Upgrade To A Branded Elevator Pitch

Think about it.  Your elevator pitch and your personal brand are co-dependent.  The two share a mission-critical objective, to create a positive and memorable first impression of you and your enterprise when you meet personal and professional contacts.  The all-important self-introduction known as the elevator pitch is, while brief and simple, nevertheless your most important marketing tool, because it’s often how people first get to know you and your business.

From the opening line to the final sentence, your elevator pitch is Step 1 in  communicating your personal brand.  Its content must be clear and concise, and persuade people that you are worth knowing and doing business with.  Build the introduction to your brand by choosing two or three of your services or products to use as talking points; write them down and rehearse your pitch frequently.  Like a singer or musician, memorize the melody of the song that is your elevator pitch and improvise as needed.

Your delivery is as important as its content.  Polish your presentation by speaking in a pleasant and energetic tone of voice.  Exude a welcoming and friendly demeanor as you greet people with a smile, all the while standing up straight and maintaining eye contact, as you extend your right arm to initiate a comfortably firm hand shake and give your name.

Networking is a 365 days a year activity and your elevator pitch can easily be tailored to fit any context, whether you’re at a holiday party or a business association event.  Purely social events usually do not require mention of your business life, unless the topic comes up a little later, as you chat with your new acquaintances.

What matters most is that your pitch ensures that you are perceived as competent, credible and authentic.  When introducing your professional role, use easy-to-understand, jargon-free language as you succinctly describe two or three of the services you provide (What you do) that solve two or three problems that your clients encounter and must resolve (Why you do it).  Depending on who you’re meeting, you may choose to reveal the types of organizations that you work with (for Whom you do it) and the value (benefits and outcomes) that are achieved when clients work with you.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Take the time to develop an elevator pitch that creates a trust-building first impression for prospective clients, influencers and referral sources and serves as an effective first touchpoint for your personal brand.

Thanks for reading,



Client Retention Means Exceeding Expectations

Client retention and referrals are the best ways to build a good client list. Earlier in the year,  one of my clients referred to me a colleague who is in a closely related business.  I was so happy!  While working with clients new and long-term,  my mission is to do an excellent job and exceed expectations, so that I will create the conditions for a long relationship and the receipt of referrals.

The two clients are friends,  yet very different in working style.  The first is laid back and easy to deal with.  The new client, to be honest, has not yet developed trust in my abilities. There is a tendency to be more hands-on than I would expect and to assume that things may not have been done correctly on my part.  I’m not sure of the source of the client’s anxiety, but I’ve decided to view the matter as a learning opportunity that will keep me in top form.  I will be pushed to do my best work and have the opportunity to go into trust and credibility building mode.

I started on the client retention path by first learning who had referred me and then sending a thank you email.  Prior to that,  the client had received December holiday cards, as it is my custom is to send holiday cards to all clients I’ve worked with in the previous five years.

Regarding the new client,  my objective is to help that individual relax and know that I’m in control and will make him/her look smart and capable in the eyes of superiors and peers.  I’ve written previously about how to establish a good relationship with difficult and demanding clients. https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/how-to-manage-a-difficult-client/

Other tips include:

Be prepared

If you know that you’ll be asked to address a certain problem that the client must resolve, or you must make make recommendations about how the client might capitalize on an expected opportunity, do your homework and come to the meeting brimming with practical ideas and insightful questions.

Listen to the client

Listen and learn how the client views matters from his/her perspective, whether it’s how to implement the solution for the project you’re working on,  how to resolve a customer service glitch, or any other matter that is presented.  Show that you value the client’s opinions.

Respect the client’s ideas and suggestions

You may not have all the answers. The client’s lived experience matters.  Be open to incorporating the client’s ideas into your proposed solution.  Always agree with the client and validate his/her choices. Subtly adapt his/her suggested strategy into something that you know will be more effective, when necessary.  If the client mentions that another consultant has handled a similar project in a different way,  listen up and learn. You may receive valuable information on how to improve your business practices.

