Bates Information Services https://www.batesinfo.com/ Leveraging information as a strategic asset Thu, 25 Aug 2022 22:11:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 121369207 You’re not the boss of me… until you are https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/youre-not-the-boss-of-me-until-you-are/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/youre-not-the-boss-of-me-until-you-are/#comments Mon, 29 Aug 2022 16:06:16 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=12039 Having been self-employed for 30 years, I have had lots of chances to talk with people about the benefits and drawbacks of being an infopreneur. One aspect that most people appreciate is that I’m my own boss — I set the rules and no one tells me what to do. It’s why I have never […]

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Having been self-employed for 30 years, I have had lots of chances to talk with people about the benefits and drawbacks of being an infopreneur. One aspect that most people appreciate is that I’m my own boss — I set the rules and no one tells me what to do. It’s why I have never cultivated local clients; they have the entirely reasonable expectation that I’ll be available for in-person meetings, and I would rather not get dressed up and meet in person when a call could do just as well.

The secret, though, is that our clients *are* our bosses; it’s just that we have a more equal relationship than an employee would have. I’ve talked with a number of colleagues in the Association of Independent Information Professionals about their work hours and policies about what constitutes a “work day”. Their answers showed me how much we factor our clients’ needs into our schedules, whether they’re the boss of us or not.

Some infopreneurs keep a strict Monday-through-Friday, 9am-to-5pm schedule, just like more traditional employees. They like having the predictability of their schedule, they like having their weekends free, and they are often more available to respond to rush projects. Even those who work less than a 40-hour work week often prefer to keep regular office hours, to ensure they can also schedule time during the work week for their other commitments.

Other independent info pros prefer a more, er, fluid relationship between their work and the rest of their life. They appreciate the flexibility to take a weekday off to go on a hike, avoid the crowds at the art gallery, or get together with friends who also have flexible work schedules. Yes, that means they may be working in the evening or on the weekend, and they may not be able to respond immediately to a client’s call or email; they consider that a fair tradeoff for the freedom of scheduling work around their non-work activities.

So, while you may not be the boss of me, my choices will determine what kinds of clients I have as my sorta-kinda bosses.

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Thriving as a small fish in a big pond https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/small-fish-big-pond/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/small-fish-big-pond/#respond Mon, 03 May 2021 13:21:38 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=8454 One of my favorite sessions from the 2021 AIIP virtual conference was Kelly Berry‘s crowdsourced ideas on “Small Fish in a Big Pond – How Independents Navigate the Information Industry Without Large Budgets.” We shared our favorite low-cost information resources and strategies, but what I found most compelling was the focus on what sets us […]

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One of my favorite sessions from the 2021 AIIP virtual conference was Kelly Berry‘s crowdsourced ideas on “Small Fish in a Big Pond – How Independents Navigate the Information Industry Without Large Budgets.” We shared our favorite low-cost information resources and strategies, but what I found most compelling was the focus on what sets us infopreneurs apart.

We have competition from both larger consulting firms, with their big-name analysts and six-figure budgets, and lower-cost (and often lower-quality) research being offered by graduate students or interns. This got me thinking about the approaches that I have taken to ensure that, while I don’t have the deep resources of the big players and I’m not as cheap as some other options, I have attracted clients who see the unique value I bring as a one-person business. Some of the specific approaches I have taken to highlight that sweet spot include:

Focusing on the personal connections I make with my clients. My payment may come from a faceless bureaucrat at a Fortune 100 company, but the engagement is with a particular person. I make sure that I show up as authentically as I can and stay focused on my clients’ priorities and needs.

Believing that the customer is always right, even when they’re wrong. If a client has a concern about my deliverable, I do whatever it takes to address that concern. Yes, the problem may have come from the client’s ambiguous request or (ahem) unreasonable expectation, but all that really matters is that I do my best to address the concern. I know I am more responsive than a big firm in resolving a customer issue.

