The Ultimate Guide to Making More Money with Fewer Clients (Part 1)

Over the years, I’ve developed a very good way to make an excellent living delivering high-end B2B services. My goal when I started nearly 18 years ago was to make at least $100,000 with as few clients as possible. I wanted to take at least 12 weeks off and to travel as much as I wanted each year.

While my number is significantly more than that these days, the system continues to work. I work when I want, where I want, as often as I want.

When you’re providing services, it’s almost unheard of to have this level of autonomy.

You’re constantly running around, trying to do tons of work for tons of clients. You end up getting paid a pittance, given how many hours you work, and never have any time to do anything else.

Believe me, I know. I spent years doing 80 to 100 hours a week. I was getting great results for my clients, paying my team well… but barely earning anything myself. I was completely burning out.

But being a B2B entrepreneur should be amazingly profitable, whether you’re a consultant, an agency owner, a designer or developer. Regardless of the work you do and what you call yourself, if you deliver services to other businesses, you should be making an excellent income.

Earning that income also shouldn’t take up all your time – not even close. Some of the people I’ve coached are generating millions every year, working less than 40 hours a week.

I call this the Little Hinges System. Little hinges are the strategies and systems you use to run your business. Little hinges swing big doors -the amount of income you make and time you spend in your business.

The Little Hinges System will allow you to make at least six figures a year, while taking as much time off as you want and structuring your days as you please.

It took me several years and many false starts to develop this system. It’s not some get-rich-quick scheme, and I’m not saying you’ll automatically reduce your workload to a few hours a week.

This is a replicable system that B2B entrepreneurs can use to regain their time, create a large income and have the freedom they set out to achieve.

I strongly believe that freedom is the most important asset anyone can have in this life. If you don’t control your time and income, you’re not free.

If you’re looking to…

  • Increase your autonomy
  • Get more control over your life
  • Start making choices on your own terms instead of having to kowtow to clients…

You’re in the right place.

The Ultimate Guide to Making More Money with Fewer Clients is going to be split into 3 parts. In each section, I’ll teach you how to establish a key element of your business in a way that maximizes your time and income.

In Part 1, we’re going to cover the strategic element. You’ll learn how to define your goals for your business, how to set fees and revenue targets, and how to arrange your working situation to suit your life and priorities.

In Part 2, you’ll learn the 3 ‘little hinges’ every B2B company should use to swing their big doors. Every one of these can create a six-figure revenue stream in your business. They allow you to choose your ideal clients and control how your business grows.

In Part 3, you’re going to learn how to build your expertise and authority so that you never experience the feast-famine client cycle again. You’ll also learn and can set your work schedule for the year ahead as you please.

By the end of the guide, you’ll have a firm grasp on how you can grow your business to a six- or seven-figure business. You’ll be able to get started immediately.

If you’re ready to make that leap, let’s begin.

How to Define Your Strategy, Priorities and Goals.

The Little Hinges System is built on one strategic intent:

To have the largest income possible with the least number of clients.

When I first started consulting, I heard Dan Kennedy say that little hinges swing big doors. A little client list can pay you big money.

I realized that if I ever wanted to quit the 100-hour weeks with endless project reviews and meetings, I needed to minimize my client count and maximize my earnings. The phrase became a mantra for me.

When talking to prospects, I’d look at how much work I would have to do to fill their need, and ask myself, “Is it worth it?”

Is it going to be worth the time? The energy? The opportunity cost?

That question transformed how I approached consulting and business services. It made me realize that the key to getting the freedom and autonomy I wanted came from adding a zero to the end of my fees.

As I said, when I got started, my goal was to make $100,000 in a year (which was worth much more 20 years ago). To do that, I realized I was better off charging 10 clients $10,000 than charging 100 clients $1000. It’s the same in your business.

Today I teach people that they need at least 10 clients at $25,000. But they could hit that first mental milestone of $100,000 with just 4 clients. Many of my clients want to blow past the million-dollar mark, so I help them scale up their services and fees accordingly.

This is the critical factor you need to decide on before you go any further:

How much money do you want to make?

Back in the day I was unsure of my abilities so my plan was to make $100,000 a year, and anything over that was a bonus. Even though my ‘number’ is significantly higher these days, I usually close deals equalling that amount in the first few months of the year. That leaves me the rest of the year to do whatever I want.

If you’re really ambitious, you need to understand the math that will get you the income you desire. You might also need to hire a few people too.

The Little Hinges Math

This is some of the simplest math you’ll ever do, but it’s some of the most important, too. Whether you’re still trying to get to your first $100,000, or you’re adding another $1,000,000, this is the formula you need to make it happen.

To work out how many clients you need each year (C), divide your annual revenue target (R) by your average project fee (F):

R / F = C

Annual revenue target / average project fee = number of clients you need.

So if you want to make $500,000 in a year, and you are currently charging $10,000 per project? You would need to close 50 deals a year.

