Survey Discussion: How Freelancers Market Our Services (2016 – 2017)

Today we have recommendations on how Freelance consultants and small business owners can implement as needed the results of a survey of 1,700 of our peers that was conducted in December 2016 by FreshBooks, a Toronto company that sells cloud based accounting solutions designed for Freelance professionals and small business owners http://FreshBooks.com .

Given the limited time that Freelancers and small business owners have available to devote to new client acquisition and once we’ve accepted the fact that the pool of new clients must be constantly replenished, it is essential that what we do has a very good chance of delivering the necessary results.

The survey indicates that devoting one’s marketing activities to tactics that are ranked as highly effective across all three age cohorts and then diversifying the tactics utilized, has the potential to reap tangible benefits for all age cohorts, despite the fact that each has a clear preference for certain activities and an ROI track record to defend those practices.

Exceeding client expectations of the work you are hired to do is the recipe for obtaining referrals from satisfied clients. Building relationships with peers that you meet at the chamber of commerce, on volunteer boards, at the gym, or at your religious institution, for example, is often a highly successful marketing and business development tactic for Baby Boomers, with 67% relying on referrals to find new clients. The ability to obtain referrals from business and personal relationships will become more accessible to Generation X and Millennials over time, as their personal and client relationships expand.  There is no more effective advertising than word of mouth.

Millennials have made hay with content marketing tactics and 42% of the age cohort use that marketing tactic. I will guess that a certain percentage of what is called email marketing, which has an adoption rate of 24% across the three age groups, overlaps with content marketing because email is how newsletters are sent. Generation X and especially Baby Boomers are advised to step up the use of content marketing if for no other reason than several surveys have demonstrated its satisfactory ROI.

Content marketing is poised to surpass the use of paid advertising because it seems that B2B prospects find advertisements insufficiently credible or engaging and they have gravitated to the brand story approach that is content marketing. Commissioning a marketing case study to put on one’s website and can be used in other marketing activities, is another highly effective method of content marketing (but it is not inexpensive).

Public speaking in the form of teaching, speaking, training (and I will stretch to say it also includes podcasts, webinars and appearing on a panel as speaker or moderator) is acknowledged by 39% of  survey participants across all three cohorts as being a highly effective marketing tactic and I respectfully suggest that you adopt the practice if you have not already done so.

It may be a little intimidating for Millennials to assume the role of expert, but appearing as a guest on a webinar or podcast seems less of a stretch than teaching business courses or speaking at professional association meetings. Your diarist is in the Baby Boom generation and I’ve done a fair amount of teaching and speaking over the years, but I’ve never directly received either a client or referral from any engagement. Rather, prospective clients are always seem impressed when I mention those activities, so be advised that you may see your teaching and speaking ROI indirectly.

Finally, since the survey explored financial management, we might pause and consider that topic as well. While only 20% of survey responders financed their businesses with bank loans, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help managing the business finances (and their personal finances).  One third of the responders has a relationship with a bank and yet 52% report that they feel big banks are not a good fit for small business owners and Freelance consultants.

Survey findings indicate that Freelancers and small business owners with the greatest financial acumen operate the most successful ventures and enjoyed self-employment the most.  That description applied to 25% of responders.  Overall, responders are wary and uninformed about new financial software that might help them better understand and optimize their financial record-keeping data and learn how to use either what they already own, or software they could buy, and learn to understand and manage the financial aspects of their businesses.

The FreshBooks people recommend that Freelancers and small business owners invest in financial management training.  Courses are either regularly or sporadically available at adult learning centers, libraries, business networking groups, professional associations and the Small Business Administration.  https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/manage/manage-your-finances-business-credit

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Falmouth (MA) Road Race August 21, 2016 courtesy of Joseph Cavanaugh

 

 

 

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Rethinking Your Services

Like lovers, clients can be fickle. Both will tell you that they love you and everything about you and everything you do, that is until they don’t, and they leave you for someone else.  I take this to mean that in business as in love, one should never get too comfortable.  Continuing to do the same things in the same way can become very predictable and therefore boring.  You could eventually be considered to be outdated or out of touch.

