Getting Clients: The Reboot 2020

For us freelancers to find reliable, long-term clients is a job unto itself and not an easy one. We have no choice but to invest thought and time into showing prospective clients and those who might refer us to prospective clients why we could be the best choice for providing the solution(s) for their problem.

To get ourselves inspired and off to a running start in the New Year, let’s review how we might best package and promote ourselves and our services to prospects, potential strategic partners and referral sources and update how to stand out and appear highly competent, trustworthy and an overall good hire for the Next Big Project.


It can be so tempting to not want to limit ourselves to a specific niche, but the truth is, “If you’re talkin’ to everybody, you’re talkin’ to nobody.”
The biggest mistake that Freelancers make when going out on our own is that we try to be all things to all people. But when we create a niche, we can more effectively express what we do for our clients and how those clients benefit. That helps those who know and trust us to make referrals on our behalf. A clearly defined and easily described niche service or product is also easier to market to potential clients, because the message is easy to articulate and understand.


Getting clear on your niche and how we serve our clients is only step one. The real magic happens when we learn to consistently communicate in a way that resonates with target client groups. Speaking their language makes all the difference. Do you want to stand out to prospects? Know your ideal client!

It is to our advantage to be clear and concise about whom we can help and why. Tell (don’t sell) the story and talk just like you’d talk to a colleague. Embody the tone and attitude of one who cares, who understands their pain and can help them. Paint the “after” picture, i.e., the picture of their future after working with you. Offer credentials and tell client success stories that speak to their unique needs and concerns. In short, be all about your client.

Christy Geiger, founder of Synergy Strategies Coaching and Training in Austin, TX, says that one of the most difficult challenges in marketing is to identify and articulate one’s unique value and then sell that value to prospective clients.

Christy recommends that we flip the message and describe our service fromthe client’s perspective. Rather than presenting a list of self-promoting attributes that paint you as Mr. or Ms. Wonderful, discuss instead how your expertise ensures that clients are able do what they need to do and achieve goals and objectives.


As a Freelancer, the best way to stand out from competitors is to build your marketing around our credibility. Content marketing is very useful for this mission. Produce content that will help both bring visibility to your products and services and it help to establish you as an expert in your industry.


Research others who provide products and/or services similar to your organization. What do they offer, what do they charge (if you can determine that)and how do they differentiate themselves in the marketplace? Then, ask yourself what could be realistically portrayed as valuable differences between your operation and those of your closest competitors? How might you be able to successfully distinguish yourself, your business practices, your qualifications, your products and/or your services and how might you persuade clients that these attributes make you the preferred provider?


When clients hire us Freelancers, we expect that there will be a “discovery phase,” when they check us out—visiting our LinkedIn profile and social media presence, finding and reading articles we may have written and media quotes or features, for example. They’ll visit our websites and peruse our client list to find out who (else) they know who’s worked with us. To verify our work ethic, they may have a good talk with the referring party, if that was how the parties were introduced, or they may just call one (or more) of the clients on our list and discuss the quality of the results of the deliverable.

Freelancers can help both ourselves and our prospective clients reduce by sharing two or three well-written and descriptive case studies that demonstrate what we do, how we do it and the (exceptional!) results that we produce.


We Freelancers wear many hats. We’re the Chief Marketing Officer, the Vice President of Product Development, the Director of Sales, the Comptroller and company President. Our products and services may be excellent, but we would be advised to employ business practices and customer service protocols that make it is easy for customers to access what we have to offer. Setting up online purchasing or appointment booking, returning inquiries promptly and following-up as promised make a big difference. If customers have to jump through hoops to work with us, they will go elsewhere.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980), the “King of Cool,” in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

Guiding Light: Your Business Plan

Business plans and email marketing have something in common. The two stalwarts have often been declared dead by so-called experts, yet both continue to demonstrate value to current and aspiring business owners. Despite the naysayers, business plans are the foundation of business success, for the unavoidable reason that many new businesses fail.

