Ok, not really summer camp. I'm off to the HOW Design Conference, this year in Boston. I try to go every year. Thankfully, now that I'm a HOW Ambassador, it's been every year for a while. The first one I attended (back in 1994!) changed my life, lit me on fire. I had no idea what I didn't know!
Every year I meet up with my extended family, my HOW family. We're all in design-related fields, and we all get it. We're birds of a feather! There's a lot of hugs, lots of laughter, and yes, even a few serious conversations about what we can do as designers to change the world for the better. Yeah, we're those kinds of people.
I know that the only things I'm responsible for—truly in control of—are my words and my actions. That's all I have to make waves in the world. And in my circle of influence, which is about a five-foot radius around me, I want to have as many people as I can, spreading as much good juju as I can, so that the ripples of positivity and love go farther and do more. Attending HOW makes it super easy. Being a HOW Ambassador makes it super fun.
I'll tell you all about it when I get back. I hope to see you there! =)
You've probably asked, "How do I find the right clients?" I've asked myself this same question a hundred times.
This past weekend I had an epiphany. It's so simple, but I realized that not everyone knows this.
The question, "How do I find the right clients?" is NOT the question you should be asking. Not at first, anyway. Because having success with your freelance business is rarely just about finding the right clients.
Announcing that "finding the right client" is the only thing your business needs for success is like deciding to buy a house without doing your research. Then just driving along, seeing a pretty house, and deciding that's the one without knowing the really important answers… Like the asking price… Like what shape the foundation is in… Like what the neighborhood is like, school district, average utility bills, annual taxes… You get the idea.
I'm convinced it's about everything BUT finding the right clients.
There are so many things that must be in place before you even think about getting in front of the right client. Things like figuring out who exactly that ideal client is and, more importantly, why you think they're ideal… Like what specific problems or pain points you're solving for them… Like charging what you're actually worth, and being able to educate your clients on the value you bring to the table… Like presenting yourself as the expert you are, in person and across your entire online footprint… Like having a solid brand that not only reflects you and working with you, but that speaks to and attracts more ideal clients…
Here are some examples of what I'm talking about…
Let's say you're a photographer who's willing to photograph anyone with a budget, but really loves product photography. You continually accept work that doesn't thrill you, and therefore shows in your photos… they're good, just not amazing. You finally get in front of someone who needs product photography, and instead of showing the amazing work you love to do, you spend most of your time explaining why your portfolio shows weddings, sports and senior photos. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
Let's say you're a writer who is an expert at disseminating complex information into marketing copy, and you even have some samples to show. You finally get in front of what you think of as your ideal client, but you struggle to explain clearly why you and this client are a perfect match. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
Let's say you're a web developer who can create amazing websites that get results. You meet someone at a networking event that fits your ideal client profile. You try to make them understand that they really need to hire you to refresh their outdated website, but they balk at your price, convinced they shouldn't pay that much. You feel defensive when you explain your pricing and it shows your lack of confidence in what you charge. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
Let's say you're a graphic designer who can design circles around the other designers you know. You get wind of a client you know needs you and can afford you. But when you meet in person, your confidence comes across as arrogance. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
See what I mean?
Yes, getting in front of the right people should, indeed, be your goal—but just one goal along with getting all the other things in place first.
Your success is about everything else AND THEN finding the right clients.
I know what it's like to struggle with this very issue. I've had to learn it the hard way (like all things, grrrr). That's where I come in; I help you learn the easy way, so you can grow the successful freelance business you want.
Let me know when you're ready to start--I'm here for you!
Thanks for reading! Good juju to you! =)
Well, speaking of connection, my phone crashed and died this weekend. Poor thing, three years old and worked hard from day one! It just kept restarting. Wandering forever in a startup loop. I know I've felt that way before. Have you?
The replacement phone is scheduled to arrive Tuesday (thankfully I've got full coverage on my phone), and I'm feeling a bit out of sync and unconnected. How will I ever get all my contacts re-entered if they weren't backed up? I'll find out soon.
