This week’s guest, Eleanor Mayrhofer was hesitant to start a client based business. After working as a creative director at a global digital agency for over 10 years, she was done with client-facing work. But after starting her own 1:1 service business, she had to deal with scope creep, boundary setting, project management all on her own.
Knowing something had to change, she came across the idea of day rates and productized services. This has allowed her to sell her services easier, stand out, and attract perfectly aligned clients because the offer is attractive to the kind of people who have similar work styles and repels the clients who aren’t aligned with her offering.
Eleanor and Nicole discuss:
- Why she started her client-facing business in the first place
- How she discovered what didn’t work for her about the traditional model and how she used that information to design an offering that was perfectly aligned with her energy type
- How she structured her offer to attract the most aligned clients who are looking for exactly what she is offering
- How she has created boundaries in her business to prevent scope creep
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Hello, and welcome to the limitless entrepreneur podcast. I’m your host, Nicole Laino. And today I’m here with a special guest. I am here with Eleanor Mayrhofer. She is a digital strategist and web designer. She has 25 years of design, design career experience. She’s worked with all sorts of brands, BMW, Vodafone, T, T online, all sorts of very, very big well known brands. And now she’s doing this on her own. And she builds Squarespace sites, and she’s going to tell us about this really amazing way that she kind of pivoted within her business. And, you know, really prioritized herself and prioritized her energy and prioritized her life, and still managed to do what she loves to do and what she’s great at. So I love that I love the innovation, that that you’ve taken Eleanor in your business and how you’ve, you’ve, you’ve made a decision for yourself. So I’m really excited to have you here. I’m excited to have you on the show, please introduce yourself to everybody because I row, but please let let them know what I missed in that intro.
Thanks. Happy to be here. Like you said, I did have a long career in digital design doing websites for major brands. And I went out I actually left that life over 10 years ago, and I started a business and E commerce business in like 2006. And that was like before, they’re receiving Shopify. And I learned the hard way that things are, are different when you’re doing them yourself and not within the context of a firm or an agency. And then I had a baby and was kind of in a career desert for a while, like not knowing what my next move is. But I had always had a little dream in the back of my head about starting my own web design shop. Because I did love doing that. And towards the end of my corporate career, I was doing a lot more project management and client management and wasn’t really doing the hands on design. And so I decided to hang out my shingle, and it was kind of I don’t know, it’s months before COVID came. And I also you know, I had a child at this point. So I needed a little more flexibility than I had had previously. And I was still sometimes doing contract picking up contract projects. And I started doing web design, the way I knew how to do it, you know, making a proposal talking to clients, you know, figuring out the requirements, what kind of design I was gonna do, et cetera, et cetera. And what I started seeing were some of the same kind of problems that I saw when I was working in an agency, which is, clients would take a long time to get their content to me, we’d have to go through a lot of revisions. And I actually back up for a sec and say, I didn’t start this business for a long time, because I had deep concerns about having a client based business. Because I just didn’t want clients in my head all the time. I just didn’t I just that was you know, I didn’t want that cognitive load. And so the things that I were concerned was concerned about actually came to pass. And it was kind of a problem because I was working just initially with people from my network, and a lot of them were people I actually liked. And then you kind of get into this kind of content is not contentious, but like stressful relationship or money had been exchanged. And it’s I’m not interested in like nagging grown adults to like, get their content. And then there were some times misunderstandings about scope. And even though I knew how to do this stuff like, Well, no, this was for four pages. But that doesn’t include this X, Y, and Z. And even if you make the most airtight proposals, that always happens. I saw it happen all the time at like, you know, a million dollar projects. And now it was happening on my like small Squarespace project. So I knew like, well, this isn’t what I want. This is not the business I want for my life. This is pretty awful. And I was working on one site with a client and it was just taking forever. And this was kind of a side hustle of his. And this was, we were already in COVID. And he was going to have to go back to work at some point. And I was having very spotty childcare. So I said to him, let’s just get on a call, on a Zoom on a Sunday and knock this out. And we got more done in that six hours than we had in the previous six weeks. And at the time, I had been hearing about like VIP days and more people doing these kinds of intensives and I thought you know what, I got to kind of look into this. And there was a woman in Farmasi Macy who does like courses at that time just for Web designers. And I told my husband like, I’m going to hotel room this weekend. And I just bought the course. And I actually, because of my corporate job, my last role was actually doing something called methodologies, methodology design. And that’s when you like work out, like what the workflow is between the creative team. So the technology team, so actually had a background in designing that kind of thing. So I just knocked it out by myself in a hotel, like, how will I do this? What’s the Onboarding Tool I use? How will I, you know, structure the offer, what’s the price point, kind of understood the software I was going to need to use for this. And like, within a few weeks, I put it up on my site. And I like booked a client really quickly. And I think there’s a couple reasons rather than just being like a generic website designer to say, like, I can get your website done in a day. That’s like a much more interesting offer.