Of the 400,000 companies started in 2014, 44% had failed by year four and just 18% of first-time Entrepreneurs were able to launch and sustain a successful entity. As the saying goes, “No one plans to fail. They just fail to plan.” Don’t let that be you, Dear.

The primary reason for aspiring Freelance consultants and Entrepreneurs to write a business plan is to test assumptions about the viability of the business idea against credible information that reveals the likely demand for the product or service and customer groups that have the money and possible motive to buy those products and services. The potential viability of a business is revealed in factors such as the size of the market (i.e., those with money and motive to buy), the founder’s access to potential customers (a big factor in B2B and B2G sales), competitors who sell an identical or similar product or service (are they thriving or just hanging on?) and the amount of money required to set up shop and start doing business.

A second compelling reason to write a business plan is to develop strategies that provide a roadmap, or blueprint, that will guide the founder as s/he builds and launches the venture. Confirming target customers, identifying possible niche markets, choosing the pricing strategy and the sales strategy; creating the financial plan, the operations plan, a realistic business model and selecting the most advantageous legal structure will also be thought through in advance of the company launch.

During the process, the founder will make discoveries that may persuade him/her to refine certain aspects of the products and services intended to be sold, or adjust perceptions of who the ideal customers will be. This information may have the power to substantively improve the venture’s chances of success and sustainability.

A third reason that motivates aspiring Freelance consultants and Entrepreneurs to write a business plan is the need to seek financing for their venture, whether the funds will be used to launch or scale the company. The financing source may be a bank or credit union, a micro financing organization, private investment (friends and family), or even self-financing. Those holding money will use the business plan to make funding decisions, so founders would be wise to develop a realistic financial blueprint that projects three years into the future, as well as a credible marketing plan that accurately defines target customer groups and identifies key competitors.

In sum, a powerful business plan needs to be three-dimensional, so it distills lessons from the real world and allows the founder(s) to test and when necessary revise assumptions. This ongoing process will give the business the highest chance of success while also increasing your credibility with investors, your team and most of all, yourself.

Thanks for reading,


Image: © Ubisoft Entertainment SA, artist’s rendering of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The lighthouse stood on the island of Pharos, guiding ships as they entered the harbors of Alexandria, Egypt on the Mediterranean coast. The structure was built during the reigns of Ptolemy I and II, c. 300 – 280 BC. With a height of over 330 feet, the lighthouse was so impressive that it was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Now lost, the lighthouse was a welcomed navigational aid for over 1600 years.

Factors to Include When Planning to Launch a Business

In a recent 7 day span, I was invited to judge two pitch contests for entrepreneurs who had successfully completed a 13-week business plan writing workshop presented by a woman-centric business incubator and business development center that has operated in New England for 25 years (and is also an SBA affiliate). The entrepreneurs were either in start-up or scaling (i.e., expansion) mode.

I was excited to be a judge and privileged to meet nearly two dozen forward-thinking, focused, resourceful and determined women who expect nothing less than success and are taking decisive steps to bring it about. Based on the business concept pitches I heard, I encourage those who are evaluating whether to launch a business venture to include the following information:

  • Name and describe your product or service and the problem(s) it will solve
  • Identify your best customer groups and explain why those customers will pay for your product or service
  • Identify your primary competitors, list the competitive advantages that your product/ service possesses and explain why customers will prefer your offerings
  • Create a business model that outlines how you’ll acquire customers, where and how the product/service will be delivered and how the business will make money
  • Explain why you are qualified to make the proposed business successful
  • Develop a business strategy and marketing plan that includes:
    • sales and distribution strategy
    • pricing strategy
    • product positioning strategy
    • branding strategy
    • content marketing strategy strategies
    • social media strategy
    • PR and advertising strategy
  • Detail the business pre-launch and launch (start-up) costs
  • If investors or borrowing will sought, present a (realistic) break-even analysis and 24 month revenue projections (P & L and cash-flow)
  • Detail the potential investor return and the loan payback schedule


Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Launch of the Hubble Space Telescope April 24, 1990

Is Your Idea a Business or a Dead End?

