Category: business

The benefits of exploring value with clients – What I learned from Breaking the Time Barrier

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Some time ago, I read Breaking the Time Barrier by Mike McDerment of FreshBooks and Donald Cowper. The book describes (among other things) how freelancers and the self-employed can unlock their true earning potential by focusing on value instead of charging by the hour. It is written by Mike McDerment (from FreshBooks) and Donald Cowper, and can be downloaded from the FreshBooks website, so make sure that you check it out (I am not an affiliate and have no financial stake in his website).

To follow are seven mutual benefits of exploring value with clients from Breaking the Time Barrier, which I hope to achieve in building my business:

  1. Creates trust. Getting to know more about your client’s needs inspires trust that you care about them and their needs, and that you know what you are doing in your business.
  2. Fosters alignment. It ensures that you are on the same page with your client. Start by determining where they are now, and where they want to go. It helps you to identify their main problems (by asking them) so that you can find solutions specific to them. Ask clients about their goals so that you can help them to achieve those goals.
  3. Helps clients better evaluate vendors. The process of creating value helps the client to determine who will deliver value rather than focus on price. This enables the client to get more value for their money.
  4. Frames solution as investment, not an expense. Taking about prices focus on the cost of the service, while talking about value provided focuses on the return on investment. Clients prefer to invest in something that will provide value.
  5. Inspires action. Focusing on value gets the client to envision their goal, which makes them eager to proceed with your solution. They will act quicker with you to get results.
  6. Lets client make informed business decision. Provide the client with several choices and costs so that they can choose the right solution for them. They choose where to go and how much to pay to achieve a specific solution.
  7. Establishes a trusted partnership. The client gets to experience the impact of your work. Creating real value for the client makes you a trusted partner, and they will turn to you again when needed.

Breaking the Time Barrier is written as a real-world situation, following the story of a designer who is having trouble getting ahead in his business. He meets a successful designer who teaches him the benefit of exploring value with clients, and how to unlock his true earning potential. It’s an easy and enjoyable read.

If there are any eBooks that you’d like me to read and summarize for you here, or give my thoughts on, let me know –

David Gargaro

Make your freelance writing business more credible to attract bigger and better clients

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Do you want to increase the size and quality of your client base? One key strategy is to make your brand more credible. Increasing your professional credibility will help you to attract larger clients. The obvious benefit is that you will attract bigger clients with bigger budgets, which will also provide you with more work at higher rates.

So, how can you increase your credibility? There are several approaches, and combining them will go further toward making you more credible (and popular) in your field.

  • Act like a professional all the time. Behave professional toward clients and prospects. Treat your business and brand professionally, and others will do the same.
  • Create social proof of your credibility. Social proof is evidence that other people like and trust you. Examples include testimonials, case studies, awards, website logos of your large clients, recommendations, etc.
  • Become an expert in a niche or particular field. Become known for excelling in that one specific area of your industry or business.
  • Become an influencer. An influencer is someone who takes charge and leads people to make positive contributions in their industry. For example, you can connect people or clients to each other, set up events, blog / write about events and key issues in your field, or share your knowledge with the world.
  • Encourage referrals. Ask clients to refer you to people who could use your service.
  • Get interviewed. Contact bloggers in your industry to interview you on a subject that matters to your clients.
  • Be omnipresent. Tweet, blog, network, etc. Stay public and be seen.

What tips do you have on being more credible in your industry? Would you like help with becoming more credible in your industry? Let me know –

David Gargaro

How to land better clients as a freelancer

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Some time ago, I read 9 Things Freelancers Absolutely Must Do to Land Lots of Quality Clients by Red Lemon Club. The book describes (among other things) a number of things that freelancers must do to improve the quantity and quality of their clients. Red Lemon Club has a lot to offer on its website, so make sure that you check it out (I am not an affiliate and have no financial stake in his website).

To follow is what I learned about getting more clients from Red Lemon Club’s eBook, and what I hope to apply in building my business.

