’re busy. Potentially too busy for work to be referred to you. Too busy in the future when someone has a referral.
  • What if you’re really actually booked up? Make that be a conversation you have with potential incoming clients and not a badge of honor on social media. There are many creative ways to manage this.

Lie #5: Run Facebook Ads

  • This one…like come on, really? High-end consulting clients from Facebook ads? Did you hear that from a Facebook ad?
  • We’re sure if we were to survey our clients, they’d tell you they’re not buying consulting, creative or other services from a Facebook ad, so cut that out.
  • Fact: Facebook ads require WAY more people than you need. So let’s do some math. Let’s say you have 100 people that opt-in via your ad. That means maybe 1-2% of those people will actually purchase – so 1 to 2 people. And that ad is going to cost you.
  • Think about lead gen in person — asking for referrals or networking. You don’t need to talk to 100 people to get a client. In fact, if you have to, you’ve got bigger problems.
  • There can be exceptions to this depending on your services like if you’re hyper-local this could make sense, especially if your service is more commoditized or you’re running a promotion. But you need to have a firm budget in place and an understanding of what you’re doing before you start spending.

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Maggie Patterson Abou the Author

I’m Maggie Patterson (she/her), and services businesses are my business.

I have 20+ years of experience with client services, am a consultant for agency owners, creatives, and consultants, and vocal advocate for humane business practices rooted in empathy, respect, and trust.

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