You’ve got the expertise and the enthusiasm. You may have a few key relationships. But for some annoying and worrisome reason, your Freelance consulting practice is not realizing its financial potential. No doubt a sluggish economy is a factor, but might there be another factor as well? Could a fear of failure —or success— be keeping you from laying claim to your just rewards and causing you to subtly and persistently sabotage your business? Take a look at these items and see if you recognize your behavior:
I. Fear of selling
Many people fear and loathe selling. Selling oneself can be overwhelming and may even seem impolite, like bragging. I spent many years in sales and yet confess I get sick of it myself. But the fact is that if one is in business, then one is in sales, so you’d better get used to it. Sales takes self-confidence and the right message.
Realize that friends and family want to know what you do so they can refer you to prospects. Prospective clients want to know if you have the expertise to help them to achieve their organization’s objectives. You must create a clear and simple message to facilitate that process.
Make a list of 2-3 competencies for which you are typically hired, or would like to be known for. Attach a compelling benefit to each one, to emphasize the reason that you should be hired to perform that service. Next, describe 2-3 clients who typically hire you, or for whom you feel your services are especially well-suited. Your task is to create a 1 minute maximum elevator pitch that communicates what you do, for whom you do it and the benefits derived.
Write it up and express your sales message in language that is comfortable for you and will be understood by those who can hire you. Learn also to ask for the business: “Do you have use for this type of service”? “Do you have a project in mind? Would you like to set up a time to talk specifics”? “Is there a budget for this project? Are you ready to move forward”? “I would like to work with you. Do you feel ready to talk about how we can get started?”
II. Fear of charging fees that reflect your value
Particularly in this economy, many Freelancers feel too intimidated by the fear of rejection to ask for the money they deserve. Many clients are, unfortunately, prone to minimize the price they will pay for your services, even if they have the budget. It is a buyer’s market. Admittedly, compromises may need to be made when it comes to setting your fee. Nevertheless, you must not undermine your sense of the value that your expertise brings and do what is necessary to obtain your just financial reward. See my October 11 post for more tips on pricing.
III. Performing too much pro bono work
Especially when starting out as a Freelance consultant, the temptation is to throw oneself into either deeply discounted or pro bono projects as a way to gain experience, create referrals and build a client list. Judicious use of those methods may apply at any time in a Freelance career, but be sure that you’re getting something of value in return. Promises of future paid work are mostly empty, I’m sorry to say. Once such “clients” have learned that they can get your talents for free, they will be reluctant to pay you for work. They’ll just look for another hungry Freelancer to sucker.
IV. Failure to get press
Are you speaking on a panel, teaching a course or presenting a workshop? Are you taking a leadership role in a local business association, chamber of commerce or charity event? If so, you must write up a press release and send it to the business editors of local newspapers and blogs. Follow up by telephone to make sure that the notice was received and answer any questions.
Offer to take the reporter to lunch or coffee, to start building relationships with the press. If an article is written, first thank the reporter and then post the link on your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn page and/or Twitter feed. Good publicity enhances your bona fides and often translates into increased business and additional requests to speak or teach. Publicity enhances your reputation and helps you to obtain the fees that you know you deserve.
Thanks for reading,