  1. Write down your personal end goals. Put your goals in written form to clarify your mind. Goals should be short term and long term. Be as descriptive as possible – the point is to be list your motivations.
  2. Determine your target market. Be very clear in what companies and individuals you want to target. Know who they are, what they do, and what is important to them.
  3. Assess what your target market is really looking for. Research what they want and need so that you can target them with solutions.
  4. Know when your prospects are likely to look for you. Know the important moments in a client’s business life (e.g., when they publish, their busy and quiet times) so that you can contact them when you are most needed.
  5. Find out where clients look for people like you. Go where they search or hang out – online, forums, networking, trade shows, etc. Be where they are, and be visible.
  6. Determine what it is about you that attracts clients. Identify what is unique about you or your service, and express it as a selling point. Be clear in your description. Focus on the benefit you provide.
  7. Work out the main way for prospects to engage with you. Determine how you want prospects to develop a relationship with you – email, Twitter, phone, newsletter, etc.
  8. Spend time building credibility as a professional. Build your professional image – get testimonials, blog or write articles on your expertise, speak at conferences, etc.
  9. Develop and maintain relationships with prospects and past clients. Stay in communication with clients to stay top of mind – send check-in emails or postcards, make regular social network status updates, write blog / newsletter postings, etc.

Red Lemon Club has a lot more great content on its website, as well as the eBook. I shared what I thought was most relevant here. Make sure to give it a read, and comb through the website. They have a lot of useful information for freelancers.

If there are any eBooks that you’d like me to read and summarize for you here, or give my thoughts on, let me know –

David Gargaro

How to create a simple and consistent marketing plan

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Marketing works best when you do it consistently. That means marketing yourself (your company, products, services, solutions, offers, etc.) daily, weekly and monthly. There are many experts (books, websites, services, newsletters, blogs…) that offer great advice on how self-employed professionals can improve their marketing efforts.

The best marketing advice and tools are whatever work best for you. Again, marketing only works when you do it consistently. Here are my suggestions on finding and executing the best marketing plan for you.

Discover what drives you

Identify the factors that propel you to action, as well as the factors that prevent you from moving forward. Also, associate non-action with pain. For example, the consequences of not marketing include having fewer clients, long downtimes, less income, difficulty attracting new clients, etc. Each consequence has a price to pay:

  • It’s harder to pay bills.
  • You have to work harder and longer to find clients.
  • You have to cut back on expenses.
  • You have to go out and get a “real” job.
  • You can’t buy nice (or essential) things.

Find what motivates you, and use it to drive your marketing efforts.

Create a marketing plan that aligns with your goals

Find and apply a marketing method that has worked in the past. Go through your list of clients and note how you found them (or how they found you):

  • Referrals
  • Email marketing
  • Networking
  • Cold / warm calls

The method that worked the best is your best marketing tool because it worked for you, and you are familiar (and likely comfortable) with using this method.

Take action based on your intrinsic drive

  • Treat marketing like a client project that will pay off. Set deadlines, plan a schedule, and make yourself accountable for getting it done on time.
  • Focus on DAILY, not weekly or monthly, effort.
  • Create EFFORT goals, not OUTCOME goals. That means focus on doing the marketing task (effort) rather than achieving something specific (outcome). For example, “I will email a new potential client every day.”
  • Set goals that speak to YOU. Tie the goals to your core values and vision. For example, “My goal is to make $100,000 per year, so I need to find 3 new clients this year.”
  • Get an accountability partner. Find someone to listen to your goals, and help you to ensure hat you take action.
  • Wake up earlier (or don’t watch TV / play games) to focus strictly on prospecting.
  • Turn the process into a game. Assign points for different marketing actions (e.g., writing a blog post = 5 points, sending a prospecting email = 10 points). Reward yourself for hitting a points goal, or beating your previous week’s score.

Again, the goal is to find marketing strategies that work for you so that you will repeat the actions. Make marketing part of your daily routine. Find what works for you, that is easiest for you to repeat. Keep it simple and do it consistently.

Need help with creating a simple marketing plan? Let me know –

David Gargaro

How to take care of your business – What I learned from The Bootstrapper’s Bible

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Some time ago, I read the free manifesto version of The Bootstrapper’s Bible by Seth Godin. The book describes (among other things) what it takes to be a bootstrapper or entrepreneur (rather than a freelancer), how to take care of your business, raising money, finding your right business, refocusing, and more. The book is ideal for anyone who wants to build a successful business from the ground up, and avoid being just a freelancer (it’s where I am today). Seth Godin has a lot to offer on his website, so make sure that you check it out (I am not an affiliate and have no financial stake in his website).

