Networking in the Next Normal

We are on the cusp of a new era (but you know that). Can we agree to name the period before COVID-19 normal, the business-as-usual drill with which we’re all familiar? Where we are now, the present, is commonly referred to as the new normal and maybe for you the term is already getting old. But time moves forward and we will soon enter the true post-COVID-19 era, the next normal. If you expect your business venture to survive and thrive in the fast-approaching future, the time to prepare for the next normal client is now.

Preparation begins with devising strategies to recover revenue lost to the 2020-2021 shutdown. Your plan to encourage and support client acquisition and increased revenue may include upgrades to the company’s digital presence, more sophisticated and targeted content marketing, greater use of marketing automation, greater attention devoted to financial management and post-pandemic next normal networking activities.

Networking is one of the most important business development activities that a Freelance consultant can perform. Networking can have a significant impact on your ability to meet potential prospects and build your client list. In the post-COVID environment, you would be wise to put your networking energy into building relationships and not blatantly hunting for a sale.

In your travels, where networking can organically happen anywhere and need not be limited to formal meetings or conferences, set your sights on meeting people who you find interesting and enjoy getting to know. Should the subject of business comes up, listen for ways that you can be helpful.

While conversing with a new colleague in person or online, you may eventually find an opening to talk turkey and slip into LeadGen. Whether you meet your new colleague in real time or by digital means, the smart networking strategy is to use finesse as you steer the conversation to the next level. Don’t risk undoing the effort you’ve invested with a clumsy approach.

  • Ask the right questions: Be politely curious and actively listen as you encourage your new colleague to talk about him/herself and their business. Focus on getting to know those whom you meet.
  • Be a resource: Marketing is the new sales. Offer insights based on your experiences and/or offer to send a link to additional info that spotlights your expertise and grasp of the goal or problem that a would-be prospect needs to address.
  • Don’t be afraid to play the long game: You’re not going to marry someone on the first date and you’re probably not going to reach your LeadGen goal in the first encounter. Start networking conversations by asking questions and actively listening, to learn more about the potential prospects. Build trust as you invite him/her to do what they like best—-talk about themselves! It can also be an excellent strategy for building relationships and finding clients.

Thanks for reading,


Image: The the networking is in full swing in a scene from an unidentified circa 1930s Hollywood movie.

Make Email Subject Lines Pop

Email marketing is an all-star player in your outbound marketing lineup. During the 15 month pandemic shutdown email marketing which, BTW, includes your blog posts and newsletters, became even more important as business leaders struggled to maintain communication with clients and prospects.

Think about it—-before you can schedule a video call to launch a full-on sales presentation, you need to establish contact with would-be prospects and open the door to the buyer’s journey. LeadGen is how to keep your sales pipeline filled and the process deserves a comprehensive inbound and outbound approach.

The challenge with email marketing is getting your message opened and read, even when the recipient knows your company. The powerful decision-makers you need to reach are pummeled with dozens of emails every day, Monday to Friday (and sometimes on the weekend). To manage the inflow, your decision-maker prospects are constantly prioritizing their inbox, often setting up filters and other gateways to organize messages that help them respond to important and urgent notes as efficiently as possible.

If you expect to persuade your intended prospect to click on your email in the midst of a typical deluge, it’s imperative that your email stand out in the best way. The way to do that is to create a stop-and-read subject line, an irresistible headline, that acts like a magnet. The subject line is the single most important part of an email because the opportunity to tell your story is lost if your email is sent to trash. The success of your marketing strategy is tied to the open rate of your sales/ marketing emails.

So, how does one create an intriguing, arresting, read-me email subject line? While every subject line is unique, there are guidelines to keep in mind as you write. In short, your subject line must tell recipients that your email contains information they’ll consider valuable, or somehow interesting, maybe a tad controversial or unexpected.


Words such as free, limited offer and new are among those that can potentially make your subject line grab the reader. Providing a contrarian or surprising fact or statistic that challenges a common belief can likewise be compelling. Info that concerns a recent change in the industry is an update that many clients and prospects will appreciate.


A call-to-action asks the reader to do something — learn, win, sign up, give feedback, for example. Many emails that drop into the average inbox lack an interesting, appealing subject line. It’s so easy for the eye to slide over much that is sent.

Devise an amusing, novel, or practical call-to-action that will both grab attention and either inspire or dare your intended reader to read on.

What’s in it for the reader?

Do you sell a product or service that can help your email recipients make money, save money, or save time? Can you help the reader’s organization achieve a mission-critical goal faster, more easily and maybe at a lower than expected cost? All of these scenarios offer value to your recipient and are enticing benefits to include in your subject line.

Be concise

Your subject line must do a lot of work in a small space. It must grab attention with a call to action, tempt the recipient with what could be in it for him/her and concisely getting to the point.The ideal length of an email subject line varies between mobile, desktop, and tablet devices, so keep this in mind as you craft the perfect one-liner for your sales email. On average, the maximum subject line is about 40 characters so that it can be seen in its entirety on phone, tablet, laptop, or desk model devices.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Attention grabbing front page headline in the Roswell (NM) Daily Record July 8, 1947 issue

8 Great Business Reads for Summer 2021

This summer seems tailor-made for staying close to home. International travel remains a difficult proposition as COVID-19 rages on, causing the Tokyo Summer Olympics to ban the presence of a live audience. Weather across the U.S. has been a problem, with the East Coast repeatedly doused with heavy rain while western states suffer through dangerously dry conditions and temperatures ranging from the 90s to beyond 100F.

We cannot control the weather, but we can control our response to it. Whether summer finds you in your back yard or a park in the city, vacationing in the mountains or near the water, why not crack open a business book or two and pick up some pointers on how to grow your business skills? Please take a look at the recommendations below.

Rise and Grind (Daymond John with Daniel Paisner, 2018)

Shark Tank investor Daymond John reminds readers that anything worth having is worth working for. He tells the outrageous truth—if you want to create real success in business, then be prepared to out-think, out-hustle and out-perform the competition. In 1992, John and three friends in his hometown of Queens, NY founded FUBU, a casual apparel line that become must-have street style fashion.

In this New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling book, John shares behind-the-scenes stories of how he overcame adversity and went on to co-found and become CEO of a company that now generates nearly $6 billion in annual sales worldwide.

The Art of the Start 2.0 (Guy Kawasaki, 2015)

Kawasaki made a name for himself in the 1980s, when he helped launch the Apple Macintosh computer. He’s an entertaining writer and presenter and his book is filled with practical advice, particularly for those who’ll need venture capital. Whether you’re leading an existing business or planning to launch a new venture, you’ll find Kawasaki’s cut-to-the-chase business building blueprint useful and inspiring.

Marketing Made Simple (Donald Miller, with Dr. J.J. Peterson, 2021)

New York Times best-selling author Donald Miller details how to create and implement a marketing plan that will bring qualified prospects to your door. Readers learn the fundamentals of lead generation, how to build a sales funnel, how to recognize and optimize key customer touch points and how to develop and communicate an authentic brand story that builds trust and loyalty.

Uplevel Your Business, Uplevel Your Life (Kristen S. David, 2020)

Discover the four pillars of successful business management. Ms. David gives Freelancers and small business owners a roadmap for scaling or growing your venture. Learn to recognize growth opportunities and push them forward with smart action plans. Learn to accurately monitor progress with relevant quarterly goals. Understand the types of operational support systems and processes that will enable you and your team to build and sustain a thriving, profitable venture.

Eat What You Kill (Donald Williams, 2020)

In 2005, Williams launched the eponymous Williams Accounting and Consulting in New Orleans, LA and in 2006, he opened a second location in Atlanta, GA. Small business owners are the principal customer group served. Guiding clients as they grow their ventures is Williams’ mission and he provides for readers valuable money-saving and money-making strategies that will enhance your financial management and future.

Donald Williams’s “Eat What You Kill” Promotes Financial Empowerment

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work (Michael E. Gerber, 2004)

The author is credited with revealing the distinct differences between working in and working on your business. Gerber has more revealing insights to share in this influential book, including the common fantasy that just because you enjoy and may even excel at doing something—cooking, for instance—does not mean you are prepared to operate even a modestly successful restaurant. Just because you are good at something doesn’t make you qualified to turn your hobby into a business.

Your Next 5 Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy (Patrick Bet-David, 2020)

At age 10, Bet-David and his parents escaped war in Iran. The family traveled to the U.S., earned citizenship and Bet-David eventually joined the Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division. After his tour of duty, he worked in the financial services industry. Before his 30th birthday, Bet-David successfully launched PHP Agency, Inc., an insurance sales, marketing and distribution company, which has become one of the fastest-growing ventures in the financial services sector.

But when Bet-David created the video The Life of an Entrepreneur in 90 Seconds, it went viral. The 30 million viewers his educational video received inspired Bet-David to found Valuetainment, which quickly became the #1 YouTube channel for entrepreneurs.

The Lean Startup (Eric Ries, 2011) Ries has a long history with start-up ventures, variously serving as a start-up employee, adviser and founder and this book is a long-time best seller. While a college student, he founded Catalyst Recruiting, a platform on which students could create and share their professional profiles that could bring them to the obtaining a job after graduation. The venture failed, because he didn’t understand the needs of his customers. Ries eventually learned that in order to build a great company, one must begin with addressing the needs of target customers.

Over time, Ries connected the dots on what he’d learned about launching a new company. The lean start-up methodology favors experimentation over writing the traditional, elaborate business plan, direct customer feedback and iterative design over traditional “big design up-front” development. Although the lean startup strategy is just a few years old, its concepts—such as “minimum viable product” and “pivoting”—have quickly taken root in the start-up world, and business schools have already begun adapting their courses to teach them.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Books that beckon at The Last Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in Los Angeles, CA

Kick-off FY 2022

Hello July! Fiscal Year 2022 has arrived and happy new year. Calendar year people are greeting the second half of 2021. As businesses throughout the U.S. shake off the shutdown, we can be confident that nearly every business owner and leader is working to decipher what the post-COVID landscape looks like for their enterprise and how to make it profitable. It’s time to double down and make up for revenue losses.

In-person encounters are on the rise. Work from home policies are receding and employees are being asked to return to the office, if only for two or three days a week. To position your organization for a fourth quarter recovery, July and August are the time to put pedal to the metal and revitalize your company.

First thing, if you haven’t done so already, is to determine how much revenue was lost during the shutdown. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but that information will greatly support your recovery plans. When you know about how much revenue was lost, you’ll know how much revenue you’ll need to generate to get back on your feet and you can start to think realistically about how you might be able to do that. Use your 2019 year- end P & L figures as the 2Q 2020 – 2Q 2021 benchmark.

Focusing on the marketing and operations functions of your company will be useful as you develop rebooting strategies. The typical Freelance consultant is familiar with marketing and may even dabble in it, at least in the social media realm. However, operations is often outside of our B2B knowledge economy comfort zone. It shouldn’t be.

Operations encompasses whatever it takes to acquire or produce your product or service, get it into the clientshands and do so efficiently, with a goal of maximizing productivity and minimizing costs. If your clients have made adjustments in how they do business, how they serve their clients, you may have to change along with them. Changes in how you provide your products and services is an operational issue.

Pivoting to videoconferencing from in-person meetings when clients opted to work from home was an operational change for all involved. The response to that change entailed not only a change in communication but also technology and skill set upgrades (or the meeting tech was outsourced, at a price).

You’ll continue to work the operations angle as you consider the financial, technical, educational and even networking resources and activities you may need to launch your recovery, as well as the timeline. You may need to confront the reality that while some clients were able to adjust to the pandemic restrictions and bounce forward, with some having resumed working with you at some level, others may be gone forever. In other words, assess the size and likely revenue potential of your client list.

Operations will look different in every business but in your B2B service venture, be aware of operational processes, which also include invoicing and getting paid. Use the post-pandemic reopening process to rethink what you do, how you do it and for whom you can do it now that maybe a couple of big clients aren’t working with you anymore. Do you need to revamp your business model and reevaluate your value proposition? How will you you reach out to clients now?

Ramp up marketing with content and PR. Increase the name recognition and visibility, credibility, trust and perceived expertise of your business venture (and you) with text, audio, or video content that reaches out to current and prospective clients to educate, inform and engage with them. Content is still king but distribution is now queen. You must create content that persuades prospective clients to follow-up with your organization in some way—-listen to your webinar or podcast appearance, read a case study, request a free 30 minute consultation.

Include distribution in your your PR/content strategy. Not every prospect will find your content through your website or social media and that is why sending a press release to print or digital publications that are trusted by those who could potentially buy from you is important.

Work on finding good speaking engagements and use them to create a compelling PR roll-out. In-person events are being restarted. Let that inspire you to pick up the thread and reach out to organizations where you’ve appeared before, or contact those on your wish list. You could be a keynote speaker or moderate a panel. Podcasts and webinars are still a thing. Just get yourself in front of a good audience, so you’ll generate buzz in the right circles.

Your PR strategy might consist of first, confirming that the host organization will do a PR campaign to publicize your appearance. On your end, you’ll post the notice for your talk on Alignable, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Post your event in the local Patch if the location where you’ll speak is part of that community and also send a press release to local community newspaper. Be advised that if the editor chooses to include your story, many community newspapers will simply publish your press release so make sure that your story is concise and compelling.

As your name and your company’s appear in various online media, there will be positive impact on search engines. Google favors companies that EAT—expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness—and that’s who gets the highest page rankings.

An online presence makes your company more prominent and brings those looking for your category of products or services to your website and social media pages. That is precisely what you want, whether or not you’re rebuilding your business, because leadgen is always a priority. As you attract new potential clients, your updated operations will greet them with a seamless and pleasant experience, that may result in referrals.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: © Associated Press 1996 created by Lynne Sladky. Carl Lewis qualifies for the long jump finals at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA (USA).

Why, When and How to Delegate

WHY? Because you have a boatload of things to do and there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete them all. Because you may not have the expertise or inclination to do everything that needs to get done. Because removing certain tasks from your plate will improve your productivity and also lower your stress level.

The best leaders know how to delegate. There is an art to delegating, though, and to do it well takes practice. Some leaders resist delegating because they assume it will take as much time to explain to someone how to do what needs to be done as it would to do it themselves. Others are so buried in work that they’re unable to recognize what only they, the leader, can do and what someone else can do.

Those who have employees should also realize that delegating certain tasks to the team represents skills-building opportunities for them. Delegate selected tasks and you acknowledge the expertise within your team and demonstrate your trust in their professionalism. Employee job satisfaction will increase, as will the quality of work they do, because your employees will feel valued and respected.

Delegating can be a win-win for all, but upfront planning and maybe also a tutorial will be necessary. Furthermore, you’ll need to decide who you’ll delegate to and why.

WHEN? First, take an honest look at your to-do list and the timetables involved. Do you have the time and bandwidth to do it all? Then, determine which tasks can be called executive functions that only you can do, like meeting with clients or writing proposals and contracts. Next, acknowledge your primary skill set and own up to those tasks that you simply hate doing.

Now you’re ready to figure what you might delegate. Rather than muddling through and forcing yourself to take on what you either don’t do well or hate doing, do the smart thing and delegate to employees or to a Freelancer who has the expertise needed.

Bookkeeping, graphics, payroll and video meeting tech help are often outsourced. Do you have an important client proposal to prepare? If you’ve been invited to submit a proposal that may win you a new client, ask a team member who has a talent for creating data presentation graphics to turn the numbers you’ll include in the financial section into easily understood and visually interesting charts and graphs. Train a team member who has an affinity for technology to run and manage the tech requirements for videoconference meetings and webinar.


Communicate expectations

Be specific about what you would like to be done. If there is a deadline attached, make it known. Create project milestones to help guide and pace the project and ensure that the final deadline is achieved. Commit directions to writing, so that everyone understands and you remember what you asked for. Verify that the person(s) to whom you delegate understands what to do, the process you would like him/her to follow and the deadline for completion. If you delegate to a team, appoint a project leader.

Provide resources

Empower the person or team to whom you delegate and give them full access to all necessary information, budget, authority and all necessary support to come through for you. Provide the context of why their work is integral to the overall success of the larger project, if that is what is delegated, or explain why the routine task you have now passed along may seem mundane but is nevertheless vital to operating or managing the company.

Verify and give feedback

Ask questions about the progress of the work and examine what has been done. If a mid-course correction is needed, show patience as you point out what must be redone and why. Were your directions not understood, or were the required tools or resources not made available? If everything is going well, be generous with your praise.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Chefs training in the culinary arts program at the University of Hawaii

Storytelling Basics

We all know that bringing to market a desirable product or service is the foundation of every successful business. It would seem that alone would guarantee the ongoing presence of loyal paying customers but we also know that other factors can influence business viability. Business location and pricing may immediately come to mind, but there are less obvious factors involved as well and those factors can potentially play a significant role in creating a successful enterprise. Their absence or mishandling can tank it.

One factor that can convert an occasional customer into a repeat customer is the right brand identity that is articulated by a brand story that resonates. When a business develops an appealing brand identity and delivers a brand story that seeds an emotional connection with target customers, brand loyalty will be the likely result. Feelings of empathy and belonging drive the process.

According to Gerald Zaltman, emeritus professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, 95% of customer buying decisions emanate from the subconscious and are fueled by emotions, not logic. In 1997, he received a U.S. patent for the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique, which is used to explore the unconscious thinking that drives behavior. Based on Zaltman’s research-backed theories about what motivates customers to buy, or not, we might infer that an effective and accessible way to create an emotional connection that draws current and prospective customers to a company and its products and services is a good brand story.

Now like every other marketing strategy, a powerful and effective brand story requires research and planning. You have to figure out what to say and how to say it. Mostly, a compelling brand story will focus on the customer, s/he who makes the purchase. We’re talking B2B products and services here, something meant to benefit an organization, even if used by just one department. Still, it’s important to remember that the buyer is an individual (representing the company) and s/he is often (but not always) one of the users of your product or service.

Think P2P, person-to-person, and incorporate personal, individual benefits and user experiences as part of your storytelling—-brand narrative, buyer’s journey, or selling points—-that make the story relevant and memorable to potential buyers. Logic-based reasoning and key statistics are helpful but they’re not the story. Bullet points and numbers quickly fade from memory.

Remember as well that buyers today have a finely-tuned sense for authentic and inauthentic storytelling and authentic means that the brand story will validate what the listener already believes and also reflects your own values. Wrap your products and services in the context of a story and your narrative instantly becomes far more memorable and trustworthy than a digital banner listing your current sale prices and website address.

The emotional connection that leads prospective customers to identify with the hero of the story and root for his/her victory is a big part of why case studies and testimonials are such effective tools. Presenting a story that shows the personal benefits someone enjoyed through your brand helps potential customers to visualize how your products and services could help them, too. Real-life stories that are presented in a compelling manner will make your brand far more memorable and valuable in the minds of your customers.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 1882 – April 1945) was elected President of the United Stares four times—1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. His pioneering “ Fireside Chats,” broadcast on coast-to-coast radio, set a new standard in how political leaders communicate with the citizens.

Trendspotting: 5 Sales and Marketing Benchmarks

Your prospects are continuing to increase their control over the buyer’s journey, enabled by the internet and the work from home culture. That said, it makes sense for marketers to confirm our understanding of how buyers respond to your marketing activities. A few key data points, culled from a large and well-selected cohort, can provide to Freelancers and others who oversee marketing or sales functions valid insights into how buyers are responding to commonly used inbound and outbound marketing tactics in the post-COVID marketplace.

The content marketing company HubSpot, based near Boston, MA, began collecting marketing and sales outcomes data from its 100,000 + customers in January 2020 which was, as it turned out, a most interesting time to begin. Barely three months later the world would change radically. Billion dollar industries, most notably travel, hotel, restaurant and fitness, would crater. Those enterprises lucky enough to have survived, or thrived, have entered a changed business environment.

Benchmark data can provide guide posts that help you to get your bearings in the new business environment. The post-shutdown business climate demands a recalibrated understanding of customer expectations. How do prospects and customers want to experience the buyer’s journey now? How do they want to be sold? Find answers here in May 2021 data.

  • Sales meetings. The number of sales meetings in May 2021 (overwhelmingly made by videoconference call) was 21% higher than what was done last May and have risen 18% since March of this year. Knees were buckling in March 2020 and nearly every company was reeling, including those that were emerging as winners, such as grocery and liquor stores. Small business owners and leaders tended to reach out to customers sooner than larger companies. It is theorized that small business owners immediately realized that if they wanted their venture to survive, it was imperative that a plan to generate revenue had to be put into action, which usually meant figuring out a polite way to contact customers (I did the same). May 2020 was not the time to pursue new business, but rather to offer empathy and reinforce relationships that one hoped could be leveraged at some point, including relationships with those who cancelled contracts just 60 days previously.
  • Prospecting. Small business (1-25 employees) got busy prospecting at a frequency that was 31% higher in May 2021 compared to May 2020 and up 26% as compared to March 2021. Companies with 26-200 employees also saw an increase in prospecting activity of 18% as compared to May 2020, with a 17% increase as compared to March 2021.
  • Website traffic. Perfect your landing page! Website traffic was 34% higher in May 2021 than it was in May 2020. Further, website traffic increased by 25% between March and May 2021. Online shopping of various kinds, from home decor at Wayfair to the take-out dinner you’ll pick up in 20 minutes at a favorite local restaurant seems to have accounted for a big chunk of the increase. Software companies accounted for 51% of website traffic seen by HubSpot customers.
  • Chat bot. Speaking of your website’s landing page, a useful tool to add there would be a chat bot. Business moved online in a big way in March 2020, but the trend has been building for 20 years. Business owners and marketers are stepping up the functionality of company websites and adding a chat bot is a leading upgrade. Customers appreciate them because through chat, they’re able to get basic questions answered quickly and without paging through the website, which can be time-consuming. The volume of chat conversations rose 16% year-over-year May 2021 compared to May 2020.
  • Marketing emails. Reports of the death of email marketing have been greatly exaggerated and marketers are reinvesting in the genre (again!). Since the start of the pandemic shutdown in mid-March 2020, marketing email volume has increased 49% through May 2021 and is 52% higher pre-COVID volume. The open rate hovers at around 15% and that is 10% – 20% higher than April 2021.
  • Sales outcomes. U.S. Businesses adapted extremely well to the numerous protocols required by the shutdown, most dramatically demonstrated by the quick and often well- executed pivot to working from home. America means business! However, unreliable cash-flow prevented many customers from buying and that resulted in sluggish sales revenue in many organizations. In April 2020, sales outcomes bottomed out at 36% lower than 1Q20 benchmarks. Positive sales outcomes rose gradually throughout 2020 and May 2021 finished with a 10% increase in deals done (national or international companies). Deal creation (proposals) climbed 35% above benchmark.

So how do these statistics apply to you? They definitively show that the shutdown has ended, that money is being made agin and that you can make money again, too. Reboot your operation by using what have become standard marketing and sales strategies and actions.

Develop a powerful digital presence for your company. Employ Inbound and Outbound marketing and sales tactics. Optimize your website to help prospects easily find information about your products and services. Post and distribute relevant marketing content to confirm your expertise. Send emails to promote engagement with customers and prospects. Work hard, work smart.

Thanks for reading,


Image: A young lady gets serious about researching benchmark data.

5 Smart Sales Questions

“To get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions,” said business strategy and management expert Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005), author of pioneering management insights and founder of the Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont College in California. When your goal is to sell a product or service to a prospective client, knowing which questions to ask and when to ask them can make a big difference in your ability to make sales and generate revenue that keeps your company alive. Actionable information is worth money, even when you learn that who you hoped would be a prospect is not. Knowing when to cut bait and pursue other avenues is a good thing.