Communicate constantly

Misunderstandings cause relationships to fray and misunderstandings occur when communication is unclear and insufficient.  Meetings may be infrequent, but emails are a way to report on (in writing!) your many successes toward achieving the objectives and goals of the project.  I keep my clients apprised of what I’m doing.  This custom also helps when it’s time to send an invoice and billable hours must be justified.  What I don’t want is a client who questions why I’m claiming so many hours.  Moreover, if the client feels that some aspect of the project scope should be expanded or diminished,  adjustments can be made in a timely fashion.

Get it in writing

Take meeting notes and within 48 hours post-meeting, send an email to confirm what has been discussed and agreed-upon. Include project specs, the fee structure, the payment schedule, project milestones, the deliverables and the due dates.

Client retention is the foundation of every business.  It takes less time and effort to retain a client than to pursue and acquire a new one. Furthermore,  long-term clients are much more likely to bestow on you that ultimate affirmation, a referral.

Thanks for reading,



Freelancer Fails You Must Avoid

Life is a gamble and there are no guarantees. Making one’s living as a Freelance consultant adds an extra measure of unpredictability. Do whatever you can to control that which you can control and lay the groundwork for success in your consultancy.  As they say, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You will see that most of what you must do right hinges on communication, in one form or another. Here are a few unfortunate practices that will bring down even the most professionally knowledgeable and well-connected consultant:

The service does not make sense

Or, it is poorly communicated and prospective clients don’t understand the service or how to make use of it. The ability to describe one’s services, help a prospective client picture how and when it might be useful to their organization and in the process persuade the prospect that the service is valuable and the Freelancer has the skill to deliver it is how business is created. Finding your sweet spot, defining your value proposition and communicating it well, are vital.

Sometimes, clients don’t know what they need, but they know that they need help. A serendipitous meeting with such an individual could mean a contract for you and perhaps the start of an ongoing business relationship. It is hugely important to be able to effectively communicate to prospects what you do, the problems you can solve or help them avoid and goals you can help them achieve. Doing this well makes you look like an expert who can be trusted. If the money and motive are there, you will be hired.

Poor follow-up or follow-through

Whether one is a Freelancer or traditionally employed, being reliable is a must. if you promise the client that something will be completed by a given date, then do that. Answer calls and emails ASAP, ideally on the same day and most certainly within 24 hours. Even if the client has not asked a question, anticipate what information will reinforce their confidence in and confirm that you are in control and meeting expectations by checking-in and giving periodic updates. Timely communication is reassuring.

Inadequate business development

Freelance consultants are always looking for the next assignment and that may mean helping a current or past client to create that assignment. During your project work, look for additional services you might provide, while their checkbook is open. Take a past client out for coffee and see if you can get back in there, weaving in your objective as you talk about how they’re doing.

Too shy to ask for referrals

Every business needs referrals and word-of-mouth endorsements from a source perceived as trustworthy are the best. The process of obtaining a referral starts with you providing excellent service that exceeds client expectations. Timing is also a factor. Asking for a referral while on the job and definitely not while you’re presenting the final invoice, is the preferred strategy.

Making a referral for the client, either while you’re on assignment or after the fact, will make you golden and increase the chances that the favor will be repaid, if the client knows a colleague who may need your services. Knowledge of the client’s business relationships can help you to tease out a referral. If you know that the client is active in a particular business or professional association and there is a prospect in the group that you would like to meet and try to work with, tell the client that you would appreciate an introduction.

Poor billing practices

If you want to get paid, you must invoice. On some projects, it’s wise to tell the client when you will invoice. If you do so, follow the agreed-upon schedule. Late invoices annoy clients and adversely impact your cash flow and financial management as well. Always describe or itemize the services delivered in your invoice. Specify how the check should be made out, include the tax identification number,  the invoice due date and the address to which the check should be sent.

Inadequate client relationship management

Freelancers need repeat business and that means nurturing relationships is a priority. Do what can be reasonably done to keep communicating with past clients.  Definitely, send December holiday cards to all those with whom you’ve worked in the past 5 years. If you encounter an article that you suspect will be of interest to a former or current client, send an email with the link, along with a friendly message. If a past client is speaking somewhere and you can afford the time and money to attend, do so. Take notes, so that you can ask a question that will make your client look good. Attention spans are short, so it is necessary to stay on the client’s radar screen if you expect to be hired again.