To follow is what I learned about being an entrepreneur (specifically, nine rules for taking care of your business) from The Bootstrapper’s Bible, and what I hope to apply in building my business:

  1. Find people who care about cash less than you do. Establish credit with your suppliers. Ask customers to pay in advance to fund your purchases and growth.
  2. Survival is success. Focus on just making money in some part of every week.
  3. Success leads to more success. Being busy creates more success, as it leads to positive cash flow, teaches you new things, builds your reputation and credit rating, and puts you in contact with smart people and new customers.
  4. Redo your mission statement and business plan every three months. The path to success is a maze, not a straight line, so you have to adapt and change your plans.
  5. Associate with winners. This means that you should work with great clients, employees, vendors and peers. Even better, send clients who don’t fit your business to your peers, so you can make two people happy with you.
  6. Beware of shared ownership. Assign ownership based on the amount of work people do, or pay for services. Also match compensation with performance.
  7. Advertise. Spend regularly on advertising. Persistence in advertising leads to success. Be clear in what you are advertising, and constantly test and measure results.
  8. Get mentored. Find the right person to mentor you. Make it easy or them to say yes or no.
  9. Partner with large organizations that you can service. Do what they cannot or what you can do for less than they can. Create a mutually beneficial relationship, which will improve your credibility, give you greater access to large corporations, and improve your cash flow.

Seth Godin has a lot more to say on his website (he has written a lot of great books, and he blogs daily), and in The Bootstrapper’s Bible. I shared what I thought was most relevant here. Make sure to give it a read.

If there are any eBooks that you’d like me to read and summarize for you here, or give my thoughts on, let me know –

David Gargaro

Want to learn 14 ways to increase your income? So do I!

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Some time ago, I read 10 Minute Money Makers by Jeanna Gabellini. The book describes (among other things) a number of strategies for increasing your income in relatively quick and doable ways (I won’t say easy, as that will vary from person to person). The book is ideal for self-employed professionals (writers, coaches, consultants, etc.) who want to expand their influence through social media. Check out Jeanna Gabellini’s website for more information (I am not an affiliate and have no financial stake in her content or website).

Here are 14 ways to increase your income (some are better than others):

  1. Make a “no kidding” decision. Decide on what you want to achieve as a financial goal. For example, do you want to sell $1000 of new books per week, or increase your service sales by $2000 per month. Then everything you do will be geared toward supporting that decision. The “how” is not as important as the “what”, which will be your focus.
  2. Follow up. (I am a big believer in this strategy!) Check in with past clients – ask how they are doing, what’s new, etc. Do not try to force a sale. Send a thank you to new clients. Send customers a feedback form or survey, and use the results in your testimonials.
  3. Offer past clients a deal. Offer a product or service with clear benefits and great pricing. Make it a simple, limited-time offer. Use the offer to thank them for being a customer.
  4. Make a quick, get-them-in-the-door offer. Create an affordable, discounted or bundled offer of your products or services. After the customer takes advantage of the offer, suggest something else that you do that will help them at the regular price.
  5. Just ask. Ask helpful people to help you with getting clients through referrals or introductions. You can also ask to be interviewed or recommended on social media.
  6. Talk to your virtual client. Have a virtual conversation with your ideal client about buying your highest ticket item or best service. Ask key questions to overcome: What is their biggest objection to buying? What do you need to say yes? When is the best time to call you? What can I do to improve my service? You have the answers.
  7. Take advantage of available resources. Think of an area in your business where you want to produce more money. Then turn to the Internet for new marketing ideas. Find a diversion to relax your mind and come up with what you need. Join a mastermind group to get motivated.
  8. Pump up the value. Update your products or services – add new material and content to make it fresh.
  9. Get famous. Get more media attention. Become a guest blogger. Start a Google Hangout. Get a testimonial.
  10. Step into the elevator. Create a strong elevator speech that is short and strong on benefits. Make sure to test it out whenever you can.
  11. Create a money funnel. A money funnel is a visual plan of how you invite people into your tribe and move them through your offerings. First, name the ways you get leads and visibility (e.g., published articles). Once you attract a potential client’s interest, get them to be part of your tribe by giving them access to free and inexpensive, yet valuable, content. Then introduce them to differently priced offerings that fit their needs.
  12. The price is right. Re-price your service offerings so that they feel right for you – they meet what you are worth and they are right for your audience. Increase your rates to increase your worth and the level of effort you bring.
  13. Prepare for your windfall. Create a plan to be successful before you are successful. Set up the resources and plans needed to fulfill what will happen when you get extra work, more attention, more money, etc.
  14. The Double It Game. Turn an aspect of your business into a game where you have to a reach a specific goal (such as doubling sales) within a given time frame. It should excite you to try to achieve these goals, and there should be a reward when you hit the goal. Make it a daily effort, and make it fun.

