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It took a mindset shift for me to grow my consultancy in to the 6 Figures. Get that mindset shift today and start your path to a growing sustainable business that doesn't require all your evenings and weekends.

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It’s not all about email — get on the phone

There are many benefits to email, one of them being that it’s asynchronous communication. You can send an email now and get your response when it’s most convenient for the receiver. You can batch process them and use email templates to make answering them faster.

The problem is, a good business needs to have direct contact with its prospects. Winning work that’s of high value means you need to create trust with your prospects. One of the best ways to create that trust is to let them see you.

Every project gets a call

As I said last week when I talked about writing great estimates, every project you start should include a phone call to discuss the project. Even clients you’ve worked with before need that call.

Stopping at the initial call is a bad idea though — you need to keep getting on the phone with prospects during the project. No, your project management system won’t do. No, email won’t do. Neither of those options will do, especially if there is any trouble in the project.

Are you behind a few days? Get on the phone.

Is there some challenge you didn’t expect? Get on the phone.

Have you sent more than two emails about an issue? Get on the phone.

Weekly catch-up

For every project you run keep that trust high by having a weekly project meeting. Check in with the client and address any issues that have come up. Give them a verbal recap of where things are and of any concerns you may have.

Even if you sent them a Monday and Friday update email like I recommend, get on the phone in the middle of the week to touch base and make sure everything is okay.

If you want to run that awesome, successful business, you need to do things that your competitors aren’t. You need to build trust with your prospects and clients.

Don’t stick to digital communication. Get on the phone with your clients regularly and keep things running smoothly.

photo credit: mwscheung cc

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Is your ego getting in the way of the life you want?

What is our ego? For many of you, the thought of ego may conjure visions of a character like Megamind with a huge head and huge brain. I want you to think of the character whose head is huge not because they have a huge brain, but because they can’t get over themselves. They think they’re a gift to the world and everyone should feel blessed to exist inside their pull of gravity.

In his book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday works to address this type of ego — the ego we’re all susceptible to, that can ruin our highest accomplishments because we think we’re all that.

It’s always nice to be made to feel special or empowered or inspired. But that’s not the aim of this book. Instead, I have tried to arrange these pages so that you might end in the same place I did when I finished writing it: that is, you will think less of yourself. I hope you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.

The book is broken up into three clearly marked parts which, unlike many authors, Holiday calls out for us before we dive into them.

And therefore, the three parts that this book is organized into: Aspire. Success. Failure.

The aim of that structure is simple: to help you suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline when we experience success, and to cultivate strength and fortitude so that when fate turns against you, you’re not wrecked by failure.

The ego that Holiday is talking about is most commonly referred to, and seen manifest as, arrogance. That feeling that we’re entitled to all the good things even if we haven’t put in the work to get them. This is not the quiet ego that’s confident and sober. That quiet, confident ego is the one that Holiday is working to help us transform into.

Just one thing keeps ego around—comfort. Pursuing great work—whether it is in sports or art or business—is often terrifying. Ego soothes that fear. It’s a salve to that insecurity. Replacing the rational and aware parts of our psyche with bluster and self-absorption, ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it.

Aspire

Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more “Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.” It’s rarely the truth: “I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.”

Take a look at Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, or at the people around you at the coffee shop. The glimpse you get here is often referred to as the ‘highlight reel’ of life. While I may show you a picture of my smiling kids at the top of a mountain which impresses you, I don’t show you all the times they complained on the way up and yelled at me.

This is not just something that happens on my social feeds — everyone we know is showing us a carefully cultivated glimpse of their life. Even if they share the “hard” times, there are hundreds more hard times they never show us. For most of us, though, the struggles far outweigh the successes.

And yet we feature the success, which in turn causes others around us to Aspire to that success while focusing on the dregs of their real life and comparing it to your highlight reel.

Even if you recognize this highlight reel phenomenon, how often do you let yourself be taught? Are you regularly working to be that professional that everyone looks up to?

The power of being a student is not just that it is an extended period of instruction, it also places the ego and ambition in someone else’s hands. There is a sort of ego ceiling imposed – one knows that he is not better than the “master” he apprentices under. Not even close. You defer to them, you subsume yourself. You cannot fake or bullshit them. An education can’t be “hacked “; there are no shortcuts besides hacking it every single day. If you don’t, they drop you.

