Dear Danielle: Should I Give Away Free Work or Offer Free Resources to Start Getting Clients?

Dear Danielle:

I am very interested in becoming starting an administrative support business and want to focus on schools in my city. There are many private schools here that operate the choice (or private) school program and need lots of information from the state and Dept. of Public Instruction. Would you advise offering these potential clients newsletters prior to offering services to them? I want to offer them information on what they need from the state, mini reviews of educational programs, etc., until I am able to properly offer them services. I read your post on not giving anything away for free, but would this count as a free service or as a client builder? School starts in about four weeks and I’d like to get started on this yesterday. Thanks for the help! –KM

Oh, client builder absolutely!

When I talk about not giving away free service, I’m talking about actual work — what you are in business to do and the thing that earns your income.

Don’t confuse marketing and networking and creating your client pipelines with free service. Sharing useful information is not giving away free admin work.

Remember, you’re going into the admin support business. You sharing industry information that is relevant to your target market doesn’t compete with that in any way. What it does is demonstrate to your target market that you know their business and understand their interests — which is exactly what is going to attract them to you over the competition.

So, be a resource. Be a fountain of information. Freely and generously share with your target market your insights, opinions, helpful advice and resources that are of value and interest to them.

If you ever worry about where to draw the line in making sure you aren’t giving away the farm, a good general rule of thumb is this:  Share with folks the “what” not the “how.”

I really like seeing how you have applied some thinking about your target market. I always tell people to be sure to do some research to make sure an industry will be a viable market and has a need for the type of solution we provide. It looks like you’ve done some deliberation on that by distinguishing private schools from public schools.

It also sounds like you have some inside knowledge and experience about what information will be useful and of interest to this market. And you can never do too much homework. Go out there and talk to some of the people who would be your clients. Ask them what information would be valuable to them, what would make them sign up for your newsletter.

While you’re at it, find out what would make them consider working with an outside administrative expert.

I can imagine that one selling point might be that they can streamline and pare down their administrative operations, have you get that work done more effectively, thus allowing them to put more in-house staff focus on community outreach and relationship-building with parents.

Learn as much as you can about what kind of administrative work they do so you can hone your message and offerings to them in a way that will clearly and meaningfully resonate with them.

As far as when to do your newsletter, you might want to weigh that with how soon you think you might be ready to open your doors.

On the one hand, now is as good a time as any. It takes a while to build up a subscriber base so you probably have plenty of time to do that before anyone contacts you about actual services.

But do have a plan for how you’d handle it if someone did want to talk with you about your services before you were ready to take them on. This might be an opportunity to also build some anticipation for your official “door opening.”

One way you could do that is to set a “my doors are open for business” date and then promote that in your newsletter.

Encourage folks to get on your waiting list and maybe even conduct some consultations in advance for anyone who contacts you before the date.

Meanwhile, your newsletter will be working to build the anticipation while at the same time helping establish the “know, like and trust” factor and start those relationships growing.

Keep in touch and let me know how it goes. I love seeing smart people entering our business!

2 Responses

  1. Joy Pipes says:

    Getting your ideas out there is a great first step. It is very important to let your potential clients know you are really interested in what they do. By providing a newsletter to them, you are showing them that you do care about what they do. You are also showing them that you want to help them, not just make money off them. Newsletters are are great ways to get your clients involved in thinking about what they do.

    I was the director of a private school for several years. By “giving back to the community,” you are setting up your potential client base. You are building trust with them and setting their minds to the idea that you will be helping them to collect and understand information that they probably don’t have the time to pursue.

    I think your business will be well rewarded by publishing a newsletter providing them with the information they need. They will also be needing help in processing that information. They will need your services when it is time to sort and process the information. Your service will be important at that point. Generally, it takes time for people to internalize what they hear or read before they can begin to deal with it.

    I congratulate your desire to provide information necessary for these people to act on. I’m sure your ability to serve as their administrative expert will come on gradually, which will increase your confidence in what you do. There is no need to feel you must “jump in” before you are fully ready. It is likely that it will happen naturally.

    My very best wishes for you as you delve into the industry. I know you will do great because you seem to have done your homework! You’re ahead of the game already.

  2. KM Nelson says:

    Danielle and Joy-

    Thanks so much for the advice! I was a teacher in both public and choice/private schools for four years. After seeing all of the BS that goes on within the schools and how egos can get in the way of what’s important (the children and their education), I had to stop because I kept getting on the wrong side of those egos and being…how can I put this nicely? Fired. If you don’t agree with principals or other teachers that are in cliques within the schools (esp. choice schools) they will get rid of you for no reason.

    But every year there are new schools opening up in my area and since I really don’t want to teach anymore (I stopped crying one day for my kids and realized that was the end of my teaching career) and I don’t want to open my own school…I figured this would be the next best thing.
    I really want to be able to help these schools out with not only newsletters from me but I want to provide binders to assist their teachers, professional development folders, and even lesson plans for specialtiy subjects.

    Danielle, I also wanted to say that I am so glad that I found your blog! You speak the truth and it’s good to see someone that is real about the business and not fake or overly PC. Soon I hope to be part of your network.

    Thank you two again for the advice and I’ll send you a copy of my first newsletter!

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