5 stupid things I did to get clients when I started my consulting business
We all make stupid mistakes, and few “gurus” and self-proclaimed “experts” talk about their failures. Why not? Well, who cares whether an “expert” talks about their failures? What you care about is how YOU can achieve your dreams, your goals, your “secret plan”. (Yes, I bet you have a secret plan. For many of you, that may be quitting your day job.)
I’m not afraid to talk about how I’ve failed, because I know that many of you have experienced the same things. Yes, it can be embarrassing. But it’s also liberating, because we ALL fail sometimes.
And failure is actually a step toward success.
So long as you don’t crawl under a rock in abject shame after failing, you dust yourself off, and figure out what the lesson was. Then you go out and do things a bit better.
5 stupid things I did to get clients when I started my consulting business
Yes, there were a lot more than just 5 stupid things I did when starting out, but I’ll limit this post to the top 5.
Here they are:
Stupid thing #1: wasting time on marketing materials
I had some pretty novice ideas about how to get clients when I started out, and I pursued them in earnest.
I created a brochure, a business card, and a website. But I didn’t draft anything quick and start getting feedback. Nope.
Instead, I spent about 3 MONTHS drafting copy for them, and hired a graphic designer to help with the layout. I revised the copy, the wording, the layout, the fonts, the colors, even what the bullet points looked like.
I showed it to handful of close friends, got feedback, and kept revising and tweaking. (Never mind the fact that no one who I showed these things to were in my market, and therefore had no idea what my prospects cared about).
So, yes, I spent a solid 3 months on these things.
And those brochures? I only sent out a couple dozen, and of those, I never called to follow up.
I had no idea about marketing channels when I started out.
Now that I’ve learned from my mistakes, I’d ask my newbie self questions like:
- Where were my prospects?
- How can I systematically reach them?
- Which are the most promising channels?
- Which have the best likelihood of sourcing high-value clients?
- What do my prospects actually care about? What value can I provide them right now?
Stupid thing #2: building a list of prospects, but taking virtually no action
Building a list of prospects sounds like a good idea, and it is. But I actually did 2 stupid things here:
- I spent a shit ton of time building this list. I’m talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-60 hours over a period of months.
- I didn’t DO anything with this list–except to delude myself into thinking I was working on my business.
Yes, a prospect list is a great idea, but not when you spend all your free time doing it, and especially not if you don’t do anything with it.
How many prospects did that list include? About 70.
How many did I actually contact? 4.
How did I expect to get results?
And yet when I sat down to “work on my business,” I gravitated to that damn spreadsheet, adding new prospects, and adding details for each.
Why didn’t I call more prospects? Because it was hard.
Calling prospects made me anxious, and I didn’t want to get rejected. Besides, I wasn’t sure what to say, how to have a conversation with them.
And I certainly didn’t think of myself as a salesperson. I had no idea how to sell.
So, the thought of calling prospects (even though I actually knew many of them) was scary. And instead of doing something outside my comfort zone, I stuck with something that felt safe.
Stupid thing #3: creating a menu of services
You might think that drafting a list of services you can offer is actually a good idea. It can be, but again, I spent an enormous amount of time on this task. I’m talking 20-30 hours. And this was while working the day job, being married, and having kids, so I already didn’t have a lot of free time.
And yet I chose to spend a crapload of hours and weeks on this thing.
Wasting time was the first stupid thing about this.
The second stupid thing about this was that I was focused on my SKILLS instead of what prospects and clients would be interested in.
It was an example of “look at all the cool stuff I can do!” without thinking what my market desperately WANTED.
Look at it this way: Imagine you’re walking down the street, hungry, and see 2 restaurants. One has a chef who’s telling you all about how they can chop, filet, sautee, broil, season, marinade, and julienne the food. From the other restaurant, your mouth literally waters from the smell of juicy grilled meat (apologizes to the vegans out there). You’d think, “Fancy chef or not, I want a friggin burger.” And you’d go to the burger place.
Give your market what they desperately want, not a boring CV or resume.
Stupid thing #4: agonizing over which business entity to choose
Yes, this was another thing that consumed far too much time when I first started. I read damn near every article I could find online, weighed the pros & cons of each for my situation and where I thought I might be 5 years down the road, then re-read all the advice, bookmarked sites, took notes, and agonized some more.
So what kind of business entity did I eventually choose? It doesn’t matter!
Did it get clients? Of course not.
No client cares whether you’re an LLC, s-corp, c-corp, or sole proprietor.
When you start consulting, keep in mind that you need clients to be a consultant and have a real business that brings in cash to your bank account.
No clients = no cash and no real business.
The stupid thing was again spending way too much time on something inconsequential.
LLC or s-corp, talk to an accountant for 30 minutes about your specific situation, make a decision, and move on.
