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Business Agreement

Running a business without written business agreements puts you and your clients at risk for misunderstandings. It puts you at risk of not getting paid. And further puts you at risk for chargebacks, where the client goes directly to the credit card company and claims fraud after receiving services. Without a written agreement, you will likely have to refund any money you’ve received, even if your policy is “no refunds.”

Business Agreement

All About Business Agreeements 

 

 

The truth is that contracts, or as I call them business agreements, do not have to be complicated, written in legalese, or 20 pages long to be enforceable. What they need to be is yours, not someone else’s copy/paste, clearly written, including all terms, and signed.   When I say do not “copy/paste” someone else’s, I mean do not copy/ paste. There are formats online you can follow, but don’t include things you don’t understand and just change terms just because they have it in theirs.

 

 

Here are the main things to include in your business agreements.

Business agreements:  Be Clear and keep it simple.

 

Nobody likes legalese. Nobody. Drop the “whereas” please. Just say it clearly and keep it simple. If the program lasts six months, it lasts 6 months. If there are 4 monthly payments, say that. People want to know what they are signing up for. It doesn’t have to be fancy, lengthy, or in legalese to be enforceable. You can have a legally binding agreement written on a napkin in a bar (there’s a law case on this!), not that I’m suggesting that approach.

 

Business agreements: Include QTIPS

 

The specific terms need to be spelled out. You can use QTIPS to remind you to include these things:

 

                Q: Quantity  (6 sessions, 2 bracelets, 5 massages, etc.)

                T: Time of Performance (15 days, 6 months, 1 hour)

                I: Identity of the Parties (You and the name of the client/ customer)

                P: Price

                S: Subject Matter (what are they specifically buying? Coffee? Coaching? Copywriting?)

 

When you include the above terms of your agreement, there isn’t much room for misunderstanding. Just make sure you are specific. Don’t say “fruit” if you mean “orange.” It can be a single sentence, “This agreement between Me and You is for Six 30-minute life coaching sessions over 6 weeks for $350.00.” All the terms are there. You know what you are giving, and they clearly know what they are getting.

 

Business agreements: Spell out the policies

 

This is where people often leave out things that come back to bite them. If you have a no refunds policy, you must put it in writing, in the agreement with the terms, and have it signed. If you offer refunds or replacements within 30 days, it must be in there as well. The policies are the actual guidelines within which you run your business. If you require a deposit, if you require pay in full before a VIP day, if the customer pays shipping, you must let your people know this BEFORE they complete the purchase.  

 

Many times, I see entrepreneurs who have policies develop only after an incident. You must be more intentional than that.  Walk through the customer journey in your mind and find the sticky spots where they may have a question or an issue about your product or service, and how you want to resolve it.  If someone doesn’t like your policies and chooses not to do business with you, trust me, it is far better than the bitter dispute with the credit card company over the chargeback later.

 

 

Business agreements: Get any changes in writing

 

If you make changes, and they do happen, just put them in writing and sign and date them. “You and I agree to change our agreement to include XYZ.  This change is effective immediately.”  Do not rely on the memory of what you said on the phone, and the out of context email isn’t any better. Take a minute and “memorialize” the change.

 

 

 

Business agreements: Be prepared to enforce the agreement

 

This is the part of business nobody really likes, but this is the reason you have written and signed agreements. You must be prepared to enforce them. In my own business I allow people to pause coaching for a month or two if life happens, because I understand that life happens, but we don’t just “cancel” the agreement because life happens. We pick back up and finish out the terms of the agreement. I’ve never had to actually go out and enforce anything, because I have great clients, but if that day ever came, I will. This is business. My livelihood depends on my clients keeping their word, and their own business growth and development relies on it too. You must view this from an objective place and understand that if your clients don’t keep the agreements, your business could go under. Be stronger than that.

 

Finally, Having an attorney look over your agreements is a wise decision. I don’t just say that because I have a law degree. Attorneys went to school to spot gaps and look for language that is written in a way that can be interpreted differently than you think it means or is ambiguous.  If you are skipping the attorney for now, but don’t have written agreements, set aside time to follow the above steps and get your agreements together now. 

Financial Tips for Coaches and Consultants

This article is relevant for all service providers, but I’m focusing on coaches and consultants who use the online space to make sales and provide services. Here are a few financial tips for coaches and consultants to make the finances easier, and better, for service providers!