it was also great for me, it was good for the clients because they knew what they were getting at what price. And it was good for me because I could take control back with my schedule. So I was like, at the beginning, I only do a handful of these now in a month. But at that time, I was like doing two a week. But I knew like on these two days, I’m doing launches, not like I have this one client that’s like it’s going on for weeks and weeks and weeks. And I’m not really sure when we’re going to be finished because we’re not getting any closer. It was just it was it was just a complete game changer for my business for my life.
Yeah, I love that. I love how you you looked at it, and you were like this isn’t working. And rather than thinking, This isn’t working, so you throw the baby out with the bathwater that you’re like, I think I can work with what’s here. There’s just there’s got to be a better way. And there always is there always is a better way. I mean, sometimes the answer is, I gotta leave. I’ve tried everything that I can here. But you followed what your instincts to like, there’s a better way. And I love how it came really organically with that friend coming over and you bang it out in six hours. And you’re like, Huh, I wonder if I could do this. Now you call your your system something different than VIP days? Can you explain the difference between how you refer to it and what we typically referred to as a VIP day?
Yeah. So a VIP day, as I understand it is when somebody books you for a day, and you kind of have like a punch list and get all their stuff done. And when the day is over, whatever you finish, you finish. And that’s great. And you kind of set examples of what you can get done in a day. What I offer is actually a productize service. And there’s like a subtle distinction. So in other words, you get a set amount of scope, like I’m going to make a four page site for you and the mini brand. And a strategy call, it’s going to happen a few days before our launch. And I actually do work on a draft site before the day, but I don’t like coming into the day with nothing. So there’s work but I priced that accordingly. But so even though the delivery period happens over a day, there are some services around that day, some of which are behind the scenes, but I can always plan I always know what I have to do. It’s very kind of systematized and
repeatable. Right? And so people jumping into this, they know what they’re getting, they’re like, Okay, I’m gonna get this and I’m gonna get it quickly. I’m gonna get it quickly, I’m going to and so it allows you to be like, Okay, this is going to be a really intense day. But then maybe you have nothing on the calendar for the following day, or you have something you know, you’re able to manage that schedule in in a much more in a much easier way without sacrificing any income without being like, Oh, well, in order to manage my energy. I, you know, I have to accept that my income will go down. But that is sort of the benefit of days. And I think there’s kind of there’s a common misconception, I think with people where if you haven’t done a VIP day, or something to or a product or a service, like what you’re describing, it can feel like well, what can we get done? He actually got a ton done. Yeah. And for me, I love them because they allow me to kind of, I’m not great with scheduling things like when you’d work on a project and it’s like, okay, well, there’s gonna be a delivery date. Six weeks from now and then revisions, in my mind, I’m like, is this gonna go on forever? Yeah, yes. Am I going to so it’s what we’re in October now. So am I launching this in like February? Is that where we’re at? Like with the holidays, and you’re just thinking about all these things. And I’m thinking about when you’re done, I have to carve out my time to revise it and to to to, you know, look for anything that I want to change. Then I have to have someone put it in. I’m always thinking about that stuff, where it’s almost too much for me to think about the whole project. Like, if you tell me I can get it done in a day, that’s my jam. Yeah, that’s my jam. Yeah. I’m like, like, my copywriter. And I like we’re like, let’s sit down for a day. She’s like, I’m gonna go right. And I’ll send you something at noon. And you look it over, and you Voxer me with any edits? And then I’ll make those. And then at the end of the day, we’re done. And I’m like, that sounds beautiful. Yes, do that. Yeah, I can do that. I love that. And I’ve worked with them myself. And they’re, they’re really they’re a really great tool. So I want to pivot just a little bit. Yeah, because I wanted to, I wanted to just kind of highlight some other things like about how easy this is to sell. So I was just talking about from my perspective, but did you find that there was a, what was the reaction to the people that were? I mean, you said that you put it up on your website, and you started to sell them right away? But do people? Do you have to sell people hard on this? Or is it so simple, that it’s so easy to sell that people are like, Oh, I get it.
