Want to Attract Better Clients? Tenacity.

Austin L. Church
May 17, 2016
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After I sold the Bright Newt app portfolio in April of 2015, my family needed replacement income. I decided to ramp up client work, which had been in a holding pattern for several years. But simply slapping a new name, Wunderbar, on my consultancy obviously wasn’t going to enable me to attract better clients and double my income.

The challenge was multi-faceted.

  1. Most of my legacy clients, as well as the freelancers and creatives who referred business to me, hadn’t heard from me in a while. I had let five years’ worth of relationships get stale.
  2. Since co-founding Closeup in November 2013, I really was smarter and better. I had gained an immense amount of hands-on experience with operations, lean startup methodology, agile development, and product development. I had also developed more specialized skills related to “concierge” MVPs, unconventional go-to-market strategies for startups, and hiring developers as a non-technical cofounder. Unfortunately, my old clients knew nothing about the ways in which I could create the most value for their companies.
  3. In fact, many of my clients had heard about Closeup.fm and assumed that I was away from my desk for good. They no longer thought to hire me for projects, and even if they did, they knew me as the guy who sold creative services—the writer, strategist, and project manager—not a business growth and marketing consultant. I had a perception problem on my hands.
  4. On top of that, my family’s financial needs had changed. My wife and I had welcomed our second child into the world, and we had bought a home (or a mortgage, to be precise). My Closeup.fm co-founder and I were not yet paying ourselves, so Wunderbar needed to cover 100% of my family’s income. In addition, based on my role as COO with Closeup.fm, I had less “inventory”—that is, time and focus—to sell. My old Bright Newt rates weren’t going to cut it, yet raising my hourly rate would effectively price me out of range of most of my clients.

Now you begin to understand my dilemma: I needed to build a new brand while making more money in less time with fewer clients. Fun!In addition, I needed to reeducate everyone about my business focus and capabilities while methodically attracting new clients who would pay me based on value created, not hours worked. Funner!First things first, I returned to what had generated leads for me in the past: blogging. Always on the hunt for good material, I asked my freelancer, consultant, and creative friends one of my favorite questions: “What’s the biggest challenge in your business right now?”What I learned was that the vast majority of freelancers, creatives, and consultants want and need to attract better clients. The language people use changes but the challenge that I faced while spinning up Wunderbar is very common indeed.

  • “Getting qualified leads consistently”
  • “Finding clients (finding my own niche)”
  • “Finding the time to hustle for new clients”“Creating a predictable flow of leads and sales”
  • “Creating a marketing strategy that provides a steady stream of leads instead of random one off leads or referrals”“Finding new clients”
  • “Balancing marketing; lead gen when I am deep in a project”

At some point, every freelancer, creative, and consultant wants to attract better clients.

Each of the three words matters.

“Attract” – What makes you attractive as a creative or consultant? Instead of the constant hustle and grind, how can you get inbound leads? You want to be the magnet that pulls iron filings across the table, not the BBs in a shotgun shell with more misses than hits.“Better” – You have to know the anatomy of your ideal client. Do they have deep pockets or generous timelines? Are they hands on or hands off? Corporate or mom-and-pop? Better is in the beholder.“Clients” – Some people have customers. Some people have clients. Turning a one-off customer transaction into a long-term client relationship requires a passion for what you do, a genuine concern for the needs of others, and the ability to give more value than you receive.Of course, people say, “Yes, I want more business,” but they don’t want Christmas once a year. They want Christmas every month. They want predictability.In future posts, I’m going to share ways to predictably attract better clients: what has worked for me consistently and what hasn't. For example, I’ve had great success with getting in touch with people out of the blue, offering to buy them lunch or coffee, and asking basic, open-ended questions like:

  • “So what does [company name] do exactly?”
  • “How are you different than [name of similar company]?”
  • “What’s your biggest challenge right now?”
  • “Have you ever worked with a [consultant; or, insert your skillset, core competency, or business focus here]?”
  • “What was that experience like?”

Give people a chance to talk about one of their favorite subjects, and they walk away thinking you’re a swell guy.But I want to end this post not with tactics but with brief thoughts on tenacity.When you have a challenge, if it’s a common challenge, people will often throw rotten truisms at you:

  • “That’s just the way it is.
  • “That’s just the way women act.”
  • “Boys will be boys.”
  • “That’s the way freelancing goes.”
  • “That’s the way business is.”

If we’re not careful, we can let common challenges birth defeatism. If most creatives struggle to bring predictability to their sales funnel, then what’s the point?Resignation takes root. If more established homeowners in your neighborhood have tried and failed to get the city to put in sidewalks, then their conclusions seem to carry weight: “It just can’t be done.”It’s easy to shrug and let the resident curmudgeons convince you of your powerlessness: “If everyone else struggles with producing a steady stream of awesome new projects and new clients, what can little old me can do about it?”[caption id="attachment_1330" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

attract better clients

Photo Credit: Andy Beales via Unsplash[/caption]Particularly in the realm of business-building and creating your dream job, I hope you’ll ignore the doom-and-gloom inevitability that some people use to rationalize their discontentment and quietly get to work: “Well, let’s figure out what has been tried in the past. And let’s brainstorm as many crazy new ideas as possible. Let’s try different strategies and tactics. Let’s keep pushing until something gives.”My Closeup.fm co-founder Nathan just shared this quote from Kevin Ashton's book How to Fly a Horse:

"What determines whether we will succeed as creators is not how intelligent we are, how talented we are, or how hard we work, but how we respond to the adversity of creation."

You can create a plan to attract better clients. You can if you believe you can. You can if you’re tenacious. I’m doing it right now. Life's too short to work with people you don't like. So let’s get serious about finding and serving the ones you do.Did you find value in this blog post? Please sign up for my weekly newsletter. I’ll send helpful freelancing tips your way.I’m teaching an "Attracting Better Clients" workshop on June 9. You should come.