Financial Tips for Coaches and Consultants

 

FINANCIAL TIPS FOR COACHES AND CONSULTANTS

Have a financial structure for money management and taxes right away

 

I see service providers frequently live out of their own personal accounts for a while. It’s so important to set up your business bank account and to create a system for withholding taxes and paying yourself as soon as you can.  Typically profit margins can be larger in the online space, because the cost of doing business is minimal, and I see many entrepreneurs make the mistake of treating their revenue as, “it’s all my money anyway.” This co-mingling makes it difficult to hire contractors, such as a social media manager, because you shouldn’t pay business expenses from a personal account. This can create a tax nightmare.

 

You must pay self-employment taxes on your own paycheck, and if you are using the money in that account, even for business purposes, it be your own personal money. Create a separate financial identity from the start. Get a business bank account. Set up your online deposit with the Internal Revenue Service or your home tax agency and make sure you are withholding and depositing your taxes. Pay yourself every two weeks and let the rest of the money sit in the bank until you get paid again or must pay bills.

 

Calculate everything in your pricing, and know your numbers and your margins

 

My next tip is one that I get some pushback on, I want you to calculate your numbers and know your margins. The reason I get pushback is because people frequently want to “feel” into their pricing, which isn’t a bad thing, but just make sure your feelings are profitable. 

 

I worked with an entrepreneur who was losing money on her most expensive package. By the time we calculated the hours, the services and additional bonuses and things provided, her $1500.00 package had a net LOSS of $80.00 per client. OUCH. In fact, her most profitable package was $195.00. It was extremely hard for her to hear, but it was the truth. Her lower cost packages were covering her losses. She was very frustrated in business, and that was why.

 

You need to know how much you need to make, how much you are legitimately profiting, how many things you need to sell, and at what price, to grow your business strategically and sustainably. Please get your numbers.

 

Stop feast or famine with payment plans and signature offers

 

Coaching and consulting can be feast or famine, and the income can be very unpredictable, especially when you are starting out and haven’t built up your client base. To stabilize your income quickly, please have payment plans available for anything you offer over a certain dollar amount. You get to decide, but I have a client that offers at least 2 payments for anything over $299.00. I have another client that starts at $500.00 and still another that starts at $1,000.00

 

When you offer payment plans you are giving people access to your programs and services at a price point, they can more easily afford, and you get to project income out into the future. Just make sure you cover any additional interchange fees, the fees charged by the bank for running the card each time, in your pricing. Based on the dollar amount, that may be just a few dollars. Again, this is your decision.

 

I know there are some people who do not recommend extending payment plans beyond the length of the program or service the client is buying.  I understand that there is a risk that they will get the service and not pay the remainder. But, while there is a little risk that someone will not honor their payments, generally people follow through, and if you have good policies and procedures surrounding payments (discussed below), you can protect yourself from these instances.

 

Have policies to protect you from chargebacks and from giving refunds if you do not offer them

 

Do not accept anything without a payment agreement. I have a podcast episode, “Get it in Writing” that talks through the basics of what should be in an agreement. I want to talk here specifically around payments. Protect yourself from chargebacks. That is where someone complains to the credit card company or payment portal, and the company gives them the money back- straight from your account. If you do not have anything in writing that says, “no refunds” or “all sales are final” then you will not win against the payment vendor.

 

Make sure that your terms and conditions are required for EVERY sale you make. Take the time to draft them or have an attorney help you and post them inside the sales process. For longer programs or bigger ticket items, send a follow-up agreement in writing to clients. There are a few people in the world that will try to take advantage, and having good, clear, and acknowledged policies surrounding payments will protect your income and your business.

 

Coaches and consultants need to protect themselves financially. I have a special place in my heart for this group of entrepreneurs, because it’s where Mike and I started with UNEQ Consulting in 2011, and I wish I would have had these tips, and had taken this advice back then.

 

 

Author’s Note:

If you enjoyed this blog about Financial Tips for Coaches and Consultants, feel free to visit my other blogs and resources

Creative Business

There are many, many handmade creative product businesses. Whether you make jewelry, paint pictures, created wooden or porcelain gifts, or make something else, you are a creative product business. I have clients who make soaps and lotions and clients who make artwork and gifts. I find there are a few key areas where creative product businesses lose money, and I have a few tips to help your business stay profitable.

