I first discovered Maggie and her work while doing one of my free site reviews. While I was nosing around, I saw that in her first year of self-employment she was completely booked out and able to exceed her former salary. WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY.
I thought Maggie’s insights would be particularly interesting because her business isn’t really internet-based! She’s gotten booked out without using any of those tips you usually hear – no opt-in, no sales funnel, no webinars. She offers research, writing, planning, and project management services to her clients in real life!
I was so impressed I begged her to share her insights on how to to get booked out.
It might sound crazy, but it’s possible. In 365 days, I launched a business, and had booked enough work that I was able to replace and then exceed my full-time employment salary. How? I’ll share the strategies that worked for me. But first, let’s go back in time…
In October 2014, I became very aware that my job (librarian) was not a good fit. After five years, I had plateaued in my position, and, for a variety of reasons, was not interested in climbing the ladder at the organization.
In November I began plotting my escape – making lists of what I could do, what I wanted to do, what I was good at, what I was bad at – and then spent the winter crunching numbers, building a website, and trying to find work.
In March 2015, I submitted my resignation letter. I was incredibly excited, but also very, very nervous. (That day, I called my husband and asked, for the millionth time, if he thought I was crazy. He did, but encouraged me anyway.)
In April 2015, I left full-time employment for self-employment and launched my business, Creative Clarity.
A couple of days after I left my job, I sat down at my desk and started working on client projects. I worked steadily throughout the summer, worked overtime during the fall, took most of December off, and then resumed work in January. Since then, I’ve been working, working, working, and now have client work booked into 2017.
Here are some strategies I’ve used to get booked out
1. Bridge the gap between full-time employment and your own business
Knowing that I wanted to pivot from librarianship to research, writing, and planning helped me to both create linkages and bridge the gaps in my experience. I had done tons of research and writing, but while I loved planning, I didn’t have much professional experience in that area.
While I was still working as a librarian, I volunteered to create a work plan for a local non-profit. Then a small contract came up that allowed me to conduct community research and planning. After that, a local youth program asked me to come and facilitate a planning session with their staff. Suddenly, I was building a portfolio and a reputation while still receiving a regular paycheck.
2. Share your work with your supporters
A group of about 40 of my friends, family, close colleagues, mentors, and former co-workers received personal emails explaining the forthcoming change in my professional life. It took a long time to write individual messages, but the feedback and support that I received were invaluable.
Individuals that received my email hired me, recommended me to their own networks, and continue to support me simply by encouraging me or asking how my business is doing.
My friend and yoga teacher said she kept my initial email, knowing we would work together in the future but was not sure how. Fast-forward a year later and I’ve written her business plan and will continue to support her in seeking small business grants.
3. Put yourself where your clients are, and give them what they need
Because I am not an online business, I decided to forego the opt-in/newsletter advice that is frequently given. Instead, I meet my clients where they are: usually, this means conferences and networking events. Conference presentations that time to put together, yes, but they are a wonderful way to meet a broader audience.
Because my presentations are action-packed and full of usable information, prospective clients learn what I do and what the outcomes of my work are. At the last conference I presented at, no less than three potential clients were waiting at the bottom of the stage for me, wanting to talk about long-term projects. (Bonus: Anyone who can’t afford me also leaves with high-value content!)
4. Have criteria for what work you’d like to do, but be open to the opportunities you could never see coming
Creating dream customer personas and lists of sectors or businesses you want to work with are important. So is having a checklist in place to help you decide whether proposed work is in your wheelhouse or not.
Equally important is being open to opportunities you couldn’t have dreamed. Maybe a client has praised you and passed your information along to a colleague in another field. Be open, and consider how this could strengthen your portfolio or expose you to another sector.
5. Take a slight pay cut for long-term work
Long-term work makes me really happy. It’s reassuring to know that someone will be paying me six months down the road, and freeing to set aside the mental burden of having to hustle for new clients each month. I’ll discount my day rate up to 20% for long-term projects that I’m really excited about.
6. Ask happy clients what else they need, or pitch additional work related to the work you have already done
Finding a consultant or contractor who’s the perfect fit is time consuming. If you enjoyed working with a client and know that they loved your work, make it clear to them that you would like to work together again.
Provide examples of ways you could work together in the future. Or, have you turned in a deliverable and have some ideas about how to make a project even more awesome? Pitch additional services.
7. Just ask!
Nothing is more important than this: Just. Ask. Regularly Google your dream client, or look for stories about them in local media. Seek them out and ask them what they’re having trouble with.
What do you offer that would make their lives much easier? How can your work make theirs better? Sometimes you’ll be rejected. Sometimes you won’t! And when you’re in the groove, being paid well to do work that you love, you won’t regret asking.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights, Maggie! Do you guys have any questions for her?
P.S. Did you know I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to self-employment? So much helpful info! All in one place!