Ray Kroc, the man who brought us McDonalds, had a fantastic mantra: “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.”
To ensure your business stays green, you need to be in a perpetual state of growth, and to achieve this, you should know when to prospect for new business. When is the best time to prospect? Always. Always be looking for new business.
The sales cycle can be slow, especially for new freelancers. It might take six months to get from initial contact to final payment, but as long as you keep prospecting, you’ll have new business rolling in. As your sales skills, confidence, and reputation grow, you’ll find that the sales process moves faster and you can shorten the cycle. The freelance world has a reputation for feast and famine, but when you know how long it takes to get new business, you are more able to manage the incoming projects. This gives you the ability to confidently predict what you’re going to earn in the coming months.
I find that my business runs best when I have one new client in the mix at all times, as this brings new energy to the mix and lets me explore new creative options, providing value to all of my clients.
So where can you be prospecting? Pretty much anywhere, but for best results you should focus on being where your target audience can find you when they need you. I’ve found that looking for obstacles on their behalf usually leads to new business. One thing to remember, your focus needs to be on how you can help them find success, not on how they can help you find work. If you can show them your value, they’re more inclined to give you a project. If you’re there just to bring in a few more bucks, the astute client will sniff that out in no time, and you will effectively block yourself from ever doing business with them. Don’t let greed or desperation kill your business.
The ProTip for today: Understand what your client needs, and work with them to improve their business. Quick example: If your prospect is a small business and just getting started, you probably have a list of tools they will need to get growing, but more than likely, they don’t have the budget. Choose a project that you are confident will help them get at least five new clients, and pitch that to them. It could be a brochure or a media release, a new landing page or a strategic twitter presence. Whatever it is, make it work for them, and when it does, follow up with another project that will help them get more new clients. Above all, track your results so you can use them in a case study, or at the very least, as a quick story to accompany the project in your portfolio. Prospects become clients when they see that you are able to deliver success.