Most of us go into business to serve a specific type of person with a specific kind of problem. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers at their core after all.
Fellow entrepreneurs also tend to be a little bit idealistic, knowing that they will be able to change the lives of the people that buy from them, sometimes without thinking hard about whether that particular audience is going to be able to pay enough to maintain and grow your business – all without burning out.
Enter the magic of the balanced client mix.
I have led our team to achieve this mix after suffering from it myself. When HALA first launched, back in 2012, it was pretty much just me. I was learning new skills, learning how to run a business, learning how to build relationships, (and learning how to stop being so darn shy and anxious) learning, always learning, took up most of my time.
When I was presented with the chance to work with somebody (ANYBODY) I was so thrilled that they had chosen me, and so devoted to earning money with my fledgling business that I took on all comers. Most of those comers had passion and purpose and just needed a marketing push to hit their stride. They were looking to save their corners of the world, and had virtually no budget.
That scenario left me working 70 hours a week and not even making ends meet, but my heart was full.
Being a creature of extremes, I made the decision after three years on the hamster wheel to take on mainly government and corporate work. Most of those clients had large marketing budgets and none looked twice at my costs (except to recommend that I triple my rates). They were looking for results, and had virtually no passion or purpose.
That scenario had me working 70 hours a week, paying down debt and making money, but I hated my daily work.
It wasn’t until I started working with clients on their “ideal client avatar” or “buyer persona” or whatever new term is en vogue at the moment that I realized it wasn’t the soul-filler or the soul-crusher that was the problem – it was the lack of balance.
To make a company that I was both able to grow and love to work in I had to find a balance in my mix of clients. So I created a framework where I figured out what was missing, where our capacity could stretch a bit, where we can do the most good and get paid well. Through that exercise, I discovered that just about every founder has a MONEY AVATAR and a SOUL AVATAR, and those who haven’t been in business long enough or who have never looked at their client list in that way could start with a YOU-VATAR (also I like making up words.)
My MONEY AVATAR is government and large corporate work. It’s not usually the creative stuff that makes me feel like a genius, and often the people I present my solutions to aren’t that excited to see the end product: they’re just happy that something got checked off their to-do list on time and on budget.
Other MONEY AVATAR examples could be wholesalers versus your own retail clients if you’re in manufacturing; insurance-only clients in the medical and paramedical sector; investors versus family home buyers in the real estate world; major gift donors or corporate sponsors in the charitable sector. Everyone has a MONEY AVATAR, sometimes it’s just harder to define.
The SOUL AVATAR, on the other end of the spectrum, feeds your soul, your spirit, and makes you excited to get out of bed and get working. They are inspiring…until the invoice comes due. They tend to be (or at least feel) a bit more demanding, and you definitely work harder for the money than with the other avatars, but you are attached to them. They are your community, your regulars, your tribe.
My SOUL AVATAR is new businesses, kitchen table ideas from brilliant, caring, creative people who are doing what they love. They are open to my creative flow, they are happy to collaborate, and their passion is infectious. Other SOUL AVATAR examples could be your regular small purchasers on your Shopify site, the clients who want heal holistically but can only afford a few sessions out of pocket, the single mom who needs a new home but can’t afford much, the donor who gives $10 faithfully every month but couldn’t afford to do more.
The YOUVATAR is a place to get started, be turning yourself into your third ideal client. You know your pain points, why you got into this business, and you can connect with and value your services better than just about anyone else. That’s your starting point, if you’re too new to have the other two, or if you don’t know how to see your others.
Why Do This Exercise?
If you want a balanced, enjoyable, happy life in the 40, 50, 60 hours every week that you spend at work, and especially if you’re trying to spend less time at work and more time at life, you need to find out which avatar you need more of to fit the bill, and then market and network and ask for referrals to get more of them – and only them.
If you’re finding yourself bored and passionless, you might need to spend some time attracting more of your kindred spirits, your SOUL AVATAR, or at least spend more time creating things that will delight them.
If you’re instead finding yourself burnt out and hurried (and broke, don’t forget broke) then it’s time to attract three or four strong MONEY AVATAR clients to take some stress off, and let you either delegate and hire or at least make you comfortable to say “no” to anyone who isn’t showing you the money.
The magic is in the balance. Money + Passion + Purpose + Time/Money Freedom
Isn’t that why we all got into business in the first place?