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.
Many entrepreneurs occasionally yearn for the (perceived) stability of a regular job, where they just show up five days a week and get paid every two weeks. Maybe it’s during a time when you are experiencing a client drought, or perhaps when you are working far too many hours for what you’re getting paid. You find yourself over at CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com, browsing through job ads.
In preparation for my presentations at the 2014 SLA Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO (that’s a mouthful), I went through the online directory of exhibitors to get some good examples of vendors describing themselves by value rather than by lists of features. I was dismayed to see that virtually all of them simply described the company (“we’ve been in business for X years”, “a global leader in information blah blah”) and mentioned what services they offer.
Very few exhibitors took the time to tell exhibit hall attendees why their product or service would be meaningful or would enable the attendees to accomplish their goals. Only a handful talked about the value they provide to this group of professionals. Given the cost to exhibit, I would expect a little more energy invested in figuring out and articulating their value proposition.