Ask a handful of questions that first, confirm that your prospect is ready to do business and next, guides the prospect through the sales (buying) journey is a pillar of the thriving company you want to build.

“How long have you been in business? Who are/ what kind of customers do you serve? What big plans are in the works now?”

Set the stage for your sales conversation by obtaining background info that gives context to why there is a need for your product or service and the role it would play in achieving company objectives, or solving/ avoiding a problem.

“You appear to have steered your company successfully through the pandemic troubles. Was there a big change, or two, that you decided had to be made to adjust to the new business reality?”

The coronavirus pandemic left no business unscathed, not even those that saw a big increase in profits, like liquor stores and delivery services. That you’ve thought to ask this question and the preceding demonstrates to the prospect that you’re interested in the business and that it’s success means something to you. Successful sales professionals, including business owners and Freelance consultants, usually aim to become a collaborative partner, a reliable and trusted resource, for the client.

“Did anything fall through the cracks as you shifted gears during the pandemic? Is there anything that was not previously a worry now emerging as a challenge?”

Here is the question where the pain is revealed. Now you’ll learn what’s keeping your prospect awake at night and what your solution must address. You continue to earn your prospect’s trust, which is invaluable. You are closing in on the sale because you’ve shown that you care enough to want to understand company leaders are grappling with and are trying to do.

“So, what will success look like?”

This question helps the prospect to define the desired outcomes and deliverables of the project, something that, surprisingly, the prospective client and his/ her team may be a little fuzzy on, Maybe the decision to ask for a meeting with you was to find out what you, and perhaps a competitor or two, can offer in terms of helping the company achieve necessary outcomes?

“What’s new? What’s next? What help might you need to make it happen?”

A question designed to do more business with clients you’ve worked before, that is, repeat business. It really is easier in terms of time and money spent to do more business with clients who know you than to bring in new clients (but a business needs both types of clients).

“What’s new?” lets the client update you on what’s been happening with the business since the last time you’ve worked together. “What’s next?” opens the door to the future—- what initiatives are on the drawing board? “What help might you need to make it happen?” is, you guessed it, a way to help the client envision a role for you as plans for a sustainably profitable future are made.

Whether you’ll speak with your prospect on line or face2face, the questions presented here will politely and unambiguously get the sales process flowing in the right direction. Your prospect will be called upon to reveal his/ her intentions about doing business. In an always-appreciated show of empathy, your questions will invite the prospect to acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on his/ her organization.

Describing the pain point that (could be) a factor driving the necessity of the project you’re there to discuss and clarifying the expected outcomes (success) and the deliverables of the project will be confirmed. If you’re trying to get back in the door and get repeat business, the final 3-part question will help you and the client to segue into that possibility. You can continue on with question two and address the impact of the pandemic or question three and get an understanding of pain points that may be driving factors. You’ll have a good chance of making a sale!

Thanks for reading,


Image: Spices and rice bring women to the market.

Make Doing Business Easy

Do you know what business you’re really in? I have asked this question of readers before. It remains a question that every Freelance professional or business owner should periodically explore and confirm the answer. The unspoken motives that bring clients to your door (or website) are powerful. They will evolve and adapt to the times. In order to maximize the success of your venture, those motives must be understood in the present. The drivers that brought in clients five years ago may not be persuasive today.

Add to the mix that attention spans are short and seem to be getting shorter. We are used to 140 character tweets, sent by everyone from middle school teens to captains of industry. On August 25, 2020, it was announced that there were 100 million active TikTok users each month in the U.S, uploading and viewing 60 second cell phone videos.

Everyone wants what they want now, bring it to me fast and make the way to get it easy. Instant gratification. Folks have been working from home for more than a year and they’ve come to enjoy sitting at home in their jammies, only reaching for a professional-grade shirt when a video meeting demands their presence.

Online ordering and home delivery of everything imaginable rules the day. Despite the gradual lifting of pandemic restrictions across the states, it appears that many pandemic-driven customs will remain. Whatever is fast and easy-peasy —-convenient—-is now an expectation and that’s what it takes to win the hearts and wallets of customers. Anazon CEO Jeff Bezos is well on the way toward reaching his stated goal of becoming a trillionaire.

In other words, no matter what business you determine that you’re in, the operational aspects of the buying process must be easy, seamless and convenient as customers perceive it. Let’s look at how you and your team can set that into motion.

Technology to the rescue

The right tech solutions are your ticket to making it easy and convenient for prospects and current customers to do business with your organization. The right tech solutions can also make it easy and convenient for you, Freelancer or business owner, to more efficiently manage your company by utilizing targeted software, if you will, for certain routine tasks. You and your team can then apply the time saved to working on the business—-analyzing Key Performance Index data and using the findings to develop strategies and action plans that will most likely be effective, for example.

Bring convenience to your website visitors by installing a chat bot, programmed with a half-dozen concise answers to common questions that prospects ask, that make it easy and convenient to find what’s important while in the initial stage of their decision-making process. Add links written in a bold font and brightly colored lettering that call attention to links for company contact info, the blog or newsletter, case studies or white papers and your upcoming podcast or webinar appearances. Devise an appealing Call to Action and you’ll persuade visitors to learn more about your products, your services and you.

Check website tabs to make sure that visitors can intuitively find company press releases, articles published by you or about the company, customer testimonials and any business awards, nominations, or recognition your company has received. Get site visitors to decision-influencing information quickly and easily.

Enable the sale by installing e-commerce software that you’ve determined is a good fit to make ordering, shipping and paying easy to navigate and secure with encryption.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Hugh Laurie (l) as Bertie Wooster, British gentleman and member of the Idle Rich, with Stephen Fry as Jeeves, his sardonic but loyal butler, in the BBC-TV adaptation of the P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves stories.

Go Agile

Life brings change and it seems as if change occurs at a much faster pace these days. Then again, the same observation was probably made in the Middle Ages or even when the pharaohs ruled. The world continues to turn and every day is new and brings a unique set of circumstances. How we respond to fluctuating conditions has a big impact on our fortunes in life.

The ability to move quickly, whether to take advantage of goodies that unexpectedly appear or dodge something unpleasant, is a skill known as agility and it is worth cultivating. In business, the ability to incorporate agility into strategy, management and culture enables company leaders and team members to facilitate smart decisions that enable beneficial changes that can be instituted quickly and efficiently. This capability delivers a number of advantages, often making a business more competitive, sustainable and ultimately, more profitable. During periods of generally adverse business conditions, agility often makes the difference between keeping a business viable or presiding over its failure.

Benefits of an agile business 

  • Responding to new market conditions or competitors. Every business will at some point encounter a wily competitor or challenging market conditions. When agile practices are baked into your organization, the leadership team will be better prepared to adjust to evolving conditions. You expect change—you monitor the Key Performance Indicators, you pay attention to the competitive scene, you follow industry developments that help you anticipate what might impact your organization, for good or ill. You are accustomed to making decisions and changes to accommodate new realities. The agile business is resilient.
  • Solving and responding to problems. The pandemic shutdown has been Problem #1 for most of us. Hollowed out industries, disappearing clients, supply chain delays and difficulties in finding help thanks to the stimulus payments that have made staying home more profitable than working for some. These and other disruptions can prevent you from efficiently serving your customers. But leaders of agile businesses have been training like a prize fighter, giving the entity quick reflexes, effective offense and defense strategies and stamina to weather the storm. You’re able to recognize what may become a problem and proactively institute alternatives that will soften the blows and limit damage. The agile organization is prepared to defend itself and prevail. 

Tools of an agile business

  • A Robust data streams. Agility won’t help you unless your decisions and actions are based on 1.) objective data and 2.) you measure what it makes sense to measure. Accordingly, your first goal should be establishing credible and relevant streams of data for key aspects of your business. You should consistently measure your performance in every department, and across the entire business. Analyzing and interpreting the data will help you figure out which actions to take next.
  • Fast decision-making. Agile businesses are capable of making important decisions quickly. That capability requires both preparation and courage. If a problem arises, a quick decision can mitigate its impact. If a competitor emerges, your agile business may be able to pivot in a matter of weeks, instead of months. This usually means avoiding the development of slow, bureaucratic systems in favor of those that support decisiveness and action. Good data, especially in the form of well-chosen KPIs, is essential, as is the willingness to act on it.
  • Flexible systems. Flexibility is crucial for agility. If your technology infrastructure and operational workflows can’t accommodate rapid-fire changes or expansion, they’re not going to support agility.
  • Innovation. Your organization also needs a mechanism and encouragement for innovation. For agility to be effective, it needs to foster and support novel ideas, including ideas for new products and services.

Practices of an agile business

  • Encourage entrepreneurial thinking. If you’ve built a good team, you’ll be able to extend to them a degree of autonomy. Empower your employee in to develop a sense of ownership and behave as if a steward, a stakeholder, of the enterprise. Encourage them to solve their own problems and allow them to make their own decisions whenever possible. The more autonomy your employees have, the faster they’ll make decisions (and the more agile your business will become).
  • Foster clusters of small teams. Big, hierarchical organizations have some advantages, but they’re inherently unagile. Instead, it’s better to work closely together in small teams. Try to avoid becoming overly bureaucratized.
  • Avoid becoming too accustomed to anything. Don’t get too attached to anything in your business, including people, software, workflows and even the company culture. You need to remain flexible and willing to incorporate new ideas.
  • Cut whatever isn’t working. Whether it’s a new tactic or a strategy with a long history of producing results that at one time pushed the company forward, you need to be willing to cancel whatever isn’t working. If it doesn’t provide an objective benefit to your organization, get rid of the dead weight.
  • Check in regularly. You should have reliable metrics to inform you of your progress and check in with them regularly. While you’re at it, ask for feedback from your employees and ask how they think the organization could be made even more agile in the future.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Olga Korbut, superstar gymnast from Minsk, Belarus (formerly USSR) at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, (West) Germany. Korbut won four gold and two silver medals at the Games.

Self-Promotion that’s Savvy, Not Shameless

If you do not put the word out about your talents, achievements and (perhaps discreetly) your ambitions, or if you do so ineptly, you are leaving money (and also a satisfying life, I think) on the table. Despite what some people would have you believe, no one finds success on their own. The self-made man is a myth. You are going to need some help along the way and to rally influential people to your side, you must let them know what you can do.

Bill Gates’ mother held a job at IBM that gave her access to a powerful person in the company, who agreed to meet with her son and his friend Paul Allen so that the two could explain the special project they were working on. As we know, their project eventually became Microsoft.

How to deliver your self-promotion

Effective self-promotion is a subtle and powerful communication skill. I consider it an art. It can be learned. Maybe we should start with what to avoid?

It’s frightfully easy to come off as obnoxious when telling others about how fabulous you are and the riveting details of your long list of magnificent, truly enviable, accomplishments. Most of us know that outright bragging is not cool, but we have also heard more than enough hyper-ambitious people pretending to be modest as they trot out a humble brag act at every opportunity.

Witnessing either spectacle usually induces an eye roll, if not a headache. But how can you show finesse and talk yourself up in a way that doesn’t turn off friends and colleagues?

A good Karma method is to be generous and share credit for your successes with those who helped you achieve them. There is a huge benefit associated with this generous act—- you gain allies. Your allies, because you’ve made it clear that you value them and their work, will be inclined to do you the enormous favor of promoting your magnificent achievements for you, which gives you much more credibility and influence than if you say it all yourself. So as you climb the ladder, not only will your allies help you, they’ll recruit more allies for the cause.

When to self-promote

Choose the politically correct time to self-promote. There are situations when one is expected to do so, but be aware that there are only so many opportunities available. Employees are invited to discuss their accomplishments at their annual performance review, when campaigning for a raise, or when seeking to interview for a promotion. Freelance consultants, when speaking with prospective clients or writing proposals with the aim of winning projects, are expected to spell out and sell their competencies, relevant experience and achievements.

What to promote

Make it known that you’ve earned a new educational degree or professional certification, the date, time and place of an important presentation you’ll deliver, or should you be invited to join a prestigious board.

Other self-promoting without penalty opps include announcing your appearance on a podcast, webinar, or panel. Announcing that you’ve written and published, or edited, a book is also a self-promoting bow you’re expected to take. Launching a workshop (that you must sell!) is another self-promotion gateway.

Where to self-promote

Especially since face2face events remain limited, savvy people know that social media is an acceptable self-promotion tool. Update your profiles as you upgrade your skills and announce your showcase events as appropriate.

Again, bring in some good Karma and acknowledge the achievements of your connections and contacts as they appear in your feed, so that your communication is not all outbound. Self-promotion, no matter how skillfully delivered, still requires good relationships in order to capitalize on your good work.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Steve Martin in The Jerk (1979) directed by Carl Reiner and written by Steve Martin

The 7 Best Words in Sales

Because when we log into our email accounts to check inboxes, or go online to find out what’s happening in the world, we are not so much reading as scanning. We scan for what catches the eye and captures attention. What words might make us stop and click?

Determined marketers have gone to work on this question and come up with a list of words that open rate and click-through statistics verify have the power to grab the most blasé of us.

Keep these words in mind as you attempt to dream up catchy subject lines or titles for content you post—-marketing/ sales emails, titles for videos you’ll upload to your website and social media, article headlines for white papers, blog, or newsletter articles, calls to action.


Who can resist something that’s free? Even if it refers to a product you’ll never use, the word free has the power to stop the scanning and make you read an email, article, or advertisement, if only a few words. When an email subject line or a CTA contains this word, particularly when written in bold or brightly colored script, the open rate will increase significantly.


The great philosophers and observers of human behavior centuries ago recognized that humans will nearly always gravitate to what we perceive as easy and avoid what appears to be difficult. More recently, behavioral scientists reconfirmed those observations.

As a Christmas gift when I was maybe five years old, Santa gave me an Easy Bake Oven, an irresistible product that was sold to me by way of numerous television commercials featured during programs known to be popular with my demographic cohort. It was an easy sell.

I was thrilled to pieces to find it under our tree on Christmas morning. I had the greatest time as I poured the cake flour that came with my oven into a bowl, added a small amount of liquid (milk? water?) and then stirred it up and poured the batter into the tiny cake pan that also came with the oven. My little cake was baked with heat supplied by two 100 watt light bulbs.

I remember whipping up little cakes on Saturday afternoons to serve to girlfriends at our tea parties, or to Mom and Dad. Kenner brought out the Easy Bake Oven in 1963 and in the first year sold 500,000 units. By 1997, more than 16 million ovens had been sold.


Quality counts for many of us. When hunting for a product or service, you may as well check out the item that’s better than the rest. Best is a filter. It cuts through the clutter of what could be a waste of time.

Magazines and newspapers often publish a “Best of” list annually—schools, restaurants, dry cleaners, hardware stores, you name it. Invariably, “Best of” issues sell considerably more than others (with the possible exception of a Christmas issue, if that is published).


Fear of Missing Out is real, as documented by behavioral scientists and marketers. Making a sale is often assisted by creating both exclusivity and a sense of urgency. This item is special and its ownership confers a coveted status. Buy it now.


When creating written content meant to persuade, whether it’s a political speech, a marketing/ sales email, or a television commercial, using the second-person pronoun when communicating with readers shifts the tone to one that is conversational, relatable, friendly and quite effective. You understand, don’t you?


The thing to remember is that the human brain appreciates an explanation. We like to know why something is the way it is, the backstory of a certain condition or set of circumstances.

When selling, addressing the question of why the prospect needs the product, service, or feature being sold is most effectively addressed with the associated benefits and benefits are where the word because comes in.

This product or service is the best available to fit your needs because it will help you to fulfill your need, achieve your objective. Tie your product, features and the actions you want people to take in with a rationale or explanation and prospects will be more inclined to take action.


From the Three Musketeers to the 12 Days of Christmas, people like to see a lust that suggests or ranks something that they find valuable—-100 easy dessert recipes, 10 free golf courses in Michigan, the 7 best words in sales. Curiosity is aroused and the click is made.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Scrabble tiles

Crash-Proof Your Business

If there’s anything Freelancers and other business owners and leaders have learned over the past year is that positioning your company to survive adversity is high priority. Baking in stewardship policies that include risk management strategies designed to shield the company from the effects of marketplace instability (or maybe just a tough competitor) is a must-do.

Maintain the business in the way you maintain your home—painting the deck, caulking bathroom tiles, checking the foundation for cracks, putting a sealant on the driveway. When the inevitable blizzards and hurricanes arrive, you’ll weather the storms (earthquakes and tornadoes are something else again, of course).

There is no precise formula for the process. I recommend that business owners and leaders focus on the reliable benefits derived from this short list of basic resources: human capital, operational capabilities, a healthy culture and cash reserves.

Whether a solopreneur Freelancer or leader of a team of 100 or more, know that good leadership yields the best business results, in good times and bad. Those at the top of the organizational pyramid are the responsible party and have great influence on whether the venture finds success or failure. Creating a sustainable business model and obtaining sufficient start-up and working capital are how a good business is born. But there is more.

Company culture

Creating a healthy company culture is a business-sustaining strategy. Business owners and leaders should understand that when top-down and bottom- up communication is the norm, when leaders model a strong work ethic, when transparency and best practices are followed both internally and externally in customer relationships and when respect, coupled with a degree of autonomy, is given to employees at every level, a winning strategy, expressed through a healthy company culture, takes hold. Good company culture results in employees who are happy, productive and loyal to the organization.

Human capital

Providing skills-building training and coaching is an investment that also encourages employee loyalty and enables company leaders to maximize their productivity. Such policies and practices nurture company loyalty and come as close as possible to ensuring that when the going gets rough, the company will have a team dedicated to the organization and willing to work hard and smart to support a turnaround. This strategy also gives companies a reputation as a good place to work and acts as a magnet for top talent.


The most effective business strategies are uncomplicated. Learn to distill yours down to one page. When speaking to your banker or potential investors, potential strategic partners, or high-level talent you’d like to hire, the ability to articulate a readily understandable and relatable business strategy will build confidence in you and the company you lead. Start clarifying and simplifying the strategy that guides your venture:

Vision for the future

Big picture goals (short-term, mid-range and long-term)

Key Performance Indicators and the department responsible for each

Top line revenue and market share, two metrics that indicate the quality of the business strategy.


Strategy is nothing without execution. An effective leader gets the plane into the air and flying at cruising altitude. To achieve that aim, properly trained staff, effective and intuitive workflow protocols, IT hardware and software that create operational efficiencies, quality control and an end-to-end positive customer experience are required. Errors, confusion and duplication of work undermine productivity, erode employee morale and result in weakened revenue and profit.

Defining the intended outcomes, practicing good communication, establishing efficient workflow organization, the required technology and the appropriate staffing level and expertise will likely repair obstacles to proper execution. Action plans, complete with departmental responsibility and due dates that the team consents to, ensure accountability and optimal results.


Small to mid-size companies would be wise to hold in reserve three to six months of projected operating expenses. That sum is meant to carry your company through a difficult time or allow you to take advantage of a business opportunity.

Bear in mind that every business is different. The amount of your company’s cash reserve will depend on where the company is. Start-up, new product launch, capital improvements campaign, or growth-expansion-scaling periods are not the time to build the reserve because available cash must be used to support those important initiatives. Discuss with your accountant about when it will make sense to start a capital reserve fund and how much it should hold.

It is also possible to use financing to build your company’s cash reserve and now may be the time to act. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan on March 30 was extended until May 31, 2021. The PPP Loan can be forgiven and essentially become a grant, but not every loan recipient is able to fulfill the qualifiers. Worse case scenario, the PPP must be repaid within two years at a 1% interest rate.

Thanks for reading,


Image: The Indy 500

Touch Point Touché

Listen, even before the coronavirus shutdown crashed our Income Statements, Freelancers were always on the lookout for opportunities that look promising. Few among us could afford to leave money on the table. We’ve always understood hustle.

Savvy Freelancers are able to spot not only external, but also internal, opportunities. I’m talking about the most basic level of Inbound Marketing and the Customer Experience. Meaning, successful Freelancers will pose the question—once I have the prospect’s attention, or I’ve converted the prospect into a customer, then what? Every interaction that a prospect has with your company—-website, social media, newsletter, email, phone call, employee—represents a marketing or sales opportunity.

Those interactions are known as touch points. Individually and collectively, touch points are powerful. They impact the ROI of marketing campaigns and they shape the customer experience. They guide prospects through the marketing/ sales funnel, i.e., the buyer’s journey, or disable it.

Touch points must first be identified and then managed carefully and assessed periodically, to monitor their resonance. Touch points nourish, or undermine, your company brand in many ways, including perceived trust, dependability and competence. They have the power to encourage, or discourage, repeat business, referrals and good word of mouth, ingredients that add to the bottom line. Let’s discuss some common touch points.


Lead generation is fed by numerous streams but let’s consider the most basic leadgen tool—-your website. Regardless of how many pages yours contains, most visitors start with the home page. Your home page feeds the top of your marketing funnel, the TOFU, the widest part that gets the most visits of every website. Most visitors will go no further and ghost the site.

Make your home page a leadgen magnet by making it useful and relevant and maybe even exciting with links to meaningful content and visible at eye-level Calls to Action. Depending on your business, consider inviting visitors to click and schedule a free 30 minute consultation, click to read your blog or newsletter, click to RSVP for your upcoming webinar, or click to hear the YouTube replay of your recent podcast. Add a chat bot programmed to quickly answer common questions and save visitors time. Engage and inform your website visitors and make them want more. Maximize the potential of your home page touch points.


If half of life is showing up, the other half is follow-up. It seems obvious, but many business owners and Freelancers fail to respond to inquiries about doing business. Many neglect to reply to phone or email messages. They lose business cards they should keep. They don’t send that private chat message to ask for the best time and follow-up method when they’ve met a potential prospect.

Unless you’ve been hospitalized and the anesthesia is still in effect, give a prospect or current customer a timely reply, ideally on the same day or within 24 hours. If you’ve been unwell, or if there’s been a family emergency, respond as soon as possible and offer profuse apologies. Use follow-up touch points to demonstrate your professionalism.

Invoicing and payment

Three years ago, I (finally) made time to search for a B2B services invoice that could serve as the starting point for a design I would customize and lucky for me, I found something. I’m pleased with my new invoice and feel that it communicates my business name and brand well. I consider my invoice to be a great send-off touch point at the close of a project.

How payments are made is another consideration. Going paperless is an option that certain of your customers may find preferable to writing and mailing a check. Some will pay faster. If payments can be made on your website or Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram account, make it known that the process offers impeccable security protocols. Again, make the touch point that is the payment process secure and easy.

Customer service

Identify the kind of support that customers need and/ or appreciate after they’ve purchased your product or service. It is imperative that you enable the results and experience that your customer expects.

Invite the always useful feedback derived from a short, well-written customer survey, which is an element of customer service. Show customers that you appreciate that they’ve done business with your company and that you care about their post-purchase experience.

Employees and helpers

Train customer-facing staff. Clearly describe your expectations regarding the level of service that will be provided (white glove) and your interpretation of a positive attitude. Devise (and refine along the way) problem resolution protocols and empower employees to approve small, relatively inexpensive fixes without your involvement, to resolve uncomplicated issues quickly and enhance customer satisfaction.

While it is unacceptable to expect anyone to tolerate disrespect, encourage those who represent the company on your behalf to go the extra mile and give the benefit of the doubt to customers. Model the behavior you expect in how you treat them.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Detail of The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo c. 1508-1512) ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel Vatican City (Rome) Italy

Interns Go Virtual

As a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, organizations around the world quickly made changes to how business was done and in many companies, a support system for the usual summer internship program was part of the updates. Perhaps company leaders realized that virtual internships present a unique opportunity for their program to operate across geographical boundaries and greatly expand the pool of desirable candidates?