Stupid thing #5: targeting ineffective marketing channels
Truth be told, I had no idea about marketing channels when I first started out. I meticulously:
- made my prospect list,
- called virtually none of those prospects,
- spent 40-60 hours on brochures and business cards,
- then was discouraged that I had no clients.
For the few prospects I called and, later, some additional prospects I called and/or emailed, who did I target? Decision makers who could green-light consulting projects?
I talked to lower-level people and ineffective “consultants” who were struggling to get work themselves.
Why didn’t I talk to the kinds of people who could actually sign off on projects or refer business to me? Frankly, I was intimidated, and didn’t know how to talk to these people. Again, I didn’t think of myself as a salesperson, and hated the idea of selling, and it felt safer to talk to lower-level people.
What was going on here? I was wasting time, getting no results, and feeling discouraged and anxious.
TRUTH #1: What feels safe won’t move you forward: Basically, I was doing what felt safe instead of pushing myself outside my comfort zone. Creating the prospect spreadsheet felt safe. So did drafting the copy for my brochure. To get beyond my current situation (day job + desire + secret plan to do consulting), it required doing things that, at least for a few moments, felt scary. Not scary like BASE jumping, but scary like calling a prospect.
TRUTH #2: Finding the shortest path to your goal maximizes your chances of success. Yes, I eventually figured out how to get clients, and built a profitable consulting business, but it took a long time. I was discouraged and frustrated a lot, and there were lots of times I didn’t think it was realistic, like it was just stuff I was doing that wouldn’t amount to anything. I’ve seen lots of people give up on consulting because they couldn’t get clients. They did some of the same stupid things I did when I started out, got discouraged, and went back to their day job.
All these stupid mistakes were like a long, winding road instead of a straight-line path. Would you rather take 2 years, 3 years, or 5 years to be able to quit your day job, and likely get frustrated, discouraged, and give up along the way? Or would you rather reach your goal in 6 months, 9 months, or 12 months, steadily building your orchard of clients along the way (where each client is a pipeline of consulting work)?
TRUTH #3: Getting help from experienced mentors puts you in the fastlane. For nearly every stupid mistake I made, I didn’t seek out help. Can you imagine if you had someone in your corner giving you guidance and coaching me along the way? How much faster and easier would it be? Even Michael Jordan had a coach. We ALL need help.
When I started, I was like a typical guy who got lost on a road trip: I didn’t bother looking at a map or getting directions. I tried getting useful info about starting a consulting business, but it was so generic, and nearly always by some “expert” who hadn’t actually struggled and created their own thriving consulting business. Those “experts” couldn’t tell me, step-by-step, what I needed to do to get clients. And they couldn’t tell me I was wasting my time on busywork.
I’m giving away something a lot of you have been asking for
A lot of you have asked me for proposal samples, examples, and templates. For those of you who attend Tuesday’s free webcast, you’ll get access to a proposal that I used which allowed me to earn over $300/hour. This template will ONLY be available to webcast attendees, and I won’t post the download on the blog.
FREE: Mini-course this Tuesday (4/1/2014):
Creating a Consistent Pipeline of Clients (even if you have limited time)
This Tuesday, 4/1/2014, at 9 p.m. Eastern, I’m going pull back the curtain on my own consulting business like I’ve never done before.
A consistent pipeline of clients is possible, even if, like most of us, you’ve got a busy life: family and friends, a full-time job, or other responsibilities.
During Tuesday’s live webcast, I’ll show you how, including:
- The “expert” advice you can skip.
- How to create systems that bring clients TO YOU, even if you don’t have a single client right now, and have no idea where to start.
- I’ll reveal the exact strategies I use to get consulting clients (and my specific revenue numbers) that bring me clients worth $1,000, $10,000, and even $100,000.
This is info I DON’T share on the blog, and I’ll reveal specific details of my consulting business that I’ve never discussed before.
This is FREE, live, and starts at 9 p.m. Eastern. You can watch from anywhere.
There will NOT be a recording available (all my premium course material is recorded so you can watch it at your convenience).
Yes, I’ll be re-opening my Client Pipeline Mastery course, and I’ll briefly tell you how you can get access to this premium course. But I’ll spend the majority of the live presentation revealing my exact strategies and actual revenue numbers so you can start getting results in your own business.
Bonus: I’m giving away a special bonus during the presentation, but you need to attend the presentation to get access to the bonus.
Reserve your spot in 15 seconds (required).
See you on Tuesday!
