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?
Do you think of yourself as a freelancer? self-employed? a consultant?
- How easy is it to find your contact information (not just a form to fill out)?
- How easy is it to get you on the phone?
- Are you nice to work with or do you have a reputation for being prickly?
- How clear are you about your prices and services?
- How confident do you sound?
- How demonstrably committed are you to each client’s project?
When is the last time you sat back and looked at how frictionless you are for your clients? In a time when freelancers will work for $5 (fiverr.com), we need to distinguish ourselves by demonstrating our responsiveness and high value. Are you acting like the high-end professional that you are? Do your clients see that?
When someone asks you what you do, do you freeze up or start stammering? You need a concise, memorable response prepared for all the times when you’re asked about your work. This is sometimes called your “elevator pitch.” Why? Imagine stepping into an elevator with your biggest prospect. She turns to you and asks, “So, what exactly do you do?” You have 30 seconds—the time it takes for the elevator to get to her destination on the 25th floor—to describe yourself in such a way that she immediately understands why you are the solution to her problems.