Thanks for reading,


Seven Resolutions for 2011 Part 2 of 2

Here are the remaining four resolutions that should help you construct the framework for a prosperous year.  Nothing especially novel or profound is being suggested.  To the contrary,  I’ve presented nothing that you don’t already know.  Consider these resolutions to be  a gentle reminder.  You decide which deserve follow-up. 

4.   Revisit your networking  strategy

Get the most out of networking by following a basic agenda,  one that keeps you focused on the real purpose for being there and takes the experience beyond just a random meet & greet.  This agenda works best face to face,  but it can also be used when engaging in online social networking.  The recipe is:  Get a clientGet a referralGet educated.  In other words,  when you’re out there networking,  do your best to get something tangible.  At the very least,  get some information that might help you land a client or receive a referral.  Sweeten the pot for those whom you’d like to know better by offering them something of similar value,  to make helping you worth their while.  Networking flows best on a two-way street.  With this criteria  as a guide,  consider which social networking platforms you use and why you use them.  Is the ROI worth the time spent to keep up?  Next,  consider if you are participating in the right amount of face to face networking and assess the quality of your usual haunts.  How much time and money have you spent at these events and how has being in those rooms impacted your billable hours?

5.   Review your client list

Which clients pay you the most money?  Can you make that happen again this year?  From which clients might you be able to get more money?  Can you dare to raise your hourly rate or project fee for any of them?  Conversely,  which clients are more trouble than they are worth,  high maintenance headaches who do not pay enough to make up for the misery incurred?  Are there clients you should fire?

6.   Develop a prospect list

Who is your dream client?  It’s time to devise a strategy to reel in that big fish.  Identify your decision maker,  or key influencers who might get you in the door.  Maybe you know a colleague who can either make an introduction to the right person or tell you at which networking activities you could meet whom you need to meet?  Make a plan.

7.   Review professional development needs

Will enrolling in graduate school,  taking a seminar or earning a certification increase your credibility and make your services more marketable?  Is there a professional organization that would benefit you,  one that offers good peer networking and useful skills updates? Ask around.

Thanks for reading,


Diversify Under Your Brand Umbrella

“Show me a company with more than 10 % of its business with one customer or more than half of its business in one industry and I’ll show you a company at risk of being (adversely) impacted by one company or one industry.”

Paul Weber,  CEO Advertising Group    Kansas City, MO

In the Freelancer’s favorite dream,  we somehow manage to sign a nice group of steady clients who all offer multi-week projects that carry us smoothly through the year.  We smile as we sign our contracts and deposit our checks…

In the rude awakening that is the  “new normal”  economy,  however,  the realization of our dream is slipping further from our grasp.  Client behavior is more fickle than ever and outrageous fortune can oh,  so easily snatch a good account away from us,  no matter how well we work with the prime contact or how long the association.

A departmental  shake-up can cause  someone new to enter the Garden of Eden,  who will cast us out and bring in their own hand-picked specialist.  Other times,  industry changes,  shifting organizational priorities or even a technology upgrade can render our services obsolete. 

Knowing our primary customer groups and industries where our services are most welcome is essential branding knowledge for every Freelancer.  Nevertheless,  underneath the umbrella of your brand,  it is wise to keep eyes,  ears and mind open for new sectors of enterprise.  Where else might you find an open door?

I liken it to cross-training in fitness:  participating in different activities expands our competencies,  guards against boredom and makes us less vulnerable to injury.  Cross-training makes us  stronger,  more versatile and ultimately,  healthier.  Under the umbrella of fitness,  it is possible to run,  swim,  bike,  row,  ride the elliptical,  weight train,  core train and practice yoga.  It is wise to apply that principle to your body and your business.

