It’s been a pretty quiet January, up until a few days ago. I’ve been thrust in “new business” mode, a little earlier than I was expecting. But one of my new things this year is to be less worried about having everything in place before making the connection, and so far it’s going well.
The downside is that I’ve deferred a few interesting articles that I’ve wanted to put out there, like the one on how cooking beets is like developing software, and the continuation of my 2006 resolutions posts (particularly, the one on being frugal, which is personally a little hard to face).
In the meantime, I have a few general observations on my business development activities for the past few days.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
- I have been enjoying meeting new people these days. I know who I am with a greater degree of confidence, to the point of being more playful with it. I also have wonderful friends who support me, and I am enjoying doing what I can to support them. Having these two things are really what makes my day worth living and meaningful.
Although I know myself better, I don’t know specifically how to “package” that for business in a way that doesn’t sound like empty bullshitting. I’m in the process of gathering that information and making it more accessible to potential working partners, and I’m sure that I’ll think of something eventually. Small steps! One thing I’ve learned, though: really do meet as many people as possible once you do know yourself and can confidently say what that is. What works for me in networking is to get a few stories out of people, which gives me enough material to riff on.
Figuring out what it is I offer in terms of services and skills, however, is something else. In the end this is how to package services and skills in a nice presentation package that is absorbed instantaneously by your target market; that is, people with interest, need, and direct buying power.
One hang-up I have is that I’ve tend to compare myself to the very top people in the field. Naturally, I come up short. Since I hate not being able to say, “I offer the very best”, I sell myself short. This can come across as lack of confidence (which it is). People tell me I’m great, of course, but in my mind’s eye I’m thinking that Joshua Davis kicks my ass, Orisinal is the Shigeo Miyamoto of Flash game design, and who am I to stand in the same space as Hillman Curtis? A friend of mine told me not to worry about that; she works with a lot of freelancers and agencies. Instead, shift the assessment responsibility to the people who will hire you. It’s not your job to tell them that you aren’t as good as the top people in your field. Instead, show them what you CAN do, what you HAVE done, and make it easy for them to assess that yeah, you can probably do the work they have in mind and make their lives easier. That’s all they want; if they really wanted Joshua Davis, they’d call him. So show your best work with pride, and make it easy for your market to assess. Then deliver what you say you will from the moment you say “hello”. That’s all people want, and it’s a delight when they get it.
Every job I’ve had has been through direct referral, but I also feel I’ve been really lazy about proactive marketing. My biggest marketing effort to date, in hindsight, is this blog. However, it’s a “soft sell”. I’m interested in some of the more quantitative things I can do, so I’m going to order that Web Design Business Kit because I like the way the sample chapters are written. I’m also curious to see how they’ve packaged this knowledge for sale. It’s a little pricey, but in the context of deductable business expenses it’s not bad at all. Plus I can write my own review on it; I’ve seen several positive reviews, but nothing really meaty.
I’ve known for a while that one of my biggest selling points is my personal approach to client projects, but this is a quality that arises in the after sales production. When I have an initial client meeting, I try to make it into a mini working meeting so people get a taste of how I approach the design process, and this usually works out for everyone involved. I guess this would be called a “free consultation” if I was a lawyer. I’d like to say I offer clarity and definition—this perhaps is also called “consulting”—but to me such claims don’t sound credible when presented in isolation. I think people are generally suspicious of consulting, unless you’ve written a bestselling book or Oprah has personally vouched for you. Note to self: Meet Oprah as soon as possible!
I’m trying to approach the consulting side obliquely, by listing “Reasons Why People Like Working with Me” in the services section. This would have more weight with client comments: what would a client tagboard look like? This appoach may also solve the “write a referral” logistical issues that often plague busy clients, who would love to endorse your work but lack the time craft an artful statement.
p>So that’s what’s on my mind.