You have a lot to think about when want to make your mark as an independent professional. There’s so much to navigate, in fact, that it’s easy to drop the ball here or there. When you do, try not to be too hard on yourself. Pick yourself up, dust off, adjust, and dive in again.
Some mistakes are more weighted than others, though.
If you’re completely new to entrepreneurship, you may not realize that client communications start long before someone reaches out to you for your products or services. Breaking trail on your new venture is exciting, but you need to go out of your way not to flub what you’re saying to clients before they’ve ever poked their heads into your inbox.
Set out from the right platform
First things first: If you have a web presence, make sure your messaging is welcoming and consistent with your brand. You’ll want to make sure it’s focused, tight, informative, and compelling. You can win business by being a burly ole negative fear monger, but will it be the kind of business you want?
Doubtful. Peddle misery, and you’ll end up miserable.
I’ll talk more about this next week, but something that works for me is the 4P Approach. I like to use this when I’m creating content aimed at people who don’t know me yet. It’s pretty simple; I want my tone to be:
I’m a little irreverent and a lot fun, which often comes across. It’s not unusual for my discovery calls to be at least ⅓ laughter (I don’t bill extra for that). But my focus is on earning trust, which is less about Gong Show puns and more about humility and manners.
Don’t Derail the Referral Engine
It makes me grind my jaw every last time because people who do it are committing professional suicide. They’re consigning themselves to forever-shitty prospects and projects because they make it incredibly hard for others to refer new business to them.
You know who I’m talking about: Those people who use their platforms (mostly social media) to bitch about their job, their current project, a client. They are unrelenting complainers, and you want to shove a fainting couch under their asses and tell them to get a grip.
Some of these ‘professionals’ are people with years in their respective fields. They should know better, right?
You never know when your online connections are looking to kick work your way — either one-to-one or by entrusting one of their clients to you. The bulk of my clientele makes its way to me via referrals from friends and previous clients. And, because I believe in paying it forward, I’m happy to recommend clients to other solopreneurs and independent businesses.
I certainly don’t want to send a client relationship I’ve nurtured into the mouth of a lion. And I sure don’t want to be talked about in a public forum — even if I never see it — just because someone needs to flail and stomp a bit. The internet never forgets, and you’re tanking your rep, even if nobody says a word to you about it.
It’s never too late to switch tracks
If you’ve already slipped into this kind of behavior, you can fix it. You can even restore your damaged credibility, but it will take time.
Start by keeping those conversations out of the public eye. Get yourself a consigliere going forward, friends. That’s someone who will listen, encourage, and redirect you when you’re not meeting the mark. They’ll also take your stories with them to the grave.
Maintain your professionalism when nobody is watching, because the belief that nobody is watching is a myth. Someone is always watching.