Providing a neutral perspective. A large consulting firm has a template and methodology they deploy to a project, which means less ability to accommodate unusual or unexpected projects. Internal employees who might provide a “free” alternative usually come with a built-in bias and may fail to recognize outliers and unexpected results. I offer a neutral, third-party perspective and the ability to look at the question from multiple angles.

Staying focused on each client’s most important outcome and ensuring that every deliverable can be frictionlessly incorporated into my client’s work flow and process. That may mean using my client’s preferred report template, providing an executive summary slide deck or live briefing of my findings, or making my report “white label” so that my client could put their name and brand on it.

I bring in experts as needed but my clients aren’t paying for the overhead of keeping those experts on the payroll. I can stay agile and handle new kinds of projects because I tap into my network of AIIP colleagues to bring in the expertise I need. Since I don’t have them on staff, my business is able to pivot as my clients’ needs change.

While we won’t replace either the big consulting firms or the “free” research services of a junior employee, one-person infopreneurs can fill the need for agile, high-value services.

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The real power of word-of-mouth referral networks https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/the-real-power-of-word-of-mouth-referral-networks/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/the-real-power-of-word-of-mouth-referral-networks/#respond Tue, 12 Jan 2021 16:36:54 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=8027 As most solopreneurs learn, the most powerful and effective way to attract good clients is through a strong word-of-mouth referral network. Using techniques like marketing vignettes to help people describe us in the most effective way possible, we can connect with far more prospective clients than traditional advertising and marketing. Recently, Marcy Phelps (Marcy Phelps […]

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As most solopreneurs learn, the most powerful and effective way to attract good clients is through a strong word-of-mouth referral network. Using techniques like marketing vignettes to help people describe us in the most effective way possible, we can connect with far more prospective clients than traditional advertising and marketing. Recently, Marcy Phelps (Marcy Phelps & Associates) and I were talking about the importance of word-of-mouth referrals and she reminded me that her word-of-mouth network is good for more than just getting new clients.

Marcy told me about a virtual meeting of the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado she attended last year in which she mentioned that she was moving to North Carolina soon. The next day, she received an email from someone who was a leader of the association and was familiar with Marcy through her participation in both local and national meetings. He commented that it is fairly difficult to get a private investigator’s license in North Carolina, and he introduced her to a member of the local PI community in North Carolina, suggesting he might be able to provide useful advice. This contact has turned out to be immeasurably helpful as Marcy works her way through the challenging process of getting her license, with advice on who to contact, what to watch out for, and how to speed up the typically glacial pace of the license application review and approval process.

As Marcy noted, this invaluable help was possible because of the genuine connection she had with the association leader in Colorado. It wasn’t just a matter of having her name in a membership directory. He knew who she was because she regularly participated in and contributed to association events. Leaders and influencers notice members who are engaged and invested in an association, and they use their network to help out members who have been generous with their time and talent.

Marcy reminded me of a book that has informed her business for over 20 years now, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need by Harvey Mackay. The focus of the book, now out of print, is the importance of building rich relationships with lots of people—not just the ones you think are likely to help you in the short term, and not just at the level of exchanging business cards and connecting on social media, but genuine connections that you continue to feed over time.

Marcy and I both noted the difference between the leads who have contacted us because we were listed in a directory and those who have been referred to us through our network. The former tend not to be a good fit, as most solopreneurs have specialized businesses and most directory-sourced inquiries are out of our specialized area. Contacts from our network, on the other hand, always get our attention. Whether it’s a referral of a possible client, a request for a pointer to an expert, or an open-ended question, we prioritize these contacts because we value the relationship we have with the other person. As Marcy noted, “I never would have anticipated needing a North Carolina PI license when I was active in the PPIAC. It’s important to just build your network as a great way to connect with good people, and the other benefits will follow.”

Both Marcy and I are active in the Association of Independent Information Professionals in addition to associations our clients belong to. What associations have you found helpful in building your solopreneur network?

