How To Start Conversations With Potential Clients – Creating Clients Episode #3

In this episode we start with a recap of the last episode and cover the three principles of connection in further detail. Then we look at three different strategies for starting conversations with potential clients.

Episode Highlights

  • As counterinuitive as it may seem, our motive in starting conversations should not be about getting new clients.. After all, you have no way of knowing whether or not you and the individual you’re connecting with are a match for each other! I suggest that your only motive should be being of service.
  • Put conscious thought and energy into the conversations you start.
  • Take your local region, find interesting businesses / organizations, interview them, and post the interviews on a website you’ve created specifically for your local region.
  • Use business lists (local or market specific) and the phonebook to find interesting businesses and connect with them with the purpose, not of selling something, but connecting for the sake of connecting and being of service.

Episode Notes

We’ll explore the “Local Interviews” idea itself in a future episode. To get you started now, though, here are some examples of questions you can use in an interview, organized into three categories:

About Their Business

  • So tell me about your business.. What do you do?
  • How did you get started?
    • Ask further questions based on what they say.. e.g. “Oh, that’s really interesting! What inspired you to..”
  • What do you enjoy most about the business?
    • Look for opportunities to ask additional questions based on what they share..
  • What have you found to be the most challenging?
  • Are there any mistakes that you’ve made that you’d be willing to share?
  • Are there any successes you’re particularly proud of?
  • If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

About The Region

  • Why did you choose [region] as your business base?
  • What do you like most about [region]?

About Other Businesses

  • What are some of your favorite businesses (besides your own) in the area?
  • What do you like most about them?
  • What advice do you have for other businesses wanting to start up in [region]?

Next up, introducing yourself to new businesses! First, here’s the format I suggest you follow, particularly when initiating contact via email:

  1. Introduction – A few short words introducing yourself and giving some context to what you do, particularly as it might relate to them.
  2. Interest – Something you noticed about them / their business that you’re genuinely interested in.
  3. Question – A genuine question you have about their business / work they’ve done, etc.

Here’s an example I’ve created:

Hi George!

My name is Jonathan Wold and I’m a business consultant here in North Idaho, specializing in web development / Internet marketing.

I found your business on the list of new businesses in our area and took a look at your website. You have a really interesting line of work! We’ve driven by your llama farm on multiple occasions and my son has been wanting to take a closer look.

Do you offer tours of the farm? Your website didn’t mention anything about it but I figured it would be worth asking!

I look forward to hearing back from you as you’re able!

Jonathan Wold

Last, let’s say you found a business with a website that is clearly broken. Here’s an example email you might send introducing yourself, pointing out the problem, and offering a fix:

Hello LouAnne!

My name is Jonathan Wold and I’m a local business consultant / web development specialist.

I came across your website today and I’m really interested in what you do! I’ve been a piano hobbyist for some time now but have been wanting to get more serious about my skills. Are you still taking on new students?

While I was on your site I noticed that the contact form on your “Contact Us” page wasn’t working! You’re using WordPress to manage the site and it looks like you were using a plugin called Contact Form 7 to setup the form. My guess is that the plugin was recently deactivated (perhaps during an attempt to update it) and that would explain why you’re contact page is displaying a shortcode instead of the actual form.

Are you working with someone to manage the website for you or are you doing it yourself?

To get it working again all you or your service provider should have to do is reactivate Contact Form 7. That can be done from the “Plugins” page within WordPress.

If you have any trouble or if I can be of any help in the process please don’t hesitate to let me know!

I look forward to hearing back from you!

Jonathan Wold

And that’s that! I hope those examples are helpful!

Next Steps

Share your questions / thoughts in the comments below or connect with me via email at howdy@jonathanwold.com.

Creating Great Client Relationships – Creating Clients Episode #2

In this week’s episode I pick up from last week, recap the four steps in creating great client relationships, then explore the first step – connecting – in greater detail. I review the three principles of connection and share several examples from my own experience.

Episode Highlights

  • A connection is the intentional first spark of a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Place a high value on the connection, the relationship and let your motive be service. Ask yourself, “How can I be of help? What can I do to make their lives (their business) better?”
  • Connection requires conscious, directed effort. Listen intentionally. Take notes. Be 100% engaged.
  • Great relationships take time. Don’t rush anything. Don’t be quick to talk about prices.. Ask questions, listen.. Take as much time as needed. It’s worth it.

Special Thanks

  • Joshua Wold – For the great cover art!
  • Joslyn Wold (my wife) – For keeping the house quiet while I recorded (no easy task with a 1-year-old girl who’s teething!).

Next Steps

Share your questions / thoughts in the comments below or connect with me via email at howdy@jonathanwold.com.

Introduction – Creating Clients Episode #1

This week’s episode serves as the introduction to the “Creating Clients” podcast. In this first episode I introduce myself, share a bit about my experience, and then dive right into explaining the concept of “creating clients”.