Do you pretend to know everything and shy away from admitting what you don’t know? While I build web software — and in theory that’s code — it would be foolhardy of me to have anything but a very cursory opinion on building applications for desktop or mobile environments.

The pretends of knowledge is our most dangerous vice, because it prevents us from getting any better.

While I say that and it seems obvious, how often as we try to launch ourselves to some level of success do we forgo the three scary words “I don’t know” and make something up?

How often do we look at what our clients or bosses want us to do and lament how short-sighted they are in the face of our awesomeness? This prevailing sentiment is how we get sites like Clients from Hell, which assumes that all the fault is on the client while the creative or developer sits unassailable in superiority knowing that the client is stupid.

It’s a common attitude that transcends generations and societies. The angry, unappreciated genius is forced to do stuff she doesn’t like, for people she doesn’t respect, as she makes her way in the world. How dare they force me to groves like this! The injustice! The waste!

As we Aspire to be successful Holiday helps bring us down to earth. Down to a level of humble acceptance where we are. A level that’s willing to learn from mistakes, and admit those mistakes.

By being that quiet person that’s always learning, we avoid flash-in-the-pan success and instead create a body of work that speaks for itself. Something we can look back on years later and be proud of as we move toward success.

Success

No matter what you’ve done up to this point, you better still be a student. If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.

With a bit of success under our belts it’s easy for us to believe we suddenly have it all figured out. We take that calm professional we need to be to succeed and turn them into an arrogant person who knows everything and stops learning.

We think all our ideas are the best, and in doing so, we miss the ideas that are going to disrupt our industry. We turn from that person who humbly shipped good work for clients or bosses into someone that everyone should be happy to have the privilege of working with.

Success is not the time to turn into that person — it’s time to double down on shipping good work to people humbly as we continue to learn.

The same goes for us, whatever we do. Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution–and on executing with excellence. We must shun the false crown and continue working on what got us here.

In the midst of success we also get so many opportunities thrown at us. New big clients and projects come our way and by doing them we show people how successful we are.

All of us regularly say yes unthinkingly, or out of vague attraction, or out of greed or vanity. Because we can’t say no — because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

Dave Ramsey says something similar about our spending habits.

We spend money we don’t have for things we don’t want to impress people we don’t even like. – Dave Ramsey

This need to be seen as successful and go big or go home means that many of us end up building businesses we would never work for. The irony is, we work long hours and weekends, when we started the work so we could be a great parent and hang out with our kids.

It’s time to sit down and think about what’s truly important to you and then take steps to forsake the rest. Without this, success will not be pleasurable, or nearly as complete as it could be. Or worse, it won’t last.

As we get some success, Holiday reminds us we need to stick with that calm person that did good work humbly and learned. We need to remember that most people will never hear of us, and that’s okay. Success is not some dollar amount, and his next section on Failure shows us what it success really is.

Most successful people are people you’ve never heard of. They want it that way.

It keeps them sober. It helps them do their jobs

Failure

The only real failure is abandoning your principles. Killing what you love because you can’t bear to part from it is selfish and stupid. If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.

Failure happens to everyone. Maybe it’s not on some grand scale of a multi-million-dollar business collapse like Enron, but it happens. We are the good parent who yells at their kid and tells them you don’t even want to see them anymore.

We are the business owner that misses deadlines, over and over and knows that it’s wrong.

The thing is, in the midst of success it’s easy to shortchange the things that really make us awesome. It’s easy to stop being true to our ‘authentic self’ and strive to grab back at the success we just had a fleeting glimpse of.

People make mistakes all the time. They start companies they think they can manage. They have grand and bold visions that were a little too grandiose. This is all perfectly fine; it’s what being an entrepreneur or a creative or even a business executive is all about.

We take risks. We mess up.

The problem is that when we get our identity tied up in our work, we worry that any kind of failure will then say something bad about us as a person. It’s a fear of taking responsibility, of admitting that we might have messed up. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. And so we throw good money and good life after bad and end up making everything so much worse.

As we had a hand on success and made that inevitable mistake that people make it’s so easy to lose our entire sense of self in the pursuit of sticking with that success. As our business crashes down around us, we feel like total failures because we’ve tied up our personal worth in that venture.

In the movie Fight Club there is a scene where the men in the club are being told that ‘they are not their job’ and we should all take that to heart.

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Your worth is not in how much you can charge a client for your services or how much you earn in a year or how many projects you launch. Your worth must be found somewhere else and being that best person you can be is a good place to start.

People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.