Ha! So you think you have an idea that you can parlay into a good business, whether it’s a cutting edge technology or a tried and true formula, like a car wash.

Regardless of the industry that you’d like to enter, there is a more or less standard checklist of factors you should consider before investing your money, time and hopes. Before fantasies of entrepreneurship carry you away, do yourself a favor and answer these questions first. You’ll know how to proceed from here, whether it means that you meet with the Branch Manager at your bank to learn about business financing options, or you take a trip back to the drawing board.

1. Who are the target customers and what is the size of the market?

Define your market demographic. Who will pay to buy what you plan to sell? Is this a product or service that is growing in popularity, or maintaining its broad appeal, or is there a shift in customer preference on the horizon as those who would be your customers learn about a new choice that may persuade them to switch to The Next Big Thing?

In addition to demand for your intended product or service, are there enough customers in your location to support the business? By the way, how are your competitors doing? Do they appear to be thriving?

2. What is the problem that target customers want to solve or avoid when they do business with companies like your proposed venture?

Understand the back story of why customers would buy the solutions that you plan to sell. What is it that they’d like to achieve or avoid? One calls a window washer when the windows are dirty because clean windows demonstrate the owner’s desire to protect and enhance the value of his/her home.

3. How are target customers meeting their need today?

What businesses would be your primary three or four competitors? What factors persuade their customers to do business with them—a convenient location, exceptional product variety, discount pricing, the right relationships?

What advantage can you offer that customers might be drawn to—more convenient hours of operation, for example? Can you provide a product or service that meets a need that is valued but not currently addressed?

4. What is your solution (product or service)?

Describe your proposed product or service. You should be able to easily and clearly describe (and sell) your product. Develop an off-the-cuff sales pitch, record your delivery of it, then listen and evaluate. Would you buy this product or service?

5. How will you reach your customers?

If your business is B2C and requires a physical location, can you afford to set up shop in an area that potential customers will visit? If your business idea is B2B, do you have a plan to access customers and referrals? If your plan is for e-commerce, how will potential customers learn about your website?

6. Do you have the credibility and credentials to do business in this industry?

Especially if you plan to enter the B2B sector, be certain that your education and experience will command respect and trust. If obtaining certain licensing, certifications, or an educational degree is vital (even if not required), investigate the process, plus the time and money involved.

7. Do you have the funding to launch the business?

Research the expected business start-up costs and think objectively about how long it might take you to start making sales you can live on.

Pay your bills and get your credit score. Build up your savings. Whether you expect to self-finance, ask to borrow from friends, family, or your retirement account or apply for outside funding, you will need a lump sum of cash on hand when you launch a business.

Thanks for reading,

Photograph: Financial District, Boston, MA. Kim Clark, September 23, 2018

Update Your Competitive Intelligence

At any point in the life of your business, it’s wise to update your competitive information. Depending on the type of enterprise that you operate, refreshing your competitive info can be as easy as taking a 30 minute walk around your neighborhood and making note of new businesses that are preparing to open. Reading local newspapers is also useful, since there is frequently mention of new stores and restaurants that are scheduled to open.

Your customers can be excellent sources of competitive information as well, in particular if your venture draws primarily from customers who live or work in the immediate neighborhood, and that’s another reason why you, business owner friend, want to develop good relationships with customers.

B2B service providers don’t have it so easy when it comes to obtaining vital or actionable competitive information, I’m afraid. The problem is, there’s often no way to know the identities of competitors. Everyone who offers services similar to what your organization offers, everyone who works with clients of a similar profile ($1 million or less in annual revenue, $1 million to $10 million in annual revenue, and so on) and everyone who submits a proposal for an assignment on which you’ve also bid is a competitor. It’s nebulous, to say the least, but nevertheless I encourage you to find ways to extract relevant competitive data from every available source.