Here are five activities that will help you to apply the cross-training principle to your business and help you to diversify your client base:

1.   Cold call  by reaching out to clients you haven’t worked with in a while or re-approaching prospects who liked your services but weren’t ready to take you on at the time.

2.   Energize your PR  by sending out press releases that announce your speaking or teaching engagements to media followed by clients that you want to reach.   Get involved with an event sponsored by a local business or business association and send press releases to your targeted media outlets.  Remember to make follow-up phone calls and create an opportunity to develop relationships with the media along with the participating business owners.

3.   Network face to face  and meet people.  Approach new contacts with the mindset of helping them to achieve their objectives by making introductions and sharing information.  Your generosity can pay off in referrals,  no doubt to new clients and possibly new industries.

4.   Collaborate  with complementary businesses to broaden or deepen your professional reach and get introduced to new clients or industries.

5.   Volunteer  for a cause that resonates with you or join the local Rotary Club.  Your network of professional relationships will increase,  others will see your expertise in action as you apply your talents to various projects and referrals may eventually come your way,  giving you entrée to new clients and industries.

Thanks for reading,


Build Your Self-Promotion Strategy

I modestly propose several tactics that you might use to build a subtle,  yet effective, self-promotion strategy that will deliver not only name recognition and hits on your web site,  but also paying clients and enthusiastic referral sources.

Online Tactics

  • Set up a website that describes your services in language that clicks with your clients.  Demonstrate your understanding of what clients need when hiring for your category of services  by highlighting the solutions  you offer and problems that will be solved or avoided through your expertise.
  • Include website features at your discretion.  If a  ‘call to action’  that clients value can be devised, then use it.  If you are a public  speaker and can pinpoint what clients typically want to see and hear when a hiring decision about speaking or teaching is made,  then add a video of you meeting those expectations.  If you’ve written  ‘white papers’  that address topics known to be of interest to clients, then add them.  If you want to add your public appearances calendar to demonstrate that you are in demand by reputable organizations,  by all means add and keep it updated.
  • Establish a LinkedIn profile and use it as your adjunct web site.  Complete your profile and periodically add updates to showcase special achievements,  good business books you’ve read and professional events you will attend.   Join a group or two and stay up to date with what is happening in communities that impact or interest you,  whether alumni or professional.
  • Start thoughtful discussions in your groups and add comments to others’ discussions to build a reputation as a good resource. Visibility in your groups may lead to online relationships that can yield off line results like referrals or maybe even a client.
  • Set up a subgroup in Huddle Workspace for more specific  in-group discussions.   When it seems appropriate,  reply privately to a discussion and invite that person for coffee if the geography is convenient and it seems like a face to face could be mutually beneficial.

Off-line Tactics

  • Join or visit networking organizations affiliated with your profession, where you can meet industry peers and stay current with industry trends, challenges and business growth opportunities.  Join/visit additional organizations where you can meet prospective clients,  referral sources and perhaps find speaking opportunities to showcase your expertise.
  • Prepare a short narrative about a recent achievement:  an interesting project,  a marquee  client,  how you solved a vexing problem that stymied others,  how you brought something to the next level.  Write down your story and practice and perfect the language,  so you will have instant recall and be able to trot it out when necessary.
  • Do some public  speaking and establish yourself as an expert in your field.  There are numerous (alas, often unpaid) speaking opportunities at business associations, professional groups, colleges, adult learning centers and nonprofit organizations. Figure out a topic or two that you can authoritatively address and put yourself on a couple of calendars.  Referral sources/potential clients may be in the audience.
  • Volunteer for a cause that has meaning to you.  This can present a golden opportunity to meet movers and shakers,  potential clients/referral sources, demonstrate leadership and expand your skill set into areas that enhance you professionally.   You might chair a committee  or even propose a high profile event (I’m in the midst of both) and benefit not only the organization but also spice your CV.
  • Become a mentor to someone who will receive a much needed career boost when you share  your knowledge, insights and relationships.  Not only will you receive great satisfaction from guiding someone along the path of professional growth and success,  you will also gain an ally and will learn from the person you mentor.  You’ll benefit from the perspectives of another,  perhaps younger,  person who can broaden your sights and could also  reveal new business avenues for you.  Important benefits accrue to mentors,  including expansion of one’s professional network and renewal of  managerial and coaching skills.
  • Maintain your personal life.  Stay in touch:  send Christmas cards,  remember birthdays and congratulate friends’ accomplishments.  Go to your school reunions.  Go to the flower show or go hear your favorite blues singer.  Go away for the weekend or a week.  Learn to dance the samba or resurrect some long neglected talent like playing the xylophone.  Have things to talk about besides business!