 

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Client Dating 101 https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/client-dating-101/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/client-dating-101/#respond Mon, 26 Oct 2020 20:51:40 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=7523 How is a solopreneur like someone in search of his perfect mate? Well, they are both looking for contacts; they both need to present their best attributes to the “market”; and they both need to use a number of approaches to identify and connect with prospective, um, clients. Both want a long-term relationship, although the […]

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How is a solopreneur like someone in search of his perfect mate? Well, they are both looking for contacts; they both need to present their best attributes to the “market”; and they both need to use a number of approaches to identify and connect with prospective, um, clients. Both want a long-term relationship, although the solopreneur isn’t asking for monogamy; she plans to cultivate a number of devoted clients rather than One Perfect Love.

So, what approaches should solopreneurs take in their search for the ideal client(s), similar to the tactics of the singles searching for love?

Go where the boys (or girls) are. If you are looking for a man who enjoys the outdoors, attend a fly-fishing class or join the local Sierra Club chapter. If you are looking for clients who will love you for your ability to analyze their market and industry, go to meetings and conferences where these information-hungry prospects will congregate.

Hang out in the virtual spaces where your mate is likely to be. Do you have a passion for 1970s sit-coms? Do you know every back road in Tuscany and travel there every summer? Or, as an infopreneur, do you want to find competitive intelligence managers who will need someone with your expertise to track down elusive information? In either case, hook up with fellow aficionados on social media, in real life through Meet-Up or professional conferences, and on discussion lists or anywhere else your people are likely to be found.

Have a virtual presence that your prospects are likely to find. For singles, that might mean having an engaging profile and some flattering photos on a dating app. Infopreneurs should make sure their web site presence includes enough information to compel someone to call, and that focuses on benefits, not features. In other words, design a presence that demonstrates the benefits of calling you, rather than one that just lists your availability and vital measurements. “Single Female, in search of warm-hearted individual for fun” isn’t going to garner you many high-quality dates; “We’ll research anything” isn’t much more compelling.

Network like crazy. Most people find romantic interests through friends and colleagues; make sure that all your friends know that you are single, available, charming, wonderful and well-behaved. Likewise, remind your existing clients that you welcome referrals of colleagues who might be interested in your services, and who would like to subscribe to your blog, download your white paper or follow you on social media.

Always look your best. If you’re single, make sure you don’t leave the house in a funky t-shirt and oil-stained jeans (unless that’s the type of person you want to attract). Always be ready to meet Prince(ss) Charming, wherever he or she finds you. By the same token, present a professional “face” whenever you are out  either physically or virtually. Respond to voice mails and emails promptly. When you are at a meeting or conference, always dress professionally. You don’t want to stand out by being the one person in cut-offs and a t-shirt when everyone else is in professional dress.

Don’t rule out a potential date based on his or her appearance alone. She might not be your ideal body type, but she may turn out to be the one for you, or know someone who is. And that client who looks like he would never be big enough to need your services? He may be a great referral source, and he might land a big contract and suddenly become Mr. Desirable.

Identify volunteer opportunities where it’s likely that you will find people of similar interests. Can you write? Do you like animals? Offer to help with the newsletter of the local animal shelter. Don’t have a lot of time to commit? Volunteer to help staff the next 10K race that benefits a charity you support. And if you’re not looking for a like-minded single person, you can still apply your skills in a volunteer capacity, and surface your infopreneur skills to the people you contact there. The other volunteers and the people who work at the organization will have an opportunity to get to know you, learn about what services you offer, and be wowed by your charm. And you also can feel good about giving back to the community.

So, go out there and start marketing yourself or your business. Who knows… you may wind up dating your next client, or start providing consulting services to your next date.

