Every day, it seems like a free agent sports superstar signs a hefty new contract earning them generational wealth. Earlier in March, baseball star Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $430 million agreement with the Los Angeles Angels. That's even more impressive than the four-year, $154 million deal that Lebron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018.
Sports stars don't negotiate the deals alone. Their agents are driving these lucrative transactions. Wouldn't it be nice if small business owners who use agency models--clients and accounts--could leverage contracts that successfully?
Often, you don't know what to charge, which leaves you taking on any project and undervaluing your own capabilities. You might also struggle to differentiate yourself and create more demand for your services.
Take a few lessons from people who do it with spectacular success. Here are five ways you can emulate sports stars and their agents to help grow your small business:
1. Adopt a wealth mindset.
Star athletes believe they deserve to be successful and make what they command. As a small business owner, you should see yourself as bankable to anyone--rather than hanging on to subpar client relationships. If the relationship isn't working, or you're not valued, consider if your own lack of confidence in your talent or fear of not making a certain amount is blocking you from earning more.
To develop a wealth mindset, start researching what others in your industry are making. Look up your field's top industry association. Talk to those in your industry through networking events or online social networking groups.
As a writer, I looked into groups like the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors or Freelancers' Union. I also found groups on Facebook where writers come together to share what they charge and how to raise rates. Those exist for other industries, too.
2. Review your rates and contracts regularly.
If you're like many entrepreneurs, you haven't raised rates in years.
There are plenty of opportunities to review your rates, and potentially raise them. First, do an annual review or contract renewal with your clients. That's often the first thing a sports free agent does. In many cases, with more years under their belt, they've improved their game and increased their value.
Negotiate with existing clients to regularly raise rates. Keep track of the accomplishments ("wins") you've racked up for that client. Use this as leverage to show how your value has increased. If that doesn't work, let them know that you are actively being pursued by other clients ("teams") that are going to pay your new rate.
3. Never stop creating demand.
Throughout the year, focus on ways to increase demand. Free agents market themselves to others and work on skill sets. Athletes awarded big contracts are those who worked on their performance and highlighted those talents on the public stage.
You can make your new capabilities known to more potential clients and your existing base. Regularly showcase this value through case studies, blog posts, and social media. Focus on what you've done for your clients in terms of specific stats.
For example, if you design company websites, publicly reveal information on increased conversions or leads that occured as a result of your work. Start a video series on your Youtube Channel in which you talk to happy clients, or demonstrate proficiency by discussing finer points of your field with experts.
4. Find a mentor or connector.
Get a mentor or connector ("agent") to work with you on pursuing opportunities to grow your business.
As a longtime networker, I sometimes find people who I connect with more personally. These folks are often more talented or smarter than I am--and they've helped me succeed. They lead by example, "teaching" me how to navigate my professional community. This may include things like general support to pursue more revenue or guidance on how to conduct negotiations.
Perhaps most importatly, these connectors trust me enough to recommend me to executives in their circle, who may be interested in signing me to their team. This "agent-like" connection has been an incredible confidence and career boost for me.
5. Be your biggest fan.
Being your own cheerleader helps you avoid blocking yourself from real potential. The current combination of revenue and time spent working for clients may be a nice fit at this moment. But, it may not give you room to grow your company going forward.
It may be time to play the field and be your own cheerleader, instead of letting yourself stagnate. Pursue opportunities with other "teams" that will reward you more for the ever-increasing value you deliver. Always search for that new top client that has a need you can provide. This lets you raise prices on other clients, or even drop those that don't pay you what your worth.