 

Creative Business

 

 

 

Tips for Creative Product Businesses

 

 

 

 

Know your actual costs to create your product and include your labor

 

  • Include all the items it takes to create your product, paint, paper, beads, yarn, wood, labels, shipping boxes, lotion bottles, etc. and your operational costs. For my easy formula for pricing anything guide visit:  https://entremoneycoach.kartra.com/page.pricing .

 

  • Calculate how long it REALLY takes you to create each product, and then calculate your labor cost, per piece, that you want to recover in your pricing. Don’t shortchange yourself, the number is the number. Make sure you have the true costs so you can make pricing decisions that reflect your actual time spent.

 

  • Make sure to also include your shipping materials, tissue paper, bubble wrap, stickers, boxes, and any other items you use to ship your items above actual postage. A flat handling charge may be a good, transparent way to do this, or if shipping is included, add it into the price.

 

  • Finally, know your fees for Etsy, Shopify, eBay, etc. if you use any of these selling sites. These can take a pretty significant chunk of profits if you use all their features and advertising offerings. Think also about the table at the fair or the farmer’s market booth. You must consider the cost to sell your product in your pricing.

 

 

 

 

Have a custom option available for customers and charge appropriately

 

One way to increase the price of an item is to have a custom option available. I’ve worked with clients who personalize items, and clients who create custom items for occasions such as weddings. Having some sort of customization available for people to buy can increase your revenues and margins. This can also be a way to resell to customers who need your custom item again in the future, such as for gifts.

 

You need to charge more for the extra time to tailor the product to your client’s specific wishes. Anytime you veer from a standard item, you need to have a charge. Whenever someone orders something custom, please get a deposit. It doesn’t have to be half, it can be a smaller percentage, but get some financial commitment from the buyer before you start creating your one-of-a-kind work.

 

 

 

 

Watch your discounts, coupons, and bonuses

 

I see creative entrepreneurs constantly markdown items, which cuts into the profits.  A coupon for signing up for the email list, then free shipping, then a bonus trial size, then some other thing, and all the sudden you lose money on the sale. I know that many, many people try to compete on price in the creative space, but what you create is unique because you create it.

 

I don’t recommend discounting items often, or buyers will expect them and just wait to purchase until you markdown again. Offering a 10% off coupon with a newsletter signup may be ok, or even a free shipping option on a minimum purchase. Just make sure you have the margin to offer them. I worked with a client one time who barely broke even after offering her discount coupon, after the Etsy fees and advertising costs.

 

 

 

 

Have policies on product changes, returns, and refunds, and stick to them

 

Things can happen in shipping, the item ordered may not be exactly what the customer expected, or there may be another reason for items to need replacing or returning. Protect yourself with clear policies on shipping and tracking shipments, how long you will accept a return, and when an item will be replaced at no or little charge.  Create a policy that all sales are FINAL on custom items.

 

When people order products online, they have several guarantees offered by payment vendors such as PayPal. They can begin a chargeback or complaint and receive their money back- from your account.  Unless you have clear, understandable policies in place, you probably will lose any dispute and be out however much your item cost plus the additional vendor fees. 

 

There is always a demand for beautiful handmade items for gifts or for any occasion.  I know someone who buys a great pair of new handmade clay earrings every other week. She just loves them. Too many creatives under charge for their items and lose money in their business. Following the tips above will help you stay in profit and have the money to keep on creating what you love. Do you have a specific question related to your own business? Reach out and let’s chat!

Food Business

Do you have a food business? Whether it is a cottage business like a home bakery, or a restaurant, or takeout place, there are a few key things you can do to stay in profit in your business. Here are some financial tips for food businesses. 

Food business

 

 

Financial Tips for Food Businesses

 

Know your real food costs on everything you sell and have good margins

 

  • Make sure you calculate your food costs, don’t guess. Take the time to know what it really costs you to create that dish or bake that cake. All the costs involved. Include costs of packaging, labels, and labor, to calculate the true prices. Consequently, that container adds to the cost of delivering the food, as do any food labels– whether it is served in-house or sold online.

 

  • Don’t forget operational expenses and waste costs in your pricing scheme as well. For instance, every business has fixed operating expenses such as rent, internet, and phone. However, as a food business, you also must include waste and other costs like linens, that other industries do not have to include.

 

  • Watch your margins. If you are producing food products, I like to see 60% or better, if you are reselling items, I like to see north of 35%. You will save money, and will have higher margins, by buying ingredients and producing items in-house versus re-selling food that was already made.