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Are you a flash in the pan or strategic? https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/are-you-a-flash-in-the-pan-or-strategic/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/are-you-a-flash-in-the-pan-or-strategic/#respond Sun, 16 Aug 2020 14:01:41 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=7146 If your value as a consultant lies in having an up-to-the-moment operational skill with today’s hot application, you will never remain an expert. Organizations will eventually hire or build internal expertise, and your advantage will be fleeting. You will always be chasing the next shiny object. If, on the other hand, you are known for […]

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If your value as a consultant lies in having an up-to-the-moment operational skill with today’s hot application, you will never remain an expert. Organizations will eventually hire or build internal expertise, and your advantage will be fleeting. You will always be chasing the next shiny object.

If, on the other hand, you are known for having strategic insights, for being focused on your client’s outcomes, and for being flexible and creative, your expertise will never become outdated. Your clients hire you for your wisdom, not your oh-so-current skill set.

There will always be other people who are familiar with bleeding-edge technology, but no one stays at the bleeding edge for long. When you’re known for your thinking skills, your value increases every year.

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Meaningful Metrics: Measuring what matters https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/meaningful-metrics/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/meaningful-metrics/#respond Tue, 05 May 2020 14:40:19 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=6383 There are dueling aphorisms about business metrics: “What gets measured matters” and “Not everything that can be counted counts” As solopreneurs, we have to determine for ourselves how to measure the success of our efforts. Most of us know that a robust word-of-mouth referral network and consistent thought-leadership activities help keep new clients coming, but […]

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There are dueling aphorisms about business metrics:

“What gets measured matters”
and
“Not everything that can be counted counts”

As solopreneurs, we have to determine for ourselves how to measure the success of our efforts. Most of us know that a robust word-of-mouth referral network and consistent thought-leadership activities help keep new clients coming, but it can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of a wide range of marketing activities. And it’s tempting to measure what we do rather than what the outcome of that activity is. Having the right metrics means you are getting useful, relevant feedback as you are working toward a goal, so start with the outcome you want and work backward from there.

Outcome metrics (number of new clients or new clients, revenue, etc.) are used to judge whether your marketing efforts are effective; they are concrete, meaningful and directly related to the profitability of your business.

Activity metrics (number of social media posts, networking meetings attended, etc.) show you whether you are doing the things that you believe will result in the outcome you wanted; they keep you accountable for taking all the steps required. If you aren’t meeting your outcome metrics, look at your activity metrics and see what needs to be changed.

A useful analogy of the distinction between these two types of metrics is that an activity outcome might be “I will work out every day”, and the outcome metric could be “My clothes still fit”.* As anyone who has started a new habit knows, the best way to make a habit stick is to connect it to an outcome you want.

Since outcome metrics measure results, you need to consider what success looks like for you and your business. While everyone’s situation is different, most solopreneurs’ outcome metrics include:

  • Annual revenue. Even if you aren’t aiming for a million-dollar business, you need a revenue goal to stay focused and to ensure your expenses are covered.
  • Number of clients. Depending on one client for most of your revenue is a recipe for failure. If you don’t have a diverse set of clients and prospects, you are at risk of seeing your income drop to zero.
  • Number of repeat engagements. It takes work to acquire a new client, and clients who only engage you once can’t sustain a business.

Other outcome metrics might include number of referrals, number of speaking engagements or average profitability of projects.

Once you know what outcomes you want—and want to measure, activity metrics can help you evaluate the success of your efforts. Make sure that each activity has a clear connection to an outcome—three new clients, 25% increase in revenue, or doubling your referrals, for example. Activity metrics you might use include:

  • Number of networking events attended and, more importantly, number of contacts followed up with afterward
  • Number of social media posts written and, just as importantly, number of comments and shares for each post
  • Number of subscribers to your blog or followers on social media
  • Hours invested in marketing efforts each week—at least twenty hours/week for a full-time business

For both outcome metrics and activity metrics, make sure that each measurement is meaningful and that you can take actions to change the number. Measuring something beyond your control is pointless; you have to take accountability for the action required to improve any of the metrics.

Are you finding it hard to come up with useful outcome and activity metrics for your business? Let’s talk!

