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As a business coach and service-based business owner myself, I’ve noticed there’s a common challenge many of us experience at some point and that is:
The never-ending hustle for new clients.
Been there? Yep, me too! You get a new client, celebrate for about a nano-second (because solopreneurs are notorious for blowing right by our accomplishments so we can focus on our shortcomings!) and immediately return to that familiar loop in our heads:
“Where’s my next client coming from?” 😬
Given one of the reasons we start our own businesses is a desire for freedom. This constant fear-driven hustle can be a complete downer.
So, what’s the answer to getting off the merry-go-round of constantly hustling for new projects?
Read on for three things you can do to break the cycle:
First up, and this might be controversial, I’d like you to try something that may feel new. Stop calling yourself a freelancer. Why? Because when clients think of freelancers they think of a pair of hands and hourly rates.
In short, when you engage with clients in this way you enter into a race to the bottom. And that’s not a race anyone wants to win! So, what’s a freelancer to call themselves?
How about creative business owner or creative entrepreneur? Feel too much of a leap? Try independent creative talent on for size. Feels better, right?
OK, so now you’ve started shifting how you start thinking about yourself, it’s time to start engaging with prospective clients differently. Ready?
1. Identify who your ideal clients are
The first step to getting out of the hustling for projects trap is to separate the crappy clients from the ideal ones. You may feel a million miles away from your ideal clients, but just knowing what they look like is a HUGE step in the right direction.
Part one: Grade EVERY client you’ve worked with.
Using the following criteria, give each client a grade.
- They knew they needed your help
- They recognized working with you was essential
- They paid your fees without negotiating
- They got results from working with you
- They refer others
- They are people you enjoy working with
Now look at the highest-ranking clients. What do they have in common? Write it down.
2. Identify what your ideal clients really want and need
The best way to figure out how to work with more of those ideal clients is to find out exactly what they need. No, not what you think they need, what they think they need! And the best way I know how is to interview them. I totally get that you’d rather poke your own eye out than do this, but I promise, once you get over the hump and do the first interview you’re going to be hooked. The information you get is SO good you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Here are a few questions you might ask (feel free to add your own):
- What was your biggest struggle prior to working with me?
- What did you get from working with me?
- What would the best possible outcome look like to you?
- What do you need most to get those results?
- What do you need that I don’t currently offer?
Hopefully that last question has got you thinking about how you might serve your ideal clients in a larger way. Could you add a discovery/strategy component to your work? What about collaborating with other creatives e.g. a copywriter or content creator to secure a bigger piece of the pie? Or maybe you can offer on-going support for all the small stuff that crops up (hello, retainer!). Get creative, brainstorm with your creative friends, and beef up your offerings.
3. Move from hourly to project or package fees
When you start to think about your work as solving a specific business challenge your ideal client has, the game changes. Instead of billing an hourly rate to deal with whatever they throw you, you position yourself as a peer, you collaborate on scoping out the work together, and you can propose a fee based upon the scope, timing, and value of the work. This is a GAME-CHANGER people!
And the added beauty of project rates is projects tend to be multi-faceted, take weeks or months VS hours or days, so you need fewer to reach your income goals than you would hustling as a freelance gun for hire.
These are just a few steps you can take to take charge of your business and the life it affords you.
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