Academic institutions likewise pivoted to remote during the 2020 shutdown and readied to enable internship programs in the new normal work and education environment. In May 2020, the University of Wisconsin at Madison released a white paper that discussed virtual format internships, their benefits for both the student intern and the hiring company and how to make the experience successful and rewarding for both parties.

Freelancers and small business owners and leaders will occasionally bring in an intern or two, typically as a way to gain a reasonably capable assistant who can be trained to handle uncomplicated professional level tasks for just a few hours per week, at a modest pay scale. Introducing to your business a young person who will bring fresh perspectives and a familiarity with recent technologies that you and your team may not possess stands to improve productivity, profitability and the customer experience at your organization. The internship experience that you initiate may become a way to move your company more decisively into the 21st century.

While the virtual format does have drawbacks—like the increased difficulty (or impossibility) of providing your intern with sufficient networking and relationship-building opportunities with colleagues, interns can still attain a variety of benefits in the remote workplace.

Finding interns

College career centers and academic departments are your source for obtaining information and resources about either hiring an intern or establishing a formal internship program at your organization. Share your business needs and expectations with school officials to determine whether undergraduate seniors or graduate students will be most appropriate. Because schools have a vested interest in workforce preparation and employment outcomes for their students, they can be trusted to help you make the right choice.

Choose the right projects

Social media is often a natural fit for interns because they grew up with social media and probably understands the subtle differences between SnapChat and TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest. Discuss the customer demographics and presumed social media strategy with your intern, who will be tasked with helping you realize objectives.

Your intern might also be asked to create a stock image library for posts, shoot videos on a cell phone and create text content as well, in accordance with the company brand story and target customers. You can also ask a social media intern to conduct a competitive audit to let you know what your 3-4 closest competitors are posting, specifically the platforms used and how they communicate with customers.

Bookkeeping interns could be asked to prepare quarterly taxes for customers. Web design interns can be asked to write code and assist with website updates. Graphic design interns can work on logos and draft marketing collaterals. IT interns can take help desk calls and set up the controls for videoconferences. Although it will be done virtually, always review your intern’s work and give praise where it is due and corrections with diplomacy.

Intern support system

Consider how you can create online support for your intern that will include your company needs, the school’s reporting and course credit requirements, plus intern guidance and mentoring. Your goal is to promote a successful and rewarding experience for the intern and yourself/ the business. 

Schedule daily videoconference 1:1s to discuss the intern’s projects and your expectations for performance milestones and completion dates. If you haven’t been using online communication tools beyond email and Skype, for example, encourage your intern to suggest his/her preferred messaging and workflow systems, such as Slack or Asana and give your intern professional validation when s/he gets to teach you something. Institute systems also to allow the intern to interact with other team members, if there are any and encourage relationship-building and networking.

On balance

So what does the Freelancer win when working with an intern? Useful work and good karma. You get some low level, but nevertheless professional grade, work done for not a lot of money. Plus, mentoring in the form of professional development that introduces a young person to the adult work environment, its expectations and responsibilities, is so nurturing and generous (although not everyone has the patience for it).

The downside is that interns need more supervision than working adults and they can be unavailable during final exams or spring break. But then again, who among us does not need occasional time off? Anyway, you never know— in a few years, your intern might flip the script and hire you for an assignment when s/he has gone on to a good corporate job.

Thanks for reading,


Image: © DanceParent101

8 P’s of Marketing for the 21st Century

It was at The University of Notre Dame that Professor of Marketing E. Jerome McCarthy laid out the principles of the original four P’s of marketing, also known as the Marketing Mix, in his 1960 book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. McCarthy and co-authors Joseph Cannon and William Perreault chose a hands-on, problem- solving approach to the challenges that marketing professionals face.

The boots-on- the-ground approach championed by the 4 P’s Marketing Mix was quickly recognized as foundational to the craft, the gold standard. The genius of the P’s is evidenced by their ability to address both the primary objectives of the marketing team and critical requirements of customers. The P’s relevance has continued into the 21st century and even inspired marketing researchers and thought leaders to expand the list.

As you build a marketing strategy for your products and services—-content and social media marketing, branding, advertising and PR, for starters—-you’ll find that the 4 P’s (+ more) Marketing Mix will guide you and your team to the most effective strategies and action plans every time. Here are the original four and four more that you may find useful.

Product: The solutions that a company sells—products or services, tangible or intangible, B2B or B2C.

Price: The value, in monetary terms, of what customers are willing to pay to obtain a company’s product or service. Company leaders are advised to fully account for the many factors involved in developing, manufacturing, or acquiring a product or service, in addition to the associated marketing, selling, distribution and overhead expenses when determining an appropriate Price. The prices of competitors will also influence your pricing.

Place: Where customers come into contact with and are able to buy the product or service—-in a bricks & mortar storefront, online, at a flea market, in a meeting after contract terms have been negotiated.

This component also refers to both which stores stock a product and the product’s location within a store. For example, certain breakfast cereals and other items targeted to children are found on shelves that are at a child’s eye level or in the children’s department.

Promotion: Strategies and tactics used by the company to persuade potential customers to buy its products or services.

Process: Where and how the customer receives the solution provided by the product or service and all that is entailed. Intangible services delivered by skilled practitioners are more obviously influenced by this component.

Will the solution be delivered in a classroom (education courses), a salon (hair styling or massage therapy), a health care facility (dentistry), or leak- proof cardboard containers (ice cream shop)? How the methods employed in the delivery or application of the solution significantly impacts both outcomes and the customer experience.

Position: The ranking or assessment that customers, prospects and sometimes even the public assigns to your product or service, as compared to similar offerings. To achieve the preferred Position for the product or service, a marketing team will through branding utilize distinctive messaging, packaging, advertising and product placement, sometimes through celebrity endorsement, to create and reinforce the desired image.

Packaging: Tangible products are more obviously influenced by this component. A product’s Price, Place, Promotion and Position are telegraphed in how a company “dresses” the product and presents it to target customers. Even the shopping bags and tissue wrapping paper (or their absence) support the story.

Intangibles are given a “verbal package” that will emphasize its most tangible advantages and benefits, which may include exclusivity (social media site Clubhouse) or rarity or other significant benefits.

People: One component of this factor refers to those who work in the business, in particular the customer-facing staff. Those who interact with customers usually have a profound impact on the all-important customer experience.

The second component in this category refers to the customers themselves, who have many opportunities to communicate to others both the perceived quality of the product or service that was purchased and the perceived quality of the customer experience. Online ranking and social media sites such as Trip Advisor, Yelp and Facebook empower people to either reward or punish a company.

Thanks for reading,


Image: © Harris Farm Markets Sydney, Australia

A Call to Action

Content creators—-producers of marketing, sales, or advertising content and sometimes speeches, too, must remember that at the conclusion of the artfully told story that’s been delivered in words and/or pictures, it is imperative that you tell the viewer what to do next. Content creators must remember to include an irresistible, inevitable, Call to Action. Fail to do so and the content creator hasn’t done the job.

A Call to Action beckons a potential prospect to do something—-learn more, get this, click here—-that will bring him/her into deeper engagement with the product, service, or idea that’s being promoted. Once the content has made the case, demonstrated the desirable characteristics and therefore the value of what is being promoted, the Call to Action functions to reel in the convinced and the curious.

Step this way, sir! Websites, content marketing posts, videos, television commercials, movie trailers and those postcards that fall out of magazines are but a few examples of where viewers and listeners will encounter a Call to Action designed to entice.

A political action group may write an article on the importance of voting in the next election. The article will likely close with an inspiring CTA message about the privilege of voting and include a link to a voter registration site. A company website may contain two or more CTAs, perhaps appeals to opt-in and receive a weekly blog, RSVP for a webinar, or request a free 30-minute consultation.

Getting started

Before writing your CTA, decide what action you’d like potential prospects to take and what they’ll gain by doing so. Once you know what you want them to do, you can think about how to say it. The best CTAs are short, encouraging and use active verbs that speak directly to the viewer. Remember that the CTA is your closer, the culmination, the purpose, of the pitch you’ve made.

Write your CTA in a font that’s somewhat larger than the other text and use a bold color to make it eye-catching. Lead in with a brief but tempting phrase that persuades viewers to click and subscribe, browse products, opt-in to receive information, attend an event, or take any number of actions.

The next step

CTA buttons are available on Google My Business and the Facebook business page. Most, if not all, email marketing, i. e. blog and newsletter hosting platforms, have always contained opt- in capability to follow or subscribe and an opt-out to unsubscribe. Content creators can easily embed CTA buttons or hyperlinks into a website, blog post, social media site, newsletter, or marketing email. Visibility will be key, so along with bigger and brighter text, place the CTA at eye-level and in most cases, on the landing page. Viewers should not need to scroll to find it.

The CTA should feel like a natural progression of what the prospect has just seen, heard, or read. Whether s/he will be able to obtain more information about using a product or service, listen to a webinar, or attend an event, ensure that your CTA is consistent with the message in your content. A benefit that conveys value, the appearance of low-risk and a sense of urgency are standard ingredients of the well-crafted CTA.

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Thanks for reading,


Image: Before he became the 43rd President of the United States (2001-2009), George W. Bush was head cheerleader at the exclusive prep school Phillips Academy in Andover, MA (senior year 1963-64).

Pricing: Retainer Fee, Flat Fee, or Hourly Rate?

Congratulations! You’re in serious talks with a prospective client and it appears that the project is yours. As you listen to the soon-to-be-client discussing his/her must-haves and timetable, you’re also thinking about pricing and payment:

How many hours might this take to complete and how much should I charge?

What might the client be able to afford and what might s/he be willing to pay?

What value will I bring to the company—-how will my work enable the client to achieve important goals, enhance the company brand and status, or avoid trouble?

How should I suggest that we structure the billing arrangement—hourly rate, flat project fee, or retainer agreement?

Once you’ve asked the client about a ballpark project budget and more or less know how much you’ll request for an upfront payment (10% – 20% maybe?), which payment structure will best fit the project, guarantee that you’ll make a profit and not put you into the position of basically working for free and also support the client’s trust and confidence in you and your company?

Project fee

Charging a flat, predetermined project fee is common for larger projects and for working with clients with whom you’ve worked before, when you can more accurately estimate the hours needed to successfully complete the job. Often, a flat rate is based on an estimate of hours a project will take to complete, multiplied by your standard hourly rate for the type of work required.

In other cases, the value of the finished project is higher than just your estimated hours. For example, logo designs are often valued highly regardless of actual hours worked, because of their frequent use and visibility. Other factors that can affect the price include the number of pieces printed or sold, and whether the piece will be used once or multiple times.

Depending on the type of project, you might add a percentage to cover client meetings, unforeseen changes, email correspondence, and other activities that an hourly estimate doesn’t reflect.

The upside

  • The client knows what they are paying from the beginning (unless there are changes to the scope of the project).
  • You are guaranteed a certain amount of money, even if the job is finished quickly.

The downside

  • The job might take longer than expected (a possibility your contract should address).
  • Clients sometimes ask for extra revisions, etc. without expecting to pay more (again, cover this in your contract)


The hourly rate is the most common payment arrangement for both W-2 and 1099-NEC independent contractors in America, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2017.

Consider not just what it costs you to do the work but factor in the value you bring as well.

The upside

  • You have a straightforward way to charge clients

The downside

  • You may get pushback from a client if the work takes longer than expected and they receive a large invoice


Working on retainer means that you charge clients a monthly minimum, no matter how much work you do. However, for certain types of work, setting a monthly minimum number of hours or projects makes sense. Working on retainer ensures that you have enough revenue coming in every month to keep your business afloat.

The upside

  • You do ongoing work for your client and build a close relationship to help them achieve success.
  • You invoice clients regularly (usually monthly) without having to keep detailed records of your time.
  • You receive recurring payments, almost like a salary, which gives you more predictable revenue.
  • You can scale your business by hiring contractors or employees to manage multiple clients.
  • You create stability for your business without needing to upsell current clients or continually search for new ones.

The downside

  • You may be asked to do additional work that’s not in your agreement if you haven’t set clear expectations or an additional hourly fee.
  • Your total hours worked may fluctuate significantly from month to month, which may make it difficult to schedule time-sensitive work for other clients or leave you feeling suddenly overworked or underworked.
  • Your clients may request to renegotiate your fee when they do their annual budget.
  • Your income, while steady, may be lower than with other billing options.

Thanks for reading,


Image: The Euro

Mastering Virtual Presentations: Feel Connected, not Remote

Virtual meetings are here to stay and at some point you, Freelancer friend, will be asked to give a presentation on a virtual platform—so you may as well make it your business to learn how to do it right. Plan well and you’ll be able to give a talk that is delivered remotely but still connects you to your audience. The trick is to think of your talk as a TV show or movie, divide it into segments and assign them a role to play in the audience experience.


Talking to a webcam is probably not your idea of a satisfying communication process. You’re in a room intended for another purpose—-cooking? sleeping?—-but is now your stage and the audience can see you. You can see them, too, but only as a row of small images aligned along the perimeter of your screen. Everyone is together, except that you’re not.

In fact, you’re all isolated and some may be in another time zone or even another country. Still, through the miracle of technology, you’ve come together to share this experience. The speaker has the responsibility to make that experience rewarding.

Unfortunately, the speaker’s experience may not feel rewarding. Delivering a speech of some sort when using a virtual platform can be disorienting, whether one will discuss a committee report at a board meeting, teach a class, or give a quarterly earnings report to investors. The usual sensory cues are missing. The presenter can see everyone’s eyes, but is unable to make eye contact.

It is sometimes apparent whether or not audience members are paying attention, but feeling their presence and energy, which signal to an astute speaker when the audience is with you and when you are losing them, is not possible. In virtual communication there is no feedback, no way to confirm that the audience understands or agrees with the points you’re making. The presenter is hanging out there alone, sort of in a black hole. There are no familiar landmarks on the trip.

Solution 1: The voice

Presenting on a virtual medium is like being a television newscaster, talking to the red light and with no studio audience to interact with. Nevertheless, speakers working in a virtual medium must remain acutely aware that there is a listening audience that needs him/her perhaps more than does a face2face audience. The online audience urgently needs a responsive connection to the speaker, on whom they depend to lead them into the topic, earn their respect by sharing relevant and timely information and hold their attention so that they won’t be tempted to sign out of the event.

When talking to a webcam, there is often a tendency to speak in a monotone. Some may speak too fast, others will ramble on and on. It’s because talking to a webcam and a row of tiny pictures feels off-kilter. The normal exchange of communication between a speaker and audience, subtle but powerful, is missing.

The overall most effective solution is for virtual format presenters to rehearse the talk thoroughly, to ensure that the tone of voice is strong and confident and the pace of speaking is neither rushed nor slow. Diction should be crisp and the vocal expression pleasantly enthusiastic.

Solution 2: Technology —polls

The drop-off rate of virtual presentations is high. It’s easy for audience members to leave when the talk begins to seem boring. To combat the problem, speakers must prepare to work with the platform technology, rather than allow themselves to become lost and flailing within it. Speakers must always maintain control and this is especially true when the format is virtual and the ability to read the audience mood is severely restricted.

Presenters are advised to quickly capture audience attention and establish their control by engaging them at the start of the talk, perhaps with a fun activity that employs the platform’s polling function. When the speaker invites the audience to respond to him/her they’ll give back a helpful dose of positive energy, precisely what is needed to not just deliver a talk, but to communicate and connect with the audience.

Asking a question is a tried-and-true audience “warm up” technique, but your question must be more specific than “How’s everybody doing today?” The virtual presentation opening question should be devised along the lines of a survey question, to make taking a poll feel appropriate.

Presenters can create a question that’s related to the talk, or even ask about the weather. Since most of the audience may be working from home, staying indoors is easy. If local temperatures have been unusually cold or warm, a creative speaker might want to ask when’s the last time audience members have ventured outdoors? The question and answers received could be good for a chuckle and will pave the way to finding common ground between speaker and audience and also between audience members.

You may be able to take another poll or two later in the talk by asking a question about the topic and challenging the audience to predict what your data show. Once you’ve displayed the audience answers, then present your data. (“96% of you predicted that our customers would like this new product feature. Let’s bring up the official statistics now and see how customers responded.”

Solution 3: Technology chat

Chat is tailor-made for Q & A and it’s the go- to virtual audience engagement tool. Every presentation includes time for Q & A, often structured as a forum at the talk’s conclusion. Some presenters will also take a question or two earlier in the talk and then address the rest in the Q & A forum.

Whichever format you feel will work best for you and your topic, the chat function will be useful. Presenters can invite audience members to type questions into chat throughout the talk, which may cause certain of them to be addressed during the talk. It will be wise for presenters to discreetly check into chat periodically during the talk because audience members could be trying to signal that something is amiss—-maybe a sound or lighting problem.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Walter Cronkite (1916 – 2009), lead anchorman for CBS-TV Evening News 1962 – 1981. During the 1960s and 70s, Cronkite was regularly named as “ the most trusted man in America.”

Notes on Branding

Hello there. It’s been quite a while since we’ve explored the topic of branding. Establishing and maintaining a reputable brand for your company has the power to generate significant financial rewards even for single owner Freelance entities. Let’s dive in.

What it is

A brand is the characteristics and attributes associated with a company. The company brand consists of the qualities for which the company and its products and services are best known, by its customers and by the public. The company brand defines and communicates the experience it provides for its customers. Especially for larger companies, the company brand is powerfully and memorably communicated by its logo symbol. Brand = Reputation.


The process of creating and communicating the benefits, characteristics and trustworthy reputation that company owners and leaders envision for the products and services that the company sells. The objective of branding is to persuade customers and prospects to associate those benefits, characteristics and positive reputation with the company, as demonstrated by its products and services, because it will resonate with, inspire trust in and appeal to current and potential customers. Branding gives a business an identity and distinguishes the company from its competitors.

Create and discover your brand

Brand development is a two- way street. Company leaders must understand what the most likely (that is, target) customers for the products and services will be. The brand within is what company leaders determine the brand should be, as represented by the market position, pricing, sales distribution and product placement sections, advertising and social media strategies, packaging and so on. But customers also have a say in a company brand. The brand without consists of how current and prospective customers perceive and respond to the company brand.

Building a brand starts with knowing the customer and the customer’s expectations for your company’s products and services, which are shaped and influenced by what competitors, those who’ve come before you, have done.

Nourish and promote the brand identity and voice

Believe it or not, a brand has a life of its own and a personality to go with it. Company owners and leaders must build a brand whose voice and identity convey trust, reliability and good value for the money spent to acquire the company’s products or services.

The brand identity may be cutting edge, solidly dependable, luxurious, user-friendly, inexpensive and practical, or any number of other qualities. The brand voice will convey brand identity attributes through the style of the website, the company logo, colors used for the website, email marketing templates, company business cards, product packaging and other marketing materials, social media platforms used and marketing messages. Increasingly, company values and guiding principles, from environmentalism to current interpretations of social justice, influence the the brand voice.

What impression do you want customers and prospects to come away with when encountering and interacting with your company? Who are the primary customers? What do they aspire to communicate about themselves when they use your products or services? Those are the guide posts used to create and sustain the brand identity and voice.

Manage the brand

Company leaders must vigorously and continually monitor the tangible and intangible elements of the brand and ensure their relevance to customers and prospective customers.

Advertising and sponsorship choices, marketing and PR campaigns, content marketing topics, social media posts, the company website, product packaging, or the verbal “packaging” of a service, i.e., its defining message and, ultimately, the customer experience, from the Top of the Funnel buying cycle through to actual usage of the product or service, must communicate all that is valuable and memorable about the brand.

Getting started

As always, everything begins with knowing your customer. What motivates them to seek out products or services like yours? How do they use those products or services? Where do they expect to buy your products or services and how much do they expect to pay to for them?

Define the qualities and benefits that customers and prospects value your products and services for. To make the most of that information, the Marketing 4 P’s could be helpful—-Product, Price, Place and Promotion. I like to add four more P’s: Position (luxury or low-cost?), Process (the customer experience, from visiting the website to making the purchase to speaking with customer support); People (all interactions with customer-facing staff, including the company owner, manifests the brand); and Packaging (especially for a tangible product, the style and quality of its packaging, its customer eye-appeal, conveys the brand).

Thanks for reading,


Image: Brand identity 1950s style as presented by still powerful Nestle. The character “Danny O’Day (L), ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson and the much loved Farfel

Grow, Expand, or Scale?

Business owners, including my clients, are known to start bandying about the term scale once they’ve been in business for a couple of years and they are bringing in a few customers. They are in search of a few more customers, so that they can make more money.

So the prospect is referred to me by way of a mutual colleague, makes contact and shares his/her agenda with me. “I want to grow and expand my business. I’m ready to scale. Can you help me?” “Yes, I’ll be happy to help you with that,” I reply. “Please tell me a little more about your company and we can set up a time to talk.”

To be honest, until recently I’d never given the terms much thought, other than they all mean growth—-more customers, more revenue and more profit (ideally) for the company. However I’ve come to realize that there are real differences between them and that they should not be considered interchangeable.

While basically all ventures can grow and growth is a perennial goal, not every enterprise can achieve growth through either expansion or scale. It all depends on the business and what the owner(s) would like to do.

Growing the business

When a business owner or management team decides to grow the company, the strategy is to add certain resources—money, technology, training and staffing, say—-to produce more sales and therefore, revenue. But essentially, not much changes in the way business is done.

If the business hires two new employees and also buys new computers plus a software program that speeds up order processing and keeps track of inventory, for a total investment of perhaps $125,000 (staff salaries are ongoing at $120,000 / year total), the expectation may be that in one year the investment would be covered by the additional revenue that the upgrades make possible and that by year two, sales revenue will increase by 15%/ year for the next 3 years and then continue to more modestly trend upward, producing growth in the high single digits until market conditions change.

If the business leaders want more growth, more money must be invested. The resources needed might be too costly relative to the desired results.


Growing the business through expansion is, as noted, another strategy. The business owners or leaders may open more locations if demographic and other marketing research indicates that a significant number of current and potential customers live in certain zip codes and would spend more money if stores could be more convenient to visit.

Likewise, introducing new products or services to the marketplace is capable of expanding the customer base and revenue generated. Entering a niche market is another potentially successful expansion, i.e., growth, strategy.

Like traditional business growth, the costs associated with business expansion can be significant and in fact the costs can be much more significant if opening new locations is involved. As well, a new product launch is potentially a costly undertaking. Entering new markets is usually less costly, but a special marketing campaign may need to be developed and rolled out to reach the new demographic.

But not every business can expand. There may be no additional markets that can successfully be entered. Opening additional locations may be neither affordable nor beneficial. Developing and launching a new product or service that fits with the organization’s mission and current line may not be possible or practical.

Scaling the business

The idea of scaling a business to promote significant growth gets all the publicity these days. When business leaders create a strategy to scale a venture, sales revenue is meant to be generated at a much lower cost per unit sold relative to the scale- up investment made because the production process becomes much more efficient. Automation of one or more key functions is the usual method used to keep overhead costs low (few employees and little office space, for example). A successful scale enables the number of customers reached and served and corresponding revenue generated to grow exponentially. The more efficient the means of mass production and delivery of a company’s products or services, the more scalable the company will be.

Drop the price of producing the widgets from $2 each to 80 cents each and sell them at the original price, but sell 10 times as many as you used to. That’s scale. Hire a new employee or two and buy a new piece of equipment so that you can produce more and manage a moderate drop in production price along the way, so the widgets that once cost $2 each at wholesale now can be bought at $1.25 each because you’re buying more of them and a discount kicks in. That’s growth. Open up a new location, launch a new product or service, or enter a new market, bringing in new customers or give your usual customers new reasons to shop with you and that’s expansion.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Snow drops in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston scale their operation.

