Do you ever find yourself giving advice and then wonder why you aren’t following that advice? Today, my advice giving and then me actually acknowledging that I should be taking that advice took all day.
A couple of weeks ago a friend told me she wasn’t sure what her next career step should be. I suggested she go onto job sites and read as many job descriptions as possible to see if any of them resonate with her. My thinking was, she may see a job that is one step up and realize she already qualifies for it, or she will see a job she loves and realize she needs a specific type of job training or additional experience to qualify for that job. Either way, she would be shedding some light onto the possible paths that could lay ahead.
Today we had a different conversation, today we talked about strategies to get her the job title she thinks best reflects the job she is doing. She has fallen into the trap many of us fall into, she is waiting for her employer to give her a new title. And sure that works in many organizations when all roles are predefined. But in this particular situation, my friend’s role and the organization she works for, job titles and roles are not pre-defined - which creates a range of possibilities for creating something new.
My advice? Create the job title you think you deserve including the related job description. Be sure to outline what you think you are already doing, as well as what additional tasks you will take on. And, as is the rule with anything you want your organization to do for you, be sure to explain how this role benefits the organization.
So how does this advice relate to a consultant? In my situation, I am obviously not looking for a job title, but I am looking to clarify my role with one of my partner agencies. I could wait for them to figure it all out, or I too could take charge of the situation and craft a role that I know works for me and that I can sell into this organization, because at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work for them, it won’t fly!
Taking charge shows initiative and it also potentially makes your employers life easier - your work could mean one less thing for them to do.
As I pointed out to my friend, crafting a title and job description does not mean it is a done deal, it could simply be the start of the conversation. Just as I need to be prepared for my agency partner to push back on some aspects and perhaps ask for additional commitments from me in other areas, she needs to treat her proposal as a negotiation. With any negotiation, it is a good idea to offer up something you are prepared to give up. You also need to be really clear with yourself and your employer what you can’t or won’t give up.
It is time for me to take my own advice. What advice do you give that you also need to follow?
Yesterday I sat down with a client and told them they needed to charge more for a service they are providing. The price they were asking was less than it would cost to do the work, but they thought it would make the service palatable to more people. My feeling is, if you give into price sensitive clients, rather than winning them over, you actually help them undervalue your service.
By going in with a higher price, you also leave room to create a special or limited time price offering without completely undermining your bottom line.
And do I really need to do the math? If my price for a service is $500 and I want to make $5,000, I only need to sell the service to 10 clients, but if I reduce the price to $300, suddenly I need 17 clients to reach the same goal. Is a $200 dollar savings really going to mean 7 more people will buy my service?
The other day I spoke to an old colleague who said, “I would love to work with you, but you are expensive”. I have to stop and point out that relatively speaking, my rate is not high, there are many who offer similar services, with half of my experience asking almost double my rate. Rather than saying that, I pointed out that because of my experience, I add a lot of value and I also happen to get things done quickly. It is something I noticed with a writer I have worked with for years, most people would balk at his rate, but I know that with him, I will likely pay less and get far more value than I could ever get from someone with a much lower rate.
"It also didn’t make me a greedy person to price my work in relation to the value it provided others. And, finally, that just because I raised my prices didn’t mean others couldn’t afford it – it meant they had to prioritize it."
There will always be people who think your rate or your service is too expensive, and sometimes it just means those aren’t the right people for you to work with, because chances are they don’t truly value your unique contribution or service.
Sometimes it is about negotiating something that works for both of you, like a lower hourly rate but a guaranteed fixed amount of hours. I have even been known to do somethings for free - yes free, but even then, I find myself only doing that when I feel that what I am doing is really going to be valued.
So there, my little reminder to myself that I am worth it and to you that you are worth it too - so ask for it!
We have all heard how important and beneficial routine is, especially for children. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it creates comfort for children. Better said, routine removes worry and apprehension and with this out of the way children, or anyone, for that matter, is freed up to be more engaged in whatever else they are doing.
I have always been a huge fan of routine with my kids. Put your shoes in the same place and guess what, you always find them. In our household, consistent bed times have meant less cranky kids. I realized it doesn’t work for everyone, but when you have a kid who wakes up at the same time no matter when they go to sleep, a consistent early bed time starts to make sense.
In my working life, I was under the impression that I wasn’t tied down to a routine. I no longer worked a fixed 9 to 5 schedule. If it made sense and fit with deadlines I would pop out to do groceries or run an errand in the middle of the day and I regularly scheduled lunch or coffee dates. Day to day or week by week, my schedule was far from routine.
Or was it?
Going back to an office threw me for a loop - I was only off my game for a week, but I really couldn’t understand what happened. How could going into an office for 4 hours a day cause so much havoc?
I had taken my flexibility for granted and in a way it had be come routine for me. I wasn’t planning shopping or errands into my schedule, I was simply doing them when I had a free moment and I had a lot more free moments when I wasn’t commuting into an office.