Reading your industry and other business journals and joining a networking or skills development organization tailored to your specialty is probably the most effective way to confirm which services that clients you want to work with are requesting most often as well as the services they may request in the future.

It won’t hurt to create a more or less formal Competitive Analysis document (an Excel spreadsheet will work nicely) for your information, so that you can review and update as desired. In your Competitive Analysis spreadsheet you can identify your direct and indirect competitors and perhaps choose to focus on four or five, maximum. If you can learn enough to evaluate their strategies and determine their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your business, so much the better, but it’s more likely that you’ll only be able to document the products and services they offer and check out their client lists. If you see ways that you can rename or repackage one or more of your own services in the hopes of making yourself more marketable, then by all means go for it.

Another compelling and potentially actionable reason to perform a Competitive Analysis is to enable yourself to evaluate what makes your products and services unique in ways that appeal to clients. It’s especially important for B2B service providers to articulate any distinct competitive advantages you have over the competitors you’ve identified.

Furthermore, you can refine your data and clarify the picture by grouping competitors according to how directly they compete against you. It may be helpful to ask yourself questions that will serve to further describe your competitors. These questions include:

1. Who are your top three direct competitors and how busy are they?
2. What services do competitors offer that you don’t and vice versa? What might that mean to clients?
3. Can you assess your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
4. In which media outlets do competitors advertise and how frequently do the ads run?
5. What other types of marketing do your top three direct competitors do?
6. What potential threats do your competitors pose to the marketing of your products or services?
7. Do you see additional opportunities for marketing your products and services, in terms of new customer groups, niche markets, or reconfigured service packages?

Pricing is also a big factor in competitive information and once again, B2B service providers are at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining pricing information about competitors. However, there is a way to gain insight into the pricing of similar services in different parts of the country by checking out the bidding prices listed in the U.S. Government contracting system MOBIS. See “view catalogue” on the far right. Choose a company and click. Scroll through and find pricing info for that company.


Thanks for reading,

Competitive Intelligence: The Role of Social Media

To those who think you know all the ins and outs of using social media, fasten your seat belts.  If you created a LinkedIn profile at the turn of the century, started out with MySpace and later jumped to Facebook, became an early adopter of Vine and now work Snapchat, I have news for you.  Social media platforms are not just one-way PR broadcast channels that let you tell the world how brilliant and popular you are.  You can (and should) do some of that, but there is more.

Maybe you already do more?  You regularly use social media to encourage comments from customers about their experiences when doing business with your company.  You understand that social media is a two-way street.  But, still, there is so much more.

Social media can be effectively used not only for inbound and outbound marketing, but also for keeping tabs on competitors.  Social media is ideal for gathering competitive intelligence that can make you a smarter marketer, salesperson and business owner.  Here’s how.

First, determine who your competitors are, something that’s not always easy and obvious for B2B service providers.  Discover who your competitors are by meeting them.  The most efficient method to meet your competition is to join a professional society, where you’ll meet fellow accountants, life science marketers, event planners, etc., or join one or more chambers of commerce.  In four or five visits, you’ll meet a good cross-section of peers who do what you do, or something very similar.

Make it a point to talk to these people. Get to know them somewhat and exchange business cards, for they are not your enemy.  In fact, they can probably give you some valuable advice.  You should be willing to share a pearl or two of wisdom with them in return, as long as you don’t give away any proprietary information.

Once their business cards are in your possession, the second thing you’ll do is set up Google Alerts, so you’ll receive notice of their company’s print or online mentions, at no charge.  Whatever your competitors choose to publicly announce, you’ll quickly know.  It will be so enlightening to have the PR of competitors delivered directly to your inbox.

