One of the things that we'll be tweaking in 2014 is our approach to our virtual business. Now, providing a majority of our services to referred clients, we're able to make the final step toward engaging only in projects that we absolutely love. We're getting pickier.
As business and career strategists, we have a solid grip on what makes organizations and people work effectively. Naturally, we've always applied the same foundational principals we instill in our clients to the way we do business. Since people routinely ask us how they can start working for themselves, preferably virtually, here are a few tidbits of advice that we know to be true and that we'll be leaning even further into during the year ahead as we become more and more referral based.
As we've said over and over, nothing is more attractive than knowing who you are – your strengths, your natural talents, your passions. That's how you fine tune what you should be doing in life. That's how you present a compelling, confident case for potential clients to hire you. With each experiment you undertake in life (and undertake a lot!), strive to use what you learn to inform your knowledge of what makes you tick and what makes you shine. People want to work with people who have a clear sense of self – people who are in the pocket.
Once you know who you are, the work is just getting started. You need to have a handle on what you've accomplished and what you can achieve going forward. In this rough economic and employment landscape, being an "ideas person" has never been so important. You need to tell potential clients how you can add value. Figure out how you can provide the vision that has been the roadblock for your potential client. If they knew the answers, they wouldn't need you.
This may seem simple, but you'd be surprised at how often this comes up when we're working on a project that involves fixing broken interpersonal relationships inside companies. Many dysfunctional workplaces and workgroups are operating with an absence of trust. It's usually the small stuff that suffocates trust. So, if you say you'll get it done in a week, get in done in 6 days. If you say you'll e-mail on Friday, meet or beat that deadline. Unreliability is one thing in your personal life, but is completely unacceptable in business. Interesting side note… Many people learn – yes learn – untrustworthiness from managers. For example, they see a manager not getting back to e-mail as "a way to show who is important" and mimic the behavior. Unreliability is ugly at all levels; your own business will never survive without trust.
There's a lot to working on your own. If you can't keep all of the balls in the air, you'll lose steam fast. Many of the businesses/workgroups we work with are going through a rough patch because there is no sense of purpose – no vision of what matters and no shared focus on what's most important. When employees flail, things deteriorate. Working virtually, we rely on e-mail. One way we prioritize is by first actively managing messages from our core business. Non-emergency messages from friends, etc. can wait 12-24 hours. It's a pretty small thing, but – as is the case with trust – it's the little stuff that serves as the foundation for a more profound ability to prioritize.
Early on, we gave up devaluing our services. Gravity (and potential clients) will pull you towards doing work for much less than you are worth. Don't play. If you know yourself and are doing what you should be doing in life, there is no reason to devalue yourself. Although it may seem counterintuitive, potential clients find the word "no" attractive because so few people will say it. Hone numbers 1-4, and this will come much easier.
What about you? Which of these five suggestions is the toughest for you?