And with that quote near the end of the book, Holiday leaves us with something to think about. Are we striving every day to be the best possible version of ourselves? If the answer to that is ‘no,’ then it’s time for an ego check. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then good job — keep on quietly keeping on.

Recommendation

Just like The Obstacle is the Way (which I reviewed) Holiday writes a great book that gets us to think more about what it means to be true to ourselves. Unlike many books in this genre, it does not encourage us to be ‘authentic’ while entirely ignoring those around us and trampling them.

Holiday encourages us to be awesome to others and forget what we deserve as we help those around us get to where they want to be.

Get Ego is the Enemy on Amazon

photo credit: enigmabadger cc

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The 5 Big Mistakes I See When I Critique Proposals

Working with my coaching clients I regularly get asked to look at proposals before they’re sent out. Of the many proposals I’ve critiqued, here are the top five mistakes I see people make.

1. Rushing it.

The first mistake — and in many ways the root of all other mistakes — is that most freelancers rush their proposals. They get an email from a prospect and want to submit a proposal within hours. They haven’t talked to the prospect yet, or had any real chance to think about the project and generate questions they need answered.

This means that many proposals I read are sloppy. They’re written in vague ‘wiggle wording’ that could be interpreted 90 different ways, and always leave the freelancer a way out to be right about what they said they’d deliver. This means that the prospect can have almost zero confidence in the proposal and will be much less likely to accept it.

Combat this by having a defined workflow for proposals. I don’t get on the phone with a client about their project until I’ve had my initial questions answered. I don’t produce a proposal without at least one call about the project. I regularly tell prospects that it takes at least two weeks to get a proposal from me.

Sticking to this slow timeline and requiring contact from the prospect means I have time to think about the potential project and ask good questions so there are few surprises in the middle of the work.

2. Not knowing budgets.

Far too many people are afraid to talk about money. Money is part of business and you need to know the budget your prospect is working with to see if it’s even worthwhile. I ask prospects their budget in my initial prospect email and if they can’t give me some sort of answer I don’t get on the phone with them about the project.

Many prospects say they have no idea what the work should cost, but they almost always can tell you what’s too expensive. You may even start with a range and say something like, “Is $3,000 too much? What about $5,000, or $10,000?”. At some point they’re going to balk at the numbers you throw out, which is where the work is no longer worth it. When they balk you know they don’t see any value in the project if it’s over that dollar figure.

Knowing the budget means you can write a proposal that matches it.

3. Not knowing WHY the project is a good idea.

Your job as a professional is not to simply do what you’re told. At least it’s not if you want to be a well-paid professional. Those well-paid professionals are always going to question why a project is worth doing.

It’s far too common for prospects to have some great idea they should never spend money on. Last year I worked with a client who wanted some custom plugin features because it would make life a bit easier. From a value perspective she’d be saving maybe 10 minutes a week, which does add up to a bit of time over the year.

The problem came when I realized they had already thrown away a few thousand dollars on the feature with someone else and were looking at a few thousand more with me to get it landed in its initial form. Getting the feature built perfectly — in order save 10 minutes a week — would have been way too expensive. It would have taken a decade for them to save enough time to justify the cost of building it.

Once we did that math we realized the feature had no real business value at all. They could pay their assistant to do the work and not have to be frustrated and not have to pay many thousands of dollars.

If you don’t know why the project is a good idea for your prospect’s business, then you’re not ready to write a proposal for them.

4. Not offering options.

Your proposals should always have at least two options, but three is better. The first option should be the basics of what the prospect wants and should be inside their budget. If it doesn’t hit those criteria, then you’re doing the prospect a disservice and fooling yourself into an option. Clearly they’d never choose it if it doesn’t meet the criteria for project success.

Your second and third options should add on some of the dreams the prospect has. If you spend time talking with the prospect properly you’re going to hear “and if it did this…” That’s a prime candidate for one of your higher-priced options.

By offering options you’re changing the decision from one of deciding whether to work with you at all to deciding which option they like best.

5. Making it hard to accept and get paid.

Is your proposal a PDF? You’re doing it wrong! Stop sending PDFs and start using some system like 17Hats or Nusii. All of these services allow the client to get an email with the proposal, take a look at it and accept it right away.

Some of them (17Hats for sure) allow clients to accept the contract and pay online with a few simple clicks. This means I send over my proposal and don’t have to interact with it again unless the client has questions. It means I can send over a proposal at the end of the day on Friday and have money in my bank account over the weekend with a project ready to add to my calendar.

