How to Structure Your Workday to Maximize Profits
Does this sound like your current workday?
9:00 AM – fire up the computer and check emails from clients and prospects
10:15 AM – putting out a fire from something someone mentioned in one of the emails
11:00 AM – still putting out fires
12:00 AM – I deserve a lunch break
1:22 PM – ate too much, need to lie down. This break can go on a bit longer
1:45 PM – still watching puppy videos on YouTube
2:00 PM – about to pick up the phone and do some followup calls, more emails came through
2:35 PM – first call made. didn’t go so well. losing motivation
3:12 PM – it’s important to check client rankings and their ad spend/sales
3:45 PM – let’s do some client work and optimization/ads
4:45 PM – it’s way too late to do any sales now. every business owner is heading out the door
5:00 PM – I should head out the door too, can do more work tomorrow though!
Jokes aside, some variation of this probably happens to you in your workday. If you think you have a lifestyle business and you enjoy distractions, great. Removing distractions isn’t going to solve this either.
What you need is structure and a routine.
There’s two problems you will run into once you start getting more and more clients:
- Not enough time to work on each client
- Not enough time to work on getting more clients
What ends up happening?
You don’t get more clients, the quality of work goes down, clients get less results, you lose clients, you gain a couple, and on the cycle goes. You hit a ceiling.
This will apply to you even if you only have one client. Or none.
Now at this point you’re probably thinking: “I’ll just outsource it or hire someone!” While that is proper thinking and I’ve written about when and how to do that, there is still a point in your business where you have to master the essential tasks yourself first, even if it’s just to be able to hand over the same routine, schedule, and structure to your staff that you’re looking to replace you.
Your New Workday
9:00 AM – start prospecting and selling.
5:00 PM – start client work.
Ever heard the saying “Sell when your prospects are awake, work/learn/grow when they’re sleeping?” Neither have I but I’m pretty sure it’s an actual quote from a famous business person.
It’s your new creed.
Does it really matter if a backlink is placed at 10AM or 6PM? NO. So keep your work for the end of the day, and use your limited creative energy and momentum for the day time.
Do not let anything interrupt you or stop you from doing this!
This is a big one that I hear a lot: “But I need to be on the phone with my clients during the day, or I need to be on call in case they email me. It’s good customer support!”
When you have this attitude, you are actually saying: “They pay me, therefore they bring value to me. I don’t bring value to them”.
If you brought value to them, and you really understood that’s why they’re paying you, and you really communicated that to them, then the dynamic changes that you call the shots.
They have to be on call to you if they want to receive the value. They have to wait until you are free because you are so busy being awesome at what you do, that you don’t have time to change their landing page button to every shade of orange until they’re satisfied.
How do you communicate this to your clients?
At the beginning of every new client relationship, I set the expectations very clear and very low. This is so that when I blow past them, they are happy and excited at the same time that things are working way better than they expected. But I got them to be patient in the beginning.
At the same time, I also outline the frequency of reporting (monthly or bi-monthly), how often we will get on the phone (if at all), and one more important thing: email responses.
The ironic thing is that the less your client depends on you (you’re just one extra traffic source, they have a larger wherewithal, they have revenues already), the less communication they will need or want. This seems to be the case for me, partly because I filter out prospects very heavily and seem to attract higher paying clients only. (Or, demanding higher prices actually changes their mindset and my perceived value).
But either way, I always keep this in mind, which is still one of the most useful things I learnt from Tim Ferriss’s landmark book The 4 Hour Workweek:
I only check my emails and can respond between 11-12PM and 3-4PM.
In fact I’m so particular about this, that my inbox to this day is still always at 0, and I don’t get many emails. It was even my email signature at one point, until everyone learnt there’s no point in sending multiple emails to Lior.
What this does is twofold:
- Clients will learn that you are so busy working on their stuff that you’re already on top of everything, and they will keep emails precise and whole, so it doesn’t turn into a chat messenger platform. Your perceived value goes up.
- No more putting out fires and spending hours a day responding and quickly fixing things. It kills your workflow, and now everything can be done in one swoop.
Of course in the beginning when onboarding a client, there may be a bit more back and forth as you get all the materials and everything else ironed out, but I can’t tell you how important it is to lay out your communication guidelines in terms of emailing, reporting, and “meetings”.
You tell them how YOU work, don’t let them demand more or anything different than you already do. It’s not worth them turning into a problem client.
Wicked Task Management
There’s so much to be said about task management and I’m really not an expert, but I do have some tips to share you may find useful.
Of course your “new” workday doesn’t have to be exactly 9-5. If you’re in the early stages, go beyond it. Don’t let 5PM be your cutoff point. In fact, when I started as a freelancer I noticed most business owners actually responded to emails late at night, and many are willing to get on the phone if I suggested a sales consultation time past 5PM.
It also doesn’t have to be the entire day- the point is that there are large stretches of no interruptions.
9-3PM of just sales is very solid.
Break it down by the hour, as there are tasks within “sales” that can’t be interrupted either. For example, a few hours of cold emailing (prospecting), then a few hours of followups on the phone, then a few hours of consultations (sales) that you put back to back in one time slot/chunk of the day.
Again, I always leave client work for the end of the day. This is how you “maximize” profit while not draining yourself out.
Once you do start with any sort of tasks that you’ve been pushing off or planning for a while but they’re just so BIG, the easiest way to manage them is to “chunk” them. Break down which tasks take the longest, then see if you can split them into multiple tasks. I personally use Trello to manage this for myself and my team, and no task (card in Trello) takes over 2-3 hours to complete.
Repeat, boring, or rote tasks, like making 100 calls per day, can be measured by simply throwing a paper clip into a jar after each call you make. At the end of it, it will feel great seeing a full jar (that you already know is around 100 clips) and as it fills up you will be motivated to keep going.
What to Focus On Moving Forward
Your most focused, creative energy is always going to be in the morning after you’ve gotten going with work. That’s why it’s important to focus your attention on sales in this crucial period.
Pushing client work until one period (preferably at the end of the day) is an amazing management tool because it also makes you further chunk those into very specific tasks.
For example, many friends of mine run ad campaigns for clients. Instead of answering emails throughout the day, checking things here and there, constantly communicating with clients, and doing some tweaks all day, it will be a lot more efficient to manage time according to the above.
If client work started at a certain time and ended at a certain time (with no interruptions), then that given time is the only amount that you’re allowed to do work in. This is also known as Parkinson’s Law, where the amount of time you allot to something is the amount of time it will actually take to complete it.
So, give yourself a chunk of 3-5 hours AFTER 5PM (depending on the type of work and how many clients you have), and scatter them throughout the week. SEO and PPC clients don’t need to be touched every day, they can be checked and tweaked every other day at a minimum.
This is how you manage 20-30 clients on your own without hiring out. If each client takes 1 hour of focussed attention and tweaking per week, then with 20 clients you can accomplish this with only 4 hours allotted to client-work every day in a 5-day workweek.
You can start to see that you can actually handle a lot more clients and work than you think you can. If you want the laptop/traveling/nomad lifestyle, you can also tweak your day to be more focused on delivery and fulfillment, instead of sales and growth. This will work for you, but you still need that time during the day to focus on the work.
How do you see yourself organizing your day? Do you have any tips or neat ways of doing it now? Let me know in the comments below!