You’ll learn who will keynote at a conference, who will moderate or serve on a panel, who’s released a new product or service, who gets quoted in local or national press, or who will teach as an adjunct professor this semester.  Discover who’s quoted you, or if there are sites linking to your website or blog.  Monitor the content marketing of competitors (e.g., blogs and newsletters) and assess the perspectives and even the expertise of those whom you’re working against.

You can also receive alerts for your own company, to reveal what others are saying about your enterprise.  You’ll learn whether you have supporters who give you compliments in newsletters or blogs, or if someone is undermining you on social media.  Use competitive intelligence to shape your response and support your reputation management.

Regarding the successes of competitors, there’s no mandate to imitate what they do and that’s all to the good.  Be yourself.  But what you learn may inspire you to take, or not take, certain actions based on information you’ve gleaned from the three or four competitors you select to follow.  Set up a Google Alerts account to track key words and phrases and you’ll be happy that you did.

You might also try Hootsuite, a paid service, and use it to search podcasts and webinars by topic and engage in social media listening, for less than $20/month.  The primary role of Hootsuite is to allow users to write posts and manage all of their social media accounts from one site.  Those who are active on multiple platforms find Hootsuite very convenient.  Plus, the analytics reports included with the service reveal which of your social media tactics and strategies are worthwhile and which need rethinking.

Finally, if you can budget $80/month, then take a deep dive into your competitors’ content marketing activities with BuzzSumo.  Examine which content is getting traction for competitors, the shares competitors’ content receives and how your company’s content stacks up in comparison.  It’s possible to receive an update each time selected competitors publish content and you’ll also be able to compare the overall performance of your company’s content with that of competitors.

Thanks for reading,


Image: His Master’s Voice (1898), starring Nipper the dog, by British painter Francis Barraud. In 1901, the painting became the logo of what would eventually become RCA Victor.  EMI, JVC and HMV (His Master’s Voice) have also owned the logo rights.


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,


Raise Prices? In This Economy?

An effective pricing strategy is essential to every business,  because one goes into business to make money.  Freelancers and business owners deserve to be paid just as every worker expects payment for services or labor performed.  Determining how to price products is fairly straightforward  (what is the cost of materials? what is the price of labor?),  but pricing services,  especially intangibles,  can be daunting.  Many Freelancers operate in the knowledge economy  (e.g., providing leadership training)  and it’s not always possible to benchmark your prices against that of competitors’.

Add to the mix that clients are well aware that they have the upper hand in nearly all fee negotiations.  Exploitation is alive and well and there can be shameless manipulation to obtain your top-drawer services at bargain-basement prices.  The smug assumption is that if you refuse to work dirt cheap,  then it will be easy enough to find someone else who will.

Then there are the  “clients”  who request free services in exchange for  “opportunities for exposure”  or  “future paid work”  that I strongly suspect never materializes.  (Why would it?  Once you’ve built their website for free,  they no longer need you.)   In my experience,  nonprofits are the worse offenders and they do it with a clear conscience.  They rationalize their disrespectful behavior because their budgets are thinly stretched and their organization is all about doing good.  Ha!

Yes,  there is risk to raising prices in this climate of hyper cost-consciousness,  but every once in a while one must raise prices and there may be compelling reasons to do so now.  Your price increase may be in response to any number of factors,  not the least of which is to synchronize the value you bring with the fees you charge.  Or maybe you just plain old need more money to maintain your preferred standard of living as you hand over more money than you should for groceries and gasoline.

The art of pricing is to charge a fee that simultaneously reflects your perceived value to clients and allows you to achieve your desired bottom line.  To that end,  you can discover useful competitive intelligence at and learn what others in your specialty charge the US government for consulting services rendered.

To access,  see the search box at top right and enter a professional category  (e.g. project management).  Scroll through the businesses listed until you find one based in your geography.  Look to the right,  click  “terms and conditions”  and view the services and prices revealed.