To Be An Italian – Culinary Arts, Graphic Design by Sasha Netchaev
To Be Italian
Some people say I was born Italian in another life, and I sincerely believe that.I was fortunate enough to study abroad for four months in Firenze, Italia, and it has forever changed my outlook on life. This informational poster was created to shed some light on the beautiful Italian people. I based my information off of the countless observations I made every day living in Florence. I hope it resonates with Italians and those interested in Italian culture alike.My goal was to capture the contrasting balance between tradition and modernity, two ideologies interacting beneficially with one another, that dictate the daily life of Italian people. There is a fine line between adhering to tradition and steering towards innovation, and Italians seem to walk this line with purposeful intent, leaning over both sides, constantly trying to strike a balance between the two. For example, Italians like to follow tradition by sustaining family businesses, generation after generation, through trattorias, book or antique shops, and yet they often use newer technology to help their production without sacrificing quality. It is these balances of continuing handmade production with the embracement of modern tools that make me respect the Italian prideful view of work and life.My graphics are clean and minimalistic contrasting the handwritten playfulness and quirkiness of the main font (Windsor Hand). The numbers listing the content are typed in Bodoni, an Italian font exploring the transition of font composition from a humanistic to a more geometric type. Combined, these design efforts are meant to mimic the outlook of Italians through the use of handmade type and contemporary graphics.
How to say “I’m kidding” in many languages
Thanks to @TheRosettaFound
Please, always BE CONFIDENT! 🙂
The result will be worth the effort.
10 Rejection Letters Sent to Famous People
We’ve all heard that the road to success is paved with failure. But that doesn’t make rejection any easier to swallow. What does help? Knowing that the world’s most talented people have been there, too. Here are 10 actual rejection letters that prove it.
Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr., and Adam Clayton were just teenagers when they formed U2 in 1976. (Though they were originally known as The Larry Mullen Band, then Feedback, then The Hype.) By the fall of 1979, they had released their first single in Dublin, though it was with no thanks to London-based RSO Records, who had rejected the band’s submission in May of the same year. The reason, as briefly explained in a letter to the man sometimes known as Paul Hewson, was that it was “not suitable for us at present.” Within a year, U2 had signed with Island Records and released their first international single, “11 O’Clock Tick Tock.” Hmmm… wonder if they would be suitable for RSO now?
2. ANDY WARHOL
In 1956, Andy Warhol couldn’t give his work away. Yes, we mean that literally. On October 18th the artist received a letter from the Museum of Modern Art declining a drawing “which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.” Today, MoMA owns 168 of Warhol’s pieces.
3. SYLVIA PLATH
At least Howard Moss, The New Yorker editor who (sort of) rejected Sylvia Plath’s Amnesiac, admitted that “Perhaps we’re being dense” in having trouble connecting the piece’s first and second sections.
There’s no date on this rejection letter to Madonna’s team. But it must have been before she signed with Sire Records in 1982, a year before she released her first, self-titled album (which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide).
5. KURT VONNEGUT
Award-winning novelist Kurt Vonnegut took a certain amount of pride in being rejected. In 1949, he received a letter from Edward Weeks, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, who noted that two of the samples Vonnegut had sent the magazine “have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.” A framed copy of the letter hangs in Indianapolis’ Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.
6. TIM BURTON
As far as rejection goes, Tim Burton had it pretty easy. In 1976, while still a high-schooler, Burton sent a copy of his children’s book, The Giant Zlig, to Walt Disney Productions for publication consideration. Though it was rejected for being “too derivative of the Seuss works to be marketable,” editor T. Jeanette Kroger offered Burton some great—and mostly positive—feedback. A few years later, the company brought Burton on as an animator’s apprentice.
7. GERTRUDE STEIN
Anyone who has ever successfully managed to read the work of Gertrude Stein knows that her prose can be rather dense. Too dense for Arthur C. Fifield to even bother reading the full manuscript for The Making of Americans, which he declined—quite poetically—in 1912.
8. JIM LEE
Today Jim Lee is one of the world’s best-known figures in the world of comic books; he’s an artist, a writer, and the co-publisher of DC Comics. But back in the mid-1980s, he was struggling to find his place in the industry, and being rejected by all of the major publishers, including the one he now runs (though a handwritten P.S. did tell him he had some interesting stuff and to keep at it). But his funniest rejection may have come from Marvel, when editor Eliot R. Brown told him “Your work looks as if it were done by four different people,” and suggests he “resubmit when your work is consistent and you have learned to draw hands.”
9. STIEG LARSSON
Though author Stieg Larsson didn’t live long enough to witness his own greatest success with the Millennium series, he did know the sting of rejection, beginning with his application to journalism school in Stockholm at the Joint Committee of Colleges of Journalism. In case you don’t speak Swedish, “This is a letter saying ‘you are not good enough to be a journalist’ to a man who went on to create a supremely creative, crusading magazine which fought against the worsening tide of extreme right thinking and activity in Sweden,” publisher Christopher MacLehose told The Guardian in 2011, right before the letter was auctioned off in London.
10. HUNTER S. THOMPSON
Okay, so this letter wasn’t a rejection of Hunter S. Thompson. It was a rejection letter sent byHunter S. Thompson, to William McKeen, author of a 1991 biography of Thompson. The author at the heart of the story wasn’t a fan. After its publication, Thompson sent McKeen a handwritten review of the book, which McKeen framed.
March 5, 2014 – 2:35pm