You want clients, right?
Wrong! You want high-quality clients.
You've undoubtedly heard that in order to get the best clients, you need to focus, or niche down, on a single type of client, so I won't dive deep into that here.
The end result of doing that exercise though is a game changer when it comes to your business.
It makes everything else you do for your business much, MUCH easier.
This episode dives deep into the exercise that I did over the course of 30 days (really 90), where I reflected on myself, my business, and where I wanted to eventually end up.
In this episode, you will learn the 4 questions to ask yourself in order to get the highest quality clients.
Episode Take Away
Take 30 minutes today and ask yourself the 4 questions
Then write down your answers (this is critical so that you can re-visit them)
The basis for any sustainable business is through high quality clients. In this episode of Live In The Feast, you are going to learn how to know exactly where that next client is coming from by working through a set of questions called the Freelancer’s Framework.
When starting out your freelancing career, you take on any and all clients, right? Be honest, you’d like to say that you don’t, however I know the truth. The truth is that anyone looking to give you some money in exchange for your services becomes your client.
This is a great way to start out because you need work. You need something to keep the lights on. So you grab on to a few projects and off you go.
Before you know it, you are smack dab in the feast or famine cycle. Wait what?!? Why’s that? Well now you need to chase down that next project once this one is done. You need a new client. You need to get money into the bank next month because this month’s project is wrapping up.
So where is this new client coming from?
It’s almost a right of passage of all freelancer’s to go through the rollercoaster of feast or famine cycle. It’s actually quite a natural progression of your career in freelancing.
Even the most well known freelancers, folks like Brennan Dunn, Paul Jarvis, Jane Portman, and even Seth Godin found themselves in the famine once in a while.
So why is this so? Why do freelancers ride this rollercoaster? Why are you on the rollercoaster?
Because you are a team of one. You don’t have a sales team. Don’t have a marketing team. Don’t have a billing department.
You are the one doing the work. You are who your clients hire. With only so many hours in any given day, how’s everything supposed to get done.
That’s why as a project is wrapping up, you start to think about where that next client is coming from. You start to send out a few emails, maybe even reach out to some warm leads that couldn’t make up their minds a month or 2 ago on pulling the trigger to go with you.
Inevitably your current project will end and there will be a gap of time where you are either chasing down new prospects or if you any sort of lead pipeline, scoping out the next proposal in hopes of landing this client quickly.
As my friend Curtis McHale says any time he hears that word, his response is always “hope is not a plan”.
You may not think that this gap is a big deal. Maybe it’s only a week or two. Well here’s what happens, all that profit you made on your last project.
You did make a profit right?
Was it enough to cover you not getting paid at all for a week or two?
Maybe this time it was or maybe you dipped into your savings a tiny bit to cover expenses. And now that last project was a break-even or even a loss, just because you didn’t have another client lined up.
This is no way to be sustainable. Businesses don’t last very long on break-even. They certainly don’t last on taking losses.
It’s critical to know where that next project is coming from. It’s even more critical to know what that project is and plan accordingly.
You are probably thinking “how can I line up someone else if I’m not 100% sure that my current client will finish up on time?”
You are thinking this because you are looking to level up your freelancing career and from your experience you know that clients often drag their feet. So you are listening to Live In The Feast to find ways to up your game.
I’m sure you’ve heard all this before…
“You need to build in recurring revenue” - “You need to niche down” - “You have to work with a specific type of client”
So I’m not going to say them again…oh, maybe I just did.
You’ve heard all this before because they are all valid ways to build a sustainable business.
A simple sentence won’t make it so. These are hard things to accomplish, especially when you are paying a mortgage and having to put food on the table.
You have clients with all sorts of different types of projects that you need to be working on.
You have a hard enough time finding the clients you currently have and the last thing you want to do is exclude any of them.
All your feelings are valid. I thought the very same things, and for a very long time I didn’t change anything in my business.
Guess what? Not changing anything in my business meant that I wasn’t getting any closer to living the type of life that I wanted either.
Going on a 3 week honeymoon seemed so far out of reach because I didn’t know what sort of business I would come back to. The flexibility I wanted in my life to be able to drop what I was doing so that I could spend quality time any given day with my family and friends seemed like a pipe dream.
Look, don’t take my word for it. I don’t mind droning on about my story, but then that would be me preaching, right?
What I like to do when exploring things is to see how many examples I can find in the wild. So let’s do that.
Jane Portman is a designer. Most designers work with developers because they are complementary services. If you are either one, then you know that the other often times is terrible at your job, right?
Jane took it a step further and she identified that software developers need constant improvement on their software time and time again. They also needed to be able to improve the usability of their products as the market dictated.
So Jane shifted her business into working specifically with software developers, helping them with both design and strategy.
