Consult / Freelancer
Violin instructor's customer is not the 10 year-old kid.
It's the mother of the 10 year-old kid.
Software consultancy is either focusing on tech or management. Tech consulting is for architecture or bringing new tech. Management consulting is for scaling teams or keeping engineers in. Known which you focus on.
Show, don't tell. When promoting yourself, always show what you can do for them. Show your previous work and how much they improved the financial situation of the customer. If a client wants you to make their CMS better, show your experience with CMS systems in some way.
Propose solutions that your customer needs, not what they want. Of course never operate behind your customer's back, but...
- Find out who the end-users of your customer are.
- Go out and talk to the real end-user.
- Learn what end-users want and why they want it.
- Think up and propose new solutions.
- Always listen to your customer and deliver what they want.
Value in something isn't in the difficulty of it. It's in the usefulness of it.
Avoid going into technical details if they aren't required. Most of the time your customer probably doesn't understand you at all. If they do understand, you are locking yourself into a specific implementation.
Avoid correcting the customer's speech. Correct only if it's a critical detail.
Result guarantee contract is called partnership, not consulting. If customer wants a contract for guarantee of the results, you might as well ask for slice a of the company.
Working From Home
Focus on your mission. As a consultant or freelancer, you must understand that your ultimate purpose is to increase revenue or reducing costs for your customer.
Plan your projects. Break up the work to tickets that can be completed under 2 hours. This will give you a pretty good estimate how long the project will take to complete. Keep track of planned completed time and actual progress in daily scale.
Quarter-Hour Motivation Trick. Start by forcing yourself to work for 15 minutes. Boot up your IDE and start just reformatting the code if you have to but do something even slightly productive. If even after 15 minutes you don't feel like working, do something else like read or play for an hour and try again.
Any action is better than no action. Non-optimal solution is better than delayed solution. All solutions have pros and cons; there never is the optimal solution.
Automate everything you can. Keep track which of your repetitive tasks can be made faster or automated fully. Note which one of the tasks takes the most total time and automate it.
Your target in getting in the eyes and minds of the people you want to get hired by.
Normal way to get clients is to get social. Lucky few get Internet famous and gain clients that way. Tricks that may help you get credibility:
- Redesign a popular website and share the design.
- Join and read all local job boards
- Contact your friends and old school mates.
- Contact other freelancers in your field
- Do a couple referrer projects for free (only one or two, seriously).
- Create a product you can use yourself.
Use social media to increase your potential customer pool. Post resources that you find helpful or insightful such as blog posts, tips and tricks. 90% of your content should be useful non-advertisements. You must be active, post at least once a day and comment when somebody interacts with you. Depending where you live, some social networks are better than other. For US; best places to post are Twitter and LinkedIn, Facebook is OK if you have the extra time to manage it. Be humble and share experiences, don't act like an expert.
Ask around. Contact possible clients to learn how they chose their provider e.g. with a design inquiry template.
Conferences. Conferences are a great place to advertise yourself. Speaking is best but attending might also work.
Testimonials. Always follow successful consulting engagement with a case study. Very few clients turn down free publicity. If you get turned down, ask for few sentence testimonial about working together. Write this testimonial for them, ask if they want changes. It should be specific, focused on a business result, and highly credible. If you cannot get testimonial, ask for private reference.
Patrick's advice on starting a drip campaign for WPEngine was an epic win for us -- it permanently moved the needle on signups after just a week of work. And it's easy to measure and therefore to improve.
Recognizing Bad Clients
Best way to avoid bad clients is to learn about upcoming clients. You should meet them face-to-face at least once before accepting the project.
Lacking communication. Without communication, projects will fail. This might be that the client is unreachable and delays or misses your meetings.
Absurd. When client doesn't know what they want. Usually rejects all ideas without detailed criticism. Makes unreasonable requests and requests outside the project scope.
Jerk. Even if they would pay you good, you should never let the client insult your professionalism. Notice that constructive criticism is different than insulting. If the client doesn't respect your profession, he will not respect the outcome.
Don't undercharge your first clients. Your pricing will communicate what type of customers you are willing to put up with. If you start to get good flow of clients start charging more.
- It will hurt local economy situation in very direct manner.
- It will hurt your relationship with the customer. They get something for cheap so it must be second-grade.
Don't give discounts, they will expect them in the future. Cut in working weeks if the client doesn't have enough money.
Prefer billing weekly, not hourly or project based. Avoid project pricing based pricing, but clients usually expect that so this is very hard to achieve.
- Weekly means you never waste time itemizing minute by minute.
- Weekly billing means you have uninterrupted schedulable consulting availability in weekly blocks.
- Overhead like prospecting or contract negotiations happen between those blocks. That way overhead doesn't affect your working.
Weekly billing reduces price negations. You can just say "this is my weekly price". Write what you can do for the project in 1, 2 or 3 weeks and let the client decide the budget. Works better in consulting than in freelancing.
Avoid customers that ask for a money-back guarantee. Shows lack of trust to begin with. This easily turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Patrick McKenzie
- Soft Skills, John Sonmez