Archive for the ‘Target Market’ Category

Marketing Tip: Attend Webinars and Teleconferences in Your Target Market’s Industry

Marketing Tip: Attend Webinars and Teleconference in Your Target Market's Industry

Every industry conducts webinars and teleconferences for its members. These present yet another great opportunity to connect, learn more about and interact with your target market.

For example, my target market is solo attorneys in business, intellectual property and entertainment law. The legal industry has thousands upon thousands of continuing education webinars and teleconferences many of which are open to anyone in legal services, not just attorneys, and many of which are free or low-cost.

So be sure to attend the webinars and teleconferences in your target market’s industry because it puts you smack dab in the middle of a “room” full of them. Then be sure to ask at least one question or otherwise participate in the discussion.

When you do that, you have a non-salesy, legitimate reason to introduce yourself, give the name of your business (and/or URL) and briefly explain that you provide admin support for those in the [YOUR TARGET MARKET] industry.

Sometimes the Q&A/discussion is also done by chat which is yet another opportunity to state your name, biz and provide your biz URL.

Plus, when you ask smart questions relevant to the topic, it makes your business look good, too. It inspires confidence and credibility because it’s a demonstration of the kind of smarts and sensibility you’d bring to table for your clients.

If you haven’t chosen a target market yet (a target market is simply a field/industry/profession that you cater your admin support to), be sure to download my free guide How to Choose Your Target Market. 

Ideas for Finding Clients

Ideas for Finding Clients

Here are some ideas for where to find potential clients to help get your creative thinking going.

Since I work with solo attorneys (specifically in the business, intellectual property and entertainment law realm), that’s the target market I know best. However, anyone can extrapolate from these ideas to fit their own target market.

One of the reasons and benefits to have a target market is that it helps you more easily identify where to find clients. Because once you know who you are focusing on, that will tell you what support they need, how to craft your message, and where to begin looking for them.

(By the way, a target market is simply a specific industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to.)

For example, if you work with attorneys, the next step is to identify any and all places where you may be able to meet, connect and interact with, and get in front of said attorneys.

What do attorneys deal in very often? Lawsuits.

Where do they go when they litigate those lawsuits? To the courthouse, right?

So, are there any opportunities there? Are there attorney bulletin boards where you can put your business card, flyer, brochure or other handout? Is there a lawyers lounge where you can do the same? What about a law library?

What about your local and state bar associations? Do they have any online forums and listservs you can hop on? Do they have a print newsletter or online blog? If so, you could offer to contribute some articles (and thereby market your business in the process). Find out what advertising opportunities they have. For example, my state’s bar newsletter has a $50 advertising fee which is a small price to pay to get a targeted ad in front of all their attorney subscribers that gets them to my website or video presentation.

Ideally, you are focusing on the solos and boutique firms because they are the ones who truly have the need for our solution. Big law doesn’t need or care about what we do; they really have no real need for our solution. So keep your message, content and efforts geared toward the solos/boutique firms.

Are there special groups that these solos/boutique firm attorneys belong to, online and off? Find out what opportunities might be there for you to speak to their group or offer a webinar or give a presentation. You could teach them about what you do as an Administrative Consultant and all the ways your support helps their practice. Or, it could be about all the ways they can continue to operate in the online realm and further systemize/e-vitalize their practice and operations. (These are just a couple ideas, put your thinking cap with your own target market in mind. What would their ears perk up at? What are their common problems, challenges and obstacles, and what can you share that will help them?)

Talk to your area attorney associations and ask them if they have ideas on how you can connect with their solo attorney members.

If you know of some solo attorneys, TALK to them. And to be clear, don’t market to them. This is a knowledge and information gathering effort. Just see if you can speak with them informally and pick their brain. The goal is to learn as much about them as possible, what their interests are for their practice, where they are hanging out, online and off. The more you talk directly with people in your target market, the more inside knowledge you can glean that will help you in your efforts to support them, gear your solutions toward their needs, goals and interests, and find and connect with them.

Who/what are some of the vendors these lawyers use (locally, geographically and online)? There’s case management software services. There are process services. There are investigators. There are couriers, court reporters… the list goes on and on.

