Running a successful business is hard. Business is about people. Having successful relationships is hard.
“It’s the hard that makes it great; if it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it.”
Just because someone else does the same kind work you do doesn’t mean that they are your competitor.
What happens when you can’t take on any new work? You refer it to someone else, right? Surprise! That’s what they do as well.
Don’t you want to be on as many other people’s referral lists as possible? You can only do that if you get out from behind that desk and network. Allowing other folks to learn more about you and what you are all about.
EPISODE TAKE AWAY
Make a list of people that you follow on social or have met in person
Send 3 of them an email just introducing you and starting the conversation (remember to provide value to them, don’t just sell)
Important Mentions in the Episode
In this episode, you are going to step out from behind that desk a bit and say “hi”.
Think you can’t drink Coke and Pepsi? Or use Snapchat and Instagram?
In this episode, you will see how those who do the same work you do are your colleagues and friends. Having a group of trusted colleagues in your network is a HUGE asset to your business in many different ways.
You are a full-time freelancer. Things are perfect because you get to work on projects that you want, set your own hours, work in the comfort of your own home, and no boss to answer to.
These feelings are fleeting. They only last a very short time before you realize that there may be projects that you don’t enjoy doing, but take on. Your hours are set by how much work needs to get done. You are working in your home, but after a little while it gets old that the traffic on your commute is if your cat walks under your feet as you walk to the kitchen for coffee.
Oh and you may not have one boss to answer to, but 10 bosses. One for each of the projects you are working on.
So what happened to this utopia that was supposed to be freelancing?
Nothing happened to it, it’s just that you fell into that cycle of having to work on things that come your way because you don’t have many other options.
That is changing today!
You are going to see how a little networking and socializing with colleagues gets you closer, if not into that utopia of what you are looking for.
Has anyone ever told you that you should be going to Chamber of Commerce meetings. Or a BNI meeting. I’m not sure what these are called outside of the U.S.
But these are suggestions to you made in good faith, even if they seem a bit awkward, old school, and don’t really work.
Folks who goto these have one thing on their mind, meet as many people as they can and carpet them with business cards with the hope that someone will need their services or product.
It’s almost as if whoever has their own business card at the end of the meeting has to pay the bill.
But all joking aside, business is about people. It’s not about your logo, your website, or your company name. It’s about you providing a service to another person that has a need.
Let me ask you a question. If you are a designer, when you meet another designer do you look at that person as a competitor or a colleague?
What if you are a writer and meet another writer? What about if you are a developer?
I’d be willing to bet that you just paused for a minute didn’t you?
That’s because it’s natural to think that someone who does a similar job as we do is our competitor. That our customers are their customers. It’s what we are brought up to think.
Look at the “Cola Wars” of the 80s. You couldn’t drink Coke and Pepsi, that was unheard of, you had to choose.
Look at the browser wars of the late 90s and early 2000s. You were either Microsoft or not.
Look at apps today, you can’t possibly be sharing your daily story on Snapchat as well as Instagram and now Facebook too, right?
It’s in our environment to think that 2 of the same type of entities can’t co-exist in the same space at the same time.
Well I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. But more importantly show you too.
When you work in a corporate environment, you have others, a team of people around you. You chat with them not just about work, but about your life too. You get to know who they are.
When you need help with something on the job, you can reach out to them and get some answers. They are willing to help, for the most part, in any way they can.
Now why is that? Is it because you work for the company and on the same team? I think some respect, that’s true.
But it’s more because you have become friends and colleagues, not just 2 people working at the same company. They want to help you because they know who you are and what you are about.
Take the same situation but now you are running your own freelance business. You run into an issue, who’s there to help?
Sure you can maybe Google the question you have and find an answer, but that’s not always something that’s easily searchable.
Who knows who you are? Who knows that you are even struggling with something?
It can quickly become very isolating and very disheartening.
You suddenly have gone from this extremely high of feeling on top of the world running your own business, to this extreme low feeling of isolation.
Now I don’t know about you, but I may enjoy working by myself from home, but feeling alone sucks.
This is why it is so important to reach out and network with other business owners like yourself.
Attend conferences of other freelancers, or meet ups that are in and around your local area. Find other designers, writers, developers, or whatever your “thing” is to chat with and get to know.
They aren’t your competition, they are your colleagues. They are your friends. They understand the struggles you have because they have them too.
They can help you because they have been on the same bumpy road as you.
If you are a designer, how many other designers are you following on Twitter and Facebook?
If you are a developer, how many starred repos do you have on Github that are from other developers?
If you are following them on the social web, then it’s time to be social in real life too. Reach out to them and say “hi” and offer any help you can.
When you attend a conference, don’t just meet and greet folks at the reception or in the hallway and let that conversation end there. Keep up the conversation long after the event.
Sure it’s hard, because out of sight, out of mind, right?
Well to quote Tom Hanks “It’s the hard that makes it great; if it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it.”
Running a successful business is hard. Remember how I said that business is about people? Having successful relationships is hard.
Remember how in episode 3 (it’s really 4, not 3) you learned how to leverage referrals to get the better clients.
By building those relationships and allowing folks to become your colleagues and friends rather than competitors, they learn more about who you are and what you do. It will only serve your business better to land better clients.
As a designer, developer, or writer, you know there are times when you are so booked that you have to turn away business. It does happen, even though we’d like it to happen more, right?
Well, don’t you want to be on as many other people’s referral lists as possible? You can only do that if you get out from behind that desk and network. Allowing other folks to learn more about you and what you are all about.
Not to mention, you can refer them work as well. Maybe even be able to reach out to them when you stumble on that road you are both traveling on.
There’s plenty of work and clients to go around. Having a bunch of trusted colleagues in your space is an asset, not a detriment to your business.
Remember you don’t have to pay rent for an office building, or have to pay for 100 computer desks, or any of that stuff. You need a few projects among the hundreds of thousands of projects out there. So there’s plenty of work to go around and even get some overflow.
Building the relationships with others in and around your space is critical in order to keep a good flow of great clients coming your way.
The action steps for this show are to make a list of people that you follow on social or have met in person.
Then go ahead and send 3 of them an email just introducing yourself and starting the conversation. Remember to provide value to them, don’t just sell.
Ask them about their weekend, maybe pick a blog post they wrote and how it affected you in a positive way. Then offer something of value to them, maybe if they are ok with you referring them work that you can’t take on.
If they say “sure” then give them the opportunity to tell you exactly what type of work they are looking for.
The key is to have a conversation with them, then when the time comes where you need work, it’s not out of context because you’ve been having this conversation all along.
Then next week at the same time as you sent off the first 3, send another 3 emails. Repeat this every single week. Put it on your calendar if you have to.
Make it a habit to continue the conversation and see how it impacts you and your business in the long run.
Now that we are in episode 8, you can see how I’m a avid fan of leverage. If referrals are the way you get the majority of your work, put a process in place to make those referrals more consistent.
Carrying on conversations with folks you know you is the best way to build relationships. Those relationships can fuel your business too in ways that you may not see right away.
You may not be able to measure the immediate ROI of sending 5 or 10 minutes to reach out to a few folks and say hi.
But by this time next year, see how your business has grown leaps and bounds by just saying “hi”.
Until next time, it’s your time to Live In The Feast.