 

Watch your inventory spend

 

It is VERY, VERY, VERY easy to overbuy inventory in a food business. In fact, suppliers give volume discounts. It is important to remember that any money you have tied up in inventory is money that you do not have available for other things.

 

Keep in mind how often you can get a delivery from your suppliers. Is the savings of $10.00 worth the additional $77.00 in your walk-in or freezer?

 

Good inventory management will allow you to have better cashflow. Knowing your top sellers and the items that need to be on a regular schedule of ordering will prevent the “feast and famine” orders swinging hundreds of dollars each week.

 

Have an emergency fund and keep debt low

 

Lots of things can happen that affect revenue in your business. If you have bad weather and your restaurant doors are closed for a day or two, or a shipment of your cookies gets damaged and needs to be replaced, it costs your business money.  Relying on the public to decide to eat out or order in on a given night isn’t always predictable. Keeping some cash stashed is a good idea to offset any lower revenue months. Typically, quarter one each year is brutal on food businesses. Having the money set aside to cover any income dips can be the difference between staying in business and not.

 

Along the same lines, keeping debt low is important. Most of the inventory in food businesses are perishable and aren’t available as collateral to take out an emergency line of credit if needed.

 

For example, the depreciation of equipment also can make the food business equipment a little riskier for the bank to loan on for full value.  In addition, not having a lot of debt in the business can also make a difference in the success of a food business in a slower season.

 

Create a sinking fund for equipment repair and replacement

 

Food preparation requires equipment. Ovens, fryers, stovetops, refrigerators, etc., are commonly found in restaurants and home food businesses. These pieces of equipment will often need regular maintenance, and at some point, replacement. Creating a separate fund early in the business where money is parked for these specific needs can ensure that if a piece of equipment goes down, the restaurant budget doesn’t struggle to cover the repairs.  This fund truly protects the business from expensive appliance repairs that must be made to keep the business running.

 

 

Author’s Note on Financial Tips for Food Businesses:

 

Using these tips will help to ensure that your food business operates with finances in the black. You can protect yourself and your business from the most probable money issues facing your industry by:

  • getting good margins
  • only having the necessary inventory
  • having an emergency fund and keeping debt low
  • saving to maintain equipment.

 

Did this blog bring you a bit more clarity?

 

Then visit our linktree below for some useful resources!

 

https://entremoneycoach.com/linktree/

We hear the word, “scale” thrown around a lot in business, particularly online when they say you need to scale your business.

According to The Startup Finance it means: “Make more revenue faster than it takes on costs.”

Using that definition, you want to start scaling as soon as possible. That is how you can become more profitable because you will have more income at a ratio to lower costs.

That is actually always a good place to be in business. Here are a few tips you can start using now if you want to start scaling your business.

1. You can create very low overhead products these days.

One way to add revenue with minimal costs is to create a digital course or product that can be sold online.

Another popular low overhead service is online memberships. By adding revenue, and not adding costs to produce each item, this can help to scale your business quickly. You are serving more people without taking on more costs.

2. You can create multiple reasons to buy from you with multiple offers.

Again, without increasing costs you can create a new offer that can be resold to your existing audience. Or perhaps an existing offer can be repackaged for gifts. Or maybe you can add a fun bonus to an offer and give your audience a new chance to buy from you. You are serving your same people again without taking on more costs. 

3. You can keep the costs low by minimizing debt.

Small businesses and start-ups can begin to scale more quickly if they keep business debt very low, or if possible, non-existent.

Using my Breakthrough number approach, everything above the business four walls is profit, and from that amount we must pay debt. Without debt you have more revenue and more money going into those profit parking lots.

4. Scaling can cause short term bottlenecks to push through.

This is one side effect we don’t talk about but, as you are generating more and more revenue, if your systems aren’t in place, it may cause a bottleneck where you can’t generate more or serve more without more money for systems.

It happens and a way to minimize this risk is to have some support in place as a temporary or project-based cost until you get to the next income level. You cannot scale all by yourself. You need support.

5. Always watch your pricing.

Increasing revenue without being aware of any potential profit leaks can defeat some of your scaling efforts.

Generating income at a faster rate than you take on expenses is a beautiful thing! Keep your eyes on the profit margins as your business expands.

Remember that every line of business should be profitable, but they don’t all have to be equally profitable.

Need to get your Breakthrough number? Join us inside First Steps to Profit to get your finances organized, learn your numbers, protect your business and scale your business. Visit this link for more information:

https://entremoneycoach.kartra.com/page/firststeps