Network or Die: Pretty obvious but if you aint drumming up new leads and prospects you’ll fail. Get over the aversion of asking friends and colleagues for projects. Get over your shyness and look for ways to find new avenues to work. Hank Blank writes a very practical (and prolific) blog on Networking. His tips are crisp, astute and, importantly, highly actionable.
Determine your value: A prospect asked me recently “so what can you do for me?” My answer was so long-winded I think I only missed offering up “Bar Mitzvahs and children’s parties” That’s not a value proposition, that’s value delusion. Yes, I can do many things (including parties) but what is it I do well. Ideally what do I do better than others. Your prospects shouldn’t have to work that out for themselves. That’s your job.
Never say No. Don’t always say Yes: Be mindful of the projects you sign up for. Securing projects you can do “okay” means no bandwidth for projects you can be spectacular at – and build equity/reputation behind. When presented an opportunity always evaluate it against your value proposition – not just your bank balance. Taking a lucrative but ill-positioned assignment could hurt you immeasurably.
Build your partner ecosystem: Business basics. A single person can’t scale. You need partners for numerous reasons. Access to prospects. Differing POV and ability to challenge your ideas. Companionship. Complementary skills. Pretty obvious right. Two things I’ve learnt. Always seek out truth-tellers because that’s invaluable input when you’re on your own. Two, expand your view of partners. Complementary ones are obvious. I’ve find it never hurts to have a few supplementary ones too. Folks who do what you do. Folks you can throw a project to when you’re too busy and who will pay you back in kind later. Remember your clients come looking for a solution, seldom a person, so being able to provide a solution – even if it’s another person – carries weight.
Bond physically, scale virtually: People do business with people they’ve met or feel they know. Your initial gigs will be people you’ve had coffee with. However, use virtual settings to amplify what you’re unable to do in person. Be highly visible online. Write blogs. Contribute to discussions. Build a virtual presence that deepens and amplifies what you physically could never do as a single person. While I may not personally hold much stock in Klout, it is imperative that prospects – and partners – can gauge what you’re all about and whether you’re someone they wanna work with. The default place for gauging that is Google, not Starbucks.