Clients and lovers want to be understood.  They crave a partner who is aware of their shifting needs and priorities, without being told.  Talking to clients and lovers to find out how they feel about the relationship is a useful exercise, but the conversation will not always elicit the truth.  It could be that our perceived lapses and failings do not become apparent until a competitor comes along and persuades them that they can do better.

To sustain healthy and satisfying business and intimate relationships, we must hone our intuition and be prepared to never rest on our laurels.  Continually affirming one’s value is key, in both short and long-term scenarios.  I suspect that the 24 hour news cycle and 140 character messages have contributed to the brief attention spans, impatience and need for instant gratification that seem to have overtaken us.

In defense, I suggest that periodically, a brand refresh that includes an update in how services are described and packaged will do some good.  Think of Lady Gaga as you engineer a little shake-up every three years or so.  Staying abreast with what is happening in the industries in which your clients operate will be helpful, so that you can learn about the challenges and priorities that your clients see and you may be able to see opportunities for you new or expanded services.  If nothing else, you’ll can become fluent in the jargon and terms that your clients use to describe themselves and that will add to your credibility when you echo that in your content marketing and client meetings. When you speak their language they will know that you “get it” and that you can be trusted to deliver the outcomes they need.

As a caveat, I also suggest that you beware the temptation of giving your clients precisely what they say they want in every instance and in particular, avoid being swayed by a vocal minority.  Keep client preferences in mind (especially if a clear majority raises the same issues), but understand that clients (and lovers) are not always able to articulate what will make them happy enough to stay with you.

This may be apocryphal, but it’s been said that when the late founder of Ford Motor Company, the legendary inventor and entrepreneur Henry Ford, was asked if he spoke with potential customers to learn what improvements they wanted to see in the transportation field, replied, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’ ”

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky advised that when playing, you have to skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been. CEOs from Warren Buffet to the late Steve Jobs have quoted that line because keeping that advice in mind is how one builds a successful company.  Where the puck is going will be impacted by recent innovations, the economic climate and even social and political developments.  Always, we must stay on top of developments because that is the only way that one who is in business can project what clients might want us to do for them, either next month or next year.

So what does a Freelance consultant do to find out what’s going on? The short answer is to keep your eyes and ears open and fully engage in your business and your life.  Read blogs, newsletters and business magazines. Occasionally listen to a webinar, attend a seminar and go to a business or professional association meeting. Talk to your clients and colleagues, friends and family.

There is a tidal wave of information to soak up, but it isn’t necessary to drink from the firehose and become overwhelmed.  Just be consistent.  Be open to how new information can benefit your clients and you can ask their opinions about some of what you’ve heard or read.  Invite your clients to interpret some things for you, since they are best positioned to do so.  You will then understand the  big picture and when you do, you’ll see where the puck is going to be.

Thanks for reading,

KIm

 

How B2B Clients Do Business Now

Keeping up with the evolving mind-set and practices of your current and prospective clients has long been a challenge for Freelance consultants and continues to be so in the “new economy.”  Signing a good client is not easy, what with the penchant for not spending money being all the rage.  We Freelancers can prosper only by staying one step ahead of the client, always positioned to neutralize the temptation to keep a project in-house or let it languish and eventually die.  Knowledge is power and we need strategies that will turn on the spigot and pour out billable hours.  Here are trends that B2B products and services purchasers are following now.

They do research

A recent survey of employees who make B2B purchases for their organizations was conducted by the global consulting firm Accenture and showed that 94% of purchasers (that is, your clients and prospects) research possible solutions for business needs in advance, to learn about the options, availability and pricing of solutions and to save time and money.  By the time Freelance consultants and other vendors are approached, the hoped-for client has done most of the upfont legwork. S/he already has a good idea of what might be provided by service professionals like you and your competitors and maybe even knows what a reasonable ballpark figure for your services might be.

