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October 18, 2022

Episode 076: How to Scale Your Service-Based Business with Abagail Pumphrey & Emylee Williams

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So, you’ve decided to scale your service-based business. Congratulations, friend! That’s an exciting step for any small business owner to take. But, does your business have the capacity to grow? In other words, do you have adequate systems, internal processes, and staff to increase your sales without letting work take over your life?

If you’re not sure how to set up your company for long-term success, you’re not alone. But, our friends Abagail Pumphrey and Emylee Williams⁠ are here to tell you that with a bit of planning, strategic pricing, and boundary setting, you can scale your business⁠—and achieve the lifestyle you’ve been looking for⁠—without burning out.

Abagail and Emylee are the brains behind Boss Project, the Incubator coaching program, and The Strategy Hour Podcast⁠. They love helping service-based business owners refine their offers, create client-focused systems, and grow sustainably so they can make more money⁠—and get their time back⁠—at work and home. And, Abagail and Emylee strongly believe that life matters more than work, so their family and team come before everything else (although their clients are a close second!).

In this episode of Priority Pursuit, Abagail and Emylee explain how you can scale your service-based business, make more money in less time, set boundaries respectfully with clients, and build the life you want.

What does it mean to “scale” your business, & how can creative entrepreneurs scale their service-based businesses?

To “scale” your business means to prepare for sustainable growth in your company⁠—that is, to have adequate systems, technology, staff, and internal operations in place so that your business can grow well. When you scale (AKA grow slowly and realistically), you’ll have time to develop foundational systems, your company culture, and a remarkable client experience for your dream customers.

Abagail and Emylee offer these helpful tips for scaling your service-based business and working toward long-term success:

1. Focus on growing every aspect of your business—not just your revenue.

A common mistake Abagail and Emylee see creative entrepreneurs making: only thinking of scale from a revenue perspective. “Often, people hyperfocus on marketing and the collection of dollars, but scaling should involve growing every aspect of a business,” Emylee says.

While increasing sales is a necessary part of building your company, you should also consider things like:

  • Clarifying your brand message
  • Helping staff members adapt to changing roles
  • Hiring new employees to keep up with increased orders
  • Improving existing offers to meet more customers’ needs
  • Creating systems that help your business run smoothly

2. Break down the scaling process into smaller, growth-focused goals.

Planning to scale your service-based business can be overwhelming, but try not to feel like you have to meet all of your growth goals overnight. (Nobody can do that, friend, so give yourself some grace!) Abagail and Emylee suggest that you determine steps you can take to prepare your business as you sell more offers and acquire new customers. These smaller goals will help you outline a more detailed growth plan and understand what you need to do to ensure that your company can handle the scaling process.

Abagail and Emylee offer us a few examples of steps you can take as you scale your business:

  • Step 1: Transition from completing one-time projects to working with clients in ongoing partnerships.
  • Step 2: Set up a CRM (customer relationship management) system.
  • Step 3: Look into automating welcome emails and other communications to make more time for talking with leads and selling.
  • Step 4: Hire your first employee (or more employees) to help you manage new clients, follow up with leads, and fill more orders.

How can creatives adapt their current offerings to generate more revenue & work less?

Working fewer hours (or with fewer clients) and making more money to support the lifestyle you want may sound like a distant dream. Well, friend, it can happen when you focus on long-term growth and increased value for your dream customers. If you’re trying to generate more revenue while spending less time at work, Abagail and Emylee have some advice for you:

1. Deliver a high-touch signature service.

In Abagail and Emylee’s Incubator program, they teach students how to structure and sell high-touch signature services with systems that scale. In other words, you’ll sell more products or services⁠, wow even more customers, and help them achieve the results they want⁠. You can even automate your client experience (welcome email, contract signing, etc.) and delegate tasks to help you get some of your time back.

Emylee explains that high-touch signature services aren’t necessarily high-ticket (AKA high-price) offers every time, but with these offers, you’ll provide personalized support and a fantastic, luxury experience for each client. Designing a valuable service for your customers⁠—and creating systems that let you work closely with them⁠—can help you turn more leads into buyers, retain clients longer, and get more referrals. And, with a repeatable process that you can teach your team to follow, you can remove yourself from certain tasks in your business without sacrificing income or quality.

