I could use some advice. I have a full-time job as a web developer and I do some consulting on the side. I would like to transition to doing consulting full-time, but I'm having trouble finding more clients. The one (and only) client I have now was a referral from a friend.
I read on your blog that you have done some consulting. How did you find clients?
Four points -
1. Solicit people contacting you
2. Work for free
3. Ask for referrals
4. Keep future desired clients in the loop of your successes
1. Make it very easy for people to get in touch with you for any reason. Most people don't do this, which is crazy. 95% of people who drop a line you'll never work with at all, but that's fine. The remaining 5% is more than enough to have tons of work and connections. This can be done anywhere. If you're in a mainstream job, just walk around every department over the next month and ask how they're doing, introduce yourself, and ask them to call or email you if you can help with anything for work or otherwise. (Do this after talking some, getting to know them/etc)
2. Work for free. You don't even need to say you're "working" or make it formal. Just solve problems for people, make them money. I had a guy I was friendly with who I spent five hours really excited in a cafe with drawing up plans for his business to grow much faster. I just liked the guy and wanted him to be successful. The next day, I had more ideas, and then I just asked him - "hey, you want a minority partner?" He brought me on at a 22% stake in the company for a very cheap rate, plus labor. I doubled his revenues and made his business more pleasurable to work in. It's going to make both of us a lot of money. But it all started with me just being excited and helping him out, which I do for a lot of people. (Again, most of the time nothing comes of it. That's not a bad thing.)
3. If you're doing good work, say, "I'm looking for more clients like you - reliable, hard working, implement well, recognize the value of the service I offer, etc, etc, etc." (describe the specific attributes you're looking to work for, and only ask good clients for referrals). Even better is to ask for referrals beforehand if you deliver. "So, I can do X. If I deliver on X, would you refer me to other people who would benefit from my services?" In full disclosure, I don't do this anywhere near as much as I should. Whenever I do do it, it works well. It works well for lots of other people. You should do it, and I should do it more too.
4. Some people there's a long lead time on signing on with them. Sadly, this is often true with the most effective people. For someone who isn't maxed out, bringing on someone on performance or fixed rate project isn't such a difficult thing to sell. But for someone who is maxed out, that means you're bumping other things out of their life, which can be a much bigger risk than the actual fees you make. If you stay in touch with someone for a year though, you can show them that you execute and don't waste time. Just ping them as you accomplish things or when you start something interesting, ping them again when you finish. Y'know, just basic stay-in-touch stuff. After a year or two of 10-minutes-of-email-corresponding per month plus a few calls, they know who you are and it's a much lower perceived risk to work with you. Again, this is something I'm nowhere near as systematic as I should be, though I've been screwing around with all sorts of systems and CRMs and PIMs and whatever to try to get better at it lately. This point is really important for working with people who are doing amazing stuff - under normal circumstances, they just won't work with you until you've shown you're quite good for quite a while.
Hope that helps,
The Internal Scorecard
I think there's a tremendous amount of misconceptions regarding achievement, productivity, creativity, ambition, work, work rate, work ethic, and so on.
So I'm thinking of publishing some analysis weekly with examples of what happened in the week, successes and failures, noteworthy events, what I'm reading and listening to, and so on. If it goes well, I can give you a picture of a workweek for me, intermix tactics and techniques, and give you practical guidance about what's working well and what isn't.
Happy New Year to everyone!
How different do you think you are? How different is your career to your friend's? What is special about you?
Well, of course there are differences. I mean, no two persons are absolutely identical but that is not the point here. We all set out to "walk our own paths". Although we have some idea of professions and similarities within them, we still think, rather naively perhaps, that we will have some uniqueness to be proud of; something that will distinguish us from the rest of the herd. Of course, there may be people who don't desire that at all but I think it might be safe to say that a vast majority of us do harbor some notion of difference, uniqueness, that will make us the "special one".
Now, reflect on the reality for a minute. You will soon see that, for all our slogans in praise of diversity, the world of work and careers look scarily homogeneous. In Sociology this phenomenon is called isomorphism but lets not get technical about life. If you look at most of the companies and the jobs of the people working inside them you will see that they kind of look very similar. The companies may be doing different things, producing or manufacturing different kinds of products, but, by and large, a lot of what people do as part of their job is institutionalized. While there may be difference between professional functions within any given company (like the difference between the finance function and the HR function), the professionals and their jobs are very similar to their direct counterparts in other companies (for example, consider the work of an accountant. The accountant in Company A isn't very different at all from the one in Company B, by and large.). Universities and professional training institutes contribute to the development of norms that get spread out once people graduate, for example, B-school graduates and professional accountants, lawyers and doctors. The elaboration of professional networks and the idiosyncrasies of formal education allow for the creation of a huge pool of interchangeable individuals who occupy similar positions across a variety of organisations and have similar profiles, orientations and dispositions. Then there are the intricate socialization processes within companies that eventually dictate personal behaviour, style of dressing, vocabularies, ways of speaking etc. This is particularly the case in service industries and within organisations with a financial orientation. If you consider consulting or financial services industry in particular, you will see that to the extent people are taken from the same school or professional orientation and filtered through a common set of attributes, you get people who, broadly speaking, have similar outlooks to problems, and who approach decisions in similar ways.