That’s a lot of work. You probably feel exhausted just thinking about how much work that would be.

So the question becomes…

“What would it take to add a zero to my average project fee?”

How can you increase the value of your offering so that clients would be happy to pay you $100,000?

Doing that would mean you only need to get 5 clients a year. We’ll go into how to do this in further detail later on.

Most service-based businesses are charging far too little for their services. Undercharging is a chronic condition that you must stamp out relentlessly.

Most people charge what their self-worth dictates. They should be charging what the service is worth to the market. Your service can solve any number of problems for your clients. It can make them any amount of money. Don’t let the fact that it’s ‘easy’ for you get in the way of charging an appropriate amount.

Start increasing the fees you charge by 20 to 50% every time you quote for a new project. Do this until prospects start saying no. You will probably increase your rate by about 300% in a few months. Once you hit that ceiling, it’s time to work out what else you can offer or how you can reposition yourself. Always keep pushing towards ever bigger numbers.

Now, it’s possible that your current clients will never pay you significantly more than they do now.

To solve this, you should raise your standard prices every year to maximize your earnings. You should also go after bigger clients who see the value in your new positioning. Those clients will be happy to pay for your expertise and authority. (We’ll explore that aspect of growth more in Part 3 of this Guide.)

You gain a huge amount of opportunity by improving your positioning and value proposition.

If you get the systems right, you can constantly raise the ceiling on what’s possible for you to earn.

A great example of this is the work I did with Jacob Puhl for his business Firegang Dental Marketing. When we started working together, they’d set a goal of reaching $5 million in annual revenue.

Firegang had grown to nearly $1 million in annual revenue by the time I came on board. But their growth had ground to a halt. Nothing they did could get it moving again.

Their sales had remained flat for about a year. They were frustrated, and so stressed that they couldn’t work out how to move forward.

Examining their business, it became clear that their systems couldn’t handle more growth. Operations were in disarray and would collapse under any more weight. They could barely handle the work they already had.

They couldn’t take a day off, because it meant something would break or be delivered late.

We immediately got to work on fixing their operations. First, we shifted some core processes in how they fulfilled their projects. That meant that they saw a significant increase in the revenue they were able to bring in each month.

After that, we extracted Jacob from the daily grind of the business. We needed to put him into the visionary CEO role the company needed to continue growing. That allowed him to leverage their marketing assets, and to reposition them as a premium provider in their market.

This change has allowed Jake and Adam to reclaim their time. While we worked together, Jake got married, and took a proper honeymoon. Adam’s been a family man for a while. He actually gets to take vacations with his family now, and can really enjoy them. The stress of the business doesn’t distract him anymore.

Neither of them could have done before this transformation. The business just wouldn’t have let them. They had been too tied up in the business, but now their time belongs to them again.

These days, Firegang is doing over $2 million in annual revenue, and are on track to hit their $5 million goal in the next couple of years. Jacob and Adam have seen a whole new range of opportunity in their business, thanks to the Little Hinges approach.

Developing Time and Income Freedom

Most entrepreneurs end up in this line of work because they don’t want to deal with the constraints of a 9-to-5 job. Maybe they don’t want the intense pressure of starting a traditional business, either. They want high income potential, combined with autonomy and flexibility.

If you don’t have that autonomy, your business is just a really stressful job. You have all the pressure of a job without the perks of entrepreneurship.

But if you can become create freedom from your income, with complete control over your time, then you can build your ideal lifestyle and business. You can set the direction and tempo of your life, instead of having to constantly react to external forces.

How to Create Time Freedom

In a service business, clients will take up all your available time if you let them. There will always be another phone call or email to respond to, a meeting to attend or revision to be made.

You must not let that happen. You control the interaction and how the work gets done – not the other way around.

Just because the client is giving you money, it doesn’t mean that they get control of your time and calendar. This is important to establish from the beginning of your engagement.

Some clients will ask how much time a project will take – the answer is as long as it takes. Sure, you can work towards deadlines and create milestones along the way, but you are the expert. They’ve hired you to do something specific, so it’s not appropriate for them to rush you.

Other clients will push you to come into their office for meetings. Do not agree to this as a condition of work.

If it’s an incidental invitation once work is underway, or after it’s complete – fine. Go and build the goodwill. But do not say yes to clients who demand that you are physically available to them, whether it’s coming into the office or answering phone calls.

Don’t even give them your phone number, because then clients expect you to be available all the time.

Having to physically show up is the single biggest hindrance to creating freedom.

No one in your life should have the ability to insert themselves into your schedule. No one should be able to put things on your calendar, or interrupt your work day.

Controlling your time like this ensures that you get paid the highest possible amount for every bit of work you do.

You don’t charge for a 20-hour project and get sucked into 30 or 40 hours of peripheral interactions. You can work at the time of day (or night) that suits your schedule and habits. You can always do your best work because you’re not under time pressure.