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* This analogy came from an AIIP Info Pro Cafe. AIIP members can see the recording of this Info Pro Cafe here.

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Speaking for fun and profit https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/speaking-for-fun-and-profit/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/speaking-for-fun-and-profit/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2020 13:36:42 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=6015 I recently spoke at an AIIP virtual event with Marydee Ojala on “Public Speaking For Introverts: From No Way to Speaking for Pay”. (AIIP members can watch the recording here.) The questions that we discussed got me thinking, so I’m taking this chance to expand a bit on my thoughts. And keep in mind that […]

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I recently spoke at an AIIP virtual event with Marydee Ojala on “Public Speaking For Introverts: From No Way to Speaking for Pay”. (AIIP members can watch the recording here.) The questions that we discussed got me thinking, so I’m taking this chance to expand a bit on my thoughts. And keep in mind that public speaking need not be in person, although it’s a lot more powerful that way; my answers below apply to virtual presentations as well.

What do you wish you knew when you first started speaking publicly? It took me several years to realize that it’s not about me… it’s about the audience and the event organizer. My goal is to give people a tangible skill or insight that they didn’t have before. If the audience feels that they learned something that they could put into practice immediately, then they’ll be happy they attended my talk and the event organizer will be happy that the participants are happy. And, remember that the ultimate client in a speaking engagement isn’t the audience—it’s the person putting on the event.

When did you first start charging for your speaking? For the first three or four years, I spoke for free or, when the engagement was out of town, I would just be reimbursed for my travel expenses. My goal was to get people to know me, to see that I’m generous with what I know and committed to sharing what I’ve learned with others, and to build my leads by offering valuable information and then inviting them to subscribe to my (then) email newsletter. I wanted as much exposure as possible, so I tried to always find a way to say yes.

I finally started charging when I was getting more unpaid engagements than I could afford to do; at that point, I realized that I had the chops to speak for pay. And as soon as I started charging, I resolved that I would lose at least a quarter of my speaking invitations because I was too expensive. The only way I could determine the upper end of my speaking fees was to keep raising them until I started to get push-back and, as much as I enjoy travel, I’d rather make more money doing fewer speaking gigs.

What helped you get over the jitters? I take two approaches to that surge of adrenaline that always hits me 10 or 15 minutes before I get up to speak. First, I remind myself that adrenaline is my friend; it sharpens my brain and will help me while I speak to think quickly and clearly. And then I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that the people in the audience are on my side. They aren’t waiting to catch me making a grammatical error or to smirk if I lose my train of thought. Rather, they are sitting there assuming that I will engage them, teach them something they didn’t know, and leave them with a fresh perspective. They’re actually all silently rooting for me to succeed. So as soon as I get to the podium, I smile, make eye contact with three or four people in the room, and then focus on just talking to those friendly faces. It works every time.

Any tips to help introverts get started speaking? As a fellow introvert, I’ll let you in on a secret—many of the best public speakers are introverts. Think about it… instead of having to make small talk, you’re free to talk about what you’re passionate about. You get to share what you know with people who are interested in learning. And afterward, instead of having to start yet another awkward conversation, people come up to you with comments about your presentation. In fact, a pro tip I picked up from Marcy Phelps was to include an invitation at the end of my presentation for people to talk with me afterward and share their favorite technique / experience/ idea—whatever I want to prompt my audience with that will give them something to come up to me and talk about after my presentation is over.

Yes, my first four or five public speaking engagements were nerve-wracking, and I still worry whether my audience is going to find my presentation useful, but I have learned to accept my worries as simply part of the process. As with anything that moves me outside my comfort zone, it’s both challenging and really gratifying to effectively share my knowledge and enthusiasm with others.