Contact these people and businesses. See if there are some advertising or co-marketing opps where you can take advantage of their own established footing in the industry to get in front of new prospective attorney clients. Maybe they have a blog or newsletter you can contribute to or advertise in/on.

Keep in mind that your services don’t compete with theirs; you are in complementary industries with the same audience. If you talk with them, you might be able to come up with some mutually beneficial referral partnering arrangements. Start the conversation; you’ll be surprised at what you might come up with, what ideas you hit upon.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new ideas. Get creative. Be up to try anything once.

At the same time, get good at recognizing when something or some place is a waste of time so you can move on quickly (and stay positive).

Do any of these ideas jump-start your thinking and how to apply them to your own target market?

PS: If you don’t have a target market yet, at least start thinking about one, especially if you’ve been struggling. Download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market

I Can’t Work for Pennies, How Are You Making This Work?

I Can't Work for Pennies, How Are You Making This Work?

I am still trying to lock down clients. Any suggestions as to how to obtain clients? I have been using Fiverr for sample gigs (decent income for small projects). I am reaching out to people on Linkedin as well as my previous employer (we have a great relationship so it’s no fluff, but no clients need me yet), but once I move to the pricing for everyone else, they are no longer interested. I feel my price point is comparable, but I can’t work for pennies on the hour. How are you guys making it work? —RB

Fiverr might be good for pocket change if that’s all your needing out of it. But you’re never going to find real clients there (i.e., the kind that pay the kind of money you can actually live on), much less retainer clients who pay a monthly upfront fee for across-the-board administrative support.

“Decent income” is relative. What does it mean to you? Have you done any cost and pricing analysis on what it takes to run your business, earn an income (yes, they are two separate things) and earn a profit? (Profit is yet a third category of earning; you don’t have a business unless you are earning above and beyond your operational and income needs.)

It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between the economics of employment and the economics of business. That is a huge area of education for a lot of people who are new in business. They often don’t initially understand that $12/hour employee wage will not begin to earn them a living as a business.

You’re also looking at things from the wrong angle and going about the process too generally. Because it’s not about the price point.

(Don’t worry. Everyone goes through this thinking when they’re new in business—it’s a process of education, and I’m here to  help you with that). 

Getting clients begins and ends with WHO your target market is. Have you done that work yet?

RB: I have my target market (insurance), I guess it’s that I am not known maybe? Yeah, I love Fiverr for some quick cash, but trying to convert the folks I am talking to is what I am having trouble with (none from Fiverr). Maybe I need to reevaluate.

You’re not going to be able to convert those people because they aren’t the right audience, and it’s the wrong process/intention on the wrong platform. You’re trying to fish in an empty pond basically.

It’s not about being known. You don’t have to be known. Prospective clients don’t even need to have ever heard about our industry whatsoever.

It’s about YOU understanding THEM (your target market), their business, their industry, how their business is run and how you can support them, a
nd you understanding what they gain and how they benefit from this solution (this is how you will articulate your value to them).

And, of course, choosing the right market.

“Insurance” is pretty broad/generic. What does that mean? What kind of insurance specifically? Who in the “insurance” field are you focusing on?

Because insurance “companies” don’t need what we do. When a company is large enough that the workload inherently requires in-house staff, and has their own staff, you are barking up the wrong tree.

You want to target solo/boutique business owners. They are the ones who have the highest/greatest need for the solution we’re in business to offer, value it more, and are thus more interested and willing to pay for it.

Once you get clearer about all of these things, that is going to tell you where you should be focusing your efforts for more fruitful results.

And the smarter you get about that, you’ll find that you won’t want or need to waste your time in places like Fiverr. 😉

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Get my free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator and go through those exercises. It’s important to get very clear about your numbers and know your pricing baseline.

2. Download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market and go through those exercises. This is a necessary part of the process of getting clients. If you don’t know and specifically define who you are talking to, how can you ever find them much less know how to support them administratively? 😉 Once you get clearer about who it is you are seeking, that will inform all your next steps and answer all the questions you have about how to find them, where to find them, how to support them, how to craft your solution and speak their language. This is such a vital step that will make finding clients so much easier.

There’s a lot more to it than this, of course, but these two exercises are the best place to start.

You CAN do this! It’s work, but it’s legwork that must be done first if you’re going to start seeing results. The alternative is to keep plodding along for years on end as many people do.