The entrepreneur and marketing expert Danny Wong, co-founder of the online men’s apparel company Blank Label, recommends that Freelancers acknowledge the elephant in the room and simply ask your prospect about research that may have been done and what you might be able to verify or clarify. Don’t ignore the tsunami of information.  Ride the wave and earn respect for your candor and knowledge of client behavior.

They’re skeptical

Unfortunately, some sales “professionals” and unsavory Freelancers have been known to misrepresent that which they sell.  As a result, many B2B purchasers prefer to buy online and bypass you and me.  The practice was confirmed recently by Forrester Research, in a survey that found that nearly 60% of B2B purchasers preferred to buy independently, without the assistance of a salesperson.

Wong points out that demonstrating expertise, as well as an appreciation and respect for the prospect’s goals and situation, confers to you credibility and helps you to earn their trust, an essential process when competing for assignments and sales.  They won’t do the deal if they don’t trust you and why should they?

No matter how desperate you are for billable hours, don’t rush the deal.  Take the time to understand what is needed and how your products and services can help or for that matter, if they can’t  help.  Avoid being perceived as an aggressive salesperson.  Do present yourself as a trustworthy adviser who wants to make the prospect look smart to his/her superiors and other colleagues.

They’re in no hurry

No, it’s not your imagination that closing a deal is taking longer than it used to.  Another study showed that the length of the average B2B sales cycle has increased by 22% over the past five years.  While the prospect is working the worry beads, Mr. Wong recommends that you do what you can to stay at top of mind and try to keep the project from falling into oblivion.  A Freelancer’s main competitor is not one of our rivals, it’s the client’s inertia.

Send information that can support (and speed up) the decision-making, but don’t overwhelm—curate.  Inquire about a timeline and deadline for the project and suggest what might be a reasonable starting time.

They trust the advice of anonymous “peers”

So do you and that’s why you research hotels and restaurants on Trip Advisor and Yelp and search for a contractor on Angie’s List.  Accenture reports that almost 25% of B2B purchasers make their decisions based almost entirely on information gleaned from online “social” rating sites.

If your Freelancing skill is one that would send prospects to Angie’s List or a neighborhood blog, attempt to establish a presence on those sites and build credibility that will help you get hired.  LinkedIn and Facebook could be helpful once a trusted source has referred a prospective client to you and then your online presence is researched before you get the call.  Nevertheless, create a good profile on your chosen social media sites and make yourself look knowledgeable and trustworthy.

They appreciate relevant content marketing

The longer buying cycle gives the advantage to Freelancers who produce long form content—a monthly newsletter, a weekly blog, case studies and other white papers that appear on your website, videos, infographics, or podcasts—that may grab the attention of prospects.  A FAQs page added to your website that details how to do business with you could  be helpful. Impartial and instructive content is what content marketing is all about. Produce your own and position yourself as an expert who is qualified to get the job done.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah,

Kim

A Fail-Safe Christmas Party Strategy

Christmas party season is here, bringing Freelancers and business owners opportunities to become their own Santa Claus and put some new clients under the tree.  Christmas is the time to pick up the thread with clients past,  nurture relationships with clients of the present and meet clients you’d like to add to your roster in the near future. To make that happen,  you know that you’ll need a game plan.

First,  go to your parties alone.  Under no circumstances do you need to drag someone along with you, unless that person is required to get you into a party where you can expect to meet prospective clients,  or that person promises to introduce you to a good prospect while there.  Even that arrangement can be risky— a few years ago I was invited to what should have been a networking bonanza for me,  except that my friend wound up getting very drunk and even worse,  he reneged on bringing me into a post-party meeting with someone who could have been very helpful to me.

Second,  confirm the dress code.  A weekend party held after 6:00 PM will imply fancier dress and maybe even black-tie optional.  If you are the  +1 (guest),  ask your contact to send you the invitation.  If s/he does not do so,  then call the party organizer and inquire.  You do not want to show up improperly dressed,  even if your contact claims not to care about such things.