If your prospect has to email you for the contract, and then figure out how to send you payment, you’re increasing the friction and decreasing the number of sales you’re going to make.

I know you want to win work, but if you’re making any of these mistakes you’re limiting that win rate. Make sure you take the time needed to ask the proper questions of prospects. Make sure you offer them options and you make it easy for them to accept your proposal and pay you.

If you can start doing those things, you’re going to start winning more work.

photo credit: atin800 cc

The 6 sections of a good proposal

Just because you can generate leads doesn’t mean that you can get work. Your whole sales process starts with the lead and ends with the client paying you to work for them. In the middle there is the proposal, and you need to write a good one.

6 Sections of a good proposal

  1. Current Problem
  2. Objectives
  3. Gauging Success
  4. Options
  5. Timeline
  6. Accountabilities

Write Proposals that Win Work

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How I let my ego get in the way of success

One of the many ‘jobs’ I’ve had is to run a live performance theatre. I put ‘job’ in quotes because I was in high school and this story comes from the drama club where I was the stage manager. I did also get paid to run the facility, but on one particular day I was in charge of everything. Due to the simple fact that I’d been around the longest I was nominated to be in charge of building everything, making sure actors and crew got to their places on time, fix anything that broke, and fill in for any person that didn’t make it.

It was clean-up time

I was full of myself. I was the youngest stage manager in the 40-year history of the theatre. This theatre has produced people that go to work for bands like Blue Rodeo and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I was rightly excited and proud to be put in charge of 100 people at the ripe old age of 16. I didn’t feel much fear about the 1,000 people a night that would see our productions for weeks on end. I wasn’t concerned about the two matinees a day for two weeks that would be performed for the grade schools in the area.

See, I deserved it all. I put in so much work when I was 15 and this was my reward. I was in charge of everyone. Sure, in theory there were teachers that oversaw the club, but day to day, they were elsewhere in the school marking papers while I was — literally — running the show. They were rarely actually watching what I was doing. It was up to me and I was awesome.

The problem is that I only thought I was awesome. Sure I had some very small success already, and I had been picked to lead, but I wasn’t leading. I was doing a great job of ordering people around.

This was greatly evident when it came to clean-up time. I’d confidently walk around telling people near me to pick up anything I saw. Clearly I didn’t pick it up, I was in charge and it was my job to make sure someone else picked it up.

This came to a screaming head one day when my assistant…screamed at me about being lazy. Unfortunately it’s only two decades later that I can understand what his issues were. I wasn’t some clear sober leader who worked as hard as everyone else. I was some dictator who ordered people around and expected to be obeyed.

Most successful people are people you’ve never heard of. They want it that way.

It keeps them sober. It helps them do their jobs.

from: Ego is the Enemy

Ego and clients

Fast forward a little over 10 years and I’m running a business and getting to be well known in my field as someone who delivers good work at a reasonable price. I had finally started to increase my pricing and felt I was worth it. Life was good. Or was it?

After a year of almost no projects actually getting delivered because I was slow or in over my head, I started to wake up to the fact that I was full of myself. I figured that clients should be happy they were working with me and that they should just pay what I told them and get the work when they get it and be happy about it.

Few of them were, and my reputation and referrals started to suffer from it.

Don’t be me

Your ego and the entitlement that comes with it is one of the swiftest ways to sabotage your business. Yes, you should set out an ideal week and stick to it, but not because you’re so awesome and everyone needs to bow to your needs. You stick to it because that helps you to deliver the best work possible to your client on time.

I’ll leave you with one final quote which I hope you can take to heart:

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. – Sam Levenson

Learn from my mistakes and don’t let your ego get in the way of doing awesome work for your clients.

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc

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What is the right price for your services?

Get two freelancers in a room and at some point they’ll be talking about estimating and pricing their services. Get two agencies in a room and at some point they’ll be talking about estimating and pricing their services.

For the most part these discussions are helpful to all involved. Each party picks up a few tips from the other and they go off to produce stronger estimates worth just a bit more that yield better profits for their business.

Underlying each discussion are two fears, though. The first is imposter syndrome which will rear its ugly head. It causes people to fear they’re charging way too much but aren’t worth it, and everyone is about to find out. This is rarely the case.

The second fear, funny enough, is the direct opposite. It’s the fear of under-charging but being worth much more. This is quite often the case, and more so the earlier a person is in the life of their business.