SEE ALSO:

Dear Danielle: What Do You Think of Odesk and Elance?

Dear Danielle: Should I Market on Craigslist?

Dear Danielle: I Have a Bunch of Questions

Dear Danielle: I Have a Bunch of Questions

Dear Danielle:

Thank you so much for all of your offerings through the Success Store! Getting my company planned and put together has been much easier thanks to you than it might have been.  I just need some clarification:

  1. How exactly do referrals work?  I am giving a two-hour free referral bonus to any client who refers another paying client. What do you think of that idea?
  2. What marketing tools have you found the most effective?  I am on unemployment which is not enough to make ends meet, and I have had to get things for my business by raiding my grocery money (maxed out credit).  I am trying to get a micro-business loan, but have not done so yet. Are online directories and search engines the way to go?
  3. How did you find your industries small prospects for sales calls?  Do we have to worry about “Do Not Call” lists if someone uses one phone number for everything?  How much “cold calling” did you do to get started?
  4. About your website screening intake form:  I could not find your business website, nor could I find anything in the store about an intake form.  Is there another resource or should I just pull together my own and tweak it through experience?
  5. If a client asks for a particularly dicey project that I am not sure I can handle, how do I address that without looking incompetent, undersupplied technologically, or setting myself up to fail?

I apologize if you have already addressed these issues. Thanks for your help! –AJ

Whew! I’ll do my best to answer these and keep ’em short and sweet…

1. How do referrals work and what about giving a referral bonus?

A referral is when someone (could be a client, could be a colleague, could be a business associate… anyone) refers/recommends/tells someone about your business.

What do I personally think about paying people to refer you? I don’t advise it.

Let referrals come organically through the good will and high esteem you generate from doing good work. Those recommendations and referrals will carry far greater weight because of it.

Plus, keeping track of referrals and rewards just creates another needless task and complication in your administration that you don’t need.

Here are a couple blog posts that expand on this topic that I think you’ll find helpful:

Dear Danielle: How Do I Advertise for Referral Partners?

Tips for Harnessing the Power of Referrals

2. What marketing methods are most effective? Are online directories and search engines the way to go?

It doesn’t hurt to be in directories, but you don’t need them.

And SEO is the least effective way your most ideal, qualified client prospects will find you. It’s not the thing to waste your time focusing on right now at this stage of your start up.

Your best leads will always come from your own incoming marketing pipelines. And how do you do that?

In our business (as it is with most professional service-based businesses), networking is hands-down the most effective marketing strategy.

Not ads. Not cold-calling. Not direct mail.

The great thing about networking is that it doesn’t cost anything but your time. And that’s not a cost, it’s an investment because those efforts will ultimately pay with new clients and prospects.

The reason networking is so effective is because people look to work with those with whom they have established some kind of relationship and feel some kind of rapport.

Every opportunity you have that lets a group of people get to know, like and trust you is going to make it that much easier for you to attract clients.

Of course, the key to networking successfully starts with a target market. Otherwise, you’ll wear yourself out networking anywhere willy nilly.

Be sure you download the free ACA guide on How to Choose Your Target Market, which elaborates a bit more on what a target market is and how it will make growing your business and getting clients much faster and easier.

3. What cold calling did you do to get started and how did you find prospects for sales calls?

None. I didn’t look for any.

I never did cold calling and I don’t advise you do either.

People don’t like to be sold to; it’s completely the wrong strategy.

Professional services are a bigger ticket item and requires more relationship building and nurturing than that.

Sure, you might hear some people say they got this client or that project all from a sales call. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

I can just about guarantee you don’t have the kind of money and energy to ever make cold calling a worthwhile ROI.

Even if you get one project, it isn’t going to come close to covering all the time, energy and effort you put into getting it.

And think about it. Do you really think you can keep putting in that kind of work just to get one or two nickel-and-dime projects? You need bigger money and bigger clients to stay in business and be profitable.

There are MUCH better, faster, more effective strategies for getting clients, one of which is deciding on a target market to focus on and then getting involved with that industry in every way you can (online forums, business groups, events, etc.). The more you interact, the more they get to know, like and trust you.

4. Is there a resource for an online intake/consultation request form?

If I’m understanding your question, I think you are referring to an online form you have clients fill out to request a consultation.

