Getting booked out in advance can change everything when you’re a service based business owner.
Knowing in advance your client workload means:
- Less feast and famine and more financial stability
- More control of your schedule and routine
- Less anxiety and sleepless nights about how you’re going to pay the bills next month
- More freedom as a freelancer and creative business owner
When I first started my business I never even thought about getting booked out in advance. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to book enough clients to bring in a full time income, let alone have up to 4 months client work on the books in advance. But as my business grew so did my waitlist and being booked out in advance has played a huge part in helping me to feel more stable and secure in my work along the way.
The strategies behind getting booked out in advance will look different for everyone and depends completely on your business model, who you serve best, and the structure and systems behind your work. After being able to get booked out for 2015 three months in advance, and now with availability for new clients from February 2016, today I want to share what I’ve learned so far and some of the key takeaways for any other service based creatives who are ready to fill their schedule up with clients and work for the months ahead to come.
1. You need to know your numbers first
If you want to get booked out in advance you need to know two things:
- Your availability for new clients each month/quarter
- How far in advance you want to be booked out
Understanding your availability for new clients can actually be pretty tricky when you’re balancing your income goals and the realities of the time you actually have available for client work each week. My biggest piece of advice would be to start by figuring out your capacity for client work. How many clients can you actually work with at one time while still being able to deliver your best work? (Another question to ask yourself is: how many clients do I want to work with at one time?)
Once you have a clearer picture of your capacity for client work, you can then start to figure out your availability for clients each month/quarter/year. Once you have that number broken down, you can start to decide how far in advance you’d like to be booked out. I personally took baby steps when doing this; I remember when I was booked out just 4 weeks in advance and that felt huge to me, and then I just continued to work hard and set new goals for getting booked out along the way.
2. Focus on your content marketing
Content marketing is your secret weapon when it comes to attracting and booking clients through your online presence. It’s how you share your ideas, methodology, and expertise with the world, and it’s how prospective clients can connect with you and see if you’re the freelancer/creative for them.
I really do believe that our online content has the ability to move our business forward, and when done right it can be the biggest game changer of them all when it comes to building a profitable and sustainable service based business online. If you want to establish yourself as a go-to person in your field and build a brand that stands on the weight of your work and your ability to truly be of service to others, creating and sharing content is one of the best ways to do this.
Along with my next point, content marketing is without a doubt one of the main reasons why I’ve been able to get booked out in advance and make a sustainable living with my business.
- How To Get Your Head Around Content Marketing If You Don’t Know Where To Start
- Say More With Less: An Alternative Approach To Content Marketing
- Attract & Repel: A Content Planning Session For Creative Entrepreneurs
3. Develop your word of mouth
Content marketing is a key component of building a profitable and sustainable business online, but it of course is not the only thing you need if you want to consistently book clients along the way. One of the most game changing things of them all is word of mouth referrals. On average, 40-60% of new clients that I book each month come to me through a referral from a past or current coaching client. That means around half of my income each year wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t built word of mouth around my brand.
The funny thing is that I didn’t truly understand the power of word of mouth until I started to see it for myself, and now it’s become the thing that plays a huge part in helping me to get booked out months in advance.
Further reading: How To Cultivate Your Own Game Changing Word Of Mouth Referrals
4. You need a system and a process that works for you and your clients
For getting booked out in advance to be as smooth as possible, a streamlined system is key. The last thing you want is to get double booked, angry clients, or a process that doesn’t delight and impress (this is key for if you want to cultivate those word of mouth referrals along the way).
This is where a clear on-boarding process and client system comes into play. If you’re planning in getting booked out quite far in advance and if your workload requires you to manage multiple clients at a time, I would definitely recommend developing a system that is as streamlined and digital as possible. I personally love Satori and 100% recommend it for any coaches, but maybe a mix of a scheduling tool like Calendly and a project management system like Basecamp may be more up your street.
You want to be as on top of your schedule, availability, and workload as you can so you don't drop the ball when it comes to showing up and being of service to your clients and customers. If you’re booking clients months in advance, I’d recommend thinking of a process that makes sure those months in-between are best used - maybe working on some homework or prep for your time working together so that the time isn’t wasted.
5. Sell in a way that you’d like to be sold to
Getting booked out in advance (and booking clients in general) really comes to down to selling. You’re marketing yourself as an expert at what you do, maybe you’re a designer, a health coach, a photographer, or a consultant, and the way we sell ourselves as freelancers and creatives really plays a huge part in defining who we are and the culture of our brand.
My biggest piece of advice for any service based creatives who want to consistently bring in client work is to sell in a way that you’d also like to be sold to. There’s a task I have some of my coaching clients do when they’re trying to figure out how they’d like to position themselves online and develop their sales strategy and tactics for their brand:
- Write down 3-5 brands/creatives that you connect with when it comes to the way they market and sell their services and products. What specifically do you like about the way they sell online?
- Write down 3-5 brands/creative that you don’t connect with when it comes to the way they market and sell their services and products. What specifically don’t you like about the way you sell online?
- Use this as a jumping off point to help you explore how you want to sell and how you want to make people feel when you’re marketing your brand and your services.
There’s no one single way to build a service based business that is booked out in advance for months and months to come. It’s all about understanding your business, where your clients are coming from, and what your business needs from you behind the scenes to keep a consistent stream of work coming through your digital doors. Getting booked out in advance has helped me to move from feeling like a freelancer who’s just winging it each month, to a creative business owner who is focused on showing up and truly being of value every single day to those who I’m here to serve.
Before we wrap up I have a question for you: what would getting booked out in advance mean to you? How would it make your life and running your business better? Keep your answer in mind while you’re working crazy hard to get booked out in advance. Because it’s way more than just getting that elusive “booked out” status; it’s about getting your business to a place that helps you find more freedom and fulfilment with your work and your life.