Over the past 18 years, I have had six books published by three different publishers. When I decided that I had another book inside me, I considered pitching it to my usual publishing contacts. After serious thought, I decided to self-publish The Reluctant Entrepreneur: Making a Living Doing What You Love through Amazon.com’s print and e-book services. While it usually takes a publisher nine months or a year from receipt of a manuscript to shipment of a book, my turnaround time was just four months—a significant factor with a book that covers social media and other rapidly changing fields.
If you have been in business for more than a couple of weeks, you have probably been asked by someone to donate your time and services for their organization. And especially if your business is still in its early stages, it can be tempting to say yes. “It’s a great way to market myself”, you tell yourself. “They’ll see how great my work is, and then they will pay me.”
Adam Davidson (NPR Planet Money co-host) mused about innovation in a piece in the Nov. 16th issue of the New York Times, Welcome to the Failure Age. What I found most intriguing were his thoughts about the impact of information technology on usually risk-averse professions such as lawyers and accountants. As they see much of their low-value, routine work disappear to Nolo and Quicken respectively, these professions are finding new ways to surface the unique value they provide, using tools that once threatened their business. As Donaldson put it:
I was chatting with a colleague the other day, who was concerned that she had not heard from a client in a while and she was starting to imagine all the worst possible outcomes. “The client hates me. He’s found someone else with lower rates. I made a horrible mistake and he hasn’t told me.” Blah blah blah… I know; we have all been down that road.
Today’s Wall Street Journal had a thought-provoking article about “How Steve Ballmer Became a Rookie Basketball Mogul” in which we learn that even CEOs get nervous when they are preparing to meet NBA superstar players for dinner. (And they binge-watch to relieve stress just like the rest of us.)
Ask 10 entrepreneurs for the least favorite aspect of their job, and 9.5 of them will say “marketing.” We’re one-person businesses, so it can feel like shameless self-promotion when we talk about who we are and what we offer. I recently ran across several items that discuss ways to show your stuff in ways that feel authentic.
Lifehacker has a good blog post today, An Experienced Freelancer’s Guide to Finding Clients. I particularly like his discussion of the need for primary research BEFORE you launch your business. If you don’t understand why your clients will hire you, you won’t have much success finding clients.
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great piece on how to be a better listener. While it’s useful in any conversational setting, it is particularly valuable when you are approaching a negotiation with a client.
Before a negotiation, for example, you should:
- do a brain dump of pending work so you can pick it up later (so your mind is clear)
- make a list of questions and topics you want to cover (This enables you to fully listen to the other person, rather than constantly thinking of what you want to say next.)
- set an intention to talk 25% and listen 75% (yes, really!)
- drop your assumptions of what the other person will say and just listen
I’ve never been a big fan of formal business plans. Often, they don’t embed enough flexibility for the entrepreneur to pivot, based on new experience and a changing competitive environment. (Marketing plans, on the other hand, are essential tools in managing and prioritizing an entrepreneur’s valuable time.)
I am a big proponent of pricing by the project rather than by the hour; to me, it’s a no-brainer that both my client and I are better off if we focus on outcome rather than the amount of activity required. But what do you do if a prospective client insists on talking about your hourly rate at the beginning of a conversation?