Having a form like this on your website will help screen and prequalify prospects.

By asking a few simple questions, this form can help you determine what stage of readiness a potential client is at, whether or not they are in your target market, and whether they can afford your services.

Depending on the questions you ask and how they fill out your online consultation form (which has the dual underlying purpose of helping prequalify clients), this can tell you what level of priority or attention to give a potential client or whether to guide them to further information on your website to learn more before moving on in the process.

For example, if someone is only “browsing,” you may not want to waste your limited time and effort on a consultation. You may instead want to send them to a white paper you have prepared for these kind of instances, and invite them to subscribe to your blog or ezine.

Many clients are not ready to work with us immediately so it’s all a process.

Here is a blog post that talks more about how the consult form can act a prequalifier: One Way to Sort the Ideal form the Unideal.

As far as a resource, I recommend you get my Client Consultation guide. Not only does it give you usuable examples of an online intake/consultation form and questions you may want to ask, it will walk you through the entire consultation process from start to finish: from targeting clients, identifying your ideal client profile, prequalifying clients, how to conduct the actual consultation conversation and what questions to ask, how to follow-up afterward and what the next steps are once you take on a new client. It’s VERY thorough!

5. How do I handle a request for something I don’t know how to do (or do well)?

First, you have to distinguish what kind of business you are in.

Are you in the secretarial business where you’re simply doing one-off, transactional, piecemeal project work?

Or are you in the business of administrative support?

Because the two are completely different business models.

Once you answer that question, it will help answer subsequent questions about what kind of client needs that work, what work is entailed and so forth.

When you know what you do and who you do it for, and educate clients accordingly, this kind of thing isn’t as much of an issue.

However, let’s say you are in the administrative support business and the client asks if you do X thing.

Honesty is always best so tell them if it isn’t something you know how to do or that you have limited experience/knowledge with it.

That said, you can always let them know that you are willing to learn how to do it (IF you are interested in doing so, that is).

Or, you might look at this project or work and think to yourself: You know, this really doesn’t fall under administrative support at all and isn’t what I’m in business to do. They really need to be working with someone who is in the X business.

In that case, you might offer to help them locate the proper professional who IS in business to do that thing.

Or, in yet another example, perhaps you have a separate division in your company that does this thing, in which case you would take them through those separate processes for intaking that kind of work or project and charge them separately for it.

You have to always remember that administrative support is not a catchall term for “anything and everything.”

Just because a client asks doesn’t mean you’re supposed to comply. They need educating.

If you were a plumber and someone asked you to fix their car, that wouldn’t make any sense, right?

And you’d inform them very simply and helpfully that what they need is an auto mechanic, not a plumber.

Same thing here.

YOU have to decide what administrative support consists of in your business and what doesn’t.

When you have that clarity yourself, you shouldn’t have any qualms about letting clients know when something doesn’t fall under the umbrella of your support.

Always be clear and upfront with clients about what’s what in your business. You’re not going to look bad in any way for not taking on or knowing how to do something or needing to refer them to another kind of professional entirely when that’s the case.

The only time you will look bad and create ill will is by not being honest and straightforward.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you questions on any of this. 🙂

Download Your Free Copy

How to Choose Your Target Market

Happy Sunday! 🙂

I just completed an updated version of my guide How to Choose Your Target Market.

Clarified some concepts and instructions that I think will help people more easily wrap their brains around target marketing and how to choose the right one for them.

Even if you already have this guide, this is a new and improved up-to-date version so you’ll definitely want to grab your copy (it’s still free!).

You will build your business, get clients and make more money more quickly and easily with a target market.

Having a target market makes EVERYTHING easier in your business.

Here’s the link: How to Choose Your Target Market

Not Having Any Luck in this Business? Here’s What Could Be Going On

Ask Danielle

Last week I told you about asking colleagues on my mailing list why they are in this business.

I received a wonderful outpouring of responses, and I’m still working on responding personally to every one.

Several people wrote about having difficulty getting anywhere. Here’s an example from one colleague:

Unfortunately, nothing was happening with the business and then I got very discouraged and didn’t pursue it further.  I decided to put a pause on the business and change my career.”