Episode Highlights

  • The best clients are those that are created in meaningful, impactful conversations that get to the heart of what they’re trying to accomplish and begin working towards solutions.
  • The first step towards creating “great” client relationships is to intentionally connect with an individual / organization with an attitude of service.

Special Thanks

  • Joshua Wold – For encouraging me, strongly, to start a podcast : ).
  • Nick Peterson – For letting me borrow his podcasting microphone and for dragging his feet on the ice bucket challenge.
  • Brennan Dunn – For tuning in to last week’s hangout-on-air and recommending a great book, which re-inspired me.

Next Steps

Share your questions / thoughts in the comments below or connect with me via email at howdy@jonathanwold.com.

“First Client” Interview #8: Luke Farrugia

This interview is the eighth in a series I started to share how web designers and developers got their first client.

Luke Farbox

Luke resides in Hervey Bay, Australia and is soon to be married. He has a love for good design, photography and family. Luke was once a freelancer, but has since co-founded Farbox Creative, a Hervey Bay web design studio where he works as Creative Director and Project Manager.

1. How did you get your first client?

After spending my mid-teens playing with design and freshly learning the basics of coding during my holidays, I decided to find my first client. Without realizing it, simply sharing that knowledge with a family friend led him (a trailer builder) to share my details with a serial entrepreneur who was looking for a web designer for his latest business venture, a camper trailer company.

I met with Kevin and listened to what he wanted. As I was totally new to this strange environment and only eighteen years old, the initial meeting was the definitive “What-not-to-do” experience. I didn’t ask any questions, and just listened, finally I assured him that I was sure I would be able to deliver what he wanted for the princely sum of $400.

Kevin is and was a shrewd businessman, he would have known that I was inexperienced but he saw that regardless of that, I was committed to delivering the end result, no matter what it took. I believe it was this attitude that landed me that first job.

2. What did you learn from that first experience?

Diligent work and building relationships with your clients pays off. Although it took a long time, I delivered that site successfully and it led to other work. Over the years I conducted three major rebuilds of his website, and ten websites for his distributors.

Never charge $400 for a job that will take months to complete. If I wasn’t living with my parents there is no way I could live on that kind of money. It also trains your clients to expect you to always work for $400 per website.

Work to your strengths and get help. I almost learned this lesson too late. It is better to focus on your strength and either partner with someone or outsource the elements of the project you are not proficient with, rather than struggle along and stress yourself into gray hair before your time.

3. What advice do you have for folks trying to get their first client?

Build a support network first. So when you are in a bind, you have someone to turn to for help. This can be a paid consultant or a friend in the industry (if you have no local opportunities, you can build friendships online through various communities).

Be confident. Nothing will fill a client with confidence like a confident (but honest) conversation with you. Many new freelancers have sabotaged their own efforts by not displaying confidence. Displaying a lack of confidence is almost like wearing a “Don’t hire me” sign around your neck.

Do not limit your services. Just because your main goal is to build a website, that should not mean that is all you are willing to do for your clients. Are you good with English? For an extra fee, offer to proofread and edit their content. Are they worried about downtime and maintenance? Work out a monthly maintenance plan for them (I wish someone had told me that when I started).

The secret is to keep asking them questions about their business until you start to uncover what they really need, then start filling those needs. Your clients will become loyal to you because you are working in their best interest, and your needs are being met because they will see the true value which you can offer them and in turn, they will be willing to pay what you are worth.

[first_client_series_cta]


Why & How To Improve Self-Control

“Self-control” is something that most folks admit to struggling with and most folks want more of. Why is it so elusive? Some folks blame the times we live in and the access we have to more “temptations” than ever before. Others say self-control doesn’t matter and that “if it feels good, do it”. Still others try and try to force themselves to make certain choices, then achieve success for a time, only to fall and become more discouraged and demotivated than ever.

As a web developer, I’ve found the concept of self-control particularly relevant. I’ve studied the topic and experimented for years with varying degrees of success. As my business has grown and the demands on my time have increased, I’ve found the lessons I’ve learned (and the importance of reminding myself of those lessons) particularly important.

Why Self Control-Matters

As freelancers and business owners in the web development industry we are able to enjoy quite a few benefits, including:

  • Flexible Hours – Outside of scheduled interactions with clients, we can work just about anytime we want.
  • Flexible Work Environment – Web development is increasingly a “remote” industry with many of us choosing to work from the comforts of our home.
  • High Income Potential – As web developers, our income potential is high, matching and even passing that of many other more established professional industries.

Each of those benefits, though, offer a big “downside” as it relates to self-control. Here’s how:

  • The fact that we can set our own hours means that we can also choose not to work or work a lot less than a project needs.
  • With more and more of us working remotely, the fact that we can work from home means that our work environment (especially with children) can be easily distraction prone.
  • With a high income there is the temptation to “take it easy”. While experiencing the benefits of a high income is a great thing, a lack of self-control can lead us to that income for granted and waste it.