Men should wear a jacket,  even if a suit is not required.  Women should avoid too-short or too-tight clothing and revealing necklines.  Jeans or leather pants are out of the question for either sex,  unless your host is in the arts or tech.

Third,  ask who is on the guest list,  if you can do so casually and diplomatically.  Present your request as a way to find out if you’ll know others in the room.

Fourth,  polish up your short-form elevator pitch and think about how you might approach guests that you’d like to meet or reconnect with.  You may want to Google a name and find out what that person has been doing,  so you’ll know what to “spontaneously” bring up.

However,  be mindful that pushing business topics will be a turn-off,  unless the other person raises an issue.  Focus instead on scheduling post-party follow-up with selected people who would like to know more about your products and services.

While at the party,  greet and thank your hosts straight away,  before you visit the bar or buffet.  After that relax,  mix and mingle.  Brainstorm some friendly ice-breakers that will open the door to conversation (“How do you know [the hosts]?”)  Eating and drinking are party highlights,  but take it easy with the drinking.  I recommend that you have not more than one drink and then switch to a non-alcoholic beverage.  You must be sober to successfully work your networking agenda.

Moreover,  you’ll also need to master the drink and hors d’oeuvres plate juggle.  Hold your drink in your left hand,  so that you can shake hands easily and not give a cold,  damp greeting.  Likewise,  eat your hors d’oeuvres with the left hand,  so you don’t offer a sticky handshake.

Finally,  pay attention to the ebb and flow of guests.  Unless you’re in a serious conversation  when their number begins to fade,  find your hosts,  thank them for the invitation and take your leave.  There is an optimum time to arrive  at and leave a party.  Arriving 15- 20 minutes after the start time is usually good.  The next day,  send a quick email to thank the host once more.  After all,  a good party is a wonderful thing and you want to get invited back next year!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Build A Winning Business Model

Whether you are considering the feasibility of launching a business or you are on the leadership team of a business that is several decades old, the business model for the organization is the hub around which all activities revolve. The business model is the blueprint that details how you will create and sustain a money-making business venture. It is the engine that drives revenue. Fail to identify a winning business model and you fail to build a business that will succeed over the long-term. Creation of a profitable business model is a multi-disciplinary exercise that encompasses marketing, sales, strategy, operations and finance.

Identify your primary customers  (Marketing)

If you will focus on B2B clients, describe who they are: for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, Fortune 1000 companies, start-ups. If you plan to focus on a particular industry, specify that and specify also the department(s) in which you will find your decision-maker and/or key purchase influencers and the job title of the person who can green-light your contract. Detail also the services or products that you will provide to your target clients.

Detail the business processes  (Operations)

Where will business transactions take place? Will you have a physical location and will clients visit you there? Will your business be primarily online? Will you have a consulting practice and perform most of the work off-site on your computer? How will clients pay—by check or credit card at the time of purchase, or will you bill them? Must you ship products? Describe how and from which location you will provide or deliver your products and services and the system of payment.

Identify the resources necessary to operate  (Finance)

Before your business is up and running, what must be available? Along with business cards and probably a website, computer, smart phone, and maybe a tablet, you may decide on print collaterals as well. You will need a business bank account and you may need a process by which you can accept credit cards as a merchant. Must you rent commercial space? What will the construction costs be for the build-out of your office space? What will insurance, special certifications and utilities cost you? How much product inventory does it make sense to have? Must you hire help? Determine how much you must spend and have on hand before you can commence business operations.

Define the value proposition  (Sales)

Make the case as to why your products and services are superior to what competitors offer. Learn what motivates your target customers to seek out the products and services that you will provide. How are target customers getting the job done now? Perfect your selling points and learn to neutralize the most common objections that prospects will raise.

Determine key business partners  (Strategy)

Will your business success be greatly helped by getting referrals from a particular source? In other words, if you plan to become a florist or a caterer, it will make a lot of sense to develop relationships with event planners. Referrals are always crucial to building your client list, so figure out which types of businesses you can build a mutually beneficial relationship with—what can they do for you and what can you do for them?