By the time we’re on a call? If they have come through my sales page, they kind of get it? And I mean, you’re that’s always there’s always fine tuning there. And I have a couple of things I say, to just make sure in the call that people get it. But it’s easier to sell, because there’s no like, well, let me get back to with the proposal. They see the price. So if somebody does not have the budget for what I’m doing, they’re not going to book a call, presumably. You will be surprised how many people don’t read, but generally, it does help things. And what’s good about it is even if we have a call, a couple of times, a couple of people have not, they’ve decided not to go with me and they said, you know, I just need something that’s more high touch. And that’s beautiful. That is great, because that is not what I’m offering. And there’s no misunderstanding. And on the occasional times, I just did a I just did a site yesterday for a wonderful midwife in the UK. And it was, it was I mean, we finished early, we finished early and she was nervous, because she’s not a technical person. But you know, it can it can be like super smooth, super fast. Occasionally, I will get somebody and you know, if I can find the magic question that somehow filters out the wrong client, I will be so happy. But every now and then it happens or even though they’ve we’ve gone through everything I kind of see on the day, like at this wasn’t a great fit. We get it through. And the thing is, this person is out of my life at four o’clock. Support period. So even so it’s not like you, you kind of like married someone I know, this kind of sounds crass. But when you’re doing this kind of work, a client a bad client can, you know, ruin a quarter of your life? Or just take up all this time? And it’s just? I don’t? Nobody has time for that. Nobody has time for that?
Do you find that that you took the step? I think that a lot of ways whether whether we realize we’re doing it or not, you made a choice. You were like, I’m going to protect my energy, I’m going to protect my schedule. I’m going to I’m going to stop doing things this way. Because it feels really bad. And I’m going to do it this way. Do you find that as you protect your energy more that you get those more aligned clients, you get people where the stronger you become in what you want, and how you see your business and the type of clients that you get? Do you see any correlation between the people who come to you? And the more sure you are of what you want? And what you will what you’re available for, so to speak.
I think so it’s hard because I don’t have a control group. But generally, I think yes, is the answer to that. I mean, I can’t say I’ve had like a really horrible project. In the last, like pretty much since I’m doing the F Attica. I’ve let’s put it this way. I’ve done about 35 of these and like, three didn’t go well. And one was because it was the beginning and I thought I could do way more than I could do. Like I was doing the person scheduling I realized that I have to do that as a separate offer. One was I will say it wasn’t a good client she she didn’t do her free work. She didn’t show up for calls and you know, I can’t do anything about that. And then one we were truly misaligned. So I think that’s a pretty good ratio.
It’s very good. I mean, if you’re only did you say had three that didn’t go well? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s that’s that Really good. That’s really good. I think most people listening to this would be like, Yeah, I got more than that. Or we feel like we have to over deliver. And I think that that’s, that’s another, there’s always strategies that we’re using that that sneak in and pull us off our alignment. And one of those things I see with people a lot is they charge more money, or they start to charge what they’re worth. And they allow the scope creep, which you kind of protect yourself with, by having this be like, This is what we are delivering here, this is in a box, you get nothing more, nothing less, I will deliver this to you. Just that over delivering for clients feeling like you have to allow the vampire client to suck and dry. Yeah. And and that’s where I noticed a lot of people, people that I work with in groups that I’m a part of, where I hear them, where they’re, they’re chasing the client that they already have, like they’ve got the client. And but they’re still like proving themselves to that client. And they’re working hard. And they’re, they’re pushing. And you know what I asked him like, have they complained? Yeah, there’s something here that is not going well, is that in there? They’re doing it almost proactively in anticipation of this person, not accepting them or not loving them. And I love how you’ve set this up, where it’s almost like within the product itself, there are these boundaries.
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s always anytime you’re delivering a service, you want to give excellent service. And there is a tension that we all have between, you know, wanting to do a great job, which I do want to do. So a lot of it is just self management, but the process does so much of the heavy lifting for you. So I will sometimes it’s like very much most of the people I work with. So I always will often think like, well, we could do it, you know, and so I, but We have a fixed timeline. So that is automatic, you know, an automatic boundary. So even if I start to veer into that, the process, it’s just sort of like guardrails from keeping too much of that happening. And like, you know, on the kickoff call that we have, I’m working with a client right now. And I can tell he doesn’t get certain things. But I can just say, well, this is not something we’re gonna be able to do in this timeline. So maybe that’s some follow on work. No, and you get you get good at having like little scripts, little things in your back pocket where you can kind of set those expectations before. And just having that boundary, like you say, of a day is just like, Yeah, I’m not gonna be able to do that in one day. And it’s not my father’s just the clock.
