Five Business Development Tips I Wish I'd Figured Out Sooner
There are a lot of unique demands you need to face as a freelancer, not least of which is the ability to promote yourself. Not being able to hide behind someone else’s business or logo, can be pretty challenging. Some years ago, I had a creative hobby business making jewellery in my spare time while I worked full time in a corporate job; so I had experience selling a product I was personally invested in versus selling someone else’s product. Promoting your creativity and personal skills takes a lot of guts and requires a healthy amount of resilience to rejection and criticism.
You’ll never know all the answers from day 1. Actually you’ll never know all the answers, ever. So the sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner you can just get out there and talk, gather feedback, listen (a lot). Your specific offer will shape itself over time. In the meantime, here are 5 things I wish someone had told me about business development when I was starting out.
Publish content regularly and keep doing it whether you’re sure you’re hitting the right message or not. Probably no one will read it anyway and the only way to get better is with practice. I’ve started that many blogs in the last years and found reasons to abandon every one of them. Boy, do I wish I had all that content still to show for in one place — what a waste! It’s always too tempting to move to another platform, call it another name, or change the angle slightly. But one thing never changed: my voice. And it’s taken me a long time to figure that out which is why I will always now commit to this blog right here. There you go, I said it!
Share case studies to show how you’ve helped other people in real life situations. No one will really get what you do until you show them. I generally do this through storytelling — this is a great book that helped me figure out how to do that — during prospective client meetings. Relating an example of work I’ve done with a previous client that illustrates how a similar thing might work to solve their problem. If you have found a way to share case studies that has worked well for you, I’d love to hear about in the comments.
Don’t underestimate what you already know. In the beginning, frame your service around what you know you’re good at, rather than trying to figure out a unique angle from the beginning. The angle will come when you least expect it. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last 5 years of freelancing is to start simple, stick to what you know and give yourself time to evolve your offer. I’m a very creative person so it comes naturally to me to want to challenge the status quo and do things differently. But, looking back I would have told my slightly younger self to resist that urge in the beginning and just concentrate on what I knew. The differentiation you’re looking so hard for is actually…you. No one else will think in the same way, attack problems in the same way, or produce the same work you do. And that should be more than enough in the beginning to set you apart from other freelancers.
Ask your network for help / support / advice / opinion on your service offer / pitch. It will help you practice it, evolve it, and you’ll feel accountable to progress it. I love to reach other to fellow marketers, freelancers, friends and others in my network whose opinion I value. Especially as a remote worker, these conversations — whether they’re in person, by skype, email or Whatsapp — are crucial to me staying in touch with the real world and continuously benchmarking what I’m doing. By sharing with others, you also feel more accountable for following through on what you’ve committed to.
Never get complacent. No matter how well you’re projects are going, they can be postponed or cancelled at any time without notice, for any myriad of reasons. Always keep generating leads. Being in the right place at the right time (which means getting yourself in front of as many people as possible), can often mean you’re actually the only option a prospective client will consider. If you’re offering a good service and can adapt your skills to the client’s immediate need, they will engage you without even wanting to look elsewhere for alternatives.