Life is, for most of us, one really long opportunity to learn new things. I’ve owned my own business now for a little over a year and, aside from the thrill whenever I see my company name, have learned that being your own boss really is nothing short of amazing. Now that I’m 12 months in, I’ve picked up a few things I’d like to share along with a funny story from one of my earliest meetings. Without further ado”
1) Pricing Consulting Services…Not Again
My very first consulting agreement was returned with a signature in less than 2 hours…yes…2 hours. I was so excited that my initial response was only joy. “I’m a consultant! It’s official! I have a client!” And in those first few weeks of work, I realized that I might have underbid my work by just a bit.
But I learned from the experience and, when sending out my next contract, increased the amount to what I thought made sense and sent the contract on its way. Same outcome – almost an immediate signature. But I’d done a better job the second time around – and felt much more comfortable with the outcome of the project and the money I earned. Fast forward through the next year and I’ve only had two potential clients that I wasn’t able to come to an agreement with and I’m still working with three of my original clients.
So, are quick signatures a good thing? Or a bad thing? Should I charge more?
I’ve come to realize that the services I offer fit into a niche in the market. I’m versatile and knowledgeable in a variety of areas, with experience in multiple industries and disciplines. I’m a problem solver, believing firmly that there are a minimum of seven solutions to every problem – you just have to find them! I charge below agency rates (even here in the Midwest) and have partnerships with other consultants, leaders and skill-based individuals that let me put together custom teams to meet the needs of my clients. I’m happy to work with other agencies, stand in as a fractional CMO and generally do what’s needed to help my clients succeed.
Rapid signatures on contracts have come to mean that I did an excellent job selling in my services before the agreement was sent, my new client appreciates and respects what I’ll bring to the table and I’m happy with the amount I decided to charge.
2) Staying in My Swim Lane While Learning Some New Strokes
Kristie Jones, a highly intelligent and successful consultant in her own right, continually coaches me to focus my efforts and stay in the areas where I’m most comfortable and have been able to show success. I, being a people-pleaser from way back, have a hard time saying no when a client expands the scope of a project or adds an element that I haven’t previously executed. My advice in this area is to recognize:
Doing new things is stressful – this is possibly the hardest piece for me. I own the success (or failure) of my projects and have to be patient with my own mistakes when I take on something I haven’t done before.
Transparency is genius – I tell my clients, when they request that I execute a new project that is outside my current experience, that I don’t have experience in that area. Generally, my project management, business and life experiences are enough to ensure a successful outcome and, if everyone knows going in that a Google search or two might be necessary to fully flesh out the checklist, the project is executed that much more smoothly.
Building my repertoire continually adds to my value – this is my favorite part. I love learning and doing new things (stressful parts aside) and getting paid to learn new things is fabulous. And the next time, when I get asked to do something new, I have that much more confidence that I’ll pull it off successfully.
Don’t be afraid to try new things – be upfront about what you know and take that chance!
3) Hours, Projects and Retainers
In one of my first pitch meetings, I was actually doing a joint pitch with Kristie Jones to a potential client. We were in the meeting when the prospect looked at me and asked, “How do you like to work?”
I looked at him blankly, hoping I didn’t look like a total idiot, trying to understand what he was asking. I fumbled my way through an answer (which I don’t really remember) and then, thankfully, the meeting turned to another topic.
As we were walking out together, Kristie gave me a flat look and said, “You like to work by the hour, on a project basis or on retainer.”
This brings my first ever blog post written on my own behalf to a close. I hope you enjoyed it!