Why Marketing Really Matters for Solo Professionals

What getting good at marketing can do for the individual is to help him or her find the clients they could care about and be eager to help, and the types of work that would be truly stimulating. The better you are at marketing, the more truly professional you can be, because you are not forced to take money from anyone and everyone just because you need the cash.

— David Maister in “Doing It For The Money

A business does marketing and sales for the money, but that’s not the sole reason to get good at it.

David’s original article is a bit long, but there are some other tidbits wrapped around this quote if you feel inclined to dig them up. I also recommend two of his books, “The Trusted Advisor” and “Strategy and the Fat Smoker“ and/or spending a morning with your coffee in hand while perusing his articles and blog archive.

Amateurs Get Angry With Clients. Professionals Educate Them.

Paul Jarvis, writing for 99U:

As most experienced freelancers know, sometimes we have to fire our clients, for their benefit and ours. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I used to think dealing with frustrating clients was just part of being a creative. But then I realized while, yes, there are frustrating parts of any relationship, frustration should be the exception rather than the rule.

There are certainly times when we want to turn into the freelance version of Donald Trump, screaming “You’re Fired!” at everyone we disagree with. But the truth is, we deserve the clients we get. Bad clients aren’t the result of some cosmic force working against us, they’re more likely the result of our own actions.

Frustrating clients are the result of some misstep we’ve made along the way. To do our best work and work with the best people, we need to be diligent in our relationship with our clients.

Read his suggestions on how to accomplish this.

Flaws in Handling New Business Inquiries

The WAV Group had researchers pose as consumers and make inquiries with real estate brokers. The results were depressing. Their results were about right for solo technology professionals as well, in my experience.

Unfortunately, that’s not the the most depressing part. It’s embarrassing for me to admit this, but the very week this study came across my desk I blew off a new contact …and we were discussing some ways we could work together. I didn’t ignore him intentionally. I simply completely dropped the ball on getting back to him in an email thread we were having.

I never like to leave somebody hanging. I have no excuse, though I told myself I was too wrapped up in a couple of projects that suddenly picked up momentum that week to continue the thread wholeheartedly. I still should have acknowledged him and said something before it became a 14 (!) day gap of silence. This is Customer Service 101 and I blew it. Learn from my mistake.

Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won’t have time to make them all yourself.

Alfred Sheinwold

How to Start Freelancing Without Having a Mental Breakdown

Sean Smith writes:

Your focus should be on automation & efficient systems first and foremost to easily manage the monotony while you get to work for your clients.

So, from my experience I’ve put together sort of a 101 for new freelancers and experienced ones alike.

His list is good, go check it out. I would add a few things to it:

  • Bench — The online bookkeeping service that does your bookkeeping for you. I used to do my own books (ahem, I mean I used to plan to do my books… they only got done when tax time came around or I convinced my wife to do them). No longer. And it’s all online so I don’t have to visit an office anywhere or wait for an appointment.
  • CFO Andrew — An independent CFO/CPA for Freelancers & Solopreneurs. I used to research my own tax questions and prepare my own taxes. No longer, and I don’t even have to go see anyone or wait for an appointment— I just send off questions from my phone as needed. My understanding is Bench can prepare my taxes too, but I like using a CPA because I often have other questions that come up throughout the year that aren’t just return preparation related.
  • A small business credit card (I had a good experiencing getting a Capital One Spark Business Credit card when I had very little credit) — Put all business expenses on this card and set the balance to be paid in full each month if possible. Doing this builds credit for things you are going to be paying for each month anyhow and also buys you another ~21 days of cash flow (since the credit card balance will carry it at 0% interest until your next statement is due). I have mine set to automatically get paid each month in full, but from time to time I may override this and only pay the minimum (or some other less than full payment) for cash flow management purposes. This gives me additional flexibility in that way too.
  • Fundbox — a simple way to fix cash flow (on occasion) by getting advances on outstanding invoices (you get a loan against the invoice amount immediately after you issue an invoice to a client — it gets deposited in your checking account the next business day — regardless of when the client pays you). This is handy, albeit costly. Use it when cash is tight and clients are slow to pay, but come up with ways to solve your cash flow issues in other ways over the long run. Even so, cash flow is key when you’re a small business and having multiple tools available is handy when cash crunches crop up. Fundbox integrates directly with Freshbooks.

The Business of Freelance: Tales of a Full Service Freelancer (Video)

Freelancer Michael Jones (of Mograph Mentor) did a pretty bad ass presentation (video) for a user group on The Business of Freelance based on his personal experiences and a broad economic examination of working as a digital creative services freelancer. His video presentation is 19 minutes long and well worth it. The good stuff starts just under 2 minutes in, but the first part gives you some context on his professional experience.