Build and fill the sales pipeline  (Marketing)

Describe the various methods you expect to use to build awareness of your business and find prospective clients. Social media will provably be used, but which platforms can be expected to have the most resonance with your target clients? Teaching, conducting webinars and networking will serve you well in the early stages of your business and throughout. Client testimonials, referrals and case studies will support you as your client list grows and you develop a track record.

Expect to fine-tune and innovate  (Strategy)

Until you begin to welcome paying customers, you will not really know if your proposed business model adequately meets their needs. Expect a reality check and build innovation —that is tweaking —into your business model.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Who’s Getting Paid

Freelancers who design Power Point presentations,  write reports and perform accounting functions are the big winners in Freelance Nation right now.  A recent review of 2Q 2013 data on 300,000 job postings by freelancer.com. revealed the results.  According to freelancer.com,  business owners are hiring Freelance workers to perform core functions,  jobs that once were the domain of permanent employees.

Demand for Power Point slide design and production increased 35%  from 1Q 2013 to 2Q 2013;  requests for accounting services jumped 23% and report writing 20% between the first and second quarters of this year.  By contrast,  demand for copyediting during this period fell by 14%.  The survey indicates that demand for Freelance skills that are mission-critical and require sophisticated and specific knowledge are on the rise.

Freelance graphic designers,  especially those proficient in website and Power Point slide production,  and content marketing writers are in demand.  Employers are backing away from pricey advertising agencies and are continuing the transition to Freelance labor,  a trend that started in the 1990s.  Requests for Freelance illustration was 20%  higher from 1Q 2013 to 2Q 2013 and Freelance Photoshop design increased by nearly the same amount.  Banner design assignments increased by 14%  and logo design projects were 9%  more plentiful in 2Q 2013 than they were in the first quarter of the year.  Speaking of design,  3D imaging’s depth and sophistication caused demand for 3D printing to shoot up by 17% in the second quarter of this year,  over the first.

In a 2012 global survey of 3,000 Freelance professionals conducted by Elance,  the online employment marketplace,   respondents were queried on the types of assignments they were receiving.  Web programming,  website design,  mobile app development,  graphic design,  online marketing and content writing were the predominant assignments and Elance predicted that the trend would continue into 2013.  Results of the freelance.com survey support that prediction.   Both surveys indicate that graphic designers,  accountants,  certain techies and writers are raking in most of the money in 2013.

Plan to succeed in the gig economy by identifying which of your skills clients will pay to obtain,  how to package and present those skills and how to connect with paying clients.  On your website and in all marketing materials,  demonstrate that you are a top-of-the-line professional who exceeds expectations and works with recognizable clients.  The latter may not be immediately possible,  but those who provide visual products should post a portfolio that makes it known to prospective clients that your work is distinctive and not cookie cutter.  Providers of intangible services should include case studies.  Every website should include client testimonials.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

C x 5 = Success for Your Business

If one intends to succeed in business,  then it is necessary to manage the business effectively,  because in the long run,  the better-managed businesses  succeed.  Dan Barufaldi,  Freelance management consultant active in metro New York City,   authored the 5 C’s for Success in Business list.  According to Dan,  success in business requires that you attain and leverage these five resources:

Clients

Credibility

Cash flow

Credit

Capital

I.   Clients

But of course a robust client list is necessary if one expects to keep the doors open.  Clients are the life blood of every business and priority is given to acquiring and retaining the  source of revenue.  There are a number of tactics  strategies that business owners can use to find and retain customers,  including:

Advertising and promotion

Advertising in newspapers,  blogs,  newsletters,  trade journals

Email marketing campaigns

Trade show and conference  exhibits

Participation in local charity events

Brand

The focus may not be on a specific product or service,  but branding is marketing/advertising designed to enhance the reputation of the company/ consultant in the marketplace.  It is important to communicate to current and potential customers that the company/consultant is reliable and trustworthy.