Time freedom also allows you to dictate when you work.

When you run a B2B company, it can feel like you can’t take an afternoon off to read or catch up with someone for coffee. Your to-do list is just way too long and your clients might be mad if they find out you’re not working.

And you absolutely can’t go on vacation, because your employees would probably burn the business down. Even if they didn’t, the stress of being away from the business would ruin the whole thing anyway.

But if you want to take a month off with your family over the summer, you should be able do that.

You should have the ability to take as much time off as you choose. You should be able to do it without having to justify it to your clients or worrying that your income will dry up. Clients do not get to tell you how you spend your time. That’s your choice alone, and it’s critical to your personal growth and the growth of your business.

No one can ever pay you enough to have that privilege. This system is designed so that you get to spend your time how you want, when you want, and where you want.

How to Create Income Freedom

I’ll often hear my clients celebrating a sale they just closed. A prospect agreed to their terms, the project is going to go ahead, and they start preparing early materials for the work. When I ask if they’ve gotten paid yet, they tell me it’s coming in a day or two.

I tell them to stop working immediately. The deal isn’t done until the money is in the bank.

That’s why accounts receivable is a terrible system to use as a consultant. Sending out an invoice to get paid is too much of a gamble. Your clients might be reliable this month, but what if they have a slow month? It’s not a problem for them if they pay you late, but you still have to keep the lights on.

My clients pay me on an automatic subscription basis to avoid this issue. I don’t do any work until the money is in my bank account.

Chasing up invoices is not freedom. It doesn’t matter how much money you’re owed if you never see any of it. A business is not a client until they pay you, and if they stop paying, you stop working.

Like we discussed in the section on Little Hinges Math, the other critical element of income freedom comes from how much you charge.

Never charge hourly. Never.

“Trading your time for money [is] just about the worst trade you can make. Why? You can always get more money, but you can’t get more time.”

– Tony Robbins

Charging hourly is the worst financial decision you can make. That is what jobs are about, and jobs chain you down instead of setting you free. If you set up an hourly consulting business, you have created yourself a job. A job without benefits or paid vacation time.

As I said in the Time Freedom section, you have to tell your clients that the project will take as long as it takes. You also need to charge enough that you don’t care how many hours it takes.

If you do manual ‘grunt’ work as part of your job – boring, repetitive or unskilled tasks – it’s time for you to move towards the art of your work. Even Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists ever to walk the earth, hired assistants. They did the grunt work so that he could focus on creating the magic.

Allocating those lower-level tasks removes the hourly concern. It allows you to focus on more satisfying, profitable things.

Regardless of what you’re charging now, you should aim to add a zero to the end of that number over time.

Start by increasing your rates by 20 or 30%. When you reach the ceiling of what people are willing to pay, adapt your offering.

A common misconception is that you have to do more to charge more. But consulting is based on intellectual property, which is intangible. You don’t have to do more work, as long as you can deliver more value.

High-end clients don’t care what happens between the time they hire you and the time they get their result. They just want it to be fast.

If you can deliver a great result in a short amount of time, and add a zero to their bottom line, you’ll be able to charge whatever you want.

Like I said earlier, your current clients might not be able to handle the fees you’re going to be charging.

You need to find those high-end clients you can serve. To get them, you have to build up your expertise and authority, which we’ll explore in Part 3 of this Guide. Authority is the critical factor here, as it brings a huge volume of potential work right to you. This allows you to pick and choose which projects you want to work on.

You will be able to pick clients who will pay you a lot – because they will recognize your value be willing to pay to play.

Now, consultants will occasionally ask me how to avoid getting burnt by clients on these big fixed-fee projects.

They worry they can’t say no if the client asks for more work or certain conditions once the projects begins. The client has made a big investment, so the consultant feels like they have to play along.

But again, you have to control the interaction. Set up milestones and penalties if clients do not achieve certain things, so you can keep the project moving along.

If they really want something that’s outside the scope, charge a weekly fee (regardless of whether the extra work would take an hour or a day). That way, it doesn’t matter how many hours it requires to get the job done.

And if they stop paying? You stop working. That’s what income freedom comes down to. You have a few big clients that pay you excellent money, on your terms, so that you can scale up or down whenever you want.

Establishing income and time freedom changes your world.

You get to define your life. You get control that most people can only dream of. You get to experience everything the world has to offer, and choose what suits you best.

That’s an incredible opportunity – one that has changed my life completely. Now it’s right in front of you. In Part 2 of this Guide, I’m going to teach you about the 3 Little Hinges that create time and income freedom. With those under your belt, you’ll be able to turn that opportunity into a reality.

You’ll learn the exact methods I use to work with my clients, build my own business, and still have the time to do whatever I want.

Click here to read the second part of the Ultimate Guide To Making More Money With Fewer Clients.