If it is a family member getting sick, a car breaking down a sudden emergency trip or in my case, needing to go into an office, we have to be ready to break our routines and shift directions. Cali Yosk, one of my favourite work + life fit writers sums it up well in her post, “Top 10 Work Life “Fit” that Every Woman Needs to Know”. The ultimate message? It takes patience, effort and flexibility and you will have far more success if you realize perfection is not the goal.
For me, I now need to do a bit more planning to get it all done. I have also decided to officially stop beating myself up and I will for sure take time each day to reflect on what I need, because if I am the one getting it all done, I need to make sure all is good with me first!
Are your routines helping you or holding you back?
We have all heard it before, if you run your own business, finding new clients and projects needs to be top of mind. When we slack off on our networking or business development then we risk not having work when we need it.
What is the best way to find more work? Well that all depends on you. Not what you wanted to hear? We all want a formula that we can easily apply. For many of us, the formula already exists, we just over look it.
A few weeks back I pitched a project - it was a cold pitch, I had a reference but no actual “in” at the organization. From the start I had mixed feelings about the pitch - part of me felt I should pitch a team the other part of me sensed that this client was looking for the magic everything marketer who could do it all and then some. This pitch was the hardest thing I have done out on my own. I was anxious, stressed and feeling very alone. I second guessed myself every step along the way. No big surprised that I produced a lame proposal, a crappy “interview” and in the end I didn’t get the project.
It was however, a big lesson for me. The cold reality was that I wasn’t prepared for this kind of pitch. I didn’t have a templated proposal that I could quickly pull out and adapt. I didn’t know how to reach out to my network to co-pitch and I didn’t have structure or game plan for when they gave me a face-to-face meeting. Although I knew that I could be a great partner for this company, I worried that the project was too big for me and would make it hard for me to support multiple clients which is my ultimate goal. Walking into the face-to-face I wasn’t even convinced I was right for the “job”, not the attitude or state of mind required to “make a sale”.
I need to do some prep work to do these kinds of pitches in the future, lesson learnt, but there is another lesson that surfaced during all of this. Really it was more of a reminder and it came in the form of an email from the “Get Clients Now” team. The email asked, “where do you get your best customers?” For me the answer is referrals from people I have worked with in the past. As a result I don’t do a lot of “pitching”, I usually get a phone call or an email where we discuss timing and rates, I present a plan and then I get to work.
So what does this all mean? For me, if referrals from people I work with is where I get my best work, that is where I need to focus my business development energy. I need to constantly stay in touch and keep myself top of mind with my contacts. Most importantly, I need to do this all the time and not just when I need something. Okay I am going to say this again, we need to do this all the time, not just when we need something!
The phrase, “paying it forward” comes to mind when I think about my networking/business development strategy. I have a list of people I would like to work with that I always keep in the back of my mind. If I come across an article or conference that I think they might like, I will forward the info with a quick note. If I can make a connection or introduction to someone I think they may like or could work with, then I do that too. I also reach out and book time for coffee or lunch on a fairly regular basis. These meetings also get me out and help fight off the isolation that can come from working from home.
This past year I also stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a few conferences with the hope of adding to my network, and at the Ungeeked conference I was successful. Because it was a multi day conference and a smallish group, I was able to make a few “real” connections. I am really positive that these connections will help me grow and will eventually be partners that help me bring in more projects.
I am also slowly but surely starting to make some real contacts via Twitter. True story. No work to date, but it is moving in the right direction and when it comes to be, I can join the ranks of ,who knows how many, that have found work via social media.
I am always thinking about how much time I invest into activities like marketing, networking and business development vs. how much these activities actually return or convert into real business. My measurement is a mix between what is rewarding spiritually and financially. By spiritually I mean how an activity energizes me or depletes me. Cold pitches may eventually land me some big jobs, but I also know they take a toll on my energy and spirt. Blogging on the other hand will have slower long term impacts, but in the short term it energies and fulfills me, beyond what I could ever imagine. Very often my network does the same thing. A lunch, coffee or a phone/skype call doesn’t alway produce an immediate project, but it often stimulates and energize me and my spirit.
How do you find clients? What lessons have you learnt?
Recently I have been wondering how often I should blog. When I blogged everyday it clearly sustained traffic in a way I hadn’t experienced before. And as much as I loved the challenge of blogging everyday, I decided it was more realistic to blog weekly, after all it is just me blogging and I have a business and a household to run. What was the impact of blogging only once a week? For me it was a drop in traffic to my blog and my site.
Did you know that corporate sites with blogs actually attract 55% more visitors than sites without blogs?
This month I am participating in Blogging Success Summit 2011 , and my biggest take away after day one is that I need to blog more. More doesn’t mean longer blog posts, in fact Joe Pulizzi, who spoke at yesterday’s Blogging Success Summit, suggests less is more. Debbie Weil, yesterday’s second speaker, echo’s Pulizzi’s recommendation and reminds us that bog posts can be video clips or images - she even suggests going to your blog to make an update or share a comment rather than always going to Twitter.