Customer service

Create good word of mouth  (still the best form of advertising)  and stimulate referral business by providing excellent customer service and exceeding expectations every time.

Networking

Those whose target clients are B2B will greatly benefit from membership in the local chamber of commerce,  Rotary Club and neighbor hood business association.  Those whose target customers are B2C will be wise to take part in neighborhood charity events and otherwise be visible in the community.  B2G oriented businesses and Freelancers will attend information sessions and certified vendor conferences sponsored by city,  state,  county and federal organizations.

II.  Credibility

Freelance consultants and small business owners must package and present ourselves and our products and services in a professional manner.   We cannot afford to advertise and brand like the major corporations,  so we must be creative in our use of promotional resources.  A good ongoing branding campaign to enhance reputation is essential,  as is excellent customer service.  Promote your brand and build trust with good customer service,  to create good word of mouth that can earn you recommendations and testimonials.  Teaching is a time-honored way to demonstrate one’s expertise.  Speaking on (or moderating)  a panel at a professional development symposium is another excellent way to create visibility among your peers and potential clients.

III. Cash Flow

For Freelance consultants and small business owners,  cash flow can sometimes take precedence over  short-term profitability.  Cash flow glitches will result in unpaid accounts payable,  the inability to take advantage of special offers,  an unmet payroll and/or the inability to cover immediate and urgent expenses.  It’s a smart idea to project cash flow needs over 8 – 12 weeks,  so you’ll know when to invoice clients,  when receivables are expected,  when accounts payable are due and have time have time to cover any gaps that appear.  It may be possible to extend the due date on certain accounts payable,  accelerate the collection of accounts receivable,  adjust expenses or even get a bridge loan  (or a temporary job).

IV. Credit

Available credit supports cash flow management.  An honored request to increase the credit card limit allows one to float expenses when accounts receivable collections are unexpectedly slow,  or allows the business to stock up on inventory when prices are favorable.  Those with good credit ratings pay lower credit card interest rates,  which is also good for cash flow.

V.   Capital

Those looking to grow their business may need to make large expenditures and that will require access to capital.  If significant business growth is part of your organization’s three-year plan,  start now and improve your credit rating by paying off debts,  if that is an issue.  The establishment of a good relationship with a bank,  along with a credit rating and financial management practices that demonstrate good judgment and fiscal responsibility,  will be very helpful when it is time to seek financing.  Make an appointment with the manager of your bank to discuss your plans,  learn how much you are qualified to receive and the payment terms.  Meet a banker as you network at the local business association and get a second opinion.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Keeping Tabs on the Competition

Merry Christmas! No matter what business you’re in,  it is important to be aware of the activities of competitors.   We can learn a lot from them,  lessons of  both the what-to-do and what-not-to-do variety.   But be mindful that it is inadvisable to base your marketing strategies and sales stories on what competitors do and say.  Such an approach is reactive.  Your business interests are better served when being  proactive.

In other words,  it’s smarter to be yourself.  That takes a certain amount of confidence,  yet there will be no real success in life or business without a secure and healthy sense of self.  Without that character trait,  one cannot be authentic.  Clients respond best to authenticity.

To help yourself stay true to yourself,  start by acknowledging your strengths and remind yourself of where you excel.  Next,  as you monitor the competition,  rather than obsessing over what they are doing, pay attention instead to what they’re not  doing.  Where and how can you deliver value that clients will value and how can you best package and deliver it?

Another big way to beat the competition is to create a good experience for the client.  Think about how it may feel to do business with yourself.  Do you make it easy? Do your business practices inspire trust and confidence? Are you able to anticipate and show empathy for client needs?

Do some reality-testing  while on an assignment and ask your client this:  “What can I do to make things better,  easier,  faster?”  This little question let clients know that you’re willing to go the extra mile and provide services that make their lives easier.  You’ll  look like a hero,  you’ll strengthen client relationships and you’ll position yourself to grab some all-important repeat business.  You may even tweak your business model if you find out that certain of your practices can be an inconvenience.

