You’ve probably had this happen to you at least once… You have what seems like a perfectly normal conversation with a prospective client, you send what you think is a perfectly reasonable proposal, and your client responds with shock at how expensive you are.
Scope creep, the phrase that strikes fear in the heart of every consultant…
We have all had that experience, where we carefully plan out every aspect of a project, estimating the necessary time and resources and even adding in a safety margin, only to have our client ask for “just a little more” work or “just this little addition” to our deliverable halfway through the project. All of a sudden the expected work load has doubled, for no additional income.
I like to practice what I preach, and one of the ideas I have been thinking a lot about lately is being radically client-focused. I recently recorded a half-hour talk on the art of the informational interview, which looks at how to learn what you don’t know you don’t know about your clients’ biggest information-related needs.
I don’t know about you, but I never found the Magic 8 Ball that would tell me what my clients value the most. Sure, I can make educated guesses. But what I have learned over time—and from talking with many coaching clients—is that generally we are way off when it comes to what our clients care the most about and are willing to pay us well for.
One of the scariest things a solopreneur has to do is start the discussion of how much a project will cost. You might be having a great conversation with your client, in which you learn everything your client needs and you figure out how you can delight your client with your deliverable. Then comes the big moment where one of you has to start talking about cost….
Do you choke?
“Well, what you do sounds interesting, but could you send me a sample project?”
This is one of the most-feared questions a solopreneur encounters. You might freeze, not having a portfolio of the best, sufficiently-anonymized examples of what you do. A much better approach is to turn the question around and find out what your prospective client is most concerned about. What is he really worried about — that you can’t do the work? that your deliverable will be a piece of junk? something else?
Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. I have had two experiences recently that reminded me of how effective a small gesture is in conveying customer appreciation.
I often write about how to create a business that supports you financially and that you love. But I’m feeling contrary today, because I’m inspired to offer my best advice for solopreneurs who aren’t interested in succeeding. If you want a business that doesn’t attract new clients, clients who are overly price-sensitive, or if all your marketing efforts are failing and if you want more of the same, then here are some tips for you, with tongue held firmly in cheek.
One of the scariest things about being a solopreneur is wondering if you will get paid by your client. Some people can get 100% of their fee up front, but most of us don’t, so we are always taking a risk that our client will decide not to pay us once the project is done.
I was “fortunate” to have gotten two deadbeat clients within the first few years of my business, and I consider myself lucky. They were both small projects, I learned something important from each one, and — surprise! — both clients eventually paid me. First I’ll tell you a little bit about each situation, then I’ll tell you what I learned from each one and how I now avoid repeating my mistakes.