Learning to price properly is one of the things you can do right now to run a better business.

The biggest mistake

The biggest mistake that 99% of business owners make is not valuing the work they provide for clients. Remember what you do is hard enough as to be considered wizardry to almost all of your clients. I can’t think of a time when I’ve consulted a business owner and been shocked that they’re charging so much. I almost always tell them to raise their rates because they’re worth more than they’re charging.

You’re likely in the same boat.

The second biggest mistake businesses make is charging based on the hours they put in on a project. You don’t get paid for butt-in-seat time — you get paid to solve problems for your clients. Charging hourly means you quote some rate for your services and then the prospect does terrible math to guess how long the job will take you and how much that’s going to cost them.

This terrible math always favours those who charge the least and results in a race to the bottom. Where you may have 10 years experience and be able to do the work in one hour, your higher rate is getting compared to someone with one month experience who will take 10 hours to do the same job.

The longer you’ve been doing the job and the faster you are the less advantaged this math is to you. Don’t charge hourly is the best advice I can give anyone starting their business.

Price based on value

If you can’t charge hourly, then how do you charge for your services? You should be charging based on the value you provide. Another way of saying it is, you should be pricing based on the value of the problems you solve.

Unsticking a toilet that’s not leaking is of much less value than fixing a toilet that’s leaking everywhere and wrecking a beautiful hardwood floor. For one, you’re willing to wait a day or two for the plumber to have time. For the other, you’re willing to pay way more to have the problem fixed now.

The same thing works with your clients. If you can solve a big problem, like increasing their sales, you can charge a bigger price. If you’re solving little problems that aren’t huge pains, then you can only charge a little.

Value pricing is a huge topic. If you want more on value based pricing then listen to my friend Kirk’s podcast, The Art of Value or get Double your Freelancing Rate.

Now I know you want to earn more but that starts with positioning yourself and writing great proposals. We’re going to talk about how to write a great proposal on Friday in my podcast. If you aren’t subscribed, go get the Smart Business Show on iTunes or Stitcher or you can jump the gun and get my book Write Proposals That Win Work.

photo credit: clement127 cc

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If you want to be successful you need a routine

When I first began working for myself, I worked from home and my daily routine resembled that of a millionaire with more money than sense. The issue was that I was focused on exercising my new found freedom but didn’t yet have the money to maintain a routine like that. That desire to exercise my ‘freedom’ meant that I barely worked a full day. I got up late, walked the dog, played around on social media, ate lunch, and at some point before 4 p.m. I would do a few hours (maybe) of work for clients.

It only took a month for me to realize that working like this meant I was taking money out of my bank account faster than I was putting money back into it.

Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles. Without routine, the pull of the nonessential distractions will overpower us. – Essentialism

Early or late?

You’ve likely heard that “the early bird gets the worm” as a proof that if you want to be successful you need to get up early. I fit into that easily since I’ve always been an early riser and have most of my energy in the morning.

The trouble is, not everyone is an early riser and some people simply don’t have a life that suits being productive early in the day. If I wasn’t married or my wife worked, I’d have to be much more involved in the daily morning routine at my house, which would mean I couldn’t get up early to head to work.

On a recent podcast Tim Ferris was asked about his observations after interviewing so many insanely successful people. Did they get up early or late? As far as he can tell, it’s not so much getting up early or late that’s the deciding factor in success, but rather the fact that all of these successful people had a routine that removed choices from their day.

Figuring out your routine

One of the reasons that so many people advise getting up early — in fact, what I think is the main reason — is that you’re usually the only one up. You’re not getting emails and no one is expecting to hear from you via email, text message, or carrier pigeon. With some planning you can create that same space in the middle of your day.

Using things like Right Inbox and Self-Control, you can set the expectations of people so they know you won’t be replying to email right away. You can help keep yourself off of social media when you should be concentrating on some other project.

For Mike Vardy, it’s not about being an early riser. He’s a self-professed night owl. He sets his routine by creating a theme for each day of the week.

For me it’s knowing that I only take calls on Tuesdays, I only take them in a very small window of time, and I automate all of this with Calendly. It’s knowing that the first hour of every day is time for me to write. I don’t track words, I write for an hour before I do anything else.

The big thing that these routines do is reduce the decisions we have to make in a day. We don’t come into the office and then have to decide what we’re going to do. I know that I make coffee and open Ulysses or Scrivener and start writing.