If you have friends and family who in their jobs hire Freelancers,  ask them what they’d like to see more of and less of in the vendors they work with.  Ask them about what types of behaviors they consider red flags and deal-breakers.   Ask them if they could hand-craft the experience they have when interacting with their Freelance consultants,  what would it look like?

I’ll let you in on a few pearls that were recently shared with me:

  • Let the client know how you will work
  • Answer frequently asked questions before the  client has to ask them
  • Set up a timetable to let them know when they can expect the deliverables and when key milestones will be reached

Aim to make your clients feel guided and taken care of.  This inclines them to trust you and allows them to relax and know that a professional is in control.  You look like a real pro because you are always a step ahead.  You know how to land the plane,  the project is in expert hands and they look like a genius for hiring you.  This also supports premium pricing because you demonstrate in all ways that you are worth the money.   Ta-dah,  you can and will beat the competition!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Four Rs for the Holidays

Freelance consultants usually have to grapple with downtime that is imposed upon us during the Christmas holiday season.  After the first week in December,  it can be impossible to drag a project to the starting gate.  Clients will either shift into party mode or year-end mode and concentrate on wrapping up their own projects before December 25.  Unless the client is facing a January deadline ( thank goodness I’ve got one of those this year,  even if the project is miniscule),  they will put the brakes on things until after the first week in January and there isn’t a blessed thing we can do about it.

But time is our most precious resource,  unrecoverable when wasted.  So the question is,  how do Freelancers make hay during the Holidays?  In fact,  there is no reason that the Holiday season should be less than productive for your consultancy.  I offer here a few suggestions of activities that will pave the way to a stronger and more satisfying New Year:

Reflect

Use the Holiday season downtime to reflect on the events of the year,  professional and personal.  How do you feel about how things turned out? Did you recognize good opportunities?  Did you have the moxie to create still more opportunities? Were you able to overcome obstacles,  or dodge adversity?  Did you achieve you financial goals? Did you pick up any good clients?  Did you get repeat business? Did you enter into any good relationships?

Take an inventory of your year.  Make a list of what you consider to have been your major accomplishments of 2012.  What fell into place for you,  what ambitious plans did you initiate and carry out? How did you reward yourself for your achievements? How did those achievements impact how you feel about yourself and your abilities? Look for patterns of behavior that put you on the path to either success or frustration.  Find the lessons and make note of what you must and must not do again in the future.

Reposition

Once you’ve taken stock and accounted for successes and missteps,  you will be ready to incorporate the wisdom into repositioning yourself,  or otherwise refining and polishing your image.  While you’re at it,  take an objective look at your website,  your LinkedIn page and other social media and  your printed marketing collaterals.  Recite your standard elevator pitch out loud and listen to how it sounds.  If someone walked up to you and gave you that spiel,  what would be your reaction?

Do your marketing materials and elevator pitch address the concerns of your clients and prospects as we approach 2013 and the Fiscal Cliff? Are you relevant? Maybe it’s time to tweak and present you and your skills in a way that will remind clients that your value proposition remains valuable.

Reconnect

The Holidays can be the perfect time to arrange to cross paths with prospects and former clients with whom you would like to forge or renew relationships and get them thinking about ways to do business with you.   If you read last week’s post,  you may have already sent greeting cards to former clients.  There may still be time to make the rounds of selected late season parties,  where you might get an introduction to a prospect you’ve been trying to meet since first quarter.  Check the websites of the more selective networking organizations and see where you might roll the dice.  Even if you don’t meet The One,  you might meet Another One,  who might be less elusive and ultimately more valuable to your bottom line.