If you learn that your prices are rather low by comparison,  then it might be time for a price increase.  Additionally,  if clients remark that your services are a wonderful bargain,  then it’s definitely time to give yourself a raise.

Be aware that billing practices can either help or hinder the introduction and acceptance of a price increase.  It’s easier to bill by the hour and for small jobs that may suffice.  But hourly billing can expose you to haggling over your hourly rate,  making a price increase unpalatable for those who’ve worked with you before.

A flat project fee holds many advantages and typically benefits both Freelancer and client.  A project fee also makes it easier to institute your price increase.  To make sure that you don’t lose money on a job,  obtain written project specifications  (to avoid  “mission creep”)  and calculate the number of hours/week it should take to successfully complete the job.

Be sure to add in at least 2 – 3 hours extra per week to accommodate unexpected delays.  You may even choose to discount your  (discreetly increased)  fee somewhat,  in exchange for the stability of working on a long-term project  (because those extra hours allotted may not all be used).  Furthermore,  you should also specify a weekly cap for hours worked and set an hourly rate for time worked in excess of the cap.

Your mission,  should you decide to accept,  is to get paid what you’re worth.  Investigate MOBIS to learn how your prices compare to competitors’.  Whatever your pricing,  if you feel that an increase is in order,  be strategic about your approach.

Billing a flat project fee whenever possible is likely to be helpful to you and your clients  (they’ll know the project cost up front).  A modest price increase may be best,  or perhaps increase only the prices of selected services.  Most of all,  as discussed in previous posts,  you must work with the right clients and sell the value of your services.

Thanks for reading,


Go to the Front of the Pack

I’m a little bit of an egghead and every once in a while I like to read a good study,  to keep myself current,  or even ahead of the curve,  on matters of health,  business or anything else that catches my eye.  Recently,  I read an interesting study on strategic competitive positioning,  a survey study done this year at Babson College’s Babson Executive Education.

Lead author H. James Wilson competes in triathlons and he used those competitions and their participants as the study framework.  Triathletes assess competitors in a clean and simple fashion:  who is Front of the Pack,  Middle of the Pack or Back of the Pack?  The first two groups are ranked as actual competitors and the latter is seen primarily as new to the triathlon scene and nothing to worry about.  MOPs and BOPs have one goal and that is to improve their time in every event they enter and move up to the FOP.

Wilson applied the FOP,  MOP and BOP classifications to 300+  global companies that had recently reported facing intense competition within their respective industries.  He segmented the companies as follows

  • FOP if they achieved greater than 15%  annual revenue growth in FY09  (5%,  16 companies)
  • MOP if they achieved 1-15%  annual revenue growth in FY09 (48%,  145 companies)
  • BOP if they showed flat or declining revenues in FY09 (47%,  144 companies)

The essential question of strategy is,  are you heading in the right direction?  Wilson knew that the FOPs were doing more than a few things right and to get to the heart of it,  he analyzed the FOPs and identified three ways in which they outpace the also-rans.  He then developed the following survey questions based on those strengths.

Wilson’s data indicate that if you can answer yes to each of the survey questions,  you’re on your way to the FOP.  How do you stack up?  Something to think about.

1.  Are you/is your company becoming more effective at meeting the needs of clients/customers?

Despite the economic downturn that spawned the planet-wide recession (depression?),  FOPs have maintained the trust,  confidence,  loyalty and dollars of their customers.  FOPs understand what customers want and they are better at anticipating future needs and trends.  They put resources into keeping a finger on the pulse of the customer and they know what resonates.  FOPs are proactive in market research and customer outreach.

2.  Have you/has your company recently implemented a significant innovation campaign or launched numerous small-scale innovation pilots?

Brainstorming ideas for new services,  fresh approaches,  an innovative marketing campaign or self-development plans is an important beginning.  It is always necessary to think things through,  examine the big picture and weigh the possible outcomes of your actions.  Just remember that  “implement”  and  “launch”  are the key words.  How many good plans have you left to languish on the drawing board?  FOPs understand that results come from deeds,  not words.

