Slow Ya Roll & Think It Through? 3 Things Service Based Business Should Think Through
Being a new business owner is exciting, scary, freeing, and hard work. Don't let some of these adjectives cause any alarm. Anything worth having is going to be all those and maybe a few others. When I began to take on clients it was not a decision that I consciously made, but a decision I was sort of nudged into. A friend or family member would ask me to do a job a fee and I would do it. The hobby was becoming expensive and our finances did not support the expenses that were starting to accrue as I needed tools and supplies. The excitement of being able to create something new for them was great and to be honest a little scary at the same time. I have yet to have a same request from any client to either build or re-upholstery the exact same thing. Constantly getting new request for new projects that I never done before did caused a little doubt. I was excited about the new project but I asked myself, Can I do this? Not just can I do it, but can I do it well. With every project, it has pushed me and challenged me in ways that I otherwise wouldn't have pushed myself. But besides the issue of, can I do the job well, I also struggled with how much do I charge? Someone told me that was easy enough. All I had to do was just find all the local upholstery shops, find out how they price their services, figure out an average price, and BAM their go your price list! Don’t get me started on researching custom woodwork prices, shipping, packing, etc. That was easier said than done for me. Because of my lack of business sense and not thinking things through, I felt like the prices were too high. I wanted Sawdust & Fabric to be affordable for the average person. This was a clear sign that I had not thought through my target market (that's a whole different can of worms). For my first five or six clients, I was just throwing out some numbers off the top of my head with my primary concern being, don't charge to high because they may not want my services. And to be perfectly honest this was somewhat of a struggle until maybe a month ago. It is critical junctures like this where if you are an aspiring business owner, new business owner and dare I say, not so new business owner, you need to
Critical issues needed to be considered that I was not considering at all which always caused me to spend money that I shouldn't have spent. Not slowing down caused me money and valuable time on projects. Because I was so new to this whole mindset of business owner, it cost me. The 3 areas I should have thought through before taking on any client and still thinking through are 1) Thinking through how I want to be paid. 2) Thinking through the type of job and all the materials for the job, and 3) Thinking Through EVERYTHING!! Let’s began with the first area to think through.
#1 Thinking Through How You Wanted To Be Paid
As I began to read and ask questions I knew that if I wanted to make this work as a business, I had to come up with a plan on how I wanted to price my services and all that is included. There is someone that I know personally and respect that has his own mature upholstery business. He was a valuable source of advice. He suggested that I decide if I wanted to charge and hourly rate or a fixed rate for different job. So, I began to research prices from local upholstery shops and the going hourly rates for upholstery services along with fixed service rates. I also look around online for some sort of median price for certain woodworking projects that I provide to get me on the path of coming up with a price list for Sawdust & Fabric. After spending a few hours really sorting things out, I came up with a price list. It was decided,for right now, my best route would be a fixed rate for all building projects according to different specifications and on basic upholstery work. The reason being, I never keep track of hours spent on a project. Although I do need to create a system and discipline myself to put this practice into place, I digress. Back to the price sheet. Old mindsets take a minute to break so I don’t always stick to the price sheet I developed. Why you asked? Because sometines when I am asked to do a project, I never have my price sheet on me and instead of saying I'll get back to you by the end of the day or even the next day I rushed to give a quote. Or sometimes the simple fact that I received a call about a job excites me so that the word yes would come out before even discussing a price. Like I said before, not all jobs are the same and some take a lot more work than others. So, I say again,
#2 Think through all the Materials needed
If you've thought through getting paid and if you decided that an hourly rate is the route you want to take, then this has to be carefully thought out to get your client the most accurate quote for the job. If there are conditions that could change the time it will take to complete the job then that should be communicated up front. With a fixed rate, all that should be thought through is the material cost. It cannot be express enough, how much every little thing should be accounted for. When I first started out and even still now, I do not have a reserve of finances for materials nor a lot of space to store wood or my upholstery materials. So, I always request the cost for materials up front. This is another area where I would loosely figure material cost off the dome and come up short, leaving me to pick up the slack from my personal finances. In my head, it was not good business to go back and ask for more money.
Apparently, it is quite common practice to ask more money for materials in justifiable situations. However, it is better business If I would take the time to sit down alone and think through all cost before a quote is give. This requires examining the job in its entirety. From start to finish and all the little stuff in between. If you Take the time to do this step you will arrive at
#3 Think Through EVERYTHING
I know, I know you may be saying how is that different from #2. The goal in #2 is the specifically figure out the coast of all the materials needed. When I say think about everything I mean EVERYTHING. The type of job, the cost of materials, how much time you will need to spend each day to get it done on time, efficient planning or work time, possible problems that could arise and solutions, etc., Depending on what service is being offered, pricing maybe subject to change once the project starts. To be more specific, with upholstery, prices may vary based on a few things. You never really know what needs to be done until you you've removed everything. You may only need to replace the fabric, you may need to replace the fabric and some padding, or in some cases everything may need to be replaced on top of that, the frame may need to be repaired. These are all the types of things I must consider and discuss with a potential client beforehand. So, if I do need more money or things change in the time line, etc. they will not be caught by surprise.
Best practice: If you do need to ask for more money its always best to be able to show them and not just tell them so there won’t be room for any doubt about what their hard earned money is being used for.
In light of all the things I have discussed so far, I share this because I have struggled with these principles in my own business. I can say with confidence, “Slow Ya Roll and Think It Through”. I would find myself working really hard for pennies. And much as I wish that I could do what I do in woodwork and upholstery for a price that everyone could afford, I would not have a business but a charity. My family and I don't have the financial resources to run a charity. Don't get me wrong I love what I do but my mind is changing and must change if I want to continue to do this as a business. This does not mean that I'm trying to get rich, but materials, education, mileage, etc. cost money. As of right now, running my business like a charity does not support my family financially. Remember, Think Through How You Want to Be Paid!
This is not only important because to me but this principle is important for the client. It is good business that everyone, up front, know pricing.
It is my hope that each post that I share helps someone and communicates that I am growing and learning, as well. Not only as a woodworker, upholsterer, and business women, but as a person. As I have launched out into deeper waters with Sawdust & Fabric, I am challenged internally to put the same effort, drive, and passion into my relationship with God, my marriage, children, and everyone and thing that I encounter. As I prepared this post, I learned that some areas, in my personal life and business, I had not thought through. To be perfectly honest, I have to get on it. I don't want to see it, cultivate it, and manifest in my business only but in every aspect of my life and my prayer is that I can inspire others to do the same.