Blogging more also doesn’t mean blogging about everything. Pulizzi’s example of a bread stick recipe on a corporate web site (that had nothing to do with food or baking), will forever stick with me. Your blog should have a clear and well defined goal. And if you are small like me, your blog should be very niche.
Blogging more” is just the first step. If you ascribe to Pulizzi’s perspective that the blog is the core of a potentially much larger content marketing strategy or Weil’s notion that the blog should be the hub for your social media activities, either way your blog is key.
Day one was full of lots of tips and a few tricks and I am sure there is lots more to come. I have a long list of to-do items to blog smarter and more strategically. Starting today, I will blog more.
How often do you blog? Have you done any testing around frequency or time of day for posts? I would love to hear what works for you.
There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting the right vendor to build your site. Shopping around, which if often overwhelming, is one of the best ways to ensure you have the right partner for your organizations specific needs at a price that fits into your budget.
The right partner is key to delivering a successful site. The right partner should complement your team by bringing new expertise to the table. They should be able to do what you can’t or don’t have time to do yourself.
Pricing for web development can often be deceiving. Understanding what is included in each vendor’s quote is key. Make sure you are consistently asking the same questions so that you are making true “apples to apples” comparisons.
Here are some key things you should consider when shopping for the right vendor to build your site.
Do they understand your needs?
Increasingly there are more and more vendors that are focusing on niche markets such as RealEstate, restaurants and hospitality. In some cases this could be the perfect fit for you. But look closely, if the vendor does restaurant sites have they also done sites that target your particular restaurants audience? There are defiantly economies of scale when working with vendors that target a niche market. The down side is sometimes these niche solutions will push you to a templated solution that may not reflect your organizations unique offering and may leave you looking very similar to the competition.
Many vendors will suggest a discovery stage to the project - this is a good indication that they plan on taking the time to truly understand your needs.
Can they help you create your content?
Creating powerful web copy is a skill that not all of us have. A partner that can help create strong copy that properly reflects your brand and targets your clients is key. The right content partner should also push you to be honest about how often you can and will update your site - they should help you map out a long term content plan and related budget if you need ongoing content creation support.
Along with strong photography, the right content will help your site stand out and contribute to conversions. Considering your content needs from the beginning of the project ensures the right site structure is built. This up front planning will save you money in the long run - you won’t need to go back to vendors post launch to add new content sections or pages and you won’t end up with pages that never get updated.
Do they provide photography or photographers?
An agencies role in photography is often that of art direction. This means if you go with stock photography or a photo shoot, your agency should help define the look and feel of the images selected or taken. The cost of photography is often extra, make sure you have budget set aside for this and have a conversation up-front so that your vendor knows what kind of budget they have to work with.
Do they understand Search and Social Media Marketing?
Working with a vendor that works closely with a Search and Social Media strategist ensures that your site is created with the right infrastructure from the start. This infrastructure should enable you to easily integrate keywords as well as the key social media tools for your market/business. Although it is true that Search and Social Media strategists can work with any site, working with a site that was built with those needs in mind, greatly reduces the cost you pay to your search and social media team.
Can they manage all the technical details?
Once your site is built, it is going to need to be hosted somewhere and if it is a new site it will need to have its domain name registered. To understand if you site is getting the traffic you want and which pages are most popular with your customers, you are going to need some sort of web site stats or analytics. Some vendors will provide these services and some will suggest other vendors. There are often additional on-going costs associated with all of these. To get the true picture of what your web site will cost you need to include these long term on-going costs - this is another conversation that you should have up-front.
How will you update your site?
The truth is, successful sites are most often sites that are updated on a regular basis. In addition to deciding who will make the updates and what these updates will be, you need to consider how these updates will be made. Many vendors will build sites using some sort of Content Management System (CMS). Sites built with a CMS are much cheaper to update regardless of who is making the updates.
Will your new web partner manage the entire process for you?
By now you are realizing there is quite a lot to manage and pay for when creating a web site. Are you prepared to source and manage multiple suppliers, over see photo shoots, arrange interviews, prepare copy and analyze data just to mention a few of the new tasks that you will be responsible for?
In some ways it is not too different than a kitchen renovation - you can find different suppliers for your floors, back-splash, counters and cabinets or you can find a supplier that oversees the entire project for you. That doesn’t mean you don’t make the decisions, it means that you focus on making the key decisions to deliver a successful project rather than running around wasting time sourcing a product or supplier that an expert can find in 5 minutes.
Advise from Ella Says - always ask the same questions.
If you are going to shop around to multiple vendors, make sure you know what the price includes so that you are making realistic comparisons. At a very basic level that means asking the same questions of each vendor (use a spread sheet). And circle back and clarify if the second or third vendor mentions something you didn’t think to ask the first vendor.