Thanks for reading,

Referral Etiquette Part II

There are three groups where one can find and groom good referral sources:  clients,  colleagues and friends/family.  Good referrals begin with good relationships.  In addition to providing excellent services that fulfill client expectations, developing and maintaining solid professional and social relationships is paramount. The ability to clearly and succinctly describe the services you provide,  your typical clients and the problems that your services solve is also important.  Finally, be willing to make the first move in the referral game.  If you initiate referrals,  you are likely to receive them in return.

Know what you want
Before going off in search of referrals, think about what you’d like to achieve when meeting prospects.  You’ll want more than some fuzzy idea of how you like to meet people in a particular industry.  Clarify which job title is likely to be the hiring decision maker for your service and the usual goals or business challenges that drive the need for your category of service.

Then you can be clear and precise in your referral requests and will be able to craft the right introductory pitch.  Moreover, clarity will help associates to think of you as they themselves network.  You and your friends and colleagues  can then function as a referral network  for one another

Know who to ask
If you’ve worked for a client on two or three projects and have developed a comfortable relationship with your contacts, let them know that you are always looking for new business and can they recommend someone with whom you can follow up? You may not receive an immediate answer, but the seed will be planted.  Also, there will be no pressure on the client to give a name if they prefer not to do so.

If a referral is made, be sure to get approval for using that person’s name and confirm that if asked, that person feels they know you and your work well enough to provide a good recommendation.  Make it easy and comfortable to refer your services. This approach also works for obtaining referrals through social relationships.

Follow up within one month
While your name is still fresh within the mind of the referral source,  make the call or send the email and get the ball rolling.   Do not let the trail go cold and squander the opportunity.

Failure to appropriately follow up on a referral is deadly.  It happened to me a couple of times and I shall not forget it and I certainly will never refer either of them again.  In fact, I severed ties with both parties.

In one case,  I referred a young lady who launched a bookkeeping business when she was my student at the Center for Women & Enterprise business plan writing course.  A restaurant owner friend of mine  was desperate for that service and I was happy to make the connection.  For reasons that will forever baffle me, the bookkeeping entrepreneur was always too busy to follow up, despite confirming that she looked forward to meeting a prospective client. The young lady was unmoved by urgent emails sent to her by both the restaurant proprietor and myself. The restaurant owner forgave me, thank heaven, and we remain on good terms.

In the other case, a woman with a 20 year career and an MBA called a potential prospect too hastily, before I could confirm the other party’s interest in her services.  I suggested that MBA lady check out the website of someone whom I had literally just met and let me know if she saw some alignment.

If things looked promising, my plan was to invite the prospect to likewise peruse the website of MBA lady.  If all agreed,  I would make the connection. Unfortunately, MBA lady took it upon herself to contact the prospect, whom I had met a mere three hours before,  claiming that I had made the referral! I was furious. The prospect did not love it and has been cordial but cool to me ever since.

Thank your referral source
Remember to thank your referral source ASAP. Even if business is not done,  it is wise to let your source know that you appreciate their confidence in you and respect their generosity. Whatever happens,  let your referral know the outcome.  Referrals are vital to the survival of your business. They are a special favor and should not be taken lightly. This simple courtesy will encourage more good referrals for you.

Thanks for reading,

Referral Etiquette Part I

I love to connect people.  If I can bring people together and set them on the road to doing some business, then I am a happy girl.  Just last week I was able to connect Dave and Denise.

