Lessons from hitting burnout

Lee Jackson | June 27, 2018

A few years ago I hit burnout! I was working 18 hour days, and often weekends. Family time was non existant. I was completely miserable in my business. Long story short… I ended up at the doctors.

Burnout is a tough one to tackle as there tends to be a whole range of issues that contribute to it.

You may or may not connect with some of the following, but here are some of the contributing factors that were affecting me and my business. Any you do connect with are areas that need addressing ASAP…

Not charging enough

Leading to having to build too many websites in any given time to ensure decent cashflow. We were not charging enough at all and were having to cram in as many websites as possible to keep the business afloat. I realised that if I was to double or even quadruple my price, I could put the same sales effort in to winning the website and then have the budget and the time to deliver awesomeness.

What is your average sale per website? Example: £15,000 for a custom design 5 page site with blog?

Not knowing your numbers

We can create a lot of fake urgency in our business when we do not know how we are doing financially. Without a clear handle on how much we are turning over, what our profatibility is, and what our invoicing pipeline looks like we tend to operate in fear. This means we over work projects, as well as make poor decisions on pricing up future websites because we feel we need to get that job in. Without knowing the numbers, you cannot make a rational decision to take a step back.

No project plan

We know how to design and build a website, but our clients do not. Nor do they understand the impact of late content or signoff. Therefore from the beginning having some form of Gantt chart or Trello board that shows dates and everyones responsibilities including the clients is essential. You can then be proactive explaining to the client that if they provide the content late, all the other elements will get pushed along. This means the go live date may be up to a month later. This usually helps inspire most of our clients to hurry up.

Unclear billing agreements

Often we can be stuck waiting for a client so we can finish a website and bill it. This plays havoc with cashflow which in turn means we have to work harder on other projects to make up the gap. At the beginning of the project, make sure that you have a billing schedule agreed. Example:

  • 50% deposit
  • 25% on design sign off
  • 25% on completion of site code

Note I said the last installment on completion of site code? This is not something that needs content from them. If we present a coded “lorem ipsum” filled website, then we have met all terms and are ready to bill the last stage. If the client takes 12 months to provide content, that is on their time.

Next steps

Sure this is not an exhaustive list, but these are items we’ve worked through over the years. They have been some of the biggest causes of burnout for myself and my team. The most important lessons I would take from these are:

  • Know your numbers
    • You will know what to charge
    • You will know when to calm down and rest
  • Know your processes
    • You’ll streamline your development
    • You’ll be able to keep clients informed and in check along the way
  • Document it
    • Having a project plan sets everyones expectations
    • Having a contract ensures everyone plays fair on billing

Most importantly TALK with somebody. Connect with other agencies, or peers in your industry and talk about your struggles. If you are looking for a safe space, then join the free Agency Trailblazer Facebook community here.

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Lee Jackson

Lee lead’s two digital businesses providing powerful WordPress solutions for personal brands, design agencies and event companies.

Lee’s core business is creating WordPress themes from designs supplied by designers and agencies around the world allowing them to do what they enjoy most, whilst he and his team get to geek out on WordPress!

He is the host of The Agency Trailblazer Podcast, which focuses on agency life and growing a successful business. He compliments this with a paid community focused on helping stressed out design/web agency owners fall in love with their businesses again. No 10x BS, just practical advice and support to help people undo bad decisions and create an agency they can love that supports the lifestyle they need.

  1. Kannan on 27th June 2018 at 10:38 am

    Excellent article Lee, I can relate to it a lot. It sad that we mostly end up with unrealistic project requirements with meager pay.

    I agree at the end of the day it burnout everything, except for my belly :).

    • Lee Jackson on 27th June 2018 at 10:41 am

      Yes my belly is certainly in need of some attention!

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