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How to attract and keep GREAT clients https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/how-to-have-great-clients/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/how-to-have-great-clients/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2020 15:00:04 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=4721 I recently wrote a Coach’s Corner column for AIIP about how to manage difficult clients and, as I was writing it, I realized that I have had very few difficult clients over the last 25+ years in business. What’s my secret? I’m certainly not perfect, but here are the approaches that have helped me attract […]

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I recently wrote a Coach’s Corner column for AIIP about how to manage difficult clients and, as I was writing it, I realized that I have had very few difficult clients over the last 25+ years in business. What’s my secret? I’m certainly not perfect, but here are the approaches that have helped me attract and keep so many clients I respect, admire and look forward to working with.

I market myself authentically. I speak and write frequently, and I’m known for having an informal, accessible approach. I make sure people see how much I enjoy what I’m doing and that I might be someone they would enjoy working with. I want to attract clients who enjoy what they’re doing and who like working with people who also enjoy what they’re doing. And if my style rubs a prospective client the wrong way, I assume that we probably wouldn’t have been a good fit.

I approach each project with curiosity. One of the benefits of regularly working on bonsai research projects is knowing that no two projects are the same. My initial phone calls with clients are always open-ended, and we’re often both surprised at how the scope or focus of the project changes after our conversation. Part of my value is being a sounding board and talking through what my client’s desired outcome is and how I can best help facilitate that outcome. I’m not looking for opportunities to up-sell; I’m looking for ways I can contribute the most.

I check my ego at the door. My clients bring me into a project because they need to get something done, or understand a market better, or provide better value to their clients. They’re only going to be happy if, at the end of our engagement, they were able to accomplish whatever it was they set out to do. If that means I need to rework my deliverable, or refocus my approach, or (sometimes) put in some unbillable time to make sure my client is happy, I’ll do it. Happy clients mean repeat business and referrals to other great clients.

I use flat-fee pricing. I want my clients to feel like they aren’t taking a big risk when they engage me, and I want them to know that I’m confident in my ability to meet their needs. In my experience, agreeing on a flat fee for the project serves as a promise to my clients that I’ll hold up my end of the agreement. Of course, I make sure I build in a little wiggle room in the budget; this helps me feel generous with my time if it takes a few back-and-forths for my client to feel happy with the final deliverable.

TL;DR version: I look at every engagement from my client’s point of view, and try to discern what they are most concerned about and how I can make the biggest contribution. Doing whatever it takes to keep a (reasonable) client delighted means I look forward to every engagement I’m on.

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The New Year’s resolutions your business wants you to make https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/new-years-resolutions/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/new-years-resolutions/#respond Mon, 06 Jan 2020 14:00:08 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=4818 One of the standard jokes of solopreneurs is “If you hear me talking to myself, don’t worry—I’m just holding a staff meeting.” While there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of being a one-person operation, we sometimes get complacent in how we run our business. This year, I decided to give my business […]

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One of the standard jokes of solopreneurs is “If you hear me talking to myself, don’t worry—I’m just holding a staff meeting.” While there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of being a one-person operation, we sometimes get complacent in how we run our business. This year, I decided to give my business a voice in setting my New Year’s resolutions, as a way to think more expansively about what I need to add, drop or change in 2020. Here are a few of the pieces of advice my business is showing me:

Look at what projects and clients been profitable in 2019 and figure out how to attract more clients like that. Note that these aren’t necessarily the clients you did the most work for, but who values you enough to pay you top dollar? How did you find your most profitable clients? Have some reality-check interviews with those clients to find out what they most value about your services, and assume that it’s probably NOT what you think it will be. Consider how you can attract more clients who also value that aspect about what you do.

Review your marketing efforts over the past year and evaluate how well those efforts translated into paying clients. Are you spending too much time on social media without any profitable work you can associate with those efforts? Reexamine what your value message is, who you are sending that message to, and how you describe yourself. Are you positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field or are you offering a service that your clients perceive to be a commodity? If you’re having trouble finding clients who need, value and can pay you well, see my blog post Help—I Still Don’t Have Any Clients.