This colleague plans to come back to the business at a later date. The thing is, though, when she does come back to it, she is likely to have the same difficulties. You aren’t going to get different results doing the same things that weren’t working in the first place.

So I probed a little further and asked her to elaborate and try to give me some more specific details about what she was experiencing. I asked if her difficulty was in finding clients. I asked if she had done a business plan. I asked if she had a target market (and if so, what was it). I asked if she had a website (because the website is a big window into the business as a whole and I can tell a whole lot just by taking a look there).

Here’s what she told me:

“I was having difficulty finding clients. I do have a website. My target market was individuals and corporations. Yes, I have done a business plan. I have networked and reached out to prospects about my company but I think the services I offer is not what popular. I’m not sure what I attribute my difficulties to, maybe marketing and the services.

There are a few things that immediately jump out at me as the cause of some of this colleague’s difficulties. I share because maybe you are in the same boat and it may help you as well:

  1. “Individuals and corporations” are not target markets, they are demographics. A target market is a single, specific industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support and marketing message to. Saying “individuals” is your target market is like saying “people” is your target market. That could literally be anyone and mean anything. It’s the complete opposite of the definition of a target market. Because the point of having a target market is to get clarity and direction for who you are talking to (you can’t come up with any kind of compelling message unless you decide definitively who your audience is to be), what that group’s particular needs, goals, challenges and pains are, how you can help them in those things and structure your offerings in a way that will be of most interest and value to them, and where to find them. If you don’t decide who to focus on, you’re going to be all over the place talking about things in a way that can only be vague, generic and nebulous. That’s not going to have any impact on anyone.
  2. As a demographic, corporations are rarely, if ever, the best fit for what we do. That’s because they don’t need the solution Administrative Consultants are in business to offer. (And just to clarify, in the context of my conversation with this colleague, she’s using “corporations” in terms of “big business,” not literally anyone who happens to have incorporated their business.) Here’s the thing: generally speaking, big business has the kind of workloads that inherently require full-time, in-house, dedicated staff (and Administrative Consultants are not going to be able to work with any clients like that, from both a legal and practical standpoint). They also have the resources to pay for and house them. They don’t really need us. If they are even remotely interested in us, it’s only to offload non-core functions as cheaply as possible. That’s what offshoring/outsourcing is all about. They could care less about the relationship, and when there isn’t a real need, they don’t place much value on the service. And you can’t be in business to be cheap. It’s always the solopreneurs and boutique businesses that have the greatest need for what we’re in business to offer. They, therefore, place greater value in it and are more willing to pay well for it. So it’s important to understand who makes the best fit (who has the highest and greatest need) for what we do so that you aren’t wasting your time barking up the wrong trees.
  3. When it comes to the service, you aren’t selling hammers, you’re selling what a hammer does, what it builds. My colleague states she thought she was offering services that weren’t popular. Here’s what she’s not understanding: It’s not “services” that you’re selling. As an Administrative Consultant, you are offering one thing: an ongoing relationship of administrative support. What that support is comprised of depends on the target market. This is why you need a target market. Once you decide specifically who to cater your support to, you can determine what body of tasks, functions and roles will be most helpful and compelling to that group. That’s when you’ll find the “popularity” you were lacking before.
  4. People don’t want to hear about your company, they want to hear about what your company can do for them. Read that two or three times and let it sink in. This makes a critical difference in how you are approaching people. But here’s the other thing, when you don’t know who you’re aiming for (because you’re just aiming at anyone and everyone), you don’t know anything about them and therefore don’t know how to talk to these people or what to talk about, you automatically default to talking about yourself and your company. If you had a target market, you would know specifically who you are aiming for, know what their common needs, goals, challenges and pains are in their industry, and you have something to talk about with them. My philosophy about networking is don’t do it. Instead, go to help, be of service, learn more about the people you meet and simply make friends. You’re going to have a lot better results that way. (For further insight when it comes to in-person networking, read this post: Are Business Cards Dead?)

For anyone out there who hasn’t yet decided on a target market, please do download the free ACA guide on “How to Choose Your Target Market.” It will help you TONS!

How about you? Have you had similar difficulty in your business? Do you find this information I’ve shared helpful?