3.  Are you/is your company becoming more collaborative with other Freelancer colleagues/other organizations?

High levels of cross-company interactions distinguish FOPs more than any other factor studied.  FOPs are also more likely to inform those in their network about business opportunities.  As a result,  FOPs receive the benefits of reciprocity more than most,  when referrals come their way.  Think of  how you might include selected non-competing colleagues in business opportunities that would be mutually beneficial.  Perhaps this is the smartest way to scoop bigger contracts for both?  Plus,  you’ll gain exposure to another’s business methods and perspectives and that information will make you even more savvy and competitive.

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,


Keep Your Competitors Closer

Freelancers get business by three methods:

1). Proposals, ideally submitted by invitation and not “cold”

2.) Referrals, made on our behalf  by a source the client trusts

3). Reputation, meaning repeat business from our client roster

The most successful Freelancers skillfully promote the urban legend that we provide exceptional services, solutions and expertise that clients can absolutely depend upon. That perception creates trust and  gives our clients the confidence to bring us in when a project is approved for outsourcing.  Your client is convinced that when you are on the scene, an excellent job will be done and with a  minimum of fuss.  You will make them look good.

Competitive intelligence will provide important building blocks for your story.  One must periodically assess the strengths and weaknesses of  major competitors:  compare and contrast products and services offered, observe how they market themselves,  make note of selling points that are emphasized  and learn how you stack up.  It helps us to look from “outside in”  at how our services and business practices might be perceived by clients.

Analyze and benchmark

  • Compare your services to those of competitors:  what do they do sufficiently well that  motivates clients to hire them?
  • What do they do incompletely or perhaps poorly?
  • Who is on their client roster and which are their target markets?
  • Who are the front runners among your competitors and how did they get there?
  • What relationships and/or competitive advantages do they leverage to get business?
  • What is showcased on their websites and in other marketing materials?
  • Where do they advertise?
  • Does an internet search bring up good PR or anything noteworthy?
  • With whom do they collaborate or partner?

Define your competitive advantages

  • Catalogue what you do that clients  value
  • What services do you offer that your competitors do not and what value do your clients place on those services?
  • Audit your customer groups—have you ignored a possible niche market?
  • What relationships might you leverage to give you the edge when submitting  bids and obtaining referrals?

Create the spin

  • What common themes do you see in the marketing messages of your competitors? What do the front runners say to clients?
  • Where do you see yourself as offering the better value proposition? How can you most effectively communicate that to clients?
  • How can you  retool your message to highlight services or buzzwords that grab the clients? Reflect those in your marketing materials, advertisements and on your website.  Incorporate into your elevator pitch and sales talking points.
  • Build a PR campaign around an event that features you—a speaking engagement,  a workshop you will present, the relaunch of a service.  Send out press releases and follow up with phone calls.  Develop relationships with the business press by taking the right person to lunch or coffee and talk over ways to get your name mentioned.
  • Advertise,  however modestly,  in publications that your target audience follows.  Advertisements should lead to editorial,  however brief,  being written about you.
  • Cultivate relationships within the industries that you service,  either directly with those who may hire you,  or with those who can influence decision makers.

Keeping an occasional eye on competitors will yield many benefits.  Competitive intelligence  keeps us in the loop about which clients are hiring and the demand for workers within our field,  keeps us abreast of the activities of our professional peers,  makes benchmarking possible and helps us to sell our services more effectively.  Competitors help us to sharpen and clarify our approach to business.  They make us better.

Competitors need not be sworn enemies, despite the adversarial position that must be assumed when vying for market share.  Competitors have much to teach us about doing business.  In fact,  judiciously cooperating with competitors is good business.  There may even be occasions when competitors will collaborate.  Frenemy is perhaps the best way to describe the ideal relationship to our competitors.  Use them as you strategize to grow your client list.

Thanks for reading,