LinkedIn Special Report: B2B Selling in the COVID era

In our uncertain times, for-profit organizations have elevated selling, the means by which revenue is generated, to the highest priority. Sales revenues are the life blood of a business and enable its survival. As a result, sales professionals are under significant pressure to identify, connect with, engage and bring in new clients, as well as obtaining additional business from existing clients.

No surprises there. Making sales is the role of sales reps. It’s just that thanks to COVID, the playing field has undergone a seismic shift. Once-thriving industries, most notably restaurants, hotels and fitness, have been greatly diminished. Commercial real estate sales and leasings are staggering, as legions of white collar professionals cobble together DIY offices and work from home. How can sales representatives reach prospects when they’re usually no longer in the office? How can they introduce themselves and their products and services when they can no longer meet prospects face2face?

Virtual technology has solved most of the communication problem, but virtually enabled conversations do not make it easy for sales reps to meet and lay the groundwork for building new relationships. Furthermore current or previous clients, who now work from home, are often overwhelmed as they strive to meet the new and growing expectations of their jobs. Receiving a request from a sales rep to schedule yet another videoconference call does not spark joy.

LinkedIn has issued its fourth annual State of Sales Report after interviewing some 1,000 B2B buyers and sellers in several countries, including Brazil, Canada, France, the UK and the US. Here are some key takeaways.

Good data matters

To clarify and justify their buying decisions, the report found that 49 % of prospective B2B buyers feel that objective data is a required element of a sale and data- driven decisions have grown in popularity in the COVID era. Data adds value. Sales professionals need only to determine which metrics matter to the prospect?

Doing some homework and asking a few questions is the way to learn what information will persuade your prospect. Now when you send an email to request a videoconference call, you can tempt your prospect with a couple of data tidbits that signal you understand what matters. Now you present yourself as being a problem-solver. Present some data and ask what other information will be useful.

Getting to know your prospect as you get to know their business challenges and objectives is part of engagement. Demonstrate that you’re not just trying to make a sale, you’re trying to help the prospect do solve, or avoid, a problem.

Be a problem-solver

Problem-solving emerged as an attribute that 47% of B2B buyers value highly. As always, effective selling means knowing the customer. One way to engage prospects is to ask about their business and learn as much as politely possible about why and how your product or service could help the organization achieve important objectives. In short, what do they really need to do and how can you help them get there?

Furthermore, you might ask prospects how they did what they need to do before you and your product or service came along? Now you’ll pick up some useful intel on competitors and know how to position your offering as superior, as you assume the role of problem- solver.

When sellers focus on client objectives and provide meaningful data it’s possible to position oneself as a problem-solver, if not as a trusted adviser and collaborator for the prospect. In this way B2B sellers earn trust. For 75% of B2B buying decision-makers, the amount of trust that they have for a seller is the number one factor that leads a buyer to do business with a particular company.

Expect change

In sum, 70 % of survey respondents feel that leading through change is now a required competency for sales managers and is more important than it was five years ago. Sales leaders are wrestling with the question of what the change in the business environment means for their organization and their team. In a separate LinkedIn survey of sales managers conducted in March 2020, 55 percent of the 200 respondents feared that a decrease in their sales pipeline is inevitable.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Over tea, Moroccan Berbers (Amazigh) build a relationship and discuss the potential sale of a rug.

Strategy: Win a Business Award

One often-overlooked business strategy that brings many benefits to a company is competing for (and winning!) a business award. Competing for a business award and being named a finalist, that is, eligible to win first, second, or third prize, is a big vote of confidence for the chosen organizations. The recognition sets your business apart from competitors, implies credibility and expertise, enhances your company’s brand and stature and is almost certain to increase the number and quality of prospects, clients and referral sources your business receives.

There are more ways to win than you might think. Sponsoring organizations are typically generous with the number of awards and categories they choose to honor. More awards and more categories are an incentive for business owners and leaders to become contestants because there will be more opportunities to win. More contestants means more entry applications received by the sponsor and more tickets sold to the awards banquet (when those activities resume), since every finalist will buy at least one ticket and some will buy a table.

In addition to its role as a revenue enhancer, sponsoring awards is good PR for the organization, which could include the bank where you keep your business account. The awards not only distinguish the group as a prominent member of the business community, but also attract and help to retain members (or customers). In the best of American traditions, business awards are a way for many to make money. That could mean you, too.

Full disclosure—-as a result of the destabilizing impact of the coronavirus shutdown, I declined to accept an invitation to return as a preliminary round judge in The Stevie Awards/ Women in Business category (there are eight in all), an honor I’ve been happy to receive for six of the past eight years. Judges are neither paid, nor do we pay to participate. I do it because I enjoy experience and it looks good in my bio.

Be advised that as with any marketing campaign, there are expenses involved. You’ll be required to join the sponsoring organization. You must pay the award entry fee for every award category that your company pursues—-best new product launch, business of the year, best workplace, social responsibility award and so on. You must buy one or more tickets to the ceremony (even when it’s virtual). The awards process could represent the entirety of your outfit’s annual marketing budget.

The time needed to prepare your award entry and determine which supporting documents will best communicate who you, your team (if applicable) and your company is another cost. Creating an impressive and persuasive entry application can be a laborious and time-consuming undertaking.

Furthermore, an assessment of your company’s readiness to pursue an award may reveal that it would be advantageous to build for 12-24 months before your organization is prepared to compete for an award. But that’s OK. Taking steps to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your organization (are not most of us facing the threat of the COVID economy?) will pay dividends in and of itself. Just be objective about your company’s chance of winning and understand the time and money likely to be involved.

Choose a target award

Potential contestants are advised to do some homework and discover awards that are sponsored by local, regional and national organizations, whether business networking organizations (chambers of commerce), industry-specific associations (such as the Bar Association for attorneys), or your business bank. I recommend that your initial forays into awards campaigns focus on local sponsors, particularly for those of you who are Freelance consultants and small business owners generating less than $500,000 in annual gross revenue.

After compiling a draft list of possibilities, check the award entry criteria. It’s likely that candidates must join the organization in order to compete for an award and that will be your first expense. Annual dues may run from a few hundred dollars to $1000 or more, depending on the sponsor. Confirm also when new members will be eligible to compete for an award. Next, investigate other entry facts—-the entry application deadline, the fees and whether candidates must be nominated to compete for the award.

Read the specs and select the categories in which you can expect to do well—-excellence in your field, customer service, new product or service launch, community outreach, environmentally-friendly, for example. Within the categories offered, where might your company step to the front of the pack?

Finalize your choices and prepare to compete, being sure to give yourself ample time to collect, evaluate, or create the supporting resources you’ll need to enter. The good news is that if you plan to enter more than one category, most of the content developed can be used in multiple entry forms.

Tell a compelling story

On nearly every award entry, there’s a section that asks for more details about your business, your team and you. Be sure to provide all of the information that is requested and as well, tell a story beyond the statistics. Let the judges feel your personality and understand what makes your business stand out. Here, you can share unique information that might not fit elsewhere in the entry application. Customize your message by sharing relevant success stories and achievements that address the award category you are entering.

Construct a strong beginning, middle and end for your story. Reveal how you overcame challenges to reach new heights and back up your claims with hard evidence. Feel welcome to include good visuals like charts and graphs, or the persuasive appeal of client testimonials. Keep your application punchy and concise, using short sentences and statistics to underline key points. Bullet points are an effective way to ensure that judges can absorb your performance metrics quickly.

Describe what motivated you to launch the company. Detail the company’s vision, mission, guiding principles and values and what you and your team are passionate about and which accomplishments make you most proud. Tell your story from your heart. Before hitting the send button, or sealing the envelope for a hard-copy mailing if required, add a personal note and thank the sponsoring organization and the judges for their consideration of your entry. Then conjure up some positive thoughts!

Thanks for reading,


Image: The inimitable Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Grammy Award winning actress-singer-dancer Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954), for which she won the 1955 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical

Clubhouse: A Social Media Platform for the Beautiful People


The newest entry to the social media scene is Clubhouse, an invitation-only platform built around what is called “drop-in audio chat”. Call it an audio chat social network. Users download the platform app and are welcomed to drop into real time, voice only chat room conversations that they may participate in, or decide to just sit back and listen to. Or, one might request to “own” a room, choose a format and topic and invite folks to drop in and chat. Clubhouse conversations are ephemeral—when the chatting stops, what was said disappears forever. Nothing is recorded.

Created by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, reportedly seeded with $12 million by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and officially launched about when the coronavirus entered the U.S. in First Quarter 2020, Clubhouse has attracted a swath of high-profile member users that now number about two million. The app can only be downloaded on an iPhone, at least for now. Android downloads will be available soon. The service is not optimized for iPad.

The velvet rope

You have to know someone to get in. Clubhouse is a gated community. Access is available by personal invitation only. Members can invite just two people to join, but will earn more invitation credits as they use the app.

Any iPhone user can download the app and reserve a username, but will be placed on the waiting list. It is allegedly possible that a current member could be notified that someone s/he knows would like to join and would appreciate an invitation. Otherwise, aspiring members who lack the right connections will twist in the wind.

Clubhouse has quickly built up considerable social cachet, most likely the result of its exclusivity business model. Having the app on your phone is like getting into Studio 54, the 1970s Manhattan disco where everybody who was anybody went to party hard. The platform has become the darling of A-List entertainers and the tech entrepreneur crowd. Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, R & B superstar Drake, Chris Rock and Mark Cuban are members.

Another factor that may enhance its popularity is that Clubhouse users speak to each another in real time. People can talk and it all feels more intimate than other forms of online conversation. People tend to prefer the natural rhythms of speaking that we use when talking face2face, rather than typing back and forth on a keyboard.


Members can follow their fellow members and also topics of interest, as they do on other social media platforms, and also join themed “clubs.” They have access to a selection of chat rooms that focus on different subjects, many of which are attuned to what is currently trending.

Some rooms will have just a few people chatting informally. Others might contain hundreds or even thousands of people listening to a panel of experts discuss a national or international issue, or a top-selling author, or a well-known entrepreneur. If someone in the room would like to contribute to the conversation or ask a question, a hand raise signal is given and the room’s “owner” can give speaking privileges.

Chat rooms visitors are identified by their profile photo, which is required for each user. Those in the room can browse the profiles of others in the room, which also includes a list of whom everyone follows. The Clubhouse algorithm takes all this into account when offering content choices to members.

Why you want in

Clubhouse members are able to hear, and even participate in, the often relaxed and sometimes very candid conversations of famous and powerful people. You may hear a political debate, a comedy routine, a book club discussion, or billionaires talking business. Uber-famous music producer and performer Kanye West is scheduled to appear in a Clubhouse chat room. Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have already done so.

But what will being there do for your business? It depends on the ecosystem in which you operate. If you feel that prospective clients will be impressed when you casually name-drop a celebrity or some other nationality known high roller, then consult your Rolodex and devise a strategy to get past the door man.

Voice is the future

It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Clubhouse will soon face direct competitors. A powerful vote of confidence for the rising appeal of audio social networking platforms is coming from Facebook, who recently announced that the company is in the early stages of experimenting with social audio features. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Mark Cuban, a Clubhouse member, has announced that he is involved with building an audio-focused social platform called Fireside, which will compete with Clubhouse and he plans to launch this year.

Twitter added a voice feature for tweeting in June 2020 and is testing a separate audio chat-room product called Spaces, according to a company spokeswoman. LinkedIn was ahead of the curve on the chat trend when it added voice messaging in July 2018.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Kardashian (left) with a Sidekick and Paris Hilton checks her Blackberry circa 2003.

Meeting New Clients When They’re Virtual

As we journey through the COVID business landscape, B2B product and service providers have mostly found that the process of selling to their current clients has successfully been transferred to virtual methods, that is, videoconferencing and the telephone. But the biggest shortcoming of virtual communication is revealed when the goal is to meet and cultivate new clients.

As business (and education, government, fitness, worship, et al.) has transitioned to remote functioning one glaring truth has emerged— it’s much easier to shift existing relationships into virtual mode than it is to create new relationships, business or personal, by way of Zoom. That’s especially true in B2B sales. While many Freelancers and other business owners and leaders have directed resources toward strengthening existing client relationships, facilitating new client acquisition has folks wringing their hands.

It’s been conclusively demonstrated that it costs at least five times more time and money to acquire a new client than it costs to maintain a current client, but it remains a fact that every business must put into motion a client acquisition strategy. New clients represent the potential for future growth and they are an essential component of a healthy business ecosystem.

The problem is, relationships are more easily created during face2face interactions and we’re just not able to meet people anymore! The lockdown has either closed or severely restricted nearly all public gathering spaces. Video and voice calls keep us connected, albeit at a distance, but those relationships are in many cases already established.

So our question of the day is—-how can a business effectively grow its client list when access to new prospects is unexpectedly limited? Let’s consider some alternatives to the once customary networking formulas.

Low hanging fruit and a system reboot

Mine your client data, knowledge and relationships to discover how you might persuade those with whom you’ve been doing business to do more business. Find the low hanging fruit on a tree familiar to you. In some instances, it may be necessary to reboot certain relationships if clients were forced to cease or curtail operations due to the shutdown and its aftershocks.

Create reasons to contact clients whose organizations were adversely but not fatally impacted, perhaps by emailing COVID business resource information as a conversation starter. While trading emails or calls, you’ll be able to inquire about the location of where business is now conducted—in the office or from home.

Ask those clients how they’re responding to the COVID environment and listen carefully for a way, however small, you can help get his/her company up and rolling again. You may rewarded with a handful of billable hours as conditions improve. This strategy is working for me, BTW.

Conversely, some businesses are experiencing growth during the pandemic and you should make it a point to identify those organizations and include those for whom your products or services can be a fit in your marketing efforts. Maybe you can get a referral from a friend, family member, or client?

Encourage referrals

Referrals confer to you the golden status of being considered a known and trusted quantity. Other than a Super Bowl ad, there is no better endorsement for your business than a referral. People who read reviews of books, movies, restaurants, or hotels are in reality searching for a business whose customers give it good referrals.

Create the conditions for good word-of-mouth about your service by excelling at superior customer service at every client touch point. Present a 360 degree pleasant and efficient experience from the intuitive navigation of your website, the relevance of your content marketing posts, to your follow-up and willingness to go the extra mile to provide the necessary solution, to your project proposals and invoicing.

Give your clients lots of good things to say about doing business with your organization. Ask them to spread the word. On client invoices, offer a 15% or so discount on their next invoice if a referral is made and a sale results.

Case studies and testimonials showcase how clients feel about your finest work. They are a form of referrals and business owners and leaders are advised to include such valuable endorsements on the company website and on social media platforms.

Get found with Inbound Marketing

Revisit your understanding of the ideal clients for your company’s products or services. Do you know who the decision-makers is? Do you know who is likely to influence the decision-maker and other important stakeholders? When writing your content, it’s imperative to know to whom you are speaking.

With a heightened sense of your ideal client in mind, evaluate, refine and expand your company’s online presence and popularity with content designed to fill the sales funnel with prospects who have authority, who make decisions, who have influence. Create email marketing subject lines that catch the eye and resonate with those prospects. Align your white papers, blog, newsletter and case studies to address goals and questions that are meaningful to your prospects. Appeal to what motivates prospects to take the leap and do business with you. Post content to Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to expand your reach.

Finally, why not experiment with developing relationships through online communities? Investigate LinkedIn groups, for example, and search for one or two that seem like a good fit. Follow conversations and learn what active members discuss. When you feel ready, pose a question or respond to one. Whenever you participate, your LinkedIn contact info is accessible to interested parties and the seeds of follow- up are planted.

The sales landscape has changed for the time being, but the fundamentals of selling remain. If your product or service solves a problem, provides a solution, for a potential buyer, if a price can be agreed upon a sale will be made. Pursuing introductions and attempting to build relationships with new prospects in the virtual space is not without challenges but it also brings certain advantages. Geography is no longer a barrier.

Moreover, most prospects begin the buying journey online, searching Yelp and other rating sites to find out who can and cannot be trusted, cruising through social media and visiting websites that appear in the top 10 of their text or voice searches (those would mostly be big companies, for those wondering why there is no mention of SEO here).

Buyers are acclimating to the virtual space, becoming more accepting of the new normal and what it entails. The scope of relationships hatched in the virtual space may not be quite what we’re accustomed to, but I predict that both buyers and sellers will adapt as necessary to do business.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Athena, a special guest character on Lost in Space (CBS-TV 1965-1968) appeared in season 2, episode 16, of the series on January 4, 1967.

Build Your Email Contact List

Despite numerous predictions of its imminent demise that have splashed across the headlines of business publications for several years now email marketing, in various formats, continues to march forward in vigorous health because it works. If email marketing didn’t produce quantifiable ROI we would have abandoned it years ago. Nope. Email marketing remains an efficient communication pathway that allows companies to announce a product launch, register attendees for a podcast or webinar, deliver to subscribers this week’s installment of your blog, entice mailing list members with an invitation to your virtual book launch, or inspire potential students with news of the debut of your online course.

Despite the popularity of half a dozen social media platforms that are experiencing an upward trend that shows no sign of slowing down, email marketing continues to be accepted by those on the receiving end, so long as the number from any one source does not overwhelm. When email list members value the sender, they seem to like updates delivered to their inbox.

So building a quality email list that’s populated with prospects who are interested in you and your company is good business. Today, we can identify a few smart, simple tactics that are fast-acting, free and can potentially create for your organization a brand building, money making email list.

  1. Social media

An effective and obvious way to quickly and organically build a robust email contact list at no cost is to post content on social media platforms and the more platforms you post content to, the faster you’ll collect names and email addresses. How so, you ask? Because sooner or later, readers of your content will respond to what you’ve written and when they do, you’ll capture their name and email address. It’s likely that those willing to give a like to your posts or make a comment will also be willing to join your email contact list.

Another easy email capture tactic can be done on your Facebook page, by way of the Call to Action button. Hover your cursor on the CTA and select the “Edit Button” option, then change the text to read “sign up” or “join” so that you can invite Facebook Fans to your email contact list.

LinkedIn users are able to send emails to all of their primary connections but to quickly grow your email list, you’ll want to reach out to your second degree (the connections of primary connections) and third degree connections (secondary connections, once removed). There is a free service called Snovio that allows account holders to install an email finder extension which, by way of a gmail account, allows LinkedIn users to find the email addresses of those distant cousins. Click to learn more.

2. Website sign-ups

Upload to your website reasons to collect names and email addresses. For some, that will be the “Contact us” form—website visitors who have questions or want more information about the company’s products or services are required to fill out a contact form and provide their name and email address. Other common website signup tactics are surveys, free telephone (video call) consultations, registrations for webinars and requests for free special publications—-your e-book, case studies, or white papers, for example. All are effective conduits for collecting names and email addresses that grow a viable email contact list.

3. Call to action

On your website landing page, on your white papers, blog, or newsletter, invite people to connect. You may be pleasantly surprised with the positive results of a straightforward appeal for email contact info. The share button and invitation to subscribe to or follow your blog and/ or newsletter will also bring in names and email addresses if your content is well- written and relevant.

Add a chat bot plug-in to your WordPress hosted website so that visitors can quickly obtain answers to basic questions about your products and services. Bot analytics will reveal the names and email addresses of your chat bot users, who are all set to join your growing email list.

Finally, get more mileage from your email signature block and invite recipients of your emails to opt-in and subscribe to your blog, newsletter and notices about other interesting things you’re doing.

4. YouTube videos

YouTube is the second- largest search engine in the world and about six billion videos are viewed on the site every day. People like visuals and videos are the favorite visual. Production value matters, so ask around to find out who you know with equipment that’s a level or two more advanced than your cell phone. Your public library may have equipment to use and a quiet room that will be all yours for an hour or two.

What story can you tell? You’ll have a few and you can make one or two of them sound appealing with a little thought and some rehearsal time. Providers of B2B services don’t have a product to show but we can do a convincing 5 minute promo on a course we’re set to teach, or a virtual talk we’ll give, or panel we’ll participate on.

If you’re rolling out a new service, pivoting your business, or embarking on a collaboration with colleagues that you and your partners can make sound exciting and useful to certain of your clients and prospects, include a video pitch in the launch campaign.

Remember to conclude your videos with both a verbal and text Call to Action. Ask for the business and direct viewers to click a button and be directed to your squeeze page, a landing page you can create that collects the names and email addresses of those who want to know more about your topic (i.e., what you’re selling). Learn to create a Wordstream squeeze page here.

After posting your pithy little video promo to YouTube, also get it onto Instagram stories, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and your website. Write a short teaser sentence to accompany a link to your video and include them in your email signature block.

5. Join business groups

All meetings are virtual and will remain so for the time being, but by attending events hosted by the group you join—-the chamber of commerce, a neighborhood business group, the local alumni chapter of your school, or other professional development and networking associations—-the benefits of membership include access to the member directory.

I don’t recommend that you import the directory and spam fellow members by sending your content without permission, because that will do you no favors. But one easy way to obtain the names and email addresses of desirable contacts is to attend virtual programs and make a pitch through the chat function.

During the final 15 minutes or so of the program send an all-person chat message to briefly introduce yourself and offer to send your blog, newsletter, e-book, or other content to anyone who’ll (privately) provide their name and address.

Attend one or two virtual events each month and you’ll be almost guaranteed to add 4-5 worthwhile names each month from this one source. This type of ask was originally done during the face2face conversations that took place during pre- event meet & greets (remember those?), but they can migrate to a virtual format without feeling awkward.

Building a robust email marketing prospect list is one of the best growth strategies business owners and leaders can do. If you’re able to add 10-20 contacts each month, declare victory. List building is an ongoing process—- it never stops. I’ve personally witnessed Freelancers who have 5000+ names on their list politely, skillfully, relentlessly, invite every potentially good contact to join their email list.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Replica of a vintage mailbox

Quick Tips: Increase Traffic to Your Website in 30 Days

“I know I could bring in lots more business if only I could get people to my website!” Do you hear the sound of your own voice in this lament? There may be more than a grain of truth in that statement. I’ll wager that at least 20% of those who visit a B2B website are doing research in advance of making a buying decision (according to the 80/20 Rule, that says on average a bus gets 80% of its sales from 20% of its customers).

When you greet site visitors with compelling content that supports decision-making, along with a respectable number of site visitors, a typical B2B Freelance service provider should be able convert window shoppers into paying customers about once or twice a year. That would be a victory for many Freelancers and small business B2B entities. But first, you’ve got to persuade prospects to come and look at the display window that is your website.

The first quick and overall most effective website enhancement strategy to put in motion is to create a compelling landing page that attracts and holds the attention of, in particular, self-identified prospects who are looking to buy what your company sells. Links to content marketing posts, videos and relevant updates are how your intriguing and persuasive content is brought to site visitors’ attention.

When site visitors are greeted with content that entices them to read posts and page through the site, the behavior nurtures the buying process. On your landing page, provide links to your blog, newsletter, case studies and/ or white papers. If you have video testimonials from happy clients, include a landing page link. If you have speaking engagements, list those as well on the landing page.

Your next fast-acting and free site traffic enhancement strategy is to maximize the visibility of the content you’ve posted there. If you know that your target clients trust and visit certain social media platforms, then establish a presence on those platforms. From time to time, do join conversations on trending topics to which you can speak intelligently (say, the PPP loans) but primarily, you’ll cross-promote selected content marketing posts and videos from your website onto social media and extend your reach.