How I Chose My Target Market

How I Chose My Target Market

One of our members on the ACA LinkedIn Discussion Group asked, “How did all of you decide on your niche?”

Good question! Because choosing a target market is something it seems a lot of people struggle with.

I will say that a lot of it is just self-created angst.

They are either resistent to the idea or they spend too much time and anxiety wanting to make the perfect choice.

But business is not a perfect science. You will always be course correcting as you learn and grow.

Ultimately, it boils down to just deciding!

That said, there are criteria that are important to consider when choosing a target market (i.e., industry/field/profession) on which to cater your admin support in order for it to be viable:

  • It must have a need for the solution you’re in business to offer.
  • It must be able to afford you. Meaning, for example, it can’t be a dying industry or one where the people are commonly not earning well.
  • It must be easy to find. That is, it should be large enough that you can easily find people in this target market congregating in large numbers, both online and off. If it’s such an obscure or esoteric industry that just finding them is inordinately difficult, that might not be such a good choice.
  • If you already have a background and knowledge about an industry, it could be a suitable match because you’ll already have some insights into how it ticks and where to find them, making your marketing and message a lot easier.
  • It’s important that you enjoy the industry you choose to cater to and the work involved in supporting it. Otherwise, you’ll never really be able to serve it well. You want your work to be joyful and rewarding, not a chore that you are only doing for the money.

In answer to my colleague’s question, here’s how I chose my target market…

When I first started I really had no conscious knowledge or understanding about having a niche (AKA target market). It was just “get clients, any clients.”

And because I had no clarity or consciousness about WHO my clients were or should be (e.g., who I wanted to work with, what kind of clients made for the best fit), I spent a lot of years just flailing around, having very little marketing impact and not making much money.

Eventually I ended up with an accidental target market of local retail type businesses: clubs, venues, restaurants, hair salons, florists, gift shops, etc. I got those kind of clients because once I got those initial few, they would refer me to others.

The problem with this accidental target market was that it wasn’t one I intentionally chose. It was more like it just “happened” to me.

And the types of clients this market was made up of predominately had all kinds of issues.

First, the nature of local small retail business is very volatile. It was always feast or famine. These businesses would open and close constantly (seemingly overnight sometimes). Money was always tight. A lot of the business owners were not very business savvy. Many of them turned out to be downright dishonest and unethical. And I had to constantly chase after my money.

The good thing about this period in my early business years was that it was what got me thinking about what I really wanted from my business and who I wanted to work with.

The whole reason I started my business was to live a different kind of lifestyle, on my own terms, and the way my business was at that time, it was anything but that.

I didn’t like who I was working with and wasn’t making the kind of money I needed to live and thrive.

Eventually I decided that I really wanted to work with attorneys.

The reason I chose them was that:

  1. I had a paralegal background;
  2. Three of my uncles at the time were attorneys (one has since passed);
  3. I’d always worked around the legal field in some capacity (District Court, Sheriff’s department, private investigator, legal assistant to the VP/General Counsel of a U.S. based international company as well as a few other government agencies).
  4. I’ve always had an affinity for the legal field. I love the work and find the law and dealing with legal matters endlessly fascinating.

Once I decided who I wanted to work with, I let go of all my clients at that time and started everything over from scratch.

It was the best move I ever made.

Of course, “attorneys” was still too broad because the work and operations involved in serving one practice area are often completely different from another. To write any kind of compelling message that would be meaningful, I had to focus on a specific type of attorney.

Plus, there are certain practice areas in the legal field I had no interest or enjoyment in supporting (e.g., personal injury, immigration, bankruptcy).

So, eventually I narrowed my target market of “attorneys” down further to those in the specific practice areas of intellectual property, entertainment law and business.

I hope this is helpful to you if you are someone still trying to figure out who to focus on.

And if you have already chosen a target market, please share with us in the comments how you chose yours.

Dear Danielle: What Do You Think of Odesk and Elance (Now Upwork)?

Dear Danielle: What Do You Think of Odesk and Elance?

Hello Danielle!

Hope you are having a great day. What do you think of Odesk and Elance (now Upwork) as starting places for an Administrative Consultant? I currently am just starting out, just had a baby three months ago so I was thinking of starting out with these sites? Thoughts?  Thank you so much for all you do! —Maekeshia Smith, eOffice Business Solutions, LLC

Hi Maekeshia 🙂

It depends on what your motivations and intentions are.

