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How to Use Financial Storytelling to Help Non-Traditional Clients

People in different fields and with different types of learning styles think about finances in different ways. There is more than one right way to talk about finances and financial planning – the trick is finding the language that works for you and the language that can best speak to your segment of clients. And that’s what today’s guest is here to talk about.

Chris Enns is not just a financial planner – he’s also an opera singer. Over the last 10 years as a performing artist, he’s learned the hard way that ignoring money doesn’t really work. That’s why he founded Rags to Reasonable – an advice-only financial planning & money coaching firm that specializes in working with creatives and people with other non-traditional financial situations. Listen to today’s conversation to hear what Chris has to say about non-traditional financial planning, Chris’s biggest challenges and successes, and what it’s like to speak a different kind of financial language. 

Topics Discussed in This Episode:

  • Who Chris’s firm usually serves (8:48)
  • Chris’s strategies for coaching and planning (14:30)
  • What happens after clients improve their financial stability (19:50)
  • Using different financial language for different kinds of people (28:55)
  • What things Chris believes have contributed to his success (31:37)
  • The biggest challenges Chris is facing (35:37)
  • Chris’s advice for financial planners (49:53)

Links and Resources: 

Rags to Reasonable

Quotes by Chris: 

“The truth is, the things that make people great artists, and really good at their craft, are the exact things that are going to make them good at their finances.”

“I think that one of the things we need to think about more in the financial space is that the answer cannot be that we talk about money in one way.”

“I have never had a real job in my life – I’ve worked for myself my entire life.”

Chris is using his performative background to portray a new type of story – a story of financial success for his clients. By helping his fellow artists rethink their ability to handle money, he has found success in the niche he has created to help those with unique financial situations. His experience in growing his advisory practice teaches businesses both young and old that customizing a client’s experience and solidifying a client/planner relationship is the key to maintaining success.

Below, we’re sharing three key ideas from this episode: 

  • How to work with variable income clients
  • How mentorship and financial independence helped Chris start his practice
  • How to use relationship building as a client acquisition tactic in times of market instability

To listen to the rest of the episode, click the link at the top of this post, or find us on iTunes or Stitcher.

How to work with variable income clients

Before Chris became a professional advisor, he saw the need in the arts community for a specialized approach to financial planning. When he transitioned into running his fully online financial advisory practice, he wanted to meet the demand he saw during his own arts career. It was natural that his client base would be made up of sole proprietors and small businesses, almost all of whom had variable income. 

Clients with variable income often struggle with common financial questions like how to save money, pay off debt, or plan for retirement when their cash flow is so irregular. They are also often younger and less versed in the financial planning world than other advisory clients, making it important for Chris to listen carefully to their background before jumping in with a plan. 

His solution? To build a plan that can transition into a lifelong technique, knowing that not everyone can fit into the same system. 

Crafting a repeatable, customized plan 

The first step Chris takes with a new client is to get to know them and make sure that his services are a perfect fit. If not, he takes the time to send them in a direction that will help their financial needs. If he feels he can provide value to the prospective client, he creates a custom proposal based on their exact needs. This ensures that each unique financial situation is taken care of in the way that best fits their situation, rather than forcing a general approach on them. 

When Chris is coaching clients with variable incomes, he uses their time together to craft a set of steps that can be worked over and over again, allowing the result to become more than a one time financial plan. As he says, “It’s more teaching the person to fish, rather than handing them a basket of fish.”

Hint: It may seem like a lot of extra work to start from the ground up for each client rather than use a standardized system. Try creating a customized quoting system like Chris uses to make sure that your extra effort is reflected in what you are paid.

How mentorship and financial independence helped Chris start his practice

Even though Chris’s practice is relatively new, he has been very successful at producing early growth. He attributes his success to two key components: mentorship and financial independence. 

Since Chris had an untraditional pathway into the business, having mentors allowed him to see what his own path could look like in the field. Especially for young businesses starting their practice, he recommends finding experienced planners to learn from, which will help them wrap their minds around the complexities of the industry. 

Hint: Want to learn more from some of Chris’s mentors? Check out Episode 9 with Julia Chung and Sandi Martin from Spring Financial Planning.

The second thing that helped Chris through his early years in financial advising was his ability to not rush to monetize his business. He dipped his toe into the field by writing a blog, which eventually led him to further opportunities to expand and create the business he runs today. 

Because it was his side gig and he was fully supporting himself with his operatic career, he did not have to take on non-ideal clients. This has helped him continue to work with the people that are the best fit for his practice, as the more ideal clients he works with, the more ideal clients he gets referred to him. 

How to use relationship building as a client acquisition tactic in times of market instability

One of the biggest challenges Chris is facing right now is pivoting his practice to be more accessible during the pandemic. With many of his clients facing an extended time period of not being able to find work in their native fields, he is having to solve new financial problems. Even with emergency funds, many of his arts industry clients will be forced to take on different jobs to make ends meet. 

The new opportunity that Chris sees is making his services more affordable, so that he can continue to work with his clients. He is working to create different ways to serve them, whether that be through shorter sessions, a smaller budget, or through his free office hours offered on his website. 

While this is allowing Chris to help his clientele when they need it the most, it is also a good business move. By taking the time to continue to build relationships even when there is no profit to be made, his investment into people will create more business when their financial lives are back to normal. Chris anticipates that once we are on the other side of this crisis, the demand for financial planning will be larger than ever. 

To learn more about Chris’s unique journey to the industry, how he uses workshops to attract new clients, and how he wants to enlist artists to create financial art, listen to the full podcast by hitting the link at the top of this page. Make sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so that you never miss an episode.