You’ve heard the term “work smarter, not harder.” I used to think this old chestnut was about efficiency, or just being better organized. Then I had a revelation.
About 3 years ago I had a conversation with a guru named Kevin Nations. Something he said stuck with me that I want to share with you.
He told me that as long as I was acting “like a mule and not a magician” in my work with clients, I’d always work way too hard for way too little money.
At first I was insulted. Who wants to be called a mule? Then he explained.
A mule’s value is in how hard he works and how much he sweats. The people who use him just want to see him putting in as many hours and plowing as many rows as possible. Pretty much any mule you get is the same, so once you wear one out you can just go and get another.
A magician, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to work at all. He waves his hand, things transform and people are amazed and delighted. They don’t care how many hours he took to learn his magic, in fact, the more instant the transformation, the better. And no one else can do exactly what he does.
Here’s how to know which one you are:
If you’re acting like a mule: you’re working by the hour, or by how much “stuff” you deliver to your clients. (How many sessions you do, how much copy you’ll write, etc.) The more time and “sweat equity” you give your clients, the happier they are and the more they like you.
If you’re acting like a magician: you’re selling transformation. Your clients want– and receive — amazing results that only you can deliver. As long as they get that, neither of you cares how long it took you or how “hard” you worked. Your clients absolutely LOVE you and tell all their friends.
The coaches and consultants you see charging a ton of money, and who have raving-fan clients and yet never seem to do all that much, (while you toil away) have figured this out.
Yeah, I know… it used to make me mad, too.
Here’s the thing. You’re probably acting like a mule because you don’t see any other way. That’s because you are totally missing what makes you a magician. And you’re only charging for your mule work while you’re giving your magical transformations away for free!
So here’s how to start moving from mule behavior to magician behavior:
Actually Believe That Less is More.
If you can give your clients the results they want in less time, don’t drag it out to make it “seem” more valuable. This is tough for those of us who grew up with a mule mentality (including us former corporate types) or who throw “more stuff” at people in the hopes it will make them like us. When you get that your true value is in what they get – a shift in perception, a new way of thinking that ripples across everything they touch and that can result in more money, stronger relationships, better health — you won’t feel the need to pad out your services or products with extra time or stuff. For example, if you’re a coach or consultant, you can probably give as much or more transformation in a group setting as you can seeing all your clients one on one. Don’t feel guilty that it’s less work for you! (And never, EVER charge by the hour or by the session again. But you already knew that…right? )
Notice what you do before you do your work.
I found that the preparation and questions I asked clients before writing their copy were truly transformational for them and got them much clearer on their ideal client and their entire business. What are the intangibles that you are providing in the course of providing your service, that you are not even counting as part of what you do? These may be a clue to your true magic powers.
Get Feedback from Your Clients While They’re Happy. What are they really getting out of what you’ve done for them? Why are they so happy? What’s changed for them? Chances are it goes way beyond the time you spent or the stuff you created. This is where the magic really is. Not only will asking this and hearing the answers give you super confidence and warm fuzzies, it will remind your clients of the value they are getting…and if you get it in writing or on video makes a darn good testimonial too.
Shift what You Think of As Results.
I used to think that the only results that “counted” was the money they made from my copy. Now I see the greater, more instant and “magical” value is in the clarity and confidence they feel in their message, and their closer connection to their audience, which results in their creating better products and offers, which of course results in more money, but so much more, too. My clients don’t even need me to write the copy for them, they just want me to do my “magic” on theirs. Turns out I’m working less hard, making more money and my clients are happier too.
Raise your prices.
I felt you shudder… but don’t worry. If you are doing the above, you’ll see that this one comes naturally. Do it gradually if you have to. But do it. There is magic in pricing too. Clients (the ones you really want, not the bargain hunters!) may actually want to pay you more.
I’ll admit, I still slip back into my mule role from time to time. Old habits die hard. But now that I’m owning my magic more and more, I’m also loving my business more, and attracting amazing clients who love what only I can give them. It’s just more FUN being the magician than the mule. Try it!
Okay, so this is a fantastic article… I love the mule comparison… however… as one who has worked with a mule trainer for over 10 years, I can tell you all mules are not alike… Don’t let Steve hear you say that!
In seriousness though, too often we become addicted to working like a mule. I don’t know why! Perhaps it is control, perhaps it is habit, perhaps it’s ego… or all of the above.
I love the comparison to magician… the magician is an expert and has done a lot but you never see that… it’s all done behind the scenes and he depends on so many others to make it happen.
One thing I’ve been thinking about when it comes to working via hourly… people do not pay for hours, they pay for outcomes and when you charge for hours, you aren’t getting the value of what your outcomes are producing.
Great article… I will keep coming back!
Hi Dave, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I really have to credit Kevin Nations with this concept. It really changed how i see my work not only for clients but also for myself. I think we feel we are somehow “getting credit” for working REALLY hard, even if we are actually using the work to hide out and not do the things (like marketing) that get us out where we can be judged. I remember when I was just starting out in advertising, and my boss didn’t like a commercial my work partner and I had written. “But we worked ALL WEEKEND on that!” I whined. The boss just looked at me. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized how dumb they sounded. No one cares how hard you worked. He would have been much happier with a commercial that took us 10 minutes to create that he liked. It doesn’t seem fair… but the good news is you CAN charge a lot of money for stuff that’s fast and easy, IF it has value to the client. In fact, we often charge the least for the stuff that’s easy for us — but that’s our magic. That’s where we can and should charge the most. Our only enemy is the belief that it HAS to be hard to be of value! Wish I had figured this out (or listened to Kevin and my other coaches who told me this) sooner!
Hey Dave thanks for the visit and the thoughtful comment! I never thought about the ego part of it but it’s true; “no one can do it like I can” is part of the reason I keep getting drawn back into writing copy for people 🙂