If you’re just looking to make some pocket money on the side, then those places might serve your interests.

If you are looking to start a real business making real money (i.e., money you can actually live and operate profitably and sustainably on), oDesk, Elance and the like are no places for Administrative Consultants to be wasting their time.

That said, if you are not still working and need the funding, the little jobs you get here and there in those places could be a way to fund yourself and purchase necessary products, tools and training to grow your real business.

But don’t confuse that work with building your real business, because the kind of clients you need for the latter are not the kind you’re going to find on Odesk, Elance, etc.

Of course, whenever I say that, inevitably someone pipes up to exclaim how they got a great client from those places.

What I say to that is:

a) They are the exception, not the rule, and exceptions do not make for immutable laws of business. If you shop yourself amongst cheapskates, people who want to pay pennies and expect something for nothing (else why on earth would they be shopping for REAL professionals in those places), that’s exactly who you’re going to get. The odds of you finding that diamond client in what amounts to a yard sale are not in your favor. Has it ever happened at any time in the history of the world? Of course. But I would no more tell you to buy lottery tickets to build your business. The ROI is just not there as would cost you more in time and energy bidding and auditioning for “jobs” than you’d earn. There are better, faster, more profitable, effective and productive ways to build a financially successful business built with clients who value what you do for them and pay well for it. Leave Odesk and Elance for the hobbyists who have no business sense and don’t know or value their worth.

b) “Great” is relative. We would have to look closer at their business, under the hood, to see if their “great” is really all that great. Is their business really profitable? How much are they earning from that client? How hard are they working, how many hours a day, only to be barely scraping by? That’s not being profitable. They might think $15, $25, even $35 an hour is “great,” but that’s only because they have no frame of reference other than it is more than they were making as an employee. They don’t understand that the economics of employment are not the same as those of business. I’ve been in this business 20 years and all it takes is a few details for me to know how a business is really doing financially. And actually, their “great” doesn’t have any bearing on what your great is. So first order of business, so we can get real about what kind of money YOU need to earn and what kind of revenues your business needs to survive and be profitable, is to download the free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator.

Bottom line is the only kind of clients you’ll find in those places are cheapskates looking for the cheapest bidder, not ideal clients who value what the work produces and are ready and willing to pay well for it.

Here’s another blog post you should read on this topic: Dear Danielle: Should I Market on Craigslist?

You mention that you are just starting out and that’s the right time to be getting your foundations in place. I don’t know how far along in the process you are, but here are what I recommend for your next steps:

  1. Get your starting forms, documents and contracts in place so you have them and can adjust, update and adapt as you go along. You’ll be ready then when you get that first client.
  2. Get a website up. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t sure what to put on it or what to say right now. Just get it up there! Because otherwise, you’ll just stay stuck in analysis paralysis. The simple act of getting your site up is the catalyst for those next steps. A website is THE most important marketing tool you have in your business (people distrust and wonder what is wrong with a business if it doesn’t have one). It’s an integral and indispensible part of the process of properly educating prospects so you can get those ideal clients you’re seeking. AND I have a guide for building a website that works that gives you my own conversion system that you can implement in your website. It tells you exactly what pages in what order to have on your website and all the other vital elements that are needed to convert more of your prospects into clients and consultations. It also includes my patented 1-2-3 plug-n-play system that will walk you through, step-by-step, in creating your own unique, compelling and irresistible marketing message. It makes the process of writing easy as pie, even if you don’t think you are a writer (because you don’t have to be; this stuff writes itself with my formula).
  3. Choose a target market (i.e., an industry/field/profession you cater your administrative support to). Then gear your message and solutions to that market, and go start interacting with them on their industry blogs, forums and listservs and get involved in their groups, professional associations, events, etc. Be sure to download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market that will help you with this process and begin identifying the places to find them.

Be an Expert in Your Target Market’s Business

I always say, you need to become an expert not only in your own business, you also in your target market’s business and industry.

Why is that important?

Because you can’t become an expert in every business/field/profession in the world (and they are ALL very different from each other), but you CAN become an expert in one of them.

And that deeper knowledge and understanding is what is going to allow you to charge the big bucks because you’ll be have more clarity and insight with which to define your support solutions.