With that cognitive energy preserved I have it to use on those decisions that are truly business and life shaping.

If you’re looking for some more ideas about your routines then you should read Daily Rituals.

Don’t be afraid to adjust

As I’ve already said, I’m an early riser. Given the option I’d be up at 5 a.m. and at my office by 6 a.m. ready to work for the day. That can’t always happen though, and it’s okay.

Currently, with a one-month old at our house, I stay home until 7:30 which gives my wife an extra hour of sleep and I can get breakfast on the table for my other two kids. The dog has been walked and the day is started. I may even have coffee ready for my wife. While this is not my ideal schedule, it doesn’t affect my overall productivity because I adjusted my routine to fit.

I still work out daily, but instead of 5:45 a.m. I go to the gym at 8 a.m. Then I work out for an hour and write for the first hour in the office.

Whatever works for you right now, may not work for you next week or next month. Take those interruptions in your routine in stride and plan out the new routine so that you can stay effective in your work all the time.

Use the weekly review to fit in your client work to the upcoming week. Use the daily recap to make sure that you’ve got a plan for the next day. Plan the ideal week that works for you and stick to it so you can get the maximum output for your time and run that business you want to run.

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Want great clients? You need to be picky.

When you’re starting your business, you may not be able to afford to be picky about the clients you work with. When I started I contacted 10 people a day I thought could use my services. I’d troll Craigslist and job boards, and if I didn’t find 10 leads I’d check out the local chamber of commerce and email members listed there.

Today I do none of that. Now I have prospects regularly get in touch with me, with requests for more work than I could ever do. Today I say no to clients more than I say yes.

On the way here, though, I made my share of mistakes. I took on lots of clients that were terrible. People threatened to sue me because they were unhappy about things entirely outside my control. From those bad experiences I learned that one of the most important things to do is vet clients and only take the ones that are a great fit for me.

Decide your niche

Before you can decide if a prospect will be a good client you need to define the niche you serve. If you work with WordPress this does not mean that you work with anyone who needs WordPress services. It means you target a very specific niche of WordPress users and tailor your services to suit their unique problems.

Defining your niche is going to help you build marketing that works while you sleep. Every great business person you look up to has a niche and they service it. While their products may appear to be diverse, they got to that point because they started with a hyper narrow focus, and with some traction they expanded their niche a bit to adjacent areas. They did not dilute their marketing when they started to hit every possible niche that they might maybe be able to serve.

Decide who your ideal client is

Once you’ve defined your niche it’s time to get even smaller and define your ideal client in that niche. While you could serve every underwater basket weaving shop on earth, there is only a small subset of those stores owned by people with whom you’re truly compatible.

I don’t work well with clients who want hourly status updates. I don’t want three calls a week because I hate the rigidity that imposes on my schedule. I know I don’t want my clients calling my phone on weekends because that’s time I spend with my kids in the mountains, which is one of the most important things I can do.

Without that ideal client profile in mind you’re going to turn lots of prospects into clients who should never be doing business with you. That’s going to yield failed projects which will affect your reputation and your leads. Taking on people who are not your ideal clients may seem like a great idea, but long term it’s going to harm your business.

Client Vetting Communications

Once you’ve got a niche and have defined your ideal client it’s important that you tailor all your interactions to weed out projects and people that don’t fit in with your ideals. If you already have leads coming in then it starts with your first email to clients.

This first email shouldn’t be something you dash off without any thought, it should have a very specific structure designed to weed out clients you don’t want. It should ask questions to push the prospect to think harder about their business and if they should be working with you.

If you get reasonable responses to your initial prospect email, then it’s time to move on to a call with that prospect. The whole goal of your first call is to make sure that this prospect is indeed someone you want to become a paying client. You should be making sure they fit in with your niche and inside your ideal client profile.

Only if they fit within those two criteria should you move any further down the road and even consider issuing a proposal.

But you’re just starting

Like I said at the beginning, when you’re just starting you generally don’t get to be super picky about the clients you take. You are still building your reputation and you need money to keep eating.

We’ve all been there. Your goal should be to improve the clients you take every month. Each client you take on should be better than the last and be a better fit for your niche and ideal client profile.

If you keep refining your choices you’ll look back in a year or two and realize you’re working with great clients on projects you like.

That’s a great feeling.

photo credit: crdot cc

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Curtis McHale

Stop freelancing, start running a business