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are the usual suspects but if some of your content seems appropriate for the ephemeral, one day only lifespan featured on SnapChat (and your target clients include Millennials/ Gen Z), then upload and monitor the results.

If readers and viewers appreciate your content, they’ll visit your website at some point. This is a great way to continually fill the top of your sales funnel (TOFU) and ease a few into the middle (MOFU) as well.

Serious shoppers do online searches from their keyboard and voice searches on mobile phones through Siri and Alexa. While single keywords get all the attention in SEO, descriptive phrases used by those looking for information about your business category, known as long- tail keywords, are far more effective in putting your company into search results than single keywords.

The goal is to get your company into the top 10 (page 1) of search results and increase the chance that a prospect will see your website and click. It’s worth a try, but be advised that smaller companies rarely get page 1 placement.

Start by brainstorming possible search phrases that a prospect might use when looking for your service and make a list. Next, go to Google and type those long- tail keywords into the search box and examine the search results. Which phrases are relevant for your business? Try also your long- tail keywords on and which open the door to search engine results other than Google.

When you discover which phrases bring up companies that match with yours, ease them into your content (three long- tail keywords in one 1000 word post max). Overuse of keyword phrases will help neither your content nor your credibility.

Finally, installing an AI-powered chat bot is another great website enhancement that you can use to increase website traffic, indirectly. Chat bots encourage and enable website visitors to ask questions and almost immediately receive answers through Natural Language Processing, that simulates a Live (but limited) conversation. Chat bots help visitors save time, so benefit derived is that bots combat website abandonment as they assist the decision-making process.

A web developer can install your chat bot but you can DIY if so inclined. Omnichat, The WordPress chat bot is a plug-in option available for owners of WordPress websites. Chat bot analytics will tell you who has used the bot and delivers a second ROI by allowing you to harvest emails to build your contact list. You’ll also learn the most frequently asked questions that will guide you to expand or refine the answers provided.

Thanks for reading,



2021 Financial Tune-up

We’re at the top of the year, after closing out a particularly trying nine months of the previous. It seems that rough sailing will continue but we know what to expect now, more or less, and our experiences will enable us to brainstorm and identify strategies to help ride out the storm.

Whatever you’d like to achieve this year, money is likely to be necessary. In fact managing money may be the singular focus of your plan for the new year. For example, a practical goal for your business enterprise may be to conserve cash as a risk management strategy as the pandemic economy grinds on and on. Alternatively, saving money that will make it possible to take aim at your personal bucket list, which may include buying a home or trading up, or becoming more diligent about retirement savings, are or her motivators for managing and saving money.

Create a budget

The ultimate money-tracking and management tool is the budget. A budget accounts for anticipated revenue, which Freelancers are advised to conservatively estimate, and balances that amount against expenses that will be due, be they predetermined obligations such as rent or mortgage, transportation and groceries or discretionary expenses, such as new clothing purchases.

It’s also necessary to factor into your budget room for mundane expenses such as routine or emergency auto maintenance, technology needs and occasional home repairs and accessories, as well as allowances for fun expenses such as holiday and birthday gifts, occasional dinners out, or a weekend trip.

If one is both prudent and fortunate, revenue will exceed expenses most of the time and you’ll be able to save a few dollars every month. So budgeting should not be viewed as punishment; to the contrary, your budget is your friend. Why wouldn’t you want to know how much money you can expect to earn in a month or quarter and compare that amount to the typical expenses you expect to pay in that time period?

We all need to keep close tabs on cash-flow. The idea is to make money and avoid deficit spending. Budgets can be monthly, quarterly, or annual but a personal budget probably works best on a monthly cycle.

Get started by finding your 1099s and adding them up to identify the previous year’s gross revenue. Because 2020 was a year of diminished revenue for most Freelancers and we don’t know how much of a bounce forward 2021 will bring, income averaging 2019 and 2020 revenue could be a reasonable predictor of 2021. If you have dividend paying investments or interest bearing accounts that actually amount to something, be sure to include that income as well. Who knows, maybe you have a modest trust fund to include as well (it must be nice!).

Next, document 2020 expenses. Consult credit card statements, ATM withdrawals, mobile payment apps and checking account statements. Be honest with yourself about all the little ways that you spent money, from impulse purchases in the grocery store check-out line to chocolate therapy ice cream emergencies.

You will soon need to consider how to format your budget. Some will like an Excel spreadsheet and others will download a budgeting app such as what’s shown here. I find The Balance website to be very helpful.

Watch your caffeine

In life, so often it’s the little things that matter. Small expenses can easily add up to a bigger drain on your income than you realize. In other words, beware the $5.00 caffeine drinks. The most frugal option is to buy a good coffee maker or tea kettle + accessories and make your own brew. However, if stepping out for a break helps you to be a more effective work from home professional, find a local restaurant to visit. You may be able to save money as you have the pleasure of supporting a local business.

Monitor other expenditures as well. Not all of your small but life-enhancing pleasures will have to end, but making note of their impact on your finances may change your mind about a few things. If possible, maintain a couple of indulgences that mean the most and let the rest go.

Pay on time

Late fees for many bills are $25.00 or more and some companies consider them to be a line of business. You don’t want to go there. Late paying clients can force a Freelancer into that trap and I’ve been there. Help yourself by invoicing on time and finding the courage to send a gently worded reminder email to collect unpaid receivables that are approaching 60 days.

Moreover, when discussing a project with a client, ask for 20% – 25% of the total fee before you commence work. Tie subsequent payments to successfully completed project milestones. Avoid leaving more than 30% due at the project’s completion and therefore leaving yourself vulnerable to an unscrupulous operator who decides not to pay the full amount, now that s/he has want they want.

Finally, you may notice that planning to save money may inspire you, Freelancer Friend, to become more ambitious and disciplined about keeping your sales pipeline filled, enacting client retention strategies and even devising a campaign pitch to move regular clients to retainer agreements. When you make a commitment to yourself to manage money, you’ll want to be able to predict, and ideally increase, your revenue in order to achieve the savings target.

Thanks for reading,



Form 1099 Changes for Tax Year 2020

Freelance Consultants will soon receive from clients who were billed $600 or more in tax year 2020 the IRS Form 1099 and as many of you may have heard, changes were made. The general rules concerning who must file the form remain the same, but there are now two versions —-the 1099–NEC and a recalibrated 1099–MISC. Freelancers must receive their appropriate Form 1099 no later than February 1, 2021. The 1099–NEC cannot be downloaded online, but must be ordered from the IRS website.

1099–NEC (non-employee compensation) will be filed by Freelancers and that includes attorneys. Clients must send out this version of the 1099 when:

1. Payments of at least $600 were made during tax year 2020 to an individual (or company) who provided services to the client company but who is not formally employed by the client company.

2. Payment was made for services rendered and not for products or merchandise.

3. Payment was made to an individual, partnership, or other unincorporated entity. With the exception of attorneys or law firms, payments to either C or S corporations are not recorded on Form 1099–NEC or 1099–MISC.

Freelancers who file 1099–NEC will report their income on IRS Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business), a supporting document of Form 1040. Your client should ask you to complete IRS Form W-9 if you bill, or expect to bill, $600 or more in the year.

Clients would traditionally mail to the Freelancer a hard copy of 1099-NEC (copy B), but the client may ask, or Freelancers can request, that an electronic copy be sent instead. Email correspondence between client and Freelancer, in which the Freelancer consents to receiving an electronic 1099–NEC from the client, is all that’s required to authorize the electronic format.

1099–MISC will be filed by recipients, including Limited Liability Companies (LLC), of $600 or more in rent payments (landlords), plus prize and award winners who receive $600 or more and recipients of royalties in excess of $10.

Other types of 1099–MISC income includes payments to an attorney or law firm for fees other than legal services, payment received from a legal settlement, fishing boat proceeds and non-qualified deferred compensation.

Freelancers and merchants who accept credit and debit card payments (maybe on Square, Stripe, or PayPal) will receive Form 1099–K from payment processors if those payments amounted to $20,000 or more and 200 or more transactions took place during calendar year 2020.

The card transaction income reported on 1099–K confirms for both the business and the IRS that income reported on 1099–K and Schedule C aligns. However, the business may also receive checks or even cash, so Schedule C income may be greater than 1099–K income.

The 1099 is part of federal taxes, but 39 states also require it to be filed with annual taxes. States that do not require the 1099 to be filed at that time are: Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

Did I mention that 4Q2020 taxes are due on Friday January 15? Just saying.

Thanks for reading,


2021: The Comeback

It’s a New Year and now is the time to engineer a fresh start for you and your business. Take a few deep cleansing breaths to clear your mind and allow the big picture of your business, competencies, clients and relationships to come into view. Now you’ll be able to pull up the strategic insights and resourcefulness you’ve honed over the years and brainstorm how you can reposition your company to outwit the COVID-created obstacles that have hemmed all of us in over the past nine months. If the virus can adapt and retrench, so can you!

Predictions for the viability of several once thriving industries is less than optimistic, I’m sorry to say, but some Freelancers and business owners will be buoyed by other industries that flourished during the pandemic and can be expected to continue to do so. Among those fortunate few are:

All aspects of healthcare, from Freelance grant writers who work to obtain funding for life sciences research, which includes the development of vaccines, to start-up entrepreneurs who seek to patent and sell medical devices, to owners of medical billing services.

All aspects of technology, from Bitcoin entrepreneurs, to experts in cloud computing solutions, including digital data storage, to those who provide Artificial Intelligence solutions.

Prepared meals, available for curbside pick-up or delivery, were already trending upward and sales have skyrocketed since the advent of pandemic quarantining. While some who got an early start in the marketplace are succeeding by offering meat-potatoes-and gravy American standard menus, recent successful home meal caterers seem to be following the advice of 1930s burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee—-you’ve gotta have a gimmick. The popularity of Keto, vegan, organic, vegetarian, gluten-free and Paleo menus are claiming an increased market share.

Because so many of us are at home all day, unemployed, underemployed, working from home, overseeing children’s online schooling and unable to access our usual social outlets and networks, the cocktail hour has taken on a renewed luster. In other words, business is brisk at wine and liquor stores.

If you’re not a good cook, not a techie, you’re not an engineer who can develop a product, you have no interest in writing grants and could never raise the start-up capital needed to open a liquor store, all is not lost. The second-oldest Freelance career, real estate, is still going strong, particularly in the residential sector.

Condominium and co-op sales at the 8-figure top of the market in big cities have been softening for about two years now, but sales in sun belt states and suburban communities are doing very well. COVID has caused all of us to spend much more time at home and families require more living space now that the adults are often working from home and both need a home office. Children need not just a playroom, but also an in-home classroom for virtual school.

Furthermore, many who now work from home are looking to get out of small and expensive city apartments and move to the suburbs. Now that there is no more commute to the office or access to the entertainment, culture and networking opportunities that once justified the price of urban life, why continue to feed your greedy landlord?

Freelancers who have at least mid-level sales skills and are curious about entering the real estate field should first explore the trends in their locale. Finding a friend who is a licensed agent to tutor you in the ins & outs of the business would be a useful step two. Next, obtain a real estate license and try your luck with rental property to start. Maybe your real estate mentor will recommend you to a company who’ll bring you in as an agent.

Expect and prepare for change

Have you noticed that those who so cavalierly lecture others to welcome and embrace change are nearly always untouched by the change they tell the rest of us to welcome? Change may be inevitable but it is nevertheless unsettling and is sometimes destructive. We have good reason to fear change because the outcome can be ruinous. That said, life is all about managing risk, avoiding or overcoming obstacles and recognizing and pursuing opportunities.

We must all prepare for change, whether we see it approaching or get blind-sided by its sudden impact. Create your ongoing risk management strategy by keeping up with professional development. Regularly read up on developments in your industry so that you’re not caught unawares by policy or customer preference changes. Investigate technologies that will make your company more appealing and responsive to clients and make doing business with your organization more efficient. Always, look for ways to conserve cash.

Stay abreast of customer priorities

Understanding the needs and emerging priorities of clients enables you to recognize future business opportunities for your company and that information will be a crucial component of your nimble response to change and crafting a successful comeback. Including a short customer survey with an invoice will give clients a chance to voice how they feel about your products and services, tell you how your organization can improve and might even give you early warning on the next big thing.

Talk to your clients and learn what you can, politely and over time, to learn what keeps them awake at night and what they’re prioritizing now, or may prioritize in the near term.

Expand your client list, even if you’ve been lucky enough to work with an organization that has prospered during the pandemic and is giving you generous billable hours or sales. As we know, things can change. Back up, back up, back up.

Work smart

I don’t care what anyone says, I still feel that good luck, good timing and knowing influential people are the determining factors in building a successful business enterprise. Hard work matters, too, but billions of people on planet earth work hard every day and starve as they do. Working smart is the better choice, even if your luck and timing aren’t so great and no one’s looking out for you.

Meeting the right people is helpful, but it’s always been random and is difficult to do by way of videoconference, a method of communication that is not conducive to bonding with new colleagues and friends. It’s probably best to look for ways to refresh relationships with strategically placed friends and colleagues who you feel may be inclined to help you. You should also consider ways that you might help them as well and make that known, to get the reciprocity rolling.

Be ready for whatever good luck or timing might come your way by being visible and looking viable. Participate in virtual business or social events so that you’ll see and be seen. Use the chat function to message colleagues and privately say hello and potentially suggest a socially distanced coffee or drinks meet-up.

There are no guarantees but taking steps to package and present yourself and your company as prepared, proactive, nimble and viable is the surest route to your successful comeback.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Sylvester Stallone (L) and Burgess Meredith in the Academy Award winning movie Rocky (Best Picture, 1977)

Pandemic Sales Tactics

The New World Order ushered in by the coronavirus has forced all Freelancers and business owners and leaders to learn to be resilient and to steward our organizations in ways that are forward-thinking and flexible. Selling the company’s products and services to generate revenue has taken on an even more central role. There is heightened recognition that the roles of marketing, branding, public relations, advertising, networking and social media are to encourage sales, to attract qualified prospects and convert them to customers.

Now that the COVID era is here, whatever your company previously did to promote sales must be adjusted to get in step with the new reality. As of this writing it appears that we won’t return to “business as usual” anytime soon, if ever. Consider this the wake-up call to update the selling protocols at your organization and prepare to compete more effectively in today’s marketplace.

Selling is the purpose

As noted, it is no longer possible to put the components of a company’s sales process on automatic pilot. Nurturing the brand, revving up the social media presence, strategic networking, targeting of content marketing posts and the like are all relevant but bear in mind that those activities are the “way to the way.” The way a company survives is by making sales. The purpose of a company’s sales process is winning business and that function is the real-time measure of all your imaginatively conceived business strategies.

It’s vital that the sales team (that means you, Freelancer Friend and small business owner) the information and other resources needed to sell effectively, because there’s less business available now.

Start by learning what your clients fear and what they’re prioritizing, in response to how COVID has impacted their organizations. You have likely been in touch with your current clients at least once or twice since the shutdown and subsequent (partial) reopening but if you haven’t done so, send a New Year’s card and follow it up with an outreach themed phone call or email—you’re just checking in to see how the client is doing. How’s business? How are they managing? Listen well and empathize.

Deliver what customers value now

Dive into the social media accounts of past, current and prospective clients to get intel on how they’re communicating with their customers and discover what is being promoted now. The goal is to obtain insights into as many specific reasons as possible that might incline clients and prospects to do business with your company rather than the competition.

You want to understand the issues that may drive customer decisions. This is also your method to discover any obstacles that could potentially impact the use of your products and services, for better or worse. Remember that COVID has collapsed some industries and revitalized others.

Based on what your investigation shows, forecast the perhaps now revised client needs that your organization can address, what new (or ongoing) problems you can help clients resolve. Then, build a strategy to capitalize on what you’ve learned and repackage your offerings.

Map the new sales process

Get used to it, your sale will most likely take place by videoconference. You’ll be at an advantage when sales calls are with clients you already know. When meeting with new prospects you’ll have to work a little harder, but that is always the case. Regardless, do yourself a favor and hire a videoconference tech for three hours to set up your call and monitor it in progress, and allow yourself to focus on how to use your platform’s technology to communicate and connect with your prospect and sell.

Consider presenting a (video) show and tell for a product sale or a pre-taped video testimonial featuring a happy client who’s had a good experience with the product or service you’ll discuss (client success story/ verbal case study). Call in a guest speaker on your team who is an expert on using the product (engineer or the product manager) to provide additional information, take questions and reassure the prospect. If selling a B2B service, a few slides that show the ROI would also help the sale.

Perfect the sales experience

If the prospect is working at the office, or if you happen to know his/ home address, why not add a flourish and have lunch or coffee and pastry simultaneously delivered to the prospect and yourself? You and your prospect can still enjoy a meal together, relax and begin to bond, even if remotely. Morning meetings could benefit when coffee + is delivered at the start, but lunchtime and other afternoon meetings will probably be best served when food is delivered at around the half way point.

Thoughtful planning that keeps the client at the center of the sales process will guide your organization to refocus its sales process in ways that benefit client expectations and the experience. Relationships and referrals that will set your venture on an upward trajectory begin here, with how you manage the sale.

Thanks to all of you for reading my posts! YourHappy New Year,


Image: Actress Myrna Loy (R) sells cigarettes to actor William Powell (L) and his wife Diana Lewis at a 1940 Franco-British War Relief charity event held at the Cocoanut Grove supper club in Hollywood.

Create a New Client Onboarding Process

Freelancers and other business owners and leaders understand the importance of periodically reviewing and assessing the experience they present to those who agree to pay for their products and services. Business owners and leaders must continuously strive to offer the best experience possible to those willing to do business.

For B2B service providers, creating a pleasant and efficient process that welcomes, i.e. onboards, new clients is Step One in affirming that the decision to do business with your company was sound. Good onboarding is good business.

Sets the stage for a good working relationship

Demonstrates your organization’s competence and efficiency


Kicks-off the customer retention strategy (begin with the end in mind!)

Develop an onboarding process that skillfully guides your clients and demonstrates that your organization anticipates needs and questions and take extra steps to eliminate miscommunication that may lead to misunderstanding, confusion, or disappointment. The goal is to assure your new client at every step that you’ve got this.

A videoconference call or an email from the project leader, perhaps joined by one or two other company leaders, is a good basic onboarding gesture. Do this to personally welcome the new client and express how excited you are to work with him/her. If you have a case study or two and you haven’t already shared them, send them now, to reinforce your experience and expertise in providing the solutions your client requires.

In a videoconference call or basic phone call, ask the client to review what a successfully completed project will look like. The answer will confirm exactly what your organization must deliver to fulfill or exceed expectations and make yourself eligible for repeat business. Take notes to ensure you understand the metrics the client will use to define success—results such as sales conversion rate or quarterly revenue or a deliverable such as a website upgrade or new logo.

On the call, confirm the project timeline, project milestones and payments linked to the contract signing and milestones. Confirm all resources that the client will provide to support the work, such as support staff and what that individual will provide.

You want to know early in the process if you have the labor needed to do the work and how it would impact the preferred timeline. Bear in mind that because this process includes client input, your organization receives instant client feedback and agreement and demonstrates your ability to communicate and collaborate.

Confirm all agreements in an email to the new client to complete the onboarding process. Top it off with a few branded swag items if you have any—pens, note pads, tote bags, water bottles and the like, if you have them, shipped to your client’s office.

After reviewing and confirming the project scope and milestones on the call, confirm in an email to further cement everyone’s understanding. Your client will appreciate your attention to his/her needs. Make it obvious that your goal is to do excellent work and make the client look good to the higher-ups at his/ her company.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading,


Photograph: Cunard Line’s Queen Mary made her maiden voyage in May 1936.

Virtual Assistant Technology to Support Your Business

Enter the New Year with a mission to explore and utilize virtual assistant technology as part of your strategy to create operational efficiencies and competitive advantages for your organization competitive in 2021 and beyond. The negative effects of the COVID economy should lend some urgency to your efforts.

You already know that Intelligent Virtual Assistants can quickly answer common questions posed by website visitors because you’ve most likely used chat bots yourself. You’ve probably also pulled out your phone many times to ask those voice-controlled Intelligent Virtual Assistants named Siri and Alexa questions like where you can get an ice cream cone, or the location of the nearest hardware store. In other words, you’re comfortable with Intelligent Virtual Assistants and you’re ready to brainstorm how to use them in your business.

IVAs have many uses, including pairing with artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to guarantee secure business transactions and contracts, a benefit that has become more valuable in the work from home virtual communication-dependent COVID environment. Along with tech-enabled administrative, operational and customer service functions, IVAs can seamlessly supply an array of other services.

IVA and LeadGen

Use IVA to stimulate both online and in-store sales by suggesting purchases to online shoppers who’ve either previously bought items on your site, or merely visited the site. You get to select the triggers, the contact schedule and the manner of marketing outreach—an ad or a marketing email, for example.

Have you ever visited the website of a grocery chain and a minute later discovered ads for grocery delivery in your online feed? That’s IVA- driven drip marketing at your service. There are other time-saving and money- making possibilities that IVA can deliver. For a not overwhelming sum each month, depending on the service, you can position your company as being at the technological forefront and build confidence in your organization and its operations as a result.

IVA and email marketing will ferret out those elusive email addresses of decision-makers you’d like to contact and engage with as you lay the groundwork for selling and brand building or opportunities. Just enter the company name and the person you’d like to reach and receive a list of email addresses that contain that domain name. Try the no-pay trial option and receive 50 free email searches or sign on for 500 email searches, verifications and several more useful email marketing campaign services for just $49/month.

IVA and PR/ Marketing

Maybe you want to be a guest on the right podcast? IVA technology will search podcasts that should be a fit for your products or services. IVA will also create your email marketing pitch for the targeted podcast hosts to launch a campaign to get you on a broadcast or two. The email will be sent from your business account and will suggest topics you’d like discuss that would appeal to the podcast listeners and add value to the show.

If you’d like to get on the radar screens of blogger- influencers in your location or industry, or introduce yourself to key print or digital journalists, the same tactic can be applied. Furthermore, IVA technology can be used to help you effectively recycle still relevant content marketing posts from your blog or newsletter into social media posts, whether text or video format.

As Freelancers and all business owners and leaders continue to grapple with the challenges presented by the COVID economy and its impact on activities we once took for granted, incorporating IVA technology into your company will become essential in what will be an increasingly digital world.

Thanks for reading,


Image: George and Jane Jetson with Rosie, their IVA household help. Animated sitcom The Jetsons (Hanna-Barbera) aired in prime time on ABC from September 1962 – March 1963, then spent many years in syndication.

Upgrading Leadership Skills

As we approach the close of a difficult year, the first thing I’ll ask you to do is give yourself a pat on the back for making it through. Sure, you may have dropped a stitch or two as you struggled to find your footing as clients canceled jobs and the ground gave way beneath your feet.

This is a scary time for Freelance consultants and business owners, including those who steward multi-million dollar corporate enterprises. Those who’ve managed to hang on and find a way to either pivot or turn a corner and rebuild are to be congratulated.

Regardless of your circumstances, periodically assessing your leadership capabilities will always bring you to a better place, professionally and personally. One’s leadership ability is the foundation of not only decision-making that helps to successfully guide your business through the storm but also to rally the team to shore up confidence and productivity.

How you say what you say

Good communication is a hallmark of an effective leader. Knowing how to connect with, empathize and inspire the team are essential competencies. A leader depends on the team, because they are the folks needed to achieve the goals and support the leader’s, and the company’s, success.

Team members are highly attuned to their leader’s style of communication. It really is not so much what you say, as how you say it. We all have an inborn communication style and when we are mindful, we can refine that style and make it more effective. One method of communicating company goals is to use storytelling.