Jeanna Gabellini has a lot more to say in 10 Minute Money Makers. I shared what I thought was most relevant here. Make sure to give it a read.

If there are any eBooks that you’d like me to read and summarize for you here, or give my thoughts on, let me know –

David Gargaro

How to succeed as a freelance writer

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Some time ago, I read 279 Days to Overnight Success by Chris Guillebeau. The book describes (among other things) how he became a full-time writer, his world-dominating strategy for building his brand, avoiding people who want you to fail, getting traffic without viral marketing, and more. The book is ideal for writers, bloggers, and other creative artists who want to expand their influence through social media. Chris Guillebeau has a lot to offer on his website, so make sure that you check it out (I am not an affiliate and have no financial stake in his website).

To follow is what I learned about succeeding as a freelance writer from the book.

Create a compelling strategy and be remarkable

Find your personal story – one that you have to tell. It will not be compelling to everyone, and that is OK. Telling your story will allow you to find your audience. Also create flagship content – this is your compelling story and the benefits to your followers. [Make sure to read A Brief Guide to World Domination.]

Answer “Reason why to follow/hire you” and “What’s in it for me?” questions

You must be able to answer these questions to attract and retain your audience. You must also keep answering these questions to give your audience a reason to stay.

Prioritize writing and marketing over everything else

Schedule time to write and market every day / week. Scheduling time is your motivation to write and market. Follow these two tactics: A. Write a minimum number of words per day (1000) to reinforce the habit and motivation. B. Take five marketing actions per day – Twitter posts/connections, reaching out to experts, scheduling a product launch). To help you do this, focus on spending time creating by yourself and thinking about the people who will be consuming what you create.

Be bigger than you really are

Act like you have more clients and a bigger audience, and that you are a bigger deal than you are. Be the authority in your field. Only you have your specific skills, knowledge and experience. Also, do not write to your whole audience – speak to a few people that you want to reach. To get bigger, get your site and materials reviewed by professionals / bloggers in your field, and get media coverage / reviews of your site / products.

Build long-lasting relationships

Spend time every day building and maintaining online and offline relationships – Twitter, LinkedIn, email, networking, phone calls, etc. Contact people that you read and respect (writers, editors, bloggers) and let them know that you enjoy and respect what they are doing. Develop a real relationship before ever asking them for anything.

Tell the world about what you do

Once you’ve developed good design and you have enough content, tell the world about your site / product. Send emails to everyone you know, and ask for feedback. Make sure to write great content and deliver great value – do not launch or promote your site before you are ready.

Respect your followers

Give your followers the best you have to offer. Don’t send them to other sites via clickthrough ads, as you have no control over where they are going. Answer every email from your followers. Ask them for feedback on what content they want to read. Read their questions and create content that answers those questions. Ask them why they visit your site and how you can best help them.

Do what you love

Your goal should be to do something you love and enjoy, and that will also help you to earn a living. Do something that you like that people will pay you to do. What you do should also help your audience in some way – by entertaining, educating or inspiring them.

Chris Guillebeau has a lot more to say in 279 Days to Overnight Success – I took a lot of notes, and shared what I thought was most relevant here. Make sure to give it a read.

I plan to write more summaries of eBooks I’ve downloaded over the years. I have a lot of them to read and share. If there are any eBooks that you’d like me to read and summarize for you here, or give my thoughts on, let me know –

David Gargaro

How can you position yourself as an authority to prospects and clients?

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People want to work with professionals who are experts in their field. We don’t want to work with amateur lawyers, doctors, bookkeepers, plumbers, financial planners – we want to work with people who know what they are doing. Working with knowledgeable and experienced people gives us the feeling that things will be done right (although this does not always happen).