Spend less time “working” and more time focused on outcomes. It’s easy to come into the office in the morning, go through your email, read and update your social media, and take a quick sneak at the news, and suddenly look up to see that it’s noon. Instead, read Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog post “How to Have More Focused Hours in Your Day” and start the day with a clear intention of how you want to spend focused time working toward tangible, measurable outcomes—a new client, a referral, an invitation to speak, and so on.

Build a new skill. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been in business—if you’re not improving your professional skills, you’re falling behind. In 2019, I decided to master the backstage elements of videoconferencing on Zoom. Knowing that the best way for me to learn a skill is to keep doing it until I figure out all the ways I can break it, I volunteered to lead AIIP’s Virtual Events Committee and we started doing two or three virtual meetings a month. This year, I’m focused on how to create engaging live online workshops, and in a few weeks I’ll be announcing a free virtual workshop that I’m offering on reality-check interviews. (And for the beekeeping nerds among us, the other new skill I’m working on is starting my first top bar hive this spring with my bee partner.)

What is your business suggesting YOU add to your New Year’s resolutions?

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Help—I still don’t have any clients! https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/help-i-still-dont-have-any-clients/ https://www.batesinfo.com/reluctant-entrepreneur/help-i-still-dont-have-any-clients/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2019 14:18:49 +0000 https://www.batesinfo.com/?p=4607 The solopreneurs I coach and mentor, especially those in their first year of business, often tell me how hard it is to figure out how to measure success, how to best spend their time, and how to turn interest into client engagements. While each business is different, a few pieces of advice apply in almost […]

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The solopreneurs I coach and mentor, especially those in their first year of business, often tell me how hard it is to figure out how to measure success, how to best spend their time, and how to turn interest into client engagements. While each business is different, a few pieces of advice apply in almost any B2B solopreneur.

First, make sure you know what your prospective clients need, value and will pay you well for. If you haven’t conducted at least a half dozen informational conversations, in which you were able to learn what your market needs and how your prospective clients talk about that need, then you need to invest the time and energy into these essential conversations. See my blog post Making Yourself Irreplaceable for lots more resources on how to conduct insightful informational conversations.

If your problem is that you are getting inquiries about your services but none of them are turning into sales, then see my blog post Getting to ‘Yes’ for thoughts on what might be amiss in your approach or your market.

Next, I advise taking a three-prong approach to building your word-of-mouth referral network and establishing yourself as a trusted adviser.

  • Start building your profile as a thought leader by posting well-written, thoughtful posts on your blog and on LinkedIn every week, based on the insights you gleaned from your informational conversations about your market’s biggest concerns. Yes, post every week. It takes time and focus, but it’s one of the most effective ways to establish your reputation. For a metric to indicate that you’re on the right track, aim to have at least one person reach out to you to inquire about your services within three months of when you start these focused, weekly posts.
  • Identify local face-to-face networking events and attend at least two a month. The goal is not just to build your network but to practice your one-sentence intro and your 3-sentence story about your business until you’ve found ways to introduce yourself that engage the listener and convey what you most want to be known for. (For more about your one-sentence intro, see my blog post The Anti-Elevator Speech. For more about your three-sentence marketing vignette, see my blog post Marketing Vignettes.) Have as your goal for each event that you make at least three new contacts and you identify an intro and marketing vignette that kept a conversation going and that made you memorable to the other person
  • Join one association where you believe you are most likely to find people who need, value and will pay you well for your expertise. Reach out to the association president, introduce yourself, and ask about where they need your specific skills. Focus on finding a member-facing volunteer role and be an outstanding volunteer. Watch for opportunities to present a webinar to the members on a topic you’re expert in. Be enthusiastic and genuine, and focus on how you can most effectively support the association’s goals. Have as your goal to understand the association (and your market) well enough that within 12 months you can get a speaking engagement at their annual conference, a regular column in their newsletter, or a leadership position in a member-facing capacity.

Granted, none of these approaches offers a quick-fix solutions to cash flow issues, but they will enable you to build a strong, steady business based on clients who know and value your expertise and who respect your thought leadership.

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