Regardless of whether you're just starting out with your service business or you've been running it for a while, we've got some tips on finding more work, getting better jobs, and making the most out of the services you offer to your customers.
Finding more work
To most business owners, keeping steady work usually feels like trying to walk a tightrope in a thunderstorm. It's even worse if you're a young business and you're not sure what works and doesn't work. Take comfort in knowing that there isn't one solution that works for all businesses. You have to try things and find what works for you, and it's important TO TRY and keep trying.
We talked a few weeks ago about setting a marketing budget. That's a good start, but there are other ways you can find work if you're strapped for cash. Here are a few options that might inspire some of your own ideas:
- Ask customers to refer friends and family (and offer them something in return)
- Go talk with other local businesses and hand out business cards and shake hands
- Flyer mailboxes / cars
- Post ads on Craigslist
- Start a facebook page, get listed on google, and bring your business online
It's also important to ask your customers how they found you. If you're not keeping track of where they came from, you'll never know what works.
WorkWeek makes it easy to track this info when you create a new customer, and even easier to report on it and see what the return was on your investment.
Once you've found something that works, keep doing it, but also look at related options and you might find something that works as good, if not better.
Finding better work
Not every job or customer is equal. What type of work do you like doing for your customers? Work you're proud of, or maybe just work that is profitable and pays well? What type of customers do you like dealing with? Customers that you build a long-lasting relationship with and do repeated work for or maybe just any customer that pays and pays on time.
To find better work, we need to define what "better" means to you. If you're running a landscaping business and you enjoy the challenge and artistic aspect of doing retaining walls, you don't want to position your business, website, or prices in a way that makes you seem like you just mow yards. If you're looking for long-lasting client relationships and repeat work, market and advertise those services as your primary service.
Define what "better work" is and do what you can to find those jobs. Don't run your business just taking what you can get, position yourself and your business to take what you want.
Finding revenue and profit
The first thing you'll want to keep in mind, if you're not already aware of it, is simply that revenue (the money you bring in from doing your work) is not the same as profit (what you have left over once you pay for materials, your time, and any workers that helped you do the job).
This is important, really important, and often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of running a business. Sit down one evening and do the math. Look at a handful of jobs – pick a few big ones and a few little ones. For each one, write down what you charged for the job and then total up the cost of materials, gas, labor or help you paid, and finally your personal time (you do have a rate for yourself, right?). Now open our Profit Margin Calculator and plug those numbers in. As you enter numbers and add rows, you'll see your total profit for each job, and more importantly you'll see how much profit each job made as a percentage – bigger means more money, smaller means less.
Why is that important? Well, if you start to notice that big jobs are substantially more profitable, you can focus on trying to land those. Or maybe you notice that big jobs are about as profitable as the smaller jobs, that probably means you need to charge more for your bigger jobs. Maybe you notice that smaller jobs are more profitable, which could point to a pricing problem, or it could mean that you double down and focus on selling more of those small jobs.
Know your business
One of the best investments you can make in your business is simply knowing your business. Find out where you customers are coming from and keep track of it. This can help determine what you should be doing during the slow season to find more work. You should also decide what type of work you want to be doing and then do what you can to secure more of it. Finally, keep up with your profit margins. They can you help discover issues with pricing, supply or labor costs, and give an overall view of the health of your business.