2. Raise your prices to match your high-touch signature service.

Abagail tells us that she sees creative entrepreneurs make a couple of common mistakes when it comes to pricing their services:

  • Blindly choosing your prices based on a random number
  • Assuming that you can give every hour of your day to client work

To avoid these pitfalls, Abagail first recommends considering what income you’ll need to pay the bills, support your team, and live your ideal lifestyle. Then, think about how much time you have to pour into designing (or redesigning) your high-touch signature service. Abagail and Emylee have designed a calculator that can help you price your services based on the hours you’re spending on client work, the costs of running your business, and other factors.

Also, Abagail and Emylee gently remind us that it’s not healthy to make yourself available at all hours of the day for customer requests and projects. In fact, they recommend giving 20-25% of your time to client work, then devoting the rest of your day to, well, the rest of life⁠—family, friends, hobbies, you name it. You might need to adjust deliverables so they take less time, or delegate part of the project to another team member. But, when you adjust pricing to reflect the limited (and valuable) time you have, you can help your client solve their problem⁠—and meet your revenue needs⁠—without working all hours of the day and burning out.

3. Set boundaries to avoid undercharging & overdelivering.

Along with pricing your services appropriately, another way to avoid burnout is to stop overdelivering and working for free, just to build your portfolio. “So many women undervalue the work they’re doing and undercharge,” Emylee says. “Not only is that exhausting, but it’s also unfeasible in the long term.”

Abagail and Emylee saw this happen with Bonnie, a social media manager who joined their Incubator program because, as Bonnie put it, “My business was in crisis mode.” Bonnie thought she’d have to hustle even harder, take on more clients, and hire employees to meet her revenue goals and scale her company. But, it turned out that she had been undercharging her clients and overdelivering—which meant that she needed to raise her prices and set boundaries with her customers to avoid working out of scope.

So, Bonnie determined a new, higher price for her offer and started having conversations with her clients about limiting scope and raising her rates. To her amazement, all six of her current clients agreed to sign new contracts with the higher-priced services! Bonnie’s clients saw the value in the offers she delivered, and they respected the new boundaries she’d set to preserve her time and make enough money to support her lifestyle. Because of her new rates and scope-related boundaries, Bonnie was able to grow her business sustainably without hiring anyone, taking on new clients, or risking burnout.

What should creative entrepreneurs consider before they scale their service-based businesses?

It’s tempting to jump right into scaling your company, but growing sustainably requires hours of planning, prioritizing, preparing your team, and putting systems into place to manage additional clients and sales. Before you start the scaling process, Abagail and Emylee suggest that you consider the following:

1. Maintain your business (even when it’s boring).

Abagail reminds us that it’s fun to start a business, but your days will be steady and consistent after you’ve grown a bit. You won’t have to deal with the extreme highs and lows of just starting out, but you also might get bored. And, that’s okay and very normal!

But, you should avoid the temptation to add a bunch of new services simply because that seems exciting. “A sustainable business means learning how to maintain it and not just start over,” Abagail says. Now, that’s not to say you can’t ever introduce new services into your business, especially if you’ve done your research and know they will benefit your target audience. But, you should start by improving your offers that have brought in the most sales, then selling what’s working to even more clients.

2. Design a life-first business that serves you & helps others.

Emylee tells us, “I often see women who…desire simplicity, but the thing they’re chasing is not simple.” It’s easy for life to feel out of control when work feels the same way. And, it’s frustrating when you’re too stressed out about work to enjoy the fruits of your labor (AKA to have a life outside of your job). But, your company shouldn’t just work well for others; it should work for you and your lifestyle, too.

Something that can help you structure a business that puts your life first is delegation. Abagail and Emylee encourage creative entrepreneurs to determine what tasks they can (and should) outsource or assign to other team members. Your time is valuable, and delegating tasks will give you more time for family, friends, pets, exercise, travel, and whatever else you love.

Abagail and Emylee also suggest designing your work week around your life and schedule (not the other way around). After all, life shouldn’t be all about your job! You can still provide top-quality services for your clients without working all hours of the day or missing important moments with your loved ones. When you create a life-first business, you’ll feel energized from your time out of the office—which will help you bring even more great ideas and deliver even better offers to your clients.

Friend, I hope this conversation with Abagail and Emylee has inspired you to start planning to scale your service-based business! By delivering high-touch signature services, pricing them appropriately, and setting boundaries with clients, you can maintain a life-first approach in⁠ your work and equip your company to succeed in the long run.

Want to hear more?

If you’d like to connect with Abagail and Emylee, you can find them on Instagram at @bossproject and their website at bossproject.com.

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Discover the four most common marketing mistakes small businesses make and exactly how to solve them! Download our guide.

Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

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