In my own experience I’ve noticed a clear correlation to a strong sense of self-control and success in my work. I’ve also noticed the same correlation to when I’ve felt “out of control” and the times where my quality of service has suffered.

For me, I’ve decided that a strong sense of self-control matters – a lot. I suspect that many of you have already reached the same conclusion and have decided that, yes, having more self-control matters.

What Is Self-Control?

Self-control (sometimes called self-regulation or self-discipline) is the ability to control what you think, feel, and do.

Roy Baumeister in his book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength suggests that willpower, the fuel that feeds your sense of self-control, is actually a finite resource and can be both exhausted and replenished by the choices you make.

That is why your sense of self-control can feel stronger in the morning after making a few good decisions (e.g. getting up earlier, eating a healthy breakfast, etc) then at the end of a long, stressful day at work when all you want to do is “take it easy” (and eat ice cream, and watch movies).

How To Improve Self-Control

With the understanding that self-control matters, the next logical step is to say “Ok, what can we do to improve self-control?” Based on Roy Baumeister’s book and on a presentation I recently listened to by Dr. Magna Parks2 I’ve compiled a list six strategies for improving self-control. Let’s jump straight to them!

1. Develop A Long-Term Focus

In the Fall of 2011, my wife and I decided to get out of debt. We had been in debt for years and, though we had a vague hope that we’d get out someday, somehow, we had lost all sense of priority and were doing our best just to keep up. We decided that we were done with that and it was time to focus. In just 3 1/2 months, we worked together to pay off $26,000 worth of debt by working very hard and exercising a high level of intensity. The time management and focus required to perform at that level demanded self-control and that self-control was fueled by a sense of long-term focus that took me beyond the challenges of the day.

If you’d like to improve your own sense of self-control, develop a long-term focus. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make It Clear – The very nature of focus requires that you have a clear grasp on what exactly you are trying to accomplish. My wife and I knew the amount of our debt to the penny and we earned, nearly to the penny, what it took to pay it off within just a day of the deadline to do so.
  • Create a “Dream Board” – Put up a blank poster board on your wall and tape pictures of your dreams to it. Look at it and focus on it for a minute or two each day. My wife and I created a dream board that Fall and, looking back now, we’ve achieved nearly everything on that list.

2. Develop A Self-Forgetful Attitude

When it comes to maintaining self-control we are our own worst enemies. If you’re craving something that isn’t good for you it becomes harder to resist the more you think about it. At the same time, distracting yourself from that craving and “forgetting” it makes it easier to resist. During my teenage years I developed an addiction to computer/video gaming. I fueled that addiction, with little restraint, for several years until I realized that there were more important things in life to focus my time and efforts on. To this day, though, I have to work to control my past addiction. When the demands on my time are particularly stressful the desire to finish work and just go “game” suddenly pop-up and the more I think about that desire or imagine the games I could play the harder it becomes to resist the urge to play and the more the quality of the work I’m doing suffers. The answer? I push the thoughts aside and distract myself from those desires by focusing on something else.

If you’re struggling with an addiction or simply a lack of self-control with a particular desire, cultivate an attitude of self-forgetfulness and distract yourself from those cravings and desires by switching your thoughts to something else. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stand Up – Step away from that self-focused situation and move on to focus your attention on something else.
  • Help Someone Else – A good way to be “self-forgetful” is to focus your energy on being of help to someone else. Take a break from what you’re working on and help out around the house. Take your dog for a walk or volunteer to take your neighbor’s dog for a walk.

3. Create A Pre-Commitment Strategy

Keeping in mind that willpower is a finite resource one excellent strategy for improving self-control is to simply make decisions in advance. This why the concept of a schedule is so powerful. Make your decisions in advance when it’s easy to do so and then, when a difficult situation arises, there’s no need to exercise willpower and self-control to make the right choice – the choice was already made.

Here are a few examples of pre-commitment strategies:

  • For my current morning routine I set out my shoes the night before. When I wake up, I get out of bed, tired or not, put my clothes and shoes on, and head out for my morning walk. I made the decision the night before and, when the morning came, I didn’t have to lay in bed and figure out what to do next – I already knew.
  • When I create my schedule for the week I set aside blocks of time for each of my project commitments. When that time rolls around, whether I feel like working on that project or not, I don’t have to think about it – the decision was already made. It’s on the schedule, so I get to work.

If you want to improve your sense of self-control, make things easier for you by making decisions in advance.

