Networking and strategies for growing your business
Facilitated by Michaela Hayes and Molly Walker
What if you lost your professional network? What if all the people you once worked with no longer needed your services? Or, what if you discover that your client might not be the right fit after you spent hours and hours pulling your hair out on a project? Sounds like a nightmare, right?
It doesn’t have to be.
People always say, “don’t ask ‘what if?’” But, asking “what if?” can really help improve and grow your business. It’s always great to prepare for the “what if’s” so you can overcome obstacles, and come out as an even better communicator.
The “knights” of SF IABC’s Independent Communicators’ Roundtable have grappled with all of the above “what if’s” and then some. April’s meeting addressed the questions, “What if you lose your network and business is slow?” and, “What if you think you have the right client and then everything goes wrong?” Below is a summary of the answers that emerged during the meeting.
What to do when business is slow?
It’s true: people are much more likely to respond to personalized messages. If you’re having trouble gaining new clients, think about sending out personalized emails to your network. Here, you can notify prospects about what you’ve been working on lately and direct them to your website to learn more about what you do. Don’t ever be in a position where people question whether or not you’re still in business because they haven’t heard from you. And, if they don’t respond at first, remain positive; continue reaching out, because it will pay off.
Blog for your cause
Your business is now your cause. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so don’t let slow times get you down. See this as an opportunity to expand your network, allowing new people to see what you’re all about. Post content, literally, every day on your blogs, LinkedIn, and/or other social media. Eventually, you’ll start seeing more traffic on your pages and website.
Speak in front of others
We’re all communicators here so this should be easy, right? Well, maybe we’re not all extroverts, but we can all benefit from practicing speaking in front of people. Find a group where you’ll gain visibility with your prospective clients and get yourself on the agenda to make a presentation. This can be a great opportunity for you to practice your value proposition, and network with new people.
What to do when things go wrong?
Avoid crashing and burning
Remember, we’re communicators, so it’s very important to communicate everything up front. Know everything about the project you’re getting into from the start. Ask all the big questions so you can avoid problems later. Consider adding a clause to your contract that states, “this agreement is mutual, and any party can terminate it at any time,” or something of that sort. This will keep you from being tied down should things get rocky.
Have a “kill fee”
If you have an agreement that any party can terminate at any time, you’ll want to have a “kill fee.” A kill fee will ensure that you’ll get paid for whatever time you spent and any billable expenses, even if the project wasn’t completed. Your work is valuable, and even if a situation doesn’t work out you still deserve compensation for all your hard work, no matter what.
Learn from your mistakes
We learn the most valuable lessons when things go wrong. We all make mistakes. So, instead of getting down on yourself when a project doesn’t work out, consider it a learning experience. Once you figure it out, you can guarantee that next time you’ll be positive and not repeat the situation.
If you have any of your own “what if’s?” join us at one of our meetings in Oakland or San Francisco. You’ll find that our ICR knights are truly honorable, and would be honored to have you join them.
In addition, the group brainstormed about useful resources. These included:
Suggested resources for networking
Impact Hub Oakland (free on First Fridays)
Suggested resources for content inspiration
Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business, by Ted Prodromou
Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port
Seth Godin (author and blogger)
Theresa Hayes is a recent UC Berkeley graduate in rhetoric and a new member of IABC and SF IABC’s Independent Communicators’ Roundtable, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month, alternately in Oakland at mid-day and in San Francisco at the end of the day.