Denise was my former student in the business plan writing course that I teach at the Center for Women & Enterprise cweonline.org.  Denise is a smart cookie:  a  no-nonsense, ex-Lotus,  seasoned professional who was savvy enough to see a need within the small business milieu for the competencies she had honed in the corporate sector and disciplined enough to successfully transfer those competencies into her own business venture.

At CWE,  Denise wrote the plan that launched her tele-sales call center business.  Denise sets up permanent or temporary call centers for organizations that require an inside sales force.  She works with business owners or department managers to discuss the product/service that will be sold,  works with that person to articulate key selling points and benefits,  advises the owner/manager on how to run the call center, trains the tele-sales staff and is available for follow-up advice.  She has a good business.

Dave is a colleague in a Cambridge Chamber of Commerce sponsored networking group cambridgechamber.org.  Dave works with businesses that are looking to upgrade their telecommunications systems,  or better integrate those systems with other IT functions. He is often brought into a workplace that is relocating or making space changes within its current location.

Dave’s challenge  is lead generation.  Experience has shown him that personal outreach, rather than direct mail or email campaigns,  is the best way to find prospects.  He had wondered if  it would be more efficient to hire one or two part time sales people to make calls and pre-qualify prospects for his follow-up.  After pondering the notion for a few months,  he announced his intention to pursue that strategy at our monthly networking meeting.  I immediately suggested that he speak with Denise and sent him her contact information, urging him to use my name.

Dave contacted Denise a few days later. They met for coffee and discovered that they know a few people in common.  They also confirmed that Dave’s inside sales force plan is likely to reap the desired benefits.  Both parties emailed to thank me for the referral and let me know that they will work together on the lead generation tele-sales project.

So  my referral was successful.  You can do that, too.  Next week,  I’ll give a few useful tips that will help you create winning referrals,  whether you give or receive (the idea is to do both!).  Until then, remember that  people do business with people they know and like.  They do  more business with people they trust and respect.

Thanks for reading,


Going up! Expert Elevator Pitch

I don’t want to brag, but…oh, yes I do and so do you! We just need to figure out how to tell people how amazing we are, how talented and lovable, without being obnoxious.  Bragging is a turn off and nice boys and girls don’t.

But how do you let colleagues and prospects know what you’re good at? How do you network if you don’t know how to put your story across?

Every Freelancer needs a first rate elevator pitch.  A Freelancer must be able to position him/herself as an expert, a capable problem solver who can get the job done and is therefore worthy of important assignments.

A basic elevator pitch can be broken down into three  parts:

1). What you do

2). For whom you do it

3). Outcomes and benefits derived

What You Do

Concisely describe your service in straightforward and uncomplicated terms.  Challenging economic times can bring the temptation to be all things to all people–let’s face it, if there’s a legal way to get paid we’ve gotta bring it on.  Still  clients,  prospects and referral sources want to know what you are known for.  Help them out and develop a niche.

For Whom You Do It

Who are your typical clients? What are they looking for when they call you? What kind of pain are they in? Prospects and referral sources need to know who you typically do business with. They need to know who might need you.

Outcomes and Benefits Derived

What’s in it for the client who hires you? Describe the problems you solve, the money you help clients make or save, how you make them look good.  Mention an advantage  or two that distinguishes  you from competitors.  Stay on top of what is going on in your client’s industry so you’ll know how to position your services in relation to the hot issues.

Practice your elevator pitch until you’re comfortable with your phrasing.  Make sure it sounds natural for you and that it will spark the interest of your target customers.  A basic elevator pitch should take you less than a minute to present. Your pitch can serve as a  self introduction and will also allow you to transition into a more meaningful discussion of  your services should an interested party want more info.

Use your bragging skills, artfully packaged in a good elevator pitch, to establish your reputation as a results-oriented professional and an available source of useful information in your area of expertise.

OK,  so now that you know how to create and deliver an expert elevator pitch,  it’s time to do some savvy networking!

More later,

On Surviving the Economic Crisis Part II

Last week, I attended a roundtable discussion for business owners that was hosted by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.  The purpose of BIG: Best Insights Grow (Your Business) was to provide a forum wherein a dozen small business owners and consultants  could share some of our more vexing business challenges and receive some practical advice from the group about how best to resolve those issues.