Dear Danielle: How Can I Sell My Services without Being Sold To

Dear Danielle: How Can I Sell Without Being Sold To?

Dear Danielle: I have found that almost every potential client I have talked to about my services trying to get their business, they in turn try to sell me their products. What is a polite way to reject someone’s product when you are telling them about your services and how you can help their business? —Michelle Prieto

This question left out a lot of details and context so I asked Michelle to elaborate a bit more. Here’s what she added:

Thank you for responding! I’ve attended several expos/events during the last year and have found it beneficial handing out cards and briefly speaking with people. A lot of the people I have come across start out being prospective clients, but by the end of our conversation, I feel since I didn’t purchase their product, they end with “Ok, I’ll call you.” Most are people who don’t know me that I have approached first. When I decided to venture into this business, I wanted my focus to be on helping small business owners grow their business by relieving some of the pressure of paperwork (no specific field). I have succeeded with that focused area until I come across someone who is selling a product. I’ve worked in an office setting since I was 12 (I started by helping out at my uncle’s Real Estate office doing misc. items). I’m very confident about my capabilities and skills. The area I am struggling in is finding and finally achieving clients. It has been a difficult year, but I am determined to make my business work.

Thanks for the extra context. That helps a lot!

Okay, so here’s what’s going on. These aren’t prospective clients. These are just people you’ve cornered at an event.

What you’re doing is a form of cold-calling, only in person instead of over the phone. You’re trying to sell your services to anyone and everyone—people who don’t know you from Adam. They might listen politely, but you’ll never hear from most, if any, of them.

Plus, it’s the wrong platform. You’re trying to “sell” your services in an environment where everyone is “selling.” And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. 😉

This is a very common mistake that most new business owners make. They have no clue what they should be doing to get clients so they default to selling to anyone and everyone.

But promoting a professional service isn’t the same thing as selling a Sham Wow.

You’re rushing the process and approaching the wrong people in the wrong environment.

What you really want to be doing is seeking relationships, not sales.

No one likes to be sold to and especially not right off the bat. There’s some finesse involved, and a time and place for certain kinds of conversations.

Marketing professional services is a lot like dating. You don’t go on one date and immediately launch into all your requirements for a spouse and your urgency to get married.

Relationships are grown and nurtured over time, and only after there is some mutual interest established in moving forward.

Your competence and ability in the work you do has nothing to do with your competence and ability in marketing your business. They are two completely different skillsets.

And that’s where you will benefit: by learning about marketing and how professional services are best promoted (i.e., relationship building, not cold-calling, and letting people come to you).

Do things a little differently and you’ll get better results:

  1. Don’t cold-call/cold-sell.Talk about their businesses, not yours. What are their common challenges and frustrations in running their business? What kind of goals and objectives do they have? You become far more interesting and of interest to people when you are interested in them.
  2. Get a target market. Without one, all you’re doing is shooting your arrows into the wind in all directions without any intention. That’s an extremely inefficient and ineffective way to get business and you’ll wear yourself out long before seeing any results. When you decide who to focus on (i.e., your target market), you can then figure out where those folks specifically are hanging out, what their common needs, goals and challenges are, and then approach them accordingly.
  3. Give a “gift,” not business cards, something informative that is actually useful and of interest and value. And of course, to determine what will be of interest and value, you need a target market. Your useful “gift” then becomes a pipeline for you. Those who are interested will then come to you. Those are real prospects.
  4. Funnel everything to your website. Make sure everything you give out includes your branding and a call to action to visit your website.
  5. Have some kind of lead capture mechanism on your website. Your website should then have some kind of free offer that people can sign up for to get. This gets them onto your mailing list so that you can continue to keep in touch with them through an ezine, blog posts, special announcements, etc. Those people who sign up are actual hot prospects because they’ve shown interest and made the choice to come to you, not the other way around. This is one of the ways you create your own marketing pipelines and have people coming to you, not you chasing after them.
  6. Ask for their business cards instead of giving yours out. After conversation and they’ve shown some level of interest, ask people if they’d like to receive your free offer and then follow up accordingly.

Hope that helps, Michelle. If you need me to elaborate on any of this, feel free to ask in the comments. 🙂