Some of you are rolling your eyes right now. You’re thinking, “I WISH I had too many clients and not enough time. Man, what I would give for THAT problem.” This article isn’t for you; try this one instead.
But some of you are sitting there, barely keeping your eyes open because you’ve worked way too many hours this week. You just happened to see this roll into your inbox… and, after pausing for 2 seconds to think about your day today and your plans for tomorrow, you were like, “Man, I better read that.”
The truth is, having too many clients and not enough time IS a good thing — but it’s also incredibly stressful! You feel rushed and behind, and you begin to worry that the quality of your work is suffering.
And it can lead to burn out big time.
More than that, it can lead you to stop doing marketing (um, because when the heck do you have time?), which then leads to NO clients, which leads you to start marketing again… and the cycle continues.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact the solution is pretty simple.
You have two options:
- Be Pickier About Who You’ll Work With
- Raise Your Rates
Either one will solve your problem, but which method you choose will depend on what your ultimate business goals are. Let’s take a closer look at each option.
Too Many Clients Solution 1: Get Picky
When you’re dealing with too many clients, the “easiest” solution is to just say no to some of them. Now, easiest is in quotes because I realize it’s not actually easy to turn down someone who wants your help… especially when it wasn’t that long ago when you were scrambling for each and every potential customer.
But the truth is there are only so many hours in a day.
So if you’re finding there is more demand for your services than you are able to easily meet, it’s time to do some math. How many clients do you really need to take on to make your bills and have a little left over each month?
How many clients do you really need?
Total all your bills (I recommend looking back over your expenses for the last 3 months then calculating the average) and then figure out how much you’d like to pay yourself on top of that. Now divide that by how much one client is likely to pay you in a given month.
That’s the number of clients you need to work with each month.
Assuming that number is still smaller than the number of clients expressing interest in your services, now it’s time to figure out which clients you want to work with… and how you can let the others down easy.
Always wanted to niche down, and specialize in teaching sports classes? Put those clients at the front of the line.
Prefer clients who are highly compliant? Then see if there’s a way to determine that ahead of time, and give them priority.
Enjoy problem solving for aggression or behavior issues? You guessed it — take those clients first.
And so on.
In fact, this is my personal recommendation for how to get to the point where you can niche down… get so busy you can begin to turn down clients you don’t enjoy.
How to let clients down easy
The simplest way I’ve found to let clients down when you have too many clients is to refer them to another trainer or business. Find someone you can feel good referring clients to and let them know that you’ll likely be sending clients their way.
Then respond to the client with something like, “I’m really sorry, but I’m actually not taking on new clients right now, but I’d be happy to refer you to another trainer.” Or “I’m really sorry, but I’m actually booked out for about 2 months right now. But I’d be happy to refer to you another trainer.”
Some clients will take you up on that offer — and some won’t (some people prefer to do their own research).
If you truly don’t have any local trainers you feel comfortable referring clients to, that’s okay. You are not obligated to help every dog owner that needs it; if you have time, you can point them to online resources that might help with their problem. If you don’t, you can suggest a good place for them to look for online resources or other trainers (things like the KPA website).
The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s okay for you to say no to some clients.
Too Many Clients Solution 2: Raise Your Rates
Your other option when you find yourself with too many clients is to raise your rates. Honestly, this is my preferred solution (unless you find you’re already at the upper end of what others in your area tend to charge).
It’s my preferred solution because it simultaneously allows you to make more money and have more time, while also naturally leading some clients to decide they’re not interested.
When you raise your rates, some clients will decide they can no longer afford you. That’s okay — just like in the last option, if you want to you can offer them a referral to another trainer, or you can point them to free resources that they can use to find alternative solutions to their problems. That naturally eliminates the “too many clients” problem.
Plus, when you raise your rates suddenly you need fewer clients to make the same amount of money. That means you get some of your day back. This frees up time for other things that are important for your business (*cough* like marketing *cough*). A lot of trainers feel guilty raising their rates — because then some clients won’t be able to afford them.
If it’s important to you to help out those pet owners in your community that need it most, I recommend developing a scholarship program or raising your rates enough that you can volunteer your time teaching low cost classes at a shelter or community center. That way it’s win-win. You can still help those that need it and you can help grow your business in a more profitable way.
How to let clients know you’re raising your rates
Of course, you may get some pushback when you let people know that you’re planning on raising your rates. The best way I’ve found to deal with this is a little bit of planning.
A few months (or at least a few weeks!) before you plan to up your rates, let your clients know that on X date, rates are going up to Y (whatever your new rates will be). Then let them know that because you value them as clients, you’re giving them an opportunity to pre-purchase classes or lessons at your current rate. So long as they pay for the classes or lessons before the rate increase goes into effect, you’ll honor the current rate and they can use those lessons even after your rates have gone up.
Again this is a win-win! For your clients, it offers a way for them to continue to work with you for a while at your current rate, and gives them some time to think about other alternatives if they truly can’t afford the higher price point. For you, it encourages a few bulk payments, which will help hold you over when some of your current clients inevitably decide your new rates are out of their budget and gets you a bit of time to fill you plate at the new, higher rate.
A Word of Caution: Don’t Go from “Too Many Clients” to “Not Enough”
One last note here — even if you’re turning down clients, make sure you don’t stop all of your marketing. Refine it, by all means. Reduce it. Eliminate the options that take up the most time or that you enjoy the least; stop doing the things that you haven’t seen actually produce any clients. But don’t stop marketing all together.
Otherwise, you’ll find that once you finish working with the clients currently in your appointment book, you’re left struggling to find new leads.
Is this a problem you’re struggling with? Share your experience (and what you plan to do about it) in the comments!