Offline, I did organize my recipes (finally), so there's a plus side to not going through my usual morning routine of playing Boggle online while I finish my chai latte. I'm wondering what other things I could accomplish if I bust out of my usual routine.
On a client-management-related note, I think I finally got through to my client today. The changes Mary* requested were precise design changes that unfortunately didn't help the design at all (she's not a designer). At first, I was so frustrated with her changes, I started to write an email explaining each of my design decisions. Then I remembered to put myself firmly into Mary's shoes. Her objective is the same as mine—to make the project awesome. So I wrote her a note to remind her of the big picture instead…
"If you give me specific art direction changes instead of the 'why' involved with what you want changed, I’m stuck between doing exactly what you’ve asked, or doing what looks and reads best."
I asked Mary to look over my changes and let me know if she felt the changes were still necessary. If she had still requested her changes, I would have done them. But at least she knows she can trust me to do what's best for the project, and that there's not a big ego involved. I think we've connected more firmly because of my push back. I'm not just an order taker—I'm her partner in making her projects awesome!
She actually apologized (not my intention, but welcome nonetheless) and agreed to give me her reasons for her changes and let me decide how best to get the project there.
So win-win. Except for my poor old phone.
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you! =)
*Of course that's not her real name.
Last week I was asked to speak to the Kansas City chapter of the ASMP, along with Jason Dailey, The Freelance Exchange's vice president. The talk was mainly about benefits of joining, but in explaining the value of the group, the discussion went much deeper into what we, as humans need at a base level and are lacking by spending so much time glued to our electronic devices.
Networking (I originally typed newtworking… ha! That's something completely different!) doesn't have to be seen as negative. How many times have you heard that networking is crucial to your career? Of course it is! How many times have you really worked your network in the past year? I thought so. Networking is really about connection. Making real and honest connections with other fellow humans. That's it. But, if it's still kind of *bleh* in your head, let's appease the left brain by analyzing word network.
noun—an open meshed fabric used to contain
adjective—what remains after deductions
View your friends, peers, and acquaintances as your open-meshed fabric—your safety net—with each strand representing an individual. The knots are the connections you’ve cultivated with them. Your network contains your friends, peers and acquaintances. To grow your business, you can tap the connections in your net. If you lose everything, what remains is your network. If you need a resource (job-related or otherwise), you reach out to your net.
noun—exertion, effort directed to produce something
verb—to do work; to produce something
You can’t have a network without the work part of it. You just can’t need something and have it magically appear. Yes, it takes effort, but that effort can be fun when you’ve made real connections with people.
noun—an association of individuals having a common interest, formed to provide mutual assistance, helpful information, etc.
With every new person you meet in the industry, try to make a genuine connection—not just asking about occupation, and in what city they live. Ask what they really enjoy about their current role, what they like helping people with, what they're interests are outside of a "job." If you really connect, you will remember each person individually. If time doesn’t permit a lengthy connection, jot down on their business card “loves cars,” or “collects shoes,” “really into sports.” Anything—even if it’s “shared Lyft to airport”—that helps you remember the individual and the connection you've made.
After the birth of our first child, I had the luxury to quit my full-time job and only do 5-10 hours of freelance work per week. Then my husband lost his job when I was expecting our second child less than two years later, and it was necessary for me to support the family (and pay for our cobra insurance—yikes!) while he job-hunted. I sent out a call for help to my network for freelance work. Any work. Nothing was too menial.
What happened? I got work. I got a lot of work. I went from working 5-10 hours a week to 30-40 hours a week. We made it six months on just my freelance work, thanks to my network!! And my husband got a job just a few days before our second child was born. Whew!
See, it's about making connections that can benefit you down the road. So when you see the word networking, replace it with connecting and you'll feel the difference. And probably attend more networking events!
“We human beings are social beings.
We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” --The Dalai Lama
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you! =)
p.s. Just as you can call on your network in times of need, remember to be a support to others as well. How can I help you?