Is there anything with this specific process that you’ve set up that you’re like, This has been a game changer? This is this is like, or that you added later on? As you went through? Like, do you have project management software? Do you have something that that eases the connection and has made your process seamless? Because it seems like you’re pretty methodical, and you have kind of a very clear process that people feel pretty held in the process with you. So it might even be something that you take for granted? Because it’s kind of inherent in just the way that you do things? But how do you manage the client process?
Well, that is all done through my CRM. And I don’t know if you want me to, like mention certain names of tours, or use dubsado. Have you heard of that? Okay. Which I actually have a little bit of a love hate relationship with? Because it’s kind of a barrier that a lot. Yeah, it. In Europe, it’s the only it’s kind of the only one I can use, it can do a lot of things. But I’m pretty techie, but I have to hire consultants to help me with it, which is annoying. So but whatever, for sure. At this point, I could not run my business without it. Like it because it is just from book to offboarding. There was everything in it. And, and I that’s what I did after like my weekend at the hotel, I hired a dubsado person and said, This is what I want, let’s build it. And we built it. And it’s just like, I call it my Rube Goldberg machine, you know, like one of those mouse traps. Like this thing happens, and then this thing, and it just like, runs. And every now and then there’s like a little glitch, or I try and do something fancy myself and like, it doesn’t work. But it’s that thing, because what happens is somebody books, and then over the course of days the workflow starts and they get like a message them they get an intake form. And I see all the notifications so I can see what’s happening and like, pop in and like if I see anything that’s like, that’s way too long, or, you know, I can go in and just like do a little management of it, but it kind of just runs on its own. And the client you know, again, the deadline does the work for me. Yeah, but clients are different. Some are like I want every exercise right now and they’re like the type a people that are going to do it on the Saturday and some people, you know, we’re three days away from the kickoff, and I’m like, You haven’t done anything. You know, this is your day, if you
if you don’t want to get the most out of it,
I’ll design it. And you can just put in your text later. I mean, so but yeah, it’s that the software does really help me with that. Perfect.
Well, I, I love this. And I love what you what you’ve just inherently just kind of done the way that you’ve built your business, and you’ve made it work for you. And I hope that that that someone listening right now is is seeing maybe their business, maybe something that they’re not loving, maybe you know, if you’re listening to this right now, and you’re not loving something in your business, or you feel like it’s draining you or you’re afraid to take a step to launch an offer. Because this happens a lot. It’s we won’t take the step because you’re thinking through all the things that could go wrong. You’re thinking through all the things like, like you said, when you started your business, I hesitated to do it because I was afraid of client work again. And that can be that can be that’s a really common thing that we see with people is it’s like why are you hesitating to move on this thing that you want? And it comes out that there’s some sort of fear about like, can I deliver is this going to be another area where I’m people pleasing is it going to be I’m going to give up time with my family because people are messaging me at all hours of the night and all of these things where the boundaries aren’t set. So I hope that if you’re listening to this, that that you see this as a potential possibility for you as as a way to set yourself up. If you are a service based business to set your set your boundaries within the product itself within your offer itself, make them really hard. And then only people who are okay with those boundaries are going to accept it. And you can always be pointing back to it. So you’re never in the backseat of this offer car that you’re in. You’re always in the driver’s seat, and anybody who comes in knows what the rules are going in. So I love that. And I appreciate you coming on here Eleanor and sharing your story with us and sharing with us the way that you’ve set up your business. Can you tell everybody where they can stay in touch with you? How can they learn more about what you do and maybe to book a day with you themselves? Sure,
you can find me at my website, Eleanor Meyer Hofer, and it was mouthful, E L, E, A n o r and AYRHOFE r.com, same name and Instagram. And if you go to my website slash where your business online or at the very bottom, hit secret content library, I’ve got a bunch of stuff in there, like a little training on how to do your website launch, preflight checklist, how to make a mood board that just might add to it every month content. So that’s it, something worth checking out.
Beautiful, we will link all of that up in the show notes so that you can find that very, very easily just head on over to wherever you’re listening to this, click the link and it will take you over to all of those offers that Eleanor just mentioned. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you. And thank you listener for making it all the way to the end of this conversation. i We appreciate you we appreciate you being a part of this conversation with us. Remember, you’re only limited by the limitations that you accept and when you stop accepting those limitations. That is when you become limitless. So go out there and be limitless, my people. I will see you in the next episode.