Express the goal and key elements involved in its achievement as a story, if not an adventure. Share with the team why the goal is important, what it means to the company’s survival and stature and how the company (and by extension its employees) will benefit. Communicate your excitement about being chosen to participate in achieving the goal. Emphasize your confidence in the ability of team members to take the ball and run with it.

As well, allow team members to add their viewpoints and give voice to their questions, doubts and/or what some may feel as innovative ways to get the job done. In other words, demonstrate your respect and reinforce mutual trust. Barking orders and demanding performance damages morale and is rarely effective in the long run.

Listen to the team

Team members should feel comfortable speaking with you, their leader, both on the record and off the record. What you hear may occasionally make you wince, but at the end of the day you’ll feel empowered because you are trusted and that means you are held in high esteem. There is no better compliment.

Share credit and be a cheerleader

If you want to get the most out of team members, be generous with your compliments and praise. Do that and they’ll go to the ends of the earth to make you proud of them. Remember that you stand on their shoulders. Be generous with your sincere appreciation and respect for their skills and dedication.

Be willing to learn

Learning how to learn will improve any aspect of life, professional or personal. Adapting to change and understanding whether it would be the best gamble to tweak, pivot, or batten down the hatches and stay the course requires an understanding of current and anticipated marketplace forces and that understanding is acquired through updated knowledge.

Successful leaders use their industry intel to anticipate strategies that may be needed to maintain market share and profitability. Read regularly about what products are on the horizon in your industry and their potential impact as a whole and your organization in particular. Do new products, or new policies or new companies, represent an opportunity or a challenge?

Coach and mentor

While on a path to increase your own learning, encourage team members to do the same and enable the process. At least twice a year, schedule a skills building workshop, preferably facilitated by an outside expert.

If you notice that there are areas of struggle, have a private nonjudgmental and encouraging talk to investigate the root of the problem and set up a confidential remedial plan. For those at the top of their game, privately discuss career goals and paths to promotions. Remember that those you promote will become your best allies at the organization.

Own your mistakes

When you drop the ball, acknowledge and apologize. Nothing quite undermines the reputation of a leader like dodging culpability and responsibility. It’s humbling and it doesn’t feel good, but owning up never fails to enhance a leader’s credibility—-and credibility is what leadership is all about.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Elizabeth II leaves Westminster Abbey after her coronation as queen of Great Britain and the British Empire on June 2, 1953.

Optimize Your Virtual Events

Videoconference technology has emerged as the savior of the pandemic era. In the midst of the disruption, if not near destruction, of numerous formerly multi-billion dollar industries, notably restaurant, hotel, wedding, airline and fitness, virtual communication has helped all of us to function and survive. I suspect we’ll all agree that face2face interaction is preferable, but videoconferencing has done an admirable job of helping us weather the storm.

Videoconferencing has greatly expanded online distance learning and allowed schools to continue educating students. Wedding planners are helping couples stage small ceremonies that allow potentially hundreds of guests to witness and virtually join the festivities. Fitness instructors and trainers are coaching their devotees via laptop webcams in living rooms and kitchens and ballet instructors are doing the same for their students.

Managers are holding video meetings for their teams. B2B sales professionals are introducing new products and services to prospects by way of video sales calls. Conference planners are scheduling and producing everything from panel discussions to district meetings. It’s all good, but it’s time to pay attention to videoconference production values and the viewer / participant experience. Things can go wrong and the program can go down in flames. As with face2face events, an action plan is needed to optimize your virtual event so that objectives will be realized.

Let’s start with the basic technical set-up. Virtual events are nearly always viewed on a small screen—tablet or laptop–and for that reason virtual event content planners, producers and speakers would be wise to think of television. Whatever the purpose of your program, be it a classroom lecture, B2B sales call, music lesson, or company meeting, content planners and producers should visualize a small screen perspective as their guide.

If the budget allows, hiring an event technology manager will be money well spent. Event tech managers will ensure that the sound, lights and background set are appropriate for the occasion. Placement of the laptop is integral to locating the most flattering camera angle for the speaker. Two or possibly three microphones may be used to adequately capture the speaker voices. Lighting is everything in show business and the event tech will position the lighting so that the set is neither too dim or too bright and speakers are not in shadows. The set background must also be considered. Having a bookcase in view is always a plus, as are a couple of healthy plants or modest floral arrangements. The company name and logo should also be visible, but its presence need not overwhelm.

Regarding the presenters, panel discussion participants are typically seated, whether all are in a room together and socially distanced or reporting in from remote locations. It is usually preferable for featured speakers to stand while delivering their presentation, since standing telegraphs energy and allows the speaker to use body language that is more communicative and engaging.

Next, think of shaping and delivering program content in a way that will connect with and hold the attention of its virtual audience. Psychologists have documented that virtual events tax our attention span because they’re literally difficult to watch for extended periods of time. Experienced producers of virtual events recommend building in some sort of a diversion about every 20 minutes, to keep everyone’s brain comfortable during the proceedings. Explore the options and learn to use the special features available on your videoconferencing platform. Polls, yes/no questions and small group chatrooms (breakouts) make the viewing experience more enjoyable for audience members. An event tech manager can be helpful with this process as well.

Pace the event content flow by breaking it down into 20 or so minute chunks and interspersing the text with interactive activities that draw in audience members and make them part of the show. Speakers and other performers have always used certain tactics to engage live audiences and now in the 21st century, speakers, event content planners and producers are discovering new, tech-based tactics to win over virtual audiences. It’s show business history in the making, folks.

Finally, there is the increasingly common hybrid classroom or special event to master, where part of the audience is live and the rest are viewing the proceedings virtually. Hybrid events pose a challenge, but they are not insurmountable. If it’s in the budget, renting or buying one or more big screens will create a more immersive and rewarding experience for both virtual viewers and the on-site audience. Interaction between face2face and virtual participants could create exciting possibilities. Q & A, simultaneous polls, contests and games can get them talking to each other as they watch the action happen live. Confer with your event tech manager and find out how to optimize the experience.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark

5 Health Insurance Plans for Freelancers

The open enrollment period for obtaining health insurance, or changing to another insurance provider or modifying your plan options, began on November 1 and will end on Tuesday December 15, 2020. Your new or renewed health insurance plan will activate on January 1, 2021.

If there have been changes in your household status or income, report those changes to your current provider, since the change may impact the insurance you’ll need and/ or its cost. If you were married earlier in the year, or if you and your spouse became parents, that represents a change in household. If your income has significantly declined, perhaps because of a COVID related loss of business, that information should also be shared with your current insurance carrier, particularly if you’re enrolled in a Marketplace plan (update your application).

Freelancers should remember to deduct the cost of medical and dental insurance premiums on your annual tax return. Be advised that you cannot deduct more than the amount of your net profit for the year. If the business didn’t make a profit, you don’t get the health insurance tax deduction.

With Freelance consultants in mind, Investopedia Magazine examined 15 health insurance companies and determined that the plans listed below offer the most comprehensive coverage for individual purchasers (i.e., Freelancers) at the best price. The cost of insurance will vary by state, applicant age, family size, the type of plan and factors such as smoking.

Medical, dental, vision, Medicare, Medicaid, supplemental insurance and prescription drug coverage are available in most plans listed here. Sign up through the insurer’s company website, your state health insurance exchange, or at The plans are presented in ranked order.

BlueCross BlueShield

In business since 1929 and probably the most familiar health insurance provider in America, BlueCross BlueShield is actually an association of 36 independent companies that operate nationwide. It could be said that the company’s primary advantage is its extensive healthcare provider network and the familiarity of its brand.

The BCBS network serves 107 million member customers in 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and is affiliated with 96% of hospitals and 95% of physicians in the country. Americans living overseas are able to obtain coverage and receive healthcare services through the BCBS global network of providers.

Dental, hearing, vision, supplemental, Medicaid and Medicare are available in most states.


Along with offering health insurance in all 50 states, UnitedHealthcare is known for its technology, which is said to enable its providers to deliver care and related administrative services more efficiently and as a result, do so at s lower cost than comparable competitors.

UnitedHealthcare Group is the largest health insurance company in the nation, operating in all 50 states plus 130 countries. In 2019, the company counted 1.3 million physicians and other healthcare professionals plus 6,500 hospitals in its network. Medical, dental, vision, prescription drug, Medicaid, Medicare and supplemental coverage is available.

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente has a focus on preventive care, based on the company philosophy that prevention of illness keeps customer members healthier and saves them money in the long run. The company is known for a high level of customer satisfaction and retention.

The downsides are that Kaiser operates in just eight states —-California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington plus Washington, D.C. Moreover, it’s physician and hospital network is lacking. Kaiser serves a whopping 12.4 million members, but there are just 23,261 physicians, 63,306 nurses and 39 hospitals in its network.


The company was founded in 1792, making it one of the oldest corporate entities in the country. That said,the company is ahead of the curve in responding to the new normal and was out in front of the competition in offering virtual medical, including behavioral/ mental health appointments and prescription drug delivery in partnership with Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S.

Cigna is international and provides health insurance to 180 million member customers in 30 countries. In its global network there are 1.5 million healthcare providers and facilities—-physicians, nurses, hospitals and others.

In the U.S., Cigna offers individual plans in just 10 states—-Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia and there are 500 hospitals in the U.S. network. Depending on where you live, dental, vision, Medicare and Medicare Supplemental will be available.


New kid on the block Oscar was launched in 2012. The company’s calling card is customer service, a consideration that may be especially attractive to Freelancers and other business owners who are left to navigate the complexities of health insurance on our own.

Oscar currently operates in 19 states—-Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In 2021, the company expansion plan is to enter major markets in the states where it does not yet operate. Currently, Oscar provides primarily HMO health insurance and Medicare plans to 420,000 member customers and does not cover out-of- network provider claims.

Oscar offers its Doctor on Call feature that gives free, 24/7 access to a healthcare provider. Another featured offering is The Concierge, where a dedicated team of guides and nurses will answer your questions and help you save money. Oscar members can access the services of Doctor on Call and The Concierge through a mobile app that also gives access to your medical records, laboratory results, deductibles and other related information.

For more information on obtaining medical and also dental insurance, Freelancers can explore what is offered through the Freelancers Union.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Photograph: Kim Clark

Optimize LeadGen and CRO

Digital marketing company HubSpot has recently released data that examined the importance of Lead Generation and Conversion Rate Optimization in the success of building and tracking marketing campaigns. Effective marketing brings in paying customers by way of increasing company name recognition and communicating the value of its products and services. Building loyalty, which encourages repeat business, and encouraging customer referrals are other important benefits derived from marketing activities.

If the desired objectives are not consistently being achieved then something needs to change, be it the basic approach (inbound or outbound), the type of outreach (blog, newsletter, social media posts, case studies, print ads), platforms used (LinkedIn, Facebook, SnapChat, etc.), or the messaging. The HubSpot survey found that just 22% of businesses are satisfied with the sales conversion rates of their marketing campaigns.

Calls to Action that address a solution that is meaningful to target audience readers will deliver the best quality leads and enhance the sales conversion rate produced by the sales funnel. The most effective calls to action incorporate popular search terms and increase sales funnel conversion rates by 87%. Anchor Text, i.e., highlighted and often paragraph heading text, that includes a search- friendly call to action can increase leadGen by 93%.

On the other hand, sounding too sales-y is a turn-off. Remember best practices as you create headlines and anchor text that deliver information and maybe a surprising statistic, too.

The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80/20 Rule that was introduced by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1896, continues to hold up. First, when writing articles titles matter and the data revealed that 80% of online visitors get no farther than the article’s title and just 20% delve in to read.

Note to content marketers—-do key word searches and help yourself create clever article titles and anchor text to present calls to action that address problems your readers want to solve. BTW, 36% of readers are drawn to headlines and Anchor Text that includes a number.

Videos continue to be valuable marketing tools because they deliver results. Marketers reported that their companies received 66% more qualified leads when videos are used in marketing tactics. Most video platforms will allow a copy-paste-embed of your leadGen form into the video. Lead conversion rates derived from video content are about 40%. Furthermore, 54% of consumers of digital marketing content reported that they’d like to see more video content and 88% of marketers reported that they’re satisfied with the leadGen and sales conversion performance associated with video marketing tactics.

Oh, and you can ignore your English comp or journalism professor and communicate with your content readers in the second person—-you! Readers want to be spoken to, they respond to personal appeals.

Finally, HubSpot survey data officially verified that marketers want more followers and subscribers for online content, as a way to increase the number of leads (and conversion to sales). HubSpot recommends that you create a Feature Box to guide reader eyes to your company’s opt-in offer and when you do, that metric will increase by 51%.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark

Client Gifts: 10 Under $25.00

It’s that time of year again. The sales and marketing bonanza known as The Holidays are fast approaching. In this most unusual year, when many Freelancers and other business owners have had little to no contact with our clients since March, thanks to the shutdown, the December holidays represent a hugely important relationship maintenance opportunity. This is our big chance to reach out to clients without looking either pushy or desperate and reminding them that we’re still relevant.

Sending holiday gifts and/ or cards to clients with whom you’ve worked in the past 3 – 5 years is one of the smartest and most effective marketing campaigns that can be run. Holiday outreach positions you and your company as a class act. The company name, and by extension its products and services, lands directly in front of decision-makers in a most pleasing way. Your acknowledgement reminds clients of a great working experience as you create yet another great experience by showing that you’re thoughtful.

You can’t lose. Not only that, you might get some work again when business picks up. Holiday shopping must start early this year. Shipping, which has grown exponentially during the shutdown, will be much more busy during the gift giving time. More holiday gifts will be shipped this year than the industry has ever seen.

Please see the 10 gifts below. I recommend shopping no later than December 6 (for domestic shipping) and sending cards by December 10. Remember that mailing to a client who’s working from home will be complicated by the need to transport items from client’s office to client’s home and the mechanism to do that probably doesn’t exist at this time. Call office building concierges before Thanksgiving and ask about mail and package deliveries.

1. Make working from home a little cozy with a warm throw blanket $20.

2. Find the AirPods in their case when they’re needed. $25.

3. Luscious chocolates from Serenade Chocolatier, a favorite place $25.

Fall 16 Piece Selection

4. Pet lovers will adore the Tiny Tent, a clever item that gives cats and small dogs a place to play hide’n’seek or take a nap while Mom and Dad are working from home $20.

5. A personalized post-it note cube brings style to a utilitarian desk item $17.49 (sale price, $24.99 regular).

6. Wild, wacky, luxurious soap and lotion gift sets from Lush $14.95 – $24.95.

7. Plants bring beauty and healing energy to every space. The Hedgehog Aloe requires bright, indirect light, no drafts and water every 7 – 10 days $19.95.

Hedgehog Aloe Plant

8. Home cooking is more fun when the chef wears a 100% cotton apron by Ayesha Curry, cookbook author, Food Network chef and wife of basketball star Stephen Curry. In aquamarine or burgundy $19.95.

9. A dollop of ripe fruit sparked with a cocktail spritz creates a yummy jam condiment your clients will love $24.

10. COVID evenings at home become more satisfying with soft lighting provided by candles shaped like wine corks $20 (12 candles).

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark

You Can Scale During a Pandemic

Unlikely as it may seem, it is possible to scale a business during the COVID era or any difficult economic times, including war. Some businesses enjoyed unexpected increases in market share and sales revenue as a direct or indirect consequence of the shutdown and there were no lay-offs. Virtual communications platforms, liquor stores, grocery stores chief and delivery services have prospered.

Ripple effect revenue has accrued to tech specialists who set up and manage virtual conferences. Real estate agents who handle choice suburban and even rural locations are selling more properties, the result of affluent professionals who now work searching for residences that are spacious enough to accommodate his-and-her home offices and children’s schooling and play rooms. Teachers who administer private lessons to small groups of children have created pod learning environments. Elegant picnics are the new pivot for caterers, who provide food, wine, flowers, candles, stylish ground coverings and cushions to create al fresco dining experiences for those who shy away from restaurants.

If sales are increasing at your organization, celebrate the good fortune by maximizing the opportunity. Seize the day, plan your strategy and scale.

Operational efficiencies

When an organization grows, everything gets more complicated. How can the company deliver its products and services to twice as many customers? Building in operational efficiencies is an essential component of preparing a company to scale successfully. Business owners or leaders must ensure that the processes of acquiring or manufacturing company products and providing services are seamless and meet consistency and quality control expectations. E-commerce functions, the shipping method, invoicing or other payment system and customer service protocols must be secure, dependable and user-friendly.

An HR workforce specialist and/or operations/process improvement expert can guide company owner/ leaders to identify additional job functions that will be needed to support the scale, as well as the ideal employee qualifications for those positions and what to include in the job specs.

Upgrade marketing strategies and campaigns

So the company is generating more revenue and that has given you the confidence to scale—great! How about pinpointing who these new customers are and learning how and why they discovered your business? Are certain products or services suddenly more popular and if so, what’s driving the phenomenon? Or did a customer make a referral to someone with a big budget?

A more sophisticated and comprehensive marketing strategy is another key component of a successful scale. Update the company marketing strategy and campaign tactics to attract and welcome more of the new customer demographic. A website refresh or an entirely new site may be in order. The usefulness of content marketing, perhaps in the form of case studies, a monthly blog or newsletter or white papers that are posted to the website and selected social media platforms may become apparent. Include a short survey on the website (and also on certain social media platforms) to pose questions that reveal why customers choose to do business with your company and what might encourage them to continue doing so.

Revisit the company brand story and promotion strategy and incorporate language that builds trust, conveys expertise and encourages a sense of community and shared values with customers. Values are a growing priority and customers are inclined to patronize companies that support what they themselves support. Sponsoring local events may be a good way to communicate company values (and sending press releases that announce company participation to select media outlets may result in beneficial publicity).

Monitor the results of the marketing tactics used to learn what customers, both the new and the loyal friends, respond favorably to. The goal is to constantly fill the sales pipeline with good prospects. Make marketing personal by inviting customers to fill out profiles that provide name, email address, physical address and birthday, so that they can receive notice of new merchandise, special sales, birthday wishes and holiday greetings.

Ensure customer service

In fact as the company scales, owners and leaders should take on the perspective of both a curious prospect and a repeat customer, to gain insight into how to create a satisfyingly memorable customer experience. Good word of mouth is the best advertisement and often results in referrals. Positive reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List, or other online rating sites are effective marketing tools that bring in customers.

Remember that data security is also an important facet of good customer service. If an e-commerce feature is part of product or service distribution, hire a web designer to add an SSL certificate to the website, to obtain encryption that protects credit card and other personal data (and as a bonus benefit, gives the company a boost in search engine rankings). While speaking with the web designer, make sure that the page lay-out is intuitive and easily navigable. Consider adding a chat bot so that visitors can ask (anticipated) questions and receive answers ASAP, which saves time.

Finally, make product returns and exchanges efficient and painless. Have adequate staff to answer phone calls and emails, so that customers will not become frustrated. Use Facebook and/or Twitter to further support customer service and have adequate staff to update information, monitor activity and address and resolve problems and questions.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. A lift helps workers scale and work at the Christian Science Mother Church in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

Passive Income? Well…

Ah, passive income. It has become the romanticized ideal of how to make money, the American dream redefined. “I can be on the golf course or sailing on my 38 foot boat because I don’t sweat to be rich. I’ve created a lucrative passive income stream. I am smarter and richer than you.” Sigh…

I’m not here to criticize the aspiration of creating a passive income stream. I wish I had one (or two)! My goal today is to tell the passive income backstory because in reality, creating a passive income stream is not as easy as it may look. Furthermore, a passive income stream usually will not make it possible to quit your day job and retire early. Most of all, be aware that creating a passive income stream is an active process. To make it happen, you may have to work harder, smarter and maybe for a longer period of time than you might have imagined.

Even if you’re able to create a passive income stream (and that is not guaranteed), the ROI might be underwhelming. The passive income stream that you have the wherewithal to create may only be enough to pay your cell phone and Wi-Fi bills, not a mortgage and car note. Still, even a modest passive income stream is nothing to sneeze at. It’s just that everyone daydreams of it being so much more.

Passive income defined

Before diving in, let’s clarify the term. Passive income is a reliable, long-term revenue stream that you receive but do not work full-time to generate. Passive income is sort of like a no-show job—work 8 hours and get paid for 40 (or work 20 hours; more about that later).

The ultimate passive income stream is a trust fund. To become a beneficiary, the only work that must be done is arrange to be born into the right family and after that, you’re golden. Heck, you might be able to live off the interest (the ne plus ultra). But alas, not all trust funds are generous; most pay in the low five figures annually. Still, even a trust fund that pays $1000/ month provides a nifty little cushion that no one would refuse, not even Bezos.

Dividend-paying stocks, bonds, or mutual funds are another source of passive income. Selling advertising space on a blog or newsletter is yet another method of generating passive income. Rent received from an investment in commercial or residential property is the most popular form of passive income because it is the most profitable.

Passive income starts with active work

If generating a passive income stream is the goal, accept the fact that time, effort, a particular skill set and (often) start-up capital will be required. Those who are now collecting a reliable passive income stream had to work for it, unless they are lucky trustafarians.

A fair amount of research, the ability to interpret and apply the data, plus good luck, good timing and good investment advice are needed to reliably earn quarterly dividends on Wall Street investments that will make even a modest positive impact. Following your investments and getting a sense of when to put in a buy or sell order, or having the courage to hold when your fund is down for the third week in a row, takes a strong stomach. Even if you have a better-than-average proficiency in investing, you’ll be very lucky to regularly earn $500/ quarter in dividends and in fact, most people lose money in the stock market. Earning an extra $2000/ year is nice but does not make much difference, especially when balanced against the work required to generate it. But then again, maybe you like the adrenaline rush?

Rental property brings in a much better ROI, but getting into the game is expensive. A two-family house in many areas will cost north of $500,000 and a 10 % down payment plus closing and other costs push the price of entry beyond the reach of many. Couples and other partner groups make the business more approachable and while profits (and expenses and losses) must be split in proportion to one’s investment stake, group buying power allows for more properties to be purchased and the potential to generate a more sizeable revenue stream.

Most rental income investors start by purchasing a multi-unit building and moving into one of the apartments as they collect rents from the others. The rent received is expected to fund the property’s mortgage, taxes and estimated building maintenance budget and that is usually possible. Aspiring owners must research the rental occupancy rate and average rental price of similar buildings in their locale and balance that figure against projected expenses.

Bloggers and newsletter writers must be highly knowledgeable in their selected subject and have boots-on-the-ground experience that gives credibility and earns the trust and respect of readers. Skillful writing that informs and entertains readers is another primary must-do.

Mommy bloggers must be mothers. Food bloggers must be excellent cooks, or at least imaginative and entertaining cooks or alternatively, have the funds to regularly dine in high-end or very trendy restaurants (getting comped may be possible but to maintain credibility, it’s best to pay).

Having expertise in a topic that has better-than-average potential to draw the six-figure audience that advertisers demand makes the climb much easier. Mommy blogs, foodie blogs, travel and fashion blogs are among the most popular in the writing sector. Publishers of business blogs or newsletters trail far behind that flashy crew, I’m sorry to say. Writing a popular business book, usually in conjunction with a VIP client list, a regular column in The Wall Street Journal or some other lofty publication, or a TED Talk, gives much-needed traction.

Travel blogs are not quite a thing in the COVID era but when they were hot, the capital to fund trips to destinations that are either lavish or modest is necessary. Available time to travel is another requirement. Unless one is a flight attendant, who can take a vacation every month?