Greg Hickman is what I like to call a marketing engineer. I honestly don’t know if that’s a real thing or not, but he’s basically a marketing guy that uses systems and automation to make selling much smarter for his clients.
He saw a huge gap in the market for users of Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft is a powerful and complex marketing automation platform where often times users will have to hire specialized consultants to implement it for their businesses.
Instead of being one of those consultants, Greg took it a step further to understand the business of his clients, lay out a strategy based around the results of a session, and them moves forward to implement and support it through Infusionsoft.
Jane and Greg have focused their businesses in such a way that allows them to know exactly who their clients are and the solution that they provide to them.
So if you are sitting their in your car or running on a treadmill thinking “there’s no way I can niche down to a specific client because what I do is too custom” then I’d like to point out Jane and Greg’s clients are not all the same. Jane and Greg provide custom based solutions to the same problems that their clients have.
They know exactly what it is that they offer their clients because their clients have a specific problem that needs to be solved. In Jane’s case, it’s the constant market evolution of a software product. In Greg’s case, it’s figuring out what the business goals of his client’s businesses are and lay out that plan using Infusionsoft.
If you take a look around at some folks that you listen to, read their stuff, follow on the Twitters, and they are a one person show or even a small team and seem like they have it nailed and you aspire to get to that level.
I encourage you to take a few minutes and take a hard look at their website and marketing. If you reverse engineer what it is that they do, I guarantee you it’s solving one problem for one particular type of client.
This was my AH-HA moment when I realized that I was doing it wrong. Sure I was making money, but I couldn’t predict exactly how smooth a project would go, I couldn’t really schedule out in advance too many projects, all because I was working on various different types of projects and solutions addressing all sorts of different problems that my clients had.
So as a result, I took 30 days and decided that at the end of that time I would come up with some sort of ideal client, one type of solution, or some way in which I could focus my business to make it more predictable.
Granted I had clients at the time, and I took them into consideration greatly. Looking at them as my source of inspiration since, well, they had already hired me for some reason.
Out of this self-reflection I came up with 4 questions that I would encourage you to ask yourself.
- Who is it for (your client)? In other words, who are you doing work for?
- What problem do they need solving? Take a look at their problems they are having. Dive deep and make sure that you are identifying the correct problem. Often times what clients say is their problem isn’t the actual root cause.
- Would they pay? If the problem is big enough or painful enough, they’ll pay. If this is a problem they are already paying you for, see if this is something that you can solve for other people. Better yet, can you solve this for other people and is it something that comes up time and time again for a particular client.
- Do you enjoy doing it? This is the question I had to spend the most time on. It was easy to look at existing and past clients to figure out what problem I was solving. It was easy to look at the types of people and/or companies they were. But for me, I know that I need to work on things that excite me. Things that I enjoy doing. I’m sure that you feel the same. We’ve both been at a job we don’t enjoy getting up in the morning and head off to, right? So why do that to yourself when you have the freedom to pick and choose what you work on.
Going through this exercise may seem a bit elementary, I’ll give you that. But it gives amazing insight when you give yourself some time to really be honest and open with yourself.
I still have my notebook where I spent time brainstorming all this. I crossed a ton of stuff out, but once I honed in on what I needed to do, who needed it most, and really knew that I enjoyed it, well I went from tiny percentage increases in my revenue over the course of 2 years, to 10X’ing my monthly revenue in just 6 months.
In fact that’s your takeaway from this show. If you are struggling with being able to schedule out work, predicting who your next client is or only seeing minor increases in your annual revenue, ask yourself these 4 questions.
Take 30 mins today, whether that’s right now, at the end of your lunch break, or before you head off to bed tonight. As yourself these questions and write your answers down.
If you head over to rezzz.com/episode001 you can download a worksheet with the questions in it. It also has some other items to take into consideration as well.
Go ahead, write it down. I promise you that if you do, you’ll already be ahead of the game because most won’t do it. So don’t be like everyone else. You already are not like everyone else because you are a freelancer, so why start now?
Writing your answers down will allow you to easily go back anytime and qualify projects, clients, and companies quickly and effectively and know exactly if they are the right one for you.
It’s your time to Live In The Feast.
Season 1: Getting Clients
More episodes in this season:
S01 E00 - A Guy Named Fred
S01 E02 - How to know if your leads will pay you
S01 E01 - Where does your client come from?
S01 E03 - Lauren Pawell converts 80% of qualified leads
S01 E04 - 3 ways to boost sales & get high quality referrals
S01 E05 - Simple process to convert 50% of first time projects into a second one
S01 E06 - The tools you need to set up your sales team
S01 E07 - Laura Elizabeth creates experiences for her clients you can use
S01 E08-Want better clients, reach out to your network
S01 E09 - How to Build Authority Content
S01 E10 - Gina Horkey - Always be marketing to be successful in freelancing
S01 E11 - Kai Davis helping freelancers get more clients with outreach