Picture this scenario: You've been working for a while with a client who "loves" having you on her team. Then one day she tells you about some consultant/guru/shiny business person she's just met who's offering a service that's strangely similar to what you do—but at 10-times the cost.
Your client is super excited about the idea and wants to know what you think about her signing up to work with this new person. But despite your (very rational) arguments against making this investment, she goes ahead—shelling out thousands more than what she pays you—and assures you of how "awesome" it's going to be for the company (WTF?!).
Hopefully this has never happened to you before (if it has, don’t worry, you’re not alone!). But I bet you’ve had experiences with clients that made you wonder why they even bother paying you if they don’t really value your expertise.
Here’s what you need to understand:
You’ve put a lot of energy into honing your expertise and refining your niche. You’re done with clients who don’t get the value of what you do. And you’re over having to justify why your work is worth more than it used to be.
Perhaps you’ve even managed to upgrade some of your existing clients so your work can reflect the way you serve best (yasss!).
But now you want to bring new people into the pipeline—and that’s where you keep hitting dead ends.
Imagine what it would feel like if all your clients were like your all-time favorite client. And before you think I'm living in fantasyland, let me assure you: you can make it happen.
Take Karen, for example: she’s a print designer who’s found her sweet spot with a particular kind of client. She's been able to leverage much of her past work experience in her role with them, they trust her enough to give her complete creative domain over their projects, and she’s fascinated by what they do. And because of the many projects they run throughout the year, she's been able to maintain an ongoing service relationship with them (hooray for steady income!).
This client is the very definition of ideal for Karen. I-D-E-A-L. “Now if I could just clone them three or four times,” she finds herself saying, “I'd be pretty much set.”
Karen's fantasy is far from uncommon. Working with clients you love is one of the biggest perks of working for yourself—and the reason many of us do it in the first place. More than that, loving the clients you have means you're far more motivated to show up, do the work, and consistently knock it out the park.
So what’s it going to take to get more clients just like your favorite ones? The key is positioning yourself to attract more people like them.
There's a strange duality that happens with a lot of thriving service-based businesses. On the one hand, you're not hustling anymore, because you finally have a solid flow of clients and income. But on the other hand, you still don't feel like you're on solid ground just yet, because the work you're doing with clients doesn't really reflect the way you want to show up.
So you've settled into this way of running your business that isn't fully aligned with what you value most; and because you're "comfortable", you're not interested in doing anything that might rock the boat. However, there's an undeniable disillusionment rumbling beneath the surface that you're too self-aware to let fester; and you know something needs to change.
The logical question, then, is: How can you have the clients you really want, and show up the way you really want, without compromising your current stability?
Looking back at everything I accomplished over the past year, I can honestly say that I astonished myself. I was so much more intentional about my business than I had ever been in the past -- from being definitive about who my ideal client is and being bolder about connecting with them; to fully owning my genius and sharing my message in a bigger way.
Though I had just about as many fails as I did wins, the big lessons and immense personal growth that came out of those experiences have been nothing short of amazing.
My biggest lesson this year came from seeing the results I got from my marketing efforts. I experimented with a lot of different strategies to grow my reach and build better connections with people:
Hosting a bi-weekly video hangout and Twitter chat, which fizzled out before the end of the first quarter
Starting a Google+ community, that ultimately migrated to Facebook and is now an ongoing membership program
Landing a few podcast interviews and 1 guest post (the latter was actually syndicated by a fast-growing online membership community)
Running a content series on Instagram
And a handful of other things -- most of which left me feeling completely wiped out. As luck would have it, my best results came not from any one particular strategy, but from just showing up somewhat regularly and being mostly consistent with the things I was saying and doing.
So as I approach my growth goals for the year ahead, my focus won't be better marketing. Instead, it'll be maximizing on the things that have brought me the best outcomes so far.
It's holiday season, which means the innerwebs are a'buzz with things to do to "finish the year strong" and plan for an "epic" new year. Meanwhile, you're exhausted and probably only feeling motivated to eat popcorn, snuggle up in #alloftheblankets, and catch up on your latest Netflix obsessions for the rest of the year. No judgments here, friend!
Even if you never manage to actually leave the couch until January, there are still a few simple, but powerful, things you can do to make sure 2016 is an epic year for your business:
A lot is at stake when you're deciding to make a major shift in your business. When you've established your expertise in one area, and have built up a solid client base around that, it's hard to imagine how it can be possible to "change your mind" without looking like a total flake.
On top of that, there's the issue of money. If most of your revenue is from referrals and repeat business, you're probably not the least bit interested in adding "new marketing ideas" to your list of to-dos.
As a service provider, who's built a pretty successful solo practice on being flexible with the kinds of clients you can work with, the idea of ruling out certain clients in favor of others might seem a little backwards to you. Even though you find yourself hustling a lot more than you care to, and your client schedule is as unpredictable as the East Coast's weather; you're at least content in knowing your bills are paid and you can go out for sushi dates when the mood hits (Valentine rolls, warm sake and edamame FTW!).
But let's be real: the erratic work schedule? The one-off, small-budget gigs? The mild panic attacks when a new referral hasn't come in after a few weeks? It's getting old. Not to mention, all that stress is starting to show up on your forehead.
When you recognize that the way your business works isn't cutting it for you anymore, you have to do something about it. That's a given. But until now, all you've been able to decide is what you don't want anymore.
You don't want to keep over-delivering on value for practically zero profits.
You don't want to spend every waking moment of your day hunched over your laptop (and worried the sky will fall the second you step away).
You don't want to hustle for every single client you get or panic when a new referral hasn't come through.
I get it. It's important to know what you don't want. But the end of your frustration begins with getting clear about what you do want. And I know that right at the top of your list is "freedom" ...
... to pour value into your work and feel supported by the money you earn.
... to actually have a work-life, that's completely separate from the rest of your life.
... to enjoy the flow of consistent income with a steady, balanced schedule to match.
Do you feel the difference in that?
Now, in order to create that freedom for yourself, you'll need to shift your focus to creating growth in your business. And there are 5 important decisions you need to make around that:
Deborah G. Edwards (deborahgedwards.com) is an executive coach, speaker and consultant, who helps brilliant people uncover and strengthen their natural gifts and talents. A Gallup-certified strengths strategist and coach, Deborah joined me to talk about why operating in your core strengths is essential as a service based solopreneur.
During our chat, she shared how she came to better understand herself and her innate talents through the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. She also discussed the 3 costly effects of not leveraging your own strengths for how you show up in your business and how to pinpoint when your strengths are being activated in your work.
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