I offer you a few strategies and action items that surfaced in our forum. You may want to integrate some of this into your practice, so you can grease the cash flow wheels as we enter the traditionally slow summer months.  Most of these things you already know–none of it is rocket science.  Nevertheless, selectively employing a few of these methods is bound to have a positive effect on your billable hours, in the short and long term.

  • Stealth Prospecting

Obviously, we must always keep eyes and ears open for new clients and new ways to engage our current clients.  One way to do that is to network: get out there and attend events, talk to people and let them tell you which products and services they like, why they like them and how they like them offered.  Also, remember to make sure friends and colleagues know what you do and who they can refer to you, so they can be your surrogate sales force.

Another way to set the stage for networking and prospecting is to put yourself on the panel guest and speaker’s circuit.  Meaning, position yourself as an expert.  Pay attention to the program schedules of a few business and professional organizations.  What kind of topics do they offer? What kind of audience do they attract? Can you offer up some of your expertise and give a presentation or join a panel discussion? Are you a member of any such organization?

Build relationships with the event coordinators for these groups and find out the protocol and requirements for their speaker’s bureau.  Have a clear understanding of topics that are deemed appropriate, so you can offer the right talk titles.  Local colleges may also accept proposals for workshops.  Check out noncredit continuing education offerings in a few schools and see who might give you an opportunity to teach. You might even receive a (modest) honorarium!

When you are showcased as an expert in your field, you will be approached by peers and prospects who seek your advice, want to do business with you or want to refer you to someone who does want to work with you.  Now that takes the cold calling out of prospecting, am I right?

  • Strategic Referrals

What better way to get yourself into the good graces of someone who you suspect could be a good referral source for your gorgeous self than to get the process started by referring a client to your object of desire? The chances of receiving some reciprocal billable hours are going to be good, I’ll say.  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

  • Smart Pricing

Pricing is a tricky thing. It is both a science and an art. When it comes to services, honestly, who knows what anything is worth? The service is worth what the client thinks it’s worth.  Even in flush times, you’ve gotta know when to hold and know when to fold. You must become a very good negotiator.  No one wants to gouge and no one wants to be undervalued.  These days times are tough, clients know it and everybody wants a “deal”.

Freelancer, you need a good pricing strategy if you want to keep a roof over your head and food on the table!  You need a useful bag of tricks that will keep the billable hours coming in at rates that will keep you solvent.  Here are a few strategies that can help:

When you know or suspect that a client is going to knock down your price, try adding 10-20% to your proposed fee.  Some people love to bargain, love to think they got something at a lower price.  So give that client the satisfaction of “saving” a few dollars. When they press you for a price cut, slowly and reluctantly cave in– then smile like Mona Lisa as you collect your usual fee (or close to it).

Another win-win pricing strategy is to hold your price but add in a few extras or upgrades. Maybe you can even do some small something pro bono.  Many clients will be happy to receive more for their money.  They want to stoke that value proposition.

But alas, sometimes the clients have us over a barrel and we are forced to take a job at a lower fee because we either flat out need the cash or we crave a certain plum assignment. How to take the sting out of this one?

Start by trying to get more hours out of the project. Your hourly fee won’t be great, but the check at the end will be less paltry. You can also ask for future assignments, thus getting them on the hook for more work that you can count on.  Better still, giving a referral discount to this client may be the way to go: each successful referral the client makes means their next job will be priced at a 10- 20% discount.  Pricing is most definitely about negotiation.

This is also the time to offer your clients some flexible payment options.  Consider offering a discount on invoices that are paid in full within 15 days.  Invoicing like a general contractor might also be helpful: ask for a third of the project fee up front, the next third at the project midpoint and the final third within 30 days of the project’s completion. Setting yourself up to accept credit card payments may also prove to be useful.  The downside is the processing fee, but you will make it easier for cash strapped businesses to pay you on time.  As we all know, getting paid is the name of the game.

Good luck this summer and let me know how you make out!