Invest in relationships – they matter

What makes good business relationships?

A while ago, I wrote about how I came to get the job of editor for Macworld Australia. It came after many years of being a freelance contributor to the magazine. But I wasn’t the only long-term contributor. I also ensured that I maintained a good relationship with the publishers and it was the combination of relationships and experience that got me that job. But, the publisher has decided to shutter that operation and I lost a long-timer retainer client. While that hurt, the pain was short-lived.

Continue reading “Invest in relationships — they matter”

The Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a short description of what you do that can be delivered to a stranger who knows nothing about you or what you do in in the time you share an elevator ride.

A while ago I described my elevator pitch – short description of what I do that can be delivered to a stranger. It assumes that they know nothing about me or what I do and can be shared in the time we share an elevator ride.

The folks over at Freelance Switch have developed a useful guide on creating an elevator pitch that’s worth a look.

They offer several tips but this is the big one in our view.

Once you’ve put something together, practice it. The trick with an elevator pitch is that while it’s planned, it needs to sound spontaneous; not robotic. Practice this by saying your pitch while your in the car or shower, making sure the words are natural and it’s easy to remember.

We’d also suggest trying it out loud in front of a mirror and then running it past a family member or friend who doesn’t understand exactly what you do.

Having a couple of different versions is also handy. I think a long version that lasts about a minute and a one or two sentence “highlights” version work well. For example, my short version says that I am a professional communicator that helps people tell their story. If that piques the listener’s interest (it usually does – who doesn’t like a story teller?) I can go with the longer version.

A solid elevator pitch needs to be memorable without being ridiculous. You want potential customers to remember you for what you do and stand for, not just because you were funny. And make sure you back up the pitch with a business card that tells people what you do and not just who you are. Consider it your paper-based elevator pitch.

How’s your client mix?

In a superficial way, there are really only two types of clients; good and bad. But the reality is that you need a client mix. If all your clients are the same you might as well have one boss and go back to working for someone else.

In a superficial way, there are really only two types of clients; good and bad. But the reality is that you need a client mix. If all your clients are the same you might as well have one boss and go back to working for someone else.

There are lots of different ways to categorise your client mix. Here’s one way.

Meal tickets

Meal tickets are a critical part of your client mix. They are regular clients you can reasonably rely on to commission work and pay reliably every month.

They may not offer the most exciting or enjoyable work on your ticket but it’s regular, pays your required rate and keeps things ticking over. You have a good relationship with these clients and you rely on each other. These clients are as close to a regular job as you can get.

One thing to watch out for are your local tax rules. In some jurisdictions, if you get too much of your income from a single source then you may be deemed to be an actual employee – the very thing you’re trying to avoid as a freelancer. If you’re in Australia, the ATO provides information for contractors.

Specials and one-offs

There will be times when clients come out of the blue. They commission you for one-off jobs, never to be seen from again. Can also be clients that commission you once, seem like they’ll be good but aren’t worth the hassle as they keep changing the brief, are slow payers or get started on a project only to try and milk you for extra services for no charge.

In other words, they’ll be one-offs either because they only need you once or because they haven’t been great clients.

If a one-off client proves to be a good client then make sure you keep in regular contact. Even though their need might have only been short term, add them to your newsletter list and stay in regular contact. It’s always good to stay in touch as you never know when they’ll need some help again.

Pro-bono

As a general rule you should never work for free. If you don’t value your work why should anyone else. However, when you start out, doing a small number of freebies can be a good way to build a CV, references and portfolio of work. Include clients that pay low rates but are great for your profile.

Also, doing local community work or helping out a preferred charity can be a great way to network as well as providing assistance to someone in need.

Profile Builders

There are some clients that look great on your client list as they are well known, high profile, prestigious or could direct you towards other clients. You should make an effort to pursue some of these as they give your business a great credibility boost. Also, if these clients are large companies they’re likely to have great budgets.

Make a list of profile builders and make a plan to contact them regularly. Do your research and find out where the best contact points into those companies are – and there may be more than one.

With the right client mix you can be assured that you’ll have enough variety in your workload so that you don;t get bored.

Link Exchange – starting up, targeting and marketing

How to start freelancing, targeting a niche and marketing your business are key skills for freelancers of all persuasions.

Each week, I share some of the stories that I’ve read that I think are f the most value and interest for freelancers.

Thinking of going solo? Play the freelance board game first! [My Business]:  Check out ‘Go Freelance’, a fun, satirical, board game about just how much fun you can have going freelance. The game concentrates on the comic book industry, but the lessons are universal.

Ten Common Marketing Mistakes [Business WeekI can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this refrain, or a variation of it: “We tried _____ marketing tactic. It doesn’t work.” While it may be true that a given approach is ill-suited for a particular industry, audience, or situation, in my experience the tactic is less often to blame than the implementation of it. In fact, many companies make mistake after mistake based on gaps in their understanding of how marketing really works. Here’s a quick review of 10 of the most common errors to help you avoid the worst of them.

How to Break Into a New Freelancing Niche [The Savvy Freelancer]: I’ve been feeling like a rookie freelancer all over again. It’s because I decided to get into a different freelancing niche. Let me tell you, it’s been difficult, slow going, exciting, unnerving, energizing and mind boggling all at the same time.

Have a great week.

Best links of the week

This weeks best links for freelancers.

Each week, I read about the art and science of running your own business. Here are a few of the articles that caught my eye this week.

How To Work From Home Like You Mean It [Fast Company] – Working from home requires a new mindset and a good system, not just a nicer pair of pants (but put those on, too).

Be Ready When Someone Asks, “What Do You Do?” [Freelance Switch] – Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what it is you really do. Many people hear the word ‘freelancer’ and don’t quite understand what it means, other than you probably work from home in your pajamas.

Boost Your Freelance Writing Career In 2012 With These 5 Social Network Tips [Get Paid to Write Online] – Start 2012 with a bang by improving your social network activity.

12 Must-Read Freelancing Predictions for 2012 [Freelance Folder] – Don’t you wish you could see into the future of freelancing? If you could, you’d know what freelancing trends are coming up and what niches to concentrate on. You’d be ahead of the game on social media too.

And, just to finish things off, here are a few of the stories I’ve had published recently.

Apple CEO salary jumps to $377M

Review: Kingston Wi-Drive

Review: HTC Sensation XL

Group Test: Routers

Four things the 2012 CIO will need to focus on

Have a great week.