Fashion blogs require a big wardrobe investment in addition to taking a deep dive into the collections of numerous designers who are based on three continents. In the pre-pandemic era, having the connections or savvy to sneak into the season shows in New York, Paris, Tokyo, or Milan is a big plus for readership and acquiring ads.

Passive income, active maintenance

Time, effort, or money will likewise be required to sustain a passive income stream once it’s launched. Continuing to sell ad space on a blog or newsletter is predicated on maintaining, if not expanding, a big readership or ads will be pulled and passive income lost. Compelling topics must continually be presented. Three or more audience-grabbing social media accounts that are designed and continually tested for maximum audience appeal must be maintained, to promote the publication and deliver the readers to advertisers.

Investors must study the mutual funds, bonds, precious metals, commodities, or stocks that have historically produced results that beat the market (such as Index Funds). Researching companies to learn about potentially market rocking products and services that are due to be released and can be expected to have a positive impact on the company stock price is an ongoing responsibility of successful investors. At least weekly monitoring the performance of one’s portfolio goes without saying.

Rental income, while it usually produces a very good ROI, can be a real headache because one must deal with people, the tenants. Their lives and problems can become your drama. The pandemic affiliated job losses have caused millions of Americans to be unable to pay their rent on time and in full. This outcome has put thousands of small investor property owners in jeopardy regarding the big mortgage they may owe on their recently purchased property. If that weren’t enough, taxes are only going up and maintenance costs are never-ending. The real estate market, while still lucrative and reliable, is more risky of late.

Going forward

If you have a certain skill set, time and capital resources to create a passive income stream by way of a potentially lucrative activity or business proposition, do yourself a favor and develop a comprehensive strategy, in fact a business plan, to improve your chance of success. Identifying, launching and sustaining a reliable passive income stream is essentially starting a business. Considerable up-front effort and capital may be required and there are no guarantees, only management of risks.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. At the Prudential Mall in the Back Bay of Boston, someone who might be working on creating a passive income empire.

Virtual Meeting Primer

Virtual meetings and virtual classrooms are here to stay no matter what happens with the coronavirus or any other virus—or tornado, or earthquake, or blizzard. If you have not yet presided over a virtual meeting, maybe to touch base with your team, or discuss a product or project with a prospective client, the tea leaves say that you will. So let’s get you ready so that you’ll perform at your best.

Everything done to prepare for a face2face meeting will likewise be done to prepare for a virtual meeting. Propose a draft agenda. Invite the stakeholders and any others who have the authority to impact the initiative that will be discussed. Suggest a meeting date and time. Decide who should be invited to speak at the meeting and include those persons on the agenda.

If Power Point slides will be used by any speakers at the meeting, ask for their slides to be sent to you 48 – 72 hours in advance of the meeting, so that you can have them ready for each speaker. Send the confirmed agenda and necessary hand-outs to all participants one day before the meeting (so they don’t get lost in anyone’s email).

The facilitator of the meeting, whether face2face or virtual, has a few unspoken duties to ensure a positive outcome for the meeting and it is in these fine points that the differences between face2face and virtual emerge. Meeting participants are not in a room together and while it is tremendously more convenient than traveling to the meeting venue, communications will be adversely affected.

Reading nonverbal cues, facial expressions and even tone of voice can be difficult and cause misinterpretation. Those who are not scheduled to speak can easily turn themselves into virtual wallflowers and say not a word beyond the initial round of greetings.

For those reasons, virtual meetings require a higher level of facilitation skills. If the meeting platform you’ll use has a tutorial by all means take it, so that you’ll know how to use tools that will enhance the meeting experience, and therefore outcome, for everyone. Give yourself an hour, or even two. There are just a 4-5 simple things to learn, study up to ensure that you’ll be at ease when implementing them.

Meet & greet

First, ask participants to sign on 5 minutes ahead of the announced start time to make the introductions easy and avoid the need to introduce late arrivals. Late arrival is more awkward in a virtual meeting because it’s not possible to see that person slip into the room and a new face popping up on screen may not be noticeable to everyone.

As close to start time as is practical, thank participants for attending and give a general greeting. Then kick-off a round robin of introductions and greet everyone by name. Better still, if you’re at the controls, flash each person on screen and invite him/her to self-introduce. Here is when you get people talking. This step is an ice-breaker.

If there are participants who have not met before, request that self- introductions include first and last name, plus title and department. Announce late arrivals as soon as is practical. If it’s not too disruptive, invite late arrivals to introduce themselves.

Tools tutorial

Walk meeting participants through the virtual tools, because some participants may not be especially proficient. Chat, hand-raise, yes or no, break-out room and poll are the most common items. These tools are very useful in keeping meeting participants focused on the agenda and discourage the temptation of wandering attention.

As you plan the agenda, think about how you can judiciously create an opportunity for a poll, a hand-raise, or even a break-out session that will allow small groups of two or more participants to have a short, tightly focused discussion and then take their findings back to the main meeting for a general discussion.


Strictly speaking, a hand -raise sign indicates that a participant would like to speak, just like in a face2face meeting. You, facilitator, will acknowledge the hand raise as soon as practical and give that the individual the floor. The hand-raise can also be used as a vote or poll, but you have other tools for those questions and as a way to keep the content interesting, I suggest you use those.

Yes/ No

The green Yes and red No checkmarks are useful for a quick, general question that you, or a presenter, puts to the group. The question can be as easy as “Would we like to cover this one additional subject and keep the meeting in session for another 15-20 minutes?”


The chat function allows for public or private chats and participants should get a tutorial on how to utilize each. A chat can be used to ask a question to the presenter and s/he can address the question during the presentation. One participant may have a question for another participant and can use the private chat function to do so.


There may be times when a speaker may want to get the opinion of those in the room and polls allow participants to express opinions anonymously, which encourages honesty. The facilitator will type in the question, or prepare a question in advance and have it ready. Click and all participants will be given time to indicate and submit their answers.


If there are perhaps 8 or more participants it may be useful to allow groups of 3 – 5 people to discuss a specific question. Break-outs are good for relationship building because their use allows a small group of participants to get to know one another in a safe, small space where they may be more comfortable speaking freely.

Power Point slides

The facilitator must learn how to operate the slides, since s/he will be at the controls. As in any meeting, Power Points will visualize and enhance the speaker’s presentation. A short slide presentation will be yet another way to maintain the focus, attention and engagement of your virtual meeting participants.

Lastly, I recommend that virtual meeting facilitators request that a technically adept person be on- site during the meeting. Regardless of what the facilitator understands to be a correct technical set-up, crashes can occur and someone with better than average IT skills may be needed to re-start the platform. I know this from humiliating personal experience.

Yet if your virtual meeting tanks, all is not lost. Another useful tech back- up is our old friend, the conference call. Have a dial- in conference number ready. If disaster strikes, email the conference number and Power Points to participants. A/V material can be downloaded and opened on laptops or tablets as you work through the agenda on your mobile.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark

The Captain and the Team

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report that documented business activity through the first 37 weeks of 2020 (i.e., 3Q2020), COVID-19 related business closures, some temporary and some permanent, have resulted in an unexpected outcome. Counterintuitively, there have been relatively few personal bankruptcies but rather a surge of legal entity applications filed by Freelancers and entrepreneurs who will likely to hire employees. It is clear that lay-offs and furloughs have convinced many former American workers to trust their own skills and ambition more than the uncertainty of being rehired.

Applications to obtain limited liability company or corporation status by Freelancers increased 16% over the same period last year, according to Census Bureau data. Might the urge to become one’s own boss be fueled not only by doubts about re-employment, but also the infusion of stimulus money? The price of entry into self-employment is low for B2B service providers and stimulus money is a natural for bankrolling start-up costs.

Still, self-employment as either a Freelancer or business owner and employer is no cakewalk. The biggest challenge to self-employment success will be acquiring clients; savvy and consistent marketing and your relationships will go a long way to help the business, but selling a product or service that has an adequate customer base is the deciding factor.

2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that 20% of small businesses fail in the first year of operation and only 50% or so will survive into year five (there is no data collected for Freelancers, sole proprietors or those with a legal entity). There is a lot to plan for when launching a business, plus Key Performance Index metrics to monitor, interpret and act upon (or not).

First, know there is a sufficiently deep market for the products or services. Second, know how to access the customers. Third, devise a sustainable and appealing business model. Fourth, secure adequate funds to provide working capital that allows the operation to cover expenses and otherwise function.

Another important resource for Freelancers and business owners is a team of experts from whom you can seek advice and guidance. Freelance consultants and even small business owners are responsible for all decisions. The stress can be overwhelming. It’s impossible to be highly knowledgeable in several fields simultaneously and qualified to make wise decisions all or most of the time. It is very helpful to put together a stable of specialists on whom you can rely when important decisions must be made. Below are professionals whose guidance and advice nearly every Freelance consultant or business owner will need from time to time.


An accountant will make sure that the business quarterly estimated taxes are acceptable and filed on time, so that the annual April 15 filing will not result in a surprisingly expensive tax bill due. A good business accountant will also review the financial statements and can make useful fiscal management suggestions. An accountant will also advise you on whether to incorporate the business or form a limited liability company. Finally, if obtaining a loan or taking on investors or partners is a possibility, your accountant will provide invaluable advice. Yes, a business attorney can advise you well on the choice of legal entity for the business and also the matter of taking on partners or investors, but will not prepare tax forms.

Graphic Design

Maybe you’d like to update your business cards or some other marketing collaterals, such as a stand-out Capability Statement that makes the company appear highly reliable and trustworthy, a real asset when approaching a prospective client. Or maybe updating the look of the company newsletter or blog is the goal. Knowing a good graphic design specialist is always useful.

Human Resource

Have you read your medical or dental insurance policy lately? Hire an H.R. benefits specialist to look it over and verify that you’re covered in the way you intended. You might also speak to an H.R. guide about your retirement plan or employee retirement plan options you offer. If outsourcing a function or hiring an employee are decisions you are pondering, an H.R. job analyst and design specialist will figure out the type of employee you and the organization need. An H.R. compensation specialist will help you set the pay scale.


If you had met with an insurance agent 12 months ago, perhaps you would have known to purchase business interruption insurance for your organization and the COVID-19 shutdown would have been less financially damaging. The type of business you operate will determine the type of insurance it would be wise to buy. Be advised that the business legal entity does not protect a company from every type of liability.


Whether things are going swimmingly or the world feels as if it’s crashing in, having a trusted peer to talk things over with is so reassuring. Strictly speaking, a mentor is someone who is more experienced than you and is positioned to make beneficial recommendations and introductions. In practice, you may find a mentor (or two) who is likewise in business, is successful and is your peer and good buddy. If your mentor can make a good client referral every once in a while, it’s a special blessing. If you can return the favor, so much the better.


If the business has employees, it is almost guaranteed that several computers will be used and that requires a professional to install and program the computers and also ongoing network support. Disaster recovery services to save company data in the event of a system crash, data breach, or other type of hacking incident is another necessity. Maintaining website functionality is yet another requirement. If the company plans a virtual webinar or meeting of some type, bringing in a specialist to do the technical set-up and keep it operating is more important than you may know.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark

Forget About Bouncing Back—Bounce Forward!

A pandemic viral infection stalking the earth is not the only beast that can give any business a deadly wallop. An aggressive competitor, economic instability, technological advances that makes your biggest product obsolete, or the bankruptcy of an important client can take a business under like a riptide.

It’s a scary moment and no business is immune to a set-back. How can the business founders or leaders right the ship and head for calmer waters? Let’s take a couple of deep cleansing breaths, tap into your storehouse of resilience and figure out how to not just bounce back from business troubles, but bounce forward and stage a re-entry on higher ground.

When the realization sets in that the business is in a perhaps irreversible tailspin, the most common emotions the business founders/ leaders will ordinarily feel are fear and panic, followed closely by sadness and feeling like a failure. The enterprise that once made them so proud has been wrenched away. The body and soul ache.

You are encouraged to own your feelings. Denial, as revealed by a “take it in stride, carry on as usual” attitude is not recommended, but it is inadvisable to wallow in sorrow for an extended period. Recovery, personal and professional, lie in a rational examination of what went wrong and an informed decision about what to do next.

Start with SWOT

The old chestnut strategic planning technique that was first popularized in the early 1970s is still relevant today. Use SWOT to tally and measure the value of resources available to the company, assess current and projected business conditions and decide how to rebuild. A well-chosen and executed pivot or strengthening of the original business model, perhaps with the addition of an untapped niche market or infusion of capital, may be the healing recipe.

Strengths are valuable resources that can be leveraged—-still popular products or services; skills held by the founder and team members; the company brand/ reputation; strategic relationships; the client list; the email list; well-developed social media networks; cash reserves. Bundle the right set of strengths and propel your enterprise toward a profitable bounce forward.

Weaknesses are gaps and shortcomings that put the company at a disadvantage relative to competitors. Some organizational weaknesses cannot be eliminated because attempting to do so would not be practical. Instead, do what is possible in the near term to shore up, minimize, spin, or work around them. Primarily, it’s important to honestly and fully take stock of and plan around what has the potential to derail a forward bounce.

Opportunities are developments or circumstances in the environment that the company may be able to use to its advantage. Pursuing an opportunity is an offensive strategy that facilitates a bounce forward. However, one may search the horizon and find not a single lifeboat in sight. It may be necessary to pause and figure out how to create an opportunity, or wait for one to arrive.

While in limbo, finding a part-time j.o.b. may be the stopgap solution you need. I’ve been there and can testify that the strategy can aid a bounce forward. Search for a low-visibility gig that offers a desirable benefit in addition to money (which is probably inadequate). The idea is to get paid to discover and learn something that can contribute to the relaunch of the business and your professional life.

At my low-paid, part-time j.o.b., I eventually realized that my public speaking skills were greatly improving. That led me to search for and obtain a teaching position that continues to provide an intermittent but helpful revenue stream. Teaching enhances the brand and the cash-flow of Freelancers and business owners. That same j.o.b. required me to work with groups and I also came to realize that I could lead mastermind groups, where non-competing business owners and independent consultants meet each week or month to share experiences and insights that serve to support and inspire one other to achieve goals and become more effective leaders.

Threats are obstacles, challenges, or other developments in the environment that stand to undermine a company’s profitability and survival. Changing demographics, tornadoes and earthquakes, political or economic developments, computer hacking or data breach and the coronavirus pandemic are examples of threats. A company typically has little or no control over these events, which are external.

Guarding against threats is a risk management, defensive strategy. The best offense is a good defense. Keeping an eye on technology developments that may impact the desirability of the company’s products and services as well as being aware of potentially influential direct or indirect competitors who could cut into the client list are essential defensive actions. The idea is to limit or avoid the impact of harmful business conditions.

Market research

When you’ve discovered what appears to be the best direction for the company, curb your enthusiasm and take time to investigate the most advantageous business strategy before taking action. You owe it to yourself to lay the groundwork for sustainable success.

Research the market size, target market purchasing habits, the competitive landscape and your ability to access customers. Confirm that demand for your products or services is growing and not flat or shrinking. Consider business model possibilities that could work well. Talk to someone at the Small Business Association’s (free) SCORE business development mentoring program and discuss your restart plan with experienced business leaders before investing time and money.

Market strategy

Articulate an appealing marketing message and pencil in the olaunch campaign. Will the business have a new name? How will you introduce this newly configured venture? How will you describe and explain your pivot or redesign to current customers? A from the ground up marketing plan must expertly package, explain, persuade and promote to enable the bounce forward.


Whether it becomes necessary to build a new website, order new business cards, or take a workshop that will enhance your credentials and perceived credibility in the minds of new and original customers, it’s important to project business start- up costs.

Develop a 24-36 month financial plan and ensure that working capital will be available. Plan to have income as the new business ramps up. This could mean remaining employed in the j.o.b. for another year. When escaping a set-back, one must do what one must do to nail a successful bounce forward.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark

Strategies to Manage Stress

The American Psychological Association defines stress as “any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral reactions.” Stress is part of daily life, as we know. Not all stress is bad and in fact, stress that induces the “fight or flight” response to a potentially dangerous situation is necessary for survival.

But chronic stress that results from an inability to eliminate or control an overwhelming or upsetting set of circumstances may precipitate serious health and behavioral complications, including hypertension, obesity, drug or alcohol abuse and depression.

Self Care

Busy people, whether highly stressed or not, are wise to set aside special time several days each week to devote to self-care. The activities can take the form of cross-training—-kick-off Monday with a run, swim, bike ride, or power walk, Tuesday for yoga or tai chi, Wednesday weightlifting at the gym, Thursday at home for prayer or meditation and Friday can belong to boxing or ballet.

Exercise, meditation and prayer have been confirmed through scientific research to deliver more benefits than I can remember, but among them are improved energy/ stamina, improved self-esteem, lower blood pressure, improved joint mobility, enhanced mood, improved cardiac functioning and a decreased incidence of stress. In other words, everything we need in the physical, cognitive and psychological realms gets better when we move our body and nurture our soul.

Eat well

Good nutrition supports one’s physical health. Maintaining a balanced diet enhances energy, stamina, cognitive functioning, the immune system response and helps the body defend itself against toxic stress. There will be times when deadlines or other intense situations might derail healthy eating habits and fried food bingeing rules.

Refuse to succumb to that temptation over the long- term. Get back on track ASAP and eat simply prepared fresh food, homemade or takeout, to feel, work and even sleep better. When faced with high-level physical, cognitive, or psychological demands, overdosing on sugar, salt and fat could leave one vulnerable to a crash of some sort, because unhealthy food does not adequately nourish.

Caffeine and alcohol are also not your friends when their intake surpasses a certain threshold. Listen to your body. A 20 ounce coffee or tea may get you going in the morning and a glass or two of wine, or a couple of cocktails, may help you to relax in the evening. Jittery feelings, heart palpitations and inebriation are warning signs and if they appear, dial back.

Sleep well

When starting or leading a business, there will be times when burning the midnight oil, if not burning the candle at both ends, will be the story of life. The opportunity and ability to sleep could easily be diminished. Yet it is advisable to guard against long-term sleep deprivation.

Arm yourself to take on difficult challenges by keeping your diet healthy and continuing with exercise and other forms of self-care (e.g., massage or energy work) that provide the stamina, cognitive functioning and decision-making ability that enable peak performance. Getting the work done makes it a lot easier to sleep and maintain a defense against the harmful effects of stress on the body and the psyche.

Medical and psychological researchers have published dozens, if not hundreds, of studies that document the relationship between inadequate sleep and stress. Sleep, like food and drink, is a biological need and we cannot survive without it (but the precise reason is unknown). The National Sleep Foundation has confirmed the long-held consensus that the average adult requires about eight hours of sleep/day. Teens may need 10 hours/ day. Some adults can perform well on just six hours/ day.

If sleep difficulties are the result of the stress related to getting things done, an executive coach may be able to identify ways to resolve workflow and time management issues that will make the to-do list more manageable, improve productivity and make falling asleep and sleeping through the night possible.

While you’re working on rectifying conditions that may be causing toxic amounts of stress, I recommend what I call The 90 Minute Rule, that pulls together a few NSF recommendations: 1) Evening workouts should conclude at least 90 minutes before bedtime, to allow the body to relax. 2). Dinner should be consumed at least 90 minutes before bedtime, to allow the body to digest. 3). Take a bath or shower 90 minutes before bedtime to promote the release of melatonin, a hormone that encourages sleep.

Delegate/ outsource

The struggle to get the work done is sometimes stress-producing, as noted in the preceding paragraphs. Learning to prioritize is integral to time management. An examination of projects and tasks that only the business founder/ leader is equipped to do is Step 1 of time management. The founder/ leader can then delegate other tasks to team members, if employees have been hired, or outsource to Freelancers or other business specialists, in the absence of staff.

Just say no

Saying no is occasionally necessary, even when it disappoints someone. Saying no may enable you to better manage time, energy, or other resources and become more productive.

Say no to enforce your boundaries. Say no to what you feel is unacceptable. Say no to honor your values, self-respect, or priorities. Say no to stress.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. Practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual philosophy with roots in China and derived from Buddhism, meditate on Boston Common.

Collaborating in the Digital Realm and IRT

Collaboration is a soft skill that in the COVID era rapidly acquired big implications. Even more than in the recent past, the ability to achieve efficient and effective collaboration within work teams, and in fact within organizations, is recognized as a fundamental leadership skill. Collaboration today plays a defining role in driving successful business outcomes.

Because it is now common practice for team members to work from either home or office and to be scattered across city, state, national or even international borders, in addition to occupying various time zones, it is critical to ensure that all players are on the same page. Freelance consultants would do well to diplomatically encourage a collaborative environment on every project in which they participate. A project that yields less than stellar results will weigh most heavily on the Freelancers’, and not the employees’, reputation. The opportunity to receive referrals and repeat business sometimes rests on making one or politically savvy suggestions.

Collaboration is born of trust, respect, communication and, ultimately, sharing information and responsibility. These attributes and actions promote both camaraderie and good decision-making. Teamwork begins when team members understand their project mission; understand how their project supports organizational objectives; have the data, tools and authority to carry out their work; and know whom to consult when questions arise. Think about how you can advance those ideals on your next project.

Digital workflow systems such as Asana, Slack, Trello, or Microsoft Teams are excellent tools that provide access to all relevant documents, support continuity, allow all team members to view and contribute information as work progresses and document progress. Study the project specs. Visit the websites of the digital workflow systems mentioned here or recall your experience with other systems. In the kick-off team meeting, raise your hand (virtually or In Real Time) and suggest a workflow system that will both expedite the work and promote transparency and collaboration.

Virtual check-in meetings may find some team members in a makeshift home office, on a park bench surrounded by greenery, or in their familiar workplace office but nevertheless, if trust and respect have been properly seeded and nurtured, open communication that also allows for differing perspectives, will support candid assessments of project progress, about what may not be working and enable the wisdom of the team to devise solutions that all will support.

Follow-up is where the team pulls together to implement whatever useful suggestions for improvement that surfaces at check-in progress meetings. It is often said that half of life is about showing up. Surely, the other half is follow-up.

Follow-up moves the team and the outcome they produce from good to great. Top teams never assume that someone else took care of an important detail— they make sure it’s been done, the right way. Dot the i’s, cross the t’s and deliver excellence.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. Nursery school students collaborate on their project (the morning walk).

SnapChat and the Power of Ephemeral Content

SnapChat, still a rising star among social media platforms, burst onto the scene in 2011 with an innovative feature that was catnip to the under 35 age cohort. Skillfully catering to the fickle attention span of its target audience, SnapChat allowed uploaded photos and videos just a 24 hour lifespan before disappearing them, bringing the Fear of Missing Out to a fever pitch.

Rumors of the platform’s death have been greatly exaggerated. The market research firm Statista predicted that in 2020, SnapChat will be used by 101.4 million visitors in the U.S. alone, a 20.5 % increase over 2019 (55 % of users live outside the U.S.).

The marketing analytics firm Hootsuite data revealed that the concept pioneered by SnapChat, allowing access to content for a limited time only and known as Ephemeral Content, continues to be a growing phenomenon among the target audience. 62 % of SnapChat Stories viewers reported that their interest in a product or service is intensified by the Ephemeral Content tactic.

The prevalence of mobile devices also plays a role in popularizing Ephemeral Content. First, mobile capability stokes the appetite for online everything, from ordering groceries to reading news articles to sending texts to keeping up with social media.

Second, FOMO mixed with mobile devices adds up to an audience that is often online and searching for something that will entertain or inform. Holders of mobile devices will anticipate Ephemeral Content if it’s known to be posted on a regular basis. When it comes to posting, people want predictability. When it comes to content, they want to be surprised.