If you are sole proprietor (like myself), consultant, self-employed, sole business owner, etc., then you should position yourself as an authority. You’ve been running your business for some time, and you obviously have the skills and experience to do the job. But you have to prove to your clients that you are capable of doing the job because you are an authority in your field.

The first step is to focus on who you are, rather than what you are. You are not just a professional writer or consultant or generic service provider. This will sound odd, but you are the only you there is. There are many writers, but you are the only writer who has your specific experience, skills and authority. Change your perception in the market’s mind. Don’t focus just on your skill level, but who you are and what makes you different.

Who you are will influence your prospects and clients. If you are an authority, then you will become in greater demand, which means you can also charge more. Your client list also affects your value. Working with high-profile clients means that you are worth more by association. They chose you because you are an authority; therefore, others will want to work with you as well.

Do not wait for the market or others to tell you that you are an expert or that you are an authority in this field or that. Your authority depends upon your mindset. Realize that you are skilled and bring value, and that you are an authority in your field. Then present yourself in this manner. This will determine how others view you.

As an authority, you know more about your given topic than anyone else. Make sure that you make this fact known – on your website, in your social media, when you talk to prospects and clients. That does not mean bragging “I am the best.” It means demonstrating your knowledge when required. Focus on where your business is seen, and how prospects perceive your business.

To be viewed as an authority, associate with other authorities. Interview experts in your field, and related areas, and give them exposure – this will allow you to be seen as an expert as well. Are you a marketing writer? Interview marketing experts, and authors with marketing books. Every field has its published experts and authorities. It’s up to you to find them, and ask them to speak about what they do best. Share these best practices with your clients and prospects. Now you’re an authority.

Do you need help with becoming an authority – writing articles, blog posts, etc.? Are you an authority in your field, and want to talk about what you know? Let me know –

David Gargaro

How to be a professional

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Many freelancers focus on doing the work and overlook the importance of acting like a “professional.” If you are serious about running and growing your business, then you should know what it means to be a professional. Invoicing, marketing, networking, paying bills – those are all part of the package of being a professional. But there is more to it than that.

I’ve put together some rules I’ve picked up along the way – as well as what other professionals have taught me.

  1. Be yourself. There are many different types of self-employed professionals who have succeeded in business. But you need to do what feels right for you. Be yourself because that is the easiest thing to be, and it’s what you will be selling to potential and existing clients. Trying to be someone else will take away from your focus, which should be your business.
  2. Be honest about what you can and cannot do. Determine what is possible to solve problems. Don’t over-promise or try to achieve things outside of your abilities. Focus on your strengths. Do what your resources enable you to do.
  3. Be as clear and communicative as possible. Speak to your clients in their language, not yours. Explain your terms in their words. They need to understand what you are capable of doing, and they want to know that you understand them.
  4. Show excitement for the work. If you are interested in what you are doing, then so will your clients. Being excited about something means that you care, and you will do your best work.
  5. Say what you will do, and then do it. Keep your word. Promises are important. Breaking your word is a quick way to lose credibility.
  6. Be a human being. Share personal stories. Build a bond of friendship with your clients. People enjoy working with people they like and care about.
  7. Back to the first point: there is no need to be something others think that you should be. Dress and act like yourself. Speak and write in your own way.  It’s important to do what feels right for you.

What does being a professional mean to you? Let me know –

David Gargaro

What makes a good client?

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I read an interesting blog post on the characteristics of a good client. I wanted to share the list here, as some people might think that they are good clients but leave a lot of room for improvement (while some clients go above and beyond the call of duty).

A good client:

  • Communicates expectations clearly (it is very important for getting the job done right the first time)
  • Allows a reasonable amount of time for the work (i.e., does not expect you to complete every job within an hour)
  • Is available for questions (by phone or email is fine)
  • Pays a fair amount for the work required (good clients know fair rates)
  • Pays in a timely fashion (payment within two weeks is great for me)
  • Has high integrity (such an important trait, but I don’t meet too many clients who are not honest)
  • Allows the service provider to do their job (not a problem, although some clients will change the project in progress)
  • Seeks an ongoing relationship (clients want to work with people they like and that do good work)
  • Gives credit where credit is due (this is rarely an issue for me, as I believe in making the client look good)
  • Is committed to quality (quality is very important, and good clients want quality over price and time)

What makes a good client for you? Are you a good client? Let me know –

David Gargaro