Relax

By all means,  unwind and enjoy yourself.  Spend quality time with family and friends,  but earmark some time to be alone as well.  Dolce far niente,  as the Italians say—it’s nice to do nothing,  as least once in a while and we owe that to ourselves.  Catch up on sleep,  schedule a massage or facial if you’ve got the budget.  Downtime is important as a way to reduce stress and recharge our batteries,  which has a positive effect on our resilience and creativity.  When January rolls around,  you will be ready to take it on in style.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Boost Social Media ROI

Like nearly all Freelance consultants,   I engage in social media  (LinkedIn)  for professional reasons.   I have yet to obtain a client through social media interactions  (my business is nearly 100% referral,  since basically no one hires business strategists or marketing consultants without a personal endorsement),  but I must keep up appearances and so I keep my profile in good shape and post relevant updates to keep things fresh.

The experts say that like all marketing campaigns,  what and how you communicate through social media must appropriately reflect your brand and appeal to current and prospective clients.   To achieve the desired return on investment from social media,   it is imperative to deliver the right message to the right sites.  To accomplish that,  you must know the customer.   Who hires you and what type of social media might they trust and follow?

To help define which social media platforms to focus on,   begin with the age group of your prospects.   Are they under 35 years old? If so,  they are more likely to be very comfortable with a variety of social media.  They’re likely to  own a smart phone,  tablet and laptop.   They may very well create and copiously share online social media content in their personal and professional lives. 

Conversely,   if your typical clients are 40+ years old  (like mine),  they are less likely to be heavily involved in social media and much less likely to create  content.   They may own a smart phone,   are guaranteed to use a computer and may even own a tablet,   but should they decide to share content,   it was most likely created by someone else.  

Social media expert Judith Lewis  says that about 20%  of social media users are High Sharers and about 80%  Low Sharers.  High Sharers are almost three times as likely as Low Sharers to recommend  products or services to those in their network.   Therefore,   it is wise to create content that will appeal to the High Sharers,  who will do some  “e-legwork”  on your behalf and boost your social media ROI. 

Lewis has identified seven types of social media High Sharers and explains how their sharing style can be leveraged to target and engage clients and prospects.   Give the list a read and see how you might tweak your message and perhaps vary the sites you use:

Altruists

Altruists share content out of a desire to help those in their network.  They respond well to appeals made through email and Facebook.  Altruists make up the largest percentage of social media users.

Selectives

This group shares information if they feel it will be useful for a specific individual.  They usually use email to share information.   Selectives comprise the second largest percentage of social media users.

Passionates

Passionates share information with those who share their intense interest in a given topic,  cause,  band,  fashion designer or whatever.  This group uses Facebook most frequently.   Also,  they are big contributors to customer review sites.

Connectors

As their name describes,  this group likes bringing people together to socialize or perhaps do business.   Connectors tend to use several social media sites,  most notably LinkedIn,  Flickr,  Twitter and Facebook.

Trendspotters

This type uses social media sites to show the world that they are on the bleeding edge of the hottest trends.   Trendspotters are compelled to build their credibility and they are busy working many social media platforms.  YouTube,   Foursquare,  Delicious,  Twitter and Facebook are favorites.   Trendspotters can be very useful for B2C  ventures seeking to increase visibility and sales,   especially in fashion,  electronics and baby products.

Provocateurs

Bloggers often fall into this category  (but not your humble diarist).   Provocateurs like to do just that—be controversial,  cheeky and outrageous and get a rise out their readers.  In addition to their blog,  these folks tend to favor YouTube,  Delicious,  Flickr and Twitter.

Careerists

This group will use social media networking almost exclusively for business purposes.   They favor LinkedIn,  but will use Facebook,  Twitter,  YouTube and Facebook as needed,  to effectively share information about their business enterprise or career.

As a postscript,   I will say that I don’t know any Freelancers who have successfully monetized their social media relationships.   From time to time I read and participate in LinkedIn Answers and there are those who swear that they get clients  (whom they have never met)  through LinkedIn.   I have my doubts.   Still,   creating some buzz will never hurt your business.  If you’re able to get on the radar screen of a High Sharer who will post a good recommendation for your services,   at the very least this may help convince someone who is on the fence to go ahead and offer you the contract.

Thanks for reading,

Kim