So now you know what younger audiences (24% of SnapChat users are young adults) and mobile device owners respond to and your current and prospective clients are members of one or both of those cohorts, whoever they are. Now—-what 4 or 5 photo spread or 2-3 minute video can you and your team conjure up to tell a little story, or give a back stage look, into you company, its products, or services?

It will probably take a healthy dose of creativity to pull off in the B2B sector, but maybe you can put something interesting together once a quarter to include on your favorite social media platforms for a week—or SnapChat for just one day? When the second or third round of Ephemeral Content is posted and creates a little champagne fizz for your company, you’ll be on your way to cultivating followers who will be positioned to become paying customers. This is about LeadGen.

To get going on SnapChat, set up a business account. Encourage followers with your unique Add Me URL, that is accessed through the Settings icon, which brings users to the Username tab and then to the URL that’s already been created. Also at Settings and waiting for you to access will be your unique SnapCode badge that functions like a QR code to carry users directly to your content when the SnapCode is scanned with a mobile device. From Settings, click SnapCodes, then My SnapCodes. Finally, make use of SnapChat Insights, the free analytic tool that breaks down who your visitors are and the type of content that brings in good leads.

But—-but—-what if your clients and prospects are older than 40? What about maintaining content for a week? Then post your Ephemeral Content to Instagram, Twitter and/or your Facebook Fan (business) page. Just remember to delete your little teaser before a week goes by and keep your followers hungry for more.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark, February 2019. Your diarist gets ephemeral in Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art/ Boston by William Forsythe (choreographer who works with world-class ballet companies)

8 Skills Everybody Needs

Whatever work one does, from start -up founder to pastry chef, automotive mechanic to chief financial officer, it is interesting that we all need the same short list of skills to become successful.

Consultants are often advised to hone and promote fluency in the skills listed here but everyone who works—-business owner, Freelancer, or employee—-taps into these skills on a regular basis. Your hair stylist and the guys who do your yard work use the same skills as your bookkeeper and your periodontist and if they didn’t, you wouldn’t have hired them. Let’s remind ourselves of what we really need to know in life.


Because when we wake up in the morning, we never know what the day will bring. One may learn, for example, that a potentially lethal and highly contagious virus, for which there is no reliable antidote, has entered our country by way of a meeting of executives employed by a prestigious biotechnology company.

When those who attended the meeting returned home and went about their daily lives, some of them infected people with whom they interacted. Very quickly first hundreds, then thousands, of citizens contracted the virus and many died. In an attempt to block the spread of the virus, governors in all 50 states ordered nearly half of commercial enterprises, plus all schools, government offices, libraries, museums and other public spaces, closed. So what did we citizens do?

We adapted as much as possible, that’s what. Grocery stores, the post office and other entities deemed essential were allowed to remain open. Many business owners and leaders found ways to keep their ventures functioning, with revisions.

Millions of knowledge economy workers used their personal computers to work from home, as department heads kept their teams united with videoconference meetings. Schools quickly switched from classroom to online learning (many colleges long ago added online courses).

Retail stores sold merchandise through their already robust e-commerce websites. Personal trainers and fitness instructors contacted their clients and followers and invited them to participate in outdoor workouts. We did what we had to do and we got by.

Creative thinking

Whether or not an out-of- the-box solution is needed, every once in a while it’s fun to bring innovative flair to a plain vanilla task. Whatever the motivation, resourcefulness and creative thinking are appreciated, because the need for an end run or a work-around can be part of daily life. Sometimes, one needs all of that just to get through the morning commute!

Creative thinking is often associated with the arts or architectural design. But during the COVID shutdown wedding planners, who were watching the ground give way beneath their feet, flexed their creative genius to reimagine weddings for panicked brides and grooms. That often meant broadcasting the ceremony virtually and rescheduling the reception for the following year.

Creative thinking can also reach back into the past for an innovative solution. This year, the New York Film Festival, barred from using shuttered movie theaters, will debut its contenders at drive-in theaters in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs.


Dependability, judgment and expertise are the three pillars of professional credibility. These attributes add up to trust and trust is what gets one hired and motivates customers to give referrals. People do business with people they like. They do more business with people they trust.


As it is often said, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. You’ve got to know how to talk to people.

One of the best ways to communicate with someone is to not talk (much), but tlisten. Use nonverbal cues to demonstrate that you are following the narrative. Ask questions to clarify or confirm what you think you’ve heard. Pay attention and let others know that you value them and their opinions (even when you see things differently).


Here’s the reality—-when a big decision is on the table, we seldom have access to as much information as we feel would be helpful as we weigh the possibilities. It is frustrating, to be sure, and we’ve all been there. The thought of taking the wrong path makes the stomach queasy.

But at some point, one must make a move and travel to the left or right, say yes or no, or leave well enough alone. Or, one can elect to put the matter aside and revisit it within a certain period of time.

If a decision carries impact, it cannot be ignored. The fear inspired tactic known as analysis- paralysis, where information is considered and reconsidered ad nauseum, is counterproductive. The best way to improve the quality of information to use as a guide for wise decision-making is to ask the right questions.


Nearly every purchase one makes is intended to solve a problem, from a bottle of juice (thirst) to calling Lyft (door2door, on-time transportation). Whether the items your company sells are products or services, you’ll make more money when you 1.) understand the business you are really in, by thinking through the underlying motive for the purchase, beyond the obvious, and 2.) design your marketing strategies and sales pitch to reflect item #1.


Many hands make for light work. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Teamwork and collaboration lie between those warring poles and a real professional will persuade others to join him/her in the sweet spot.

Someone must step up and take the lead on a project of any magnitude. Those responsible can draw up an action plan, complete with due dates. Milestones or a mid-point check-in will help to keep everyone on schedule and ensure that mistakes have not been made.

If everyone holds up their end and the project is completed on time, you’ve got a team. If a mistake is discovered and corrected in a timely fashion with the help of your colleagues then congratulations, you’ve got a high-functioning team.

Time management

The ability to prioritize and organize, enabled by an action plan that includes target completion dates, are the three pillars of time management. Understand and get agreement from stakeholders and decision-makers regarding mission- critical tasks. Confirm that team members and other collaborators have the time to produce what has been asked of them within the desired time frame.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark, February 2019. Choreographic Objects, installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art/ Boston by William Forsythe (a choreographer who works with world- class ballet companies)

Return to the Office, Safely

Happy September everyone! We are on our way to Labor Day Weekend, the symbolic end of summer. This year, Labor Day Weekend is also our cue to move beyond the pandemic pause that in mid-March disrupted the operations of nearly half of the nation’s businesses. Enough is enough. Business owners and leaders must prepare to tackle the COVID workplace logistics at their organizations and settle into the new normal.

The sorting out process of who will work from home and for how many days per week is underway. Office hours and days of operation are under review. Whether or not the organization needs the same amount of office space, which inevitably leads to a discussion of a possible move, is being considered. Everything is potentially up for grabs, including the products and services that are sold.

After following hastily devised processes that were enacted in the early days of the shutdown, the vital matter of how forward-facing team members will engage with prospective customers in a way that makes all parties feel comfortable must be resolved. Is it smart or risky at this point to invite customers to the office for socially distanced face2face meetings? Will prospects respond to a video sales pitch? So much is unknown.

Then there is the matter of what the safely reopened office will look like and what it will feel like to work there. How will your organization incorporate social distancing guidelines, infection control protocols, personal protective equipment and new normal staff and customer interactions?

What other changes can workers expect when they get back to the office? Will the kitchen be open and can coffee or tea be made? Can lunches still be stored in the fridge? Can we microwave?

The Centers for Disease Control and state public health commissions have established guidelines for places of business. Your insurance company can help your company to interpret the regulations that now apply. Click here for the CDC office building guidelines.

To move forward with your office reopening, promote staff buy-in of the anticipated changes by inviting the team, or representatives from each department, to assist in planning and executing the new office lay-out and infection control procedures.

Create a sign-up sheet that lists categories such as office entry/ lobby, conference room. photocopy room, restroom, workstations and kitchen and ask team members to volunteer to suggest the lay-out of the office sectors with the new regulations in mind. Members of each team can be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the space they volunteered to manage.

But the best solution will be to apply whatever available funds to hiring a space planning firm that specializes in helping companies institute COVID practices as mandated. Let the experts design a space and suggest office furniture that will enhance traffic flow, protect privacy, be attractive and make the best use of available space.

Health screening

Large office buildings have tasked their building entry concierge team to first conduct a quick health screening of all who enter, in addition to the usual ID check, appointment confirmation and badge ritual. Those running a fever are denied entry.

Smaller office buildings may leave health screenings to each tenant and perform only the ID protocol. Regardless of your building’s protocol, be sure to post a sign at the office entrance to announce that masks will be required. A basket of free surgical masks to offer will be a nice touch.


Lysol, Clorox and 70% alcohol solutions are known to kill the coronavirus, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Daily wipe downs are a must for items such as shared desks, conference tables, chairs, computer keyboards and nearly all surfaces in the en suite kitchen and restroom. Providing a bottle of hand sanitizer in high traffic areas will be helpful.

Door knobs, counter tops, microwave oven doors and handles. water faucets, remote control devices, light switches, heat or air conditioning knobs, product displays, telephones and cash registers/ point of sale devices are likewise virus (and bacteria) breeding grounds and in need of one or more disinfecting wipe downs every day.

Speaking of hand sanitizer, the pandemic has shown us that Mom was right about keeping our hands clean, whether with hand sanitizer or soap and water. We must also learn how to wash our hands. First. remember to wash the area between the thumb and the other fingers. Second, when performing a soap and water scrub, lather up for 20 seconds —-the time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song—before rinsing.

Social distancing

We all know the drill by now—-6 feet of separation, as per CDC recommendations. We want to do whatever is possible and practical to retard the spread of the air-borne coronavirus. Most offices already have at least 6 feet between desks, but some work stations will need an adjustment.

Computers and keypads placed at common work stations will need a re-thinking. Conference tables will likely need several chairs removed. There may be limits on the number of people who may occupy the office kitchen or restroom or photocopy room at any one time.

Working from home

Many white collar workers can simply turn on their personal laptop, desktop, or tablet and commence office hours. A daily videoconference meeting or two is usually sufficient to keep team members on their paths, supplemented by brief phone calls when useful. Videoconferences can also be used to promote staff camaraderie.

A survey of 25,000 workers that was conducted by IBM in April 2020 showed that 75% of respondents hope to continue working from home at least partially after the pandemic. Millions of white collar workers apparently expect the work from home trend to continue and as a result, home sales in the suburbs and exurbs that border big cities have increased dramatically, as people search for living quarters that allow more space for a home office (or two). Space for at-home schooling is another consideration.


While in the office workers will be masked at all times, except when on the telephone, eating, or drinking. Masks, surgical gloves and hand sanitizer should be made available to as a courtesy to all who enter the premises. Some workers may prefer to wear a face shield. It is constricting but for the time being, it’s what we do.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. The health screening checkpoint at the Prudential Tower in Boston. The concierge conducts a body temperature reading using the laptop computer shown. If the computer reads an individual as afebrile, s/he is next invited to approach the ID checkpoint.

5 Business KPI Metrics to Follow

Success in business is a numbers game and every business owner and leader would be wise to pay attention to certain metrics, which are Key Performance Indicators. Depending on the business, owners and leaders may follow the daily sales receipts, weekly gross sales, monthly inventory purchases, monthly in-house projects and of course the big three monthly, quarterly and annual financial documents—-Income Statement (Profit & Loss), Cash Flow and Balance Sheet.

KPIs are like vital signs and lab tests; they indicate the health of the organization. Owners and leaders examine, analyze and confirm the venture’s health (read: profitability) or discover and diagnose a problem, for which a strategy is devised to provide the treatment.

Today, we’ll dive into sales and marketing KPI metrics that business owners and leaders would do well to monitor—-Lead Conversion Rate, Sales Cycle Length, Client Acquisition Cost, Churn Rate and Client Lifetime Value. When steps are taken to bring these KPIs into what represents an acceptable range for your industry, a tangible positive impact on the organization will result.

Lead Conversion Rate

Grab a spoon, Love, and get ready to taste test our flavors of the day—-TOFU, MOFU and BOFU. I promise that you’ll enjoy them all, most especially BOFU. Let us begin.

Marketing = Lead Generation, the fuel that feeds the sales engine that keeps the business moving forward. This KPI reveals the strength of the company’s marketing strategies and tactics. First, verify that the marketing mix is actually producing leads that convert to sales. Second, leads that converted to sales should be examined to discover which tactics enabled conversions. Bonus points will be awarded for discovering which marketing tactics bring in a particular type of client—-low or high dollar volume, repeat business or one-off, or a certain product or type of project.

Marketing announces the presence of a business to its target audience and it’s designed to both arouse curiosity and inspire confidence in the product, service, or company that is featured. The intent of marketing is to entice target audience members to linger and browse the marketing outreach. These early-stage browsers are leads at the top, the front door, of the marketing/ sales funnel. They are called TOFUs, Top of the Funnel. Most TOFUs are window shoppers.

Now let’s suppose a TOFU decides to follow the company blog, or interact with the business on Instagram or Facebook. Or maybe the TOFU finds an e-book and after reading the promo, requests a copy. TOFU will then advance through the marketing/ sales funnel and enter the Middle of the Funnel. TOFU will become a MOFU.

MOFU is where lead conversion really begins. MOFU is a fish on the line. To become a client, MOFU must be skillfully led into the VIP Room at the Bottom of the Funnel, BOFU, where intentions are revealed, needs are discussed and commitments are confirmed.

How to do it? If MOFU is in deal-making mode, those who subscribe to the blog or newsletter, or especially those who request an e-book, white paper, or case study, will contact the company to ask for additional information. MOFU will ask to schedule a 15- minute free consultation. If you meet MOFU at the virtual workshop you presented, there will be a request for follow-up. “Can we Skype?”

A well thought-out marketing/ sales funnel draws in TOFUs that sometimes become MOFUs who have reason to turn themselves into BOFUs. That is effective lead generation.

Business owners and leaders must continually review the operation of the marketing/ sales funnel to ensure that a good number of prospective clients are entering at TOFU. They will monitor the percentage of MOFUs who advance to BOFU and the percentage of BOFUs who become clients.

Sales Cycle Length

Determining how long on average it takes for TOFUs to become MOFUs, then BOFUs and finally paying customers, is useful for cash-flow planning. There may be no way to shorten the marketing/ sales funnel journey and speed up the sale, but getting an idea of when money will arrive, or will not, is essential.

If there are recognizable points in the funnel when it may be possible to speed up the sale, that will be money in the bank. When a prospect reaches MOFU, demonstrations of the company’s expertise, VIP clients, superb customer service, or sterling reputation can be presented to convince the prospect to continue the sales journey. BOFU is the time to make tempting deals—-a desirable upgrade that costs little to deliver, for example. Get the deal done as quickly as possible.

Client Acquisition Cost

It is worthwhile for every business owner, business leader and Freelance consult to ascertain the ballpark cost of the time and money associated with bringing in new clients.

After calculating the time spent writing a newsletter and/ or blog; the time devoted to perfecting social media posts and uploading, to say nothing of creating, videos and photos that support the company’s brand story; the time needed to create a presentation that will be delivered at the chamber of commerce or other venue, along with the Power Point slides and hard copy hand-outs that are typed up—-what dollar value should be attached to the labor devoted to promoting the company, its products and services, and yourself as its public face? Get your arms around that one, will you!

I estimate that I spend 10 -15 hours/ week on marketing activities (mostly this blog) and I’ve allowed myself to claim $35/hour as the wholesale value of my labor (because creating content, taking blog photos and typing are not all billed at the same rate). I’ve decided it’s fair market value to claim that I spend 50 hours/ month, $1,750/ month, on marketing. Wow!! Am I getting the right ROI on client acquisition? Maybe I can learn to type faster? It would help.

I am not signing a new client every month. However, I do get repeat business, plus the occasional referral, and that lowers my customer acquisition cost significantly. This is yet another reason to exceed client expectations and provide superb customer service, so that repeat business and referrals are more likely to be received and marketing dollars will produce a greater ROI. Furthermore, if it’s possible to determine which marketing activities attract high dollar volume projects, prioritize those tactics.

Client Churn Rate

Business experts often warn that it costs at least five times more to acquire a new client than it does to retain a current client. Surprisingly, many, if not most, companies lack a client retention strategy and action plan. The rate at which clients stop doing business with an organization is called the churn rate.

Churn rate is calculated by counting the number of clients that no longer use company products or services, expressed as a percentage of the total client list. % churn rate = # Defections / # Retained If there are 50 clients on the company roster and 5 haven’t made purchases in 12 months, then the churn rate is 5/50 = 0.1 x 100, a 10 % churn rate.

If the company churn ratio creeps up through the year, the culprit could be inadequate customer service. Include a short survey with your invoice to encourage clients to tell you how to improve their customer experience.

Client Lifetime Value

Unless the company has history with a client, lifetime value is a projection, an educated guess. Nevertheless, it is important to think strategically about every prospect, since some are worth pursuing and others, not so much.

When evaluating marketing activities, Freelance consultants, business owners and leaders will examine the revenue potential of the target audience and decide the level of resources that should be devoted to the client acquisition process. This KPI, actual or projected, reveals the amount of revenue that can be generated, in a year, or perhaps a quarter, by way of a particular (or the average) client.

When considering prospects who could become clients, prioritize and invest marketing resources only in those with high revenue and/or repeat business potential. Don’t waste resources on low dollar volume clients. Follow the money.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. Trading prices are the KPIs of the New York Stock Exchange.

Pandemic Era Businesses to Launch in 2020 – 2021

It appears that the pandemic era is settling in to become our nightmare new normal. Working from home will continue in many companies. Public schools and universities will not open their classrooms and will offer virtual instruction once again. Musicians, dancers, actors and singers cannot take to the stage and perform. Baseball teams are competing in empty stadiums, with no fans to cheer them on.

Billions of dollars have been lost and there’s no end in sight. Yet parallel to the turmoil, business continues to be done where permitted and plenty of money is being made, admittedly by a much smaller cohort than in pre- pandemic times. Whether the economy is expanding or shrinking; whether the stock market is up or the bond market is down; no matter if war breaks out or peace reigns, someone will make money. Maybe this time it will be you?

Please look over the short list of new business opportunities that I’ve put together. Business experts have identified these ventures as being able to either largely escape losses associated with the pandemic or directly benefit from its presence. The barriers to entry for these businesses are comparatively low, aside from the time and money invested to attain the necessary educational and certification requirements. Just one option requires a significant financial outlay to start the business.

Should you decide to open a business or become a Freelance independent expert, make the most of your entrepreneurial aspirations by writing a business plan. Include in your plan a business model, to give yourself hyper-focus on how to find customers and make sales.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that when a business fails, 82% of the time it is because of inadequate financial resources. Examine your expenses and spending habits and take steps to pay off debts and accumulate savings, to prepare for either self-financing or bank financing. Be advised that customer acquisition and pricing are the top two elements a business owner or Freelancer must get right. Making sales and pricing correctly are the principal money-making enablers. Create a thorough and realistic financial plan for your business, with the guidance of a business accountant.

Skilled trades

The skilled trades have long been a professional path that paid off, in particular if there are a good deal of building and infrastructure projects planned in your area. Home renovations can also be a very lucrative avenue, spurred on by popular television shows.

Most college educated people are unfamiliar with the depth of training that blue collar tradesmen must earn. They may earn a 2-year degree in mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering, for example, in addition to completing the intensive training/ apprenticeship and certification/ licensing required to enter their particular field.

Many in the trades will eventually launch a business that may be small or grow to employ dozens. Other tradesmen prefer to be Freelance solopreneurs. Start-up costs are relatively low: the tools of the trade, business cards, website and a small truck or van.

Among the lucrative specialties are plumbing, welding, carpentry/ general construction (the profession of both of my grandfathers), electrician, masonry, HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration) and steel working.

Bicycle sales, services, rental

The League of American Bicyclists reported that in the period 2010-2017, commuting by bicycle grew by 43%. The health benefits derived from the vigorous exercise involved, the incremental lowering of air pollution and the modest easing of rush hour traffic has inspired numerous city and state officials to invest in bike lanes to make the practice safer for peddlers, pedestrians and drivers.

If you, or you and a friend or two, are cycling enthusiasts and at least one of you knows bike repair basics and maintenance servicing, then owning a bike shop will allow you to monetize your passion. Online bike sales are robust, so be sure to budget for a well-designed and high- functioning e-commerce website.

In terms of product diversification, there is a niche market for electronic bikes (good for those who live in a hilly geography), which have a small battery powered motor that makes pedaling much easier. E-bikes are also useful for those who’d like to bike to work but face a long commute. Bike rentals are also popular.

Self storage units

As real estate prices escalated, the ability to afford a home that could house all of our treasured possessions became a challenge, if not impossible. In the mid-1980s, the basement storage space that nearly every apartment building provided as a standard benefit disappeared, as landlords began to create basement apartments. With increasing frequency, people who lose a job also, tragically, lose their home. They may be forced to give up their apartment and move in with family.

The growing demand for storage space has outstripped supply in some locations and prices per square foot are rising in many metro areas. The start-up costs for this venture are hefty because storage space entrepreneurs must either construct a new building or rehab an existing structure, and parking is a must (except in very high- density cities). But there is money to be made.

If the high-end appeals to you, then build a high-security, climate controlled facility that customers will use for fine furniture and art. Otherwise, minimal temperature control and a bring your own padlock system will suffice (and that is the norm). Commercial enterprises also rent storage units to hold merchandise and supplies. Tradesmen sometimes keep their tools in a self-storage unit. Whatever you can afford to invest, the rental income you’ll be able to command will quickly guide this enterprise to break-even and into robust profitability.

Videoconference and webinar tech support

The newest tech support career has arrived, born of the COVID-19 work from home craze. Many thousands of organizations have switched over to virtual communication to maintain contact with their team and with their clients. Videoconferences are mostly straightforward, but webinars and classroom instruction are more complicated.

Organization leaders, including school administrators, are mostly out of their depth with the technology and know that they have only one chance to make a good first impression now that they’ve persuaded a client or prospect to participate in a video sales call. A knowledgeable video tech support professional can be much in demand.

IT pros who pursue this avenue must be proficient in cloud computing, Windows (including Power Point), IoT and Linux (CentOS).

Videoconference and webinar support is part technology, part show biz. In advance, an assessment of the client’s tech equipment, including the webcam, audio quality (headset mic, or lavalier [mini-mic] could be needed). Identifying flattering lighting for the speaker’s face is another critical duty, as is recommending the right visual scene behind the speaker: the company logo or a bookcase are good choices. The lighting behind the speaker is another important aspect when setting the webinar or videoconference stage.

Private Tutor

If you are a certified teacher with classroom experience and hold at least a master’s degree in the subject that you’d like to teach, your services will be much in demand right now in the affluent communities of America for the duration of pandemic-related school closings and perhaps beyond. Zoom may be helpful to keep education going in a crisis, but it is not equivalent to face2face instruction.

There is at present a free-for-all patchwork of teaching solutions that worried parents are exploring, including home schooling and “pods,” which are small group training. Parents may hire a tutor to buttress the child’s understanding of what the school lessons cover, or add subjects that have been dropped in the transition from classroom to video.

Tutoring can cover any subject taught in a classroom—-geometry, English grammar, American history, biology—-and enrichment subjects—-music lessons, physical fitness, art, foreign language. There are tutors for special needs children as well.

Requests for tutors are trending on social media and educators will find many opportunities to evaluate, from becoming part of a pandemic pod teaching team to traditional private tutoring.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Kim Clark. Bike shop on Tremont Street in Boston’s South End neighborhood.