4. Involve People You Care About

Accountability is a powerful strategy for strengthening and maintaining a sense of self-control. My brother and I noticed that we were sleeping in on the weekends (which tends to make it harder to keep getting up early during the rest of the week) so he took the initiative to plan early morning adventures (e.g. hiking a trail, climbing a mountain, kayaking, etc) that required getting up early. So, whereas I might have normally slept in on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I knew that Joshua was expecting me to join him at 5 AM to climb a mountain and I didn’t want to let him down. Suddenly, an area that I struggled with (getting up early on weekends) wasn’t a problem because I involved people I cared about.

Here are a few ideas for involving people you care about:

  • Scheduled Reviews – Pick a consistent time, on a weekly or even daily basis to connect with someone you care about and give a progress report. When my brother and I were working to get on the habit of waking up by 5 AM we would text each other when we woke up, which would help to prompt and encourage each other to keep it up.
  • Stated Intentions – If you’re working to improve self-control in a particular area, let a spouse or family member know. Just the act of saying it out-loud, especially in the context of someone who wants to see you succeed, can go a long ways towards strengthening your ability to stick to your intention.

5. Establish Clear Personal Rules & Boundaries

Along with creating a pre-commitment strategy, setting up clear “If A then B” rules and boundaries for yourself can help eliminate the need to exercise extra willpower and make staying “in control” a lot easier. For instance, if you’re a smoker and trying to quit, pay for your gas at the pump rather than walking inside where you have the option to buy cigarettes. If you’re trying to cut back on junk food, set a clear limit (perhaps “nothing” or “only 1 piece”) rather than a fuzzy “oh, I’ll just eat a little bit.”

When it comes to running a web development business, most rules and boundaries that I setup involve how I prioritize and manage my time. For instance, I know that the early part of the day is the best time for more brain intensive activities (like writing or programming). Accordingly, I avoid scheduling calls and checking email until after I’ve accomplished my morning objectives. I am then able to spend time on communication with the satisfaction that I’ve already accomplished a major objective for the day.

Another example is creating rules for how I spend my time after work. In order to get up early the next day it’s important that I get to bed at a good time (my target is between 9 and 10 PM) – accordingly, I’ve created a personal rule to not use “media” (unless my wife and I are doing so together) after 8 PM. That ensures I don’t let myself get lost reading tech news or following my friends on Facebook.

Look for ways to setup clear personal rules and boundaries in your own life to make exercising self-control easier. Here are a few ideas:

  • Setup Reminders – If you’re creating a new habit or trying to break an old, setup reminders. The glass of water on my desk reminds me to keep drinking throughout the day. The chart on my desk reminds me to make sure that I eat my fruits and vegetables for the day and that I get outside to get some fresh air and sunshine. Setup reminders, using objects, or time-reminders on your phone or computer, to help you stick to your personal rules.
  • Setup Schedules – If you’re dealing with a lot of interruptions or you’re just having a hard time focus, put a schedule to work and pre-determine what you’re going to work on. Then, ignore the interruptions till after the scheduled block of time is completed. If you’re struggling with procrastination, setup a block of time where you will either do the task or do nothing until the time is passed (most folks find it hard to sit or stand and do nothing).

6. Become More Consistent With Religious Activities

Roy Baumeister found that actively religious people, on average, have a higher amount of willpower than those who did not partake in religious activities. When I get out of bed and go for a morning walk I pray during my walk. On my return, I spend time reading the Bible and other material of a religious or devotional nature. The Bible, and the focus and emphasis of the other materials I engage, encourage my sense of self-control and provide a deeper motivation to keep at it. The name of my business, Strive For Mastery, is taken from 1 Corinthians 9:25, which reminds me that “Everyone who strives for the mastery is temperate in all things” – being temperate means exercising self-control in good things and avoiding entirely those things that do me harm.

Much of what I’ve achieved in life has drawn motivation from my religious convictions. Getting out of debt was sparked by a simple reminder that the Bible says to “Owe no man anything except love”. My sense of personal responsibility and integrity is also drawn from the examples and instructions I find in the Bible.

Make time to engage in religious activities and encourage and motivate your sense of self-control. As a Christian, and particularly as a Seventh-day Adventist (I don’t work on Saturdays and I work to cultivate good health), I personally recommend that you take time to pray throughout your day and that you spend time, even just a few minutes, reading the Bible (the Gospels, Proverbs, and Psalms are great books to start). You’ll find encouragement and motivation that maintains and strengthens your sense of self-control.

Conclusion

Improving self-control is a difficult task, but it is worth the effort. As a freelancer or business owner in the web development industry, a strong sense of self-control is particularly valuable and even essential to achieving success. Putting some or all of these strategies to work will help make improving and maintaining a sense of self-control easier and, based on my own experience and the experience of many others, I can assure you with confidence that success will follow.

And that’s a wrap! What do you think? What lessons have you learned about self-control or what are some of the aspects of self-control that you’ve struggled with? What questions do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I look forward to hearing from you!