The Freelancers Union Spark events often address topics specific to self-employed life, but this month’s subject centered on a practice that’s key to any successful business: creating a client pipeline with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. In the daily hustle of submitting deliverables to clients, it’s easy to lose track of the backbone of your business. When no one is paying you to sit down for a few hours each week and work on bookkeeping, site updates, or contract revisions, these tasks can quickly fall to the bottom of the never-ending to-do list. What you have to remember is the long-term impact of putting time and energy into your business. By starting with a CRM system, you can begin to develop a valuable way track your clients from initial contact to signed contract and beyond.
STEP 1: Craft a form to record your leads. Include basic information like name, contact information, lead source, and services requested.
LONG-TERM IMPACT: No matter what information you choose to include, the most important piece of data is the lead source. By identifying where your leads come from (particularly leads that become clients), you can learn which channels are best to invest your time, energy, and resources in order to gain business.
Step 2: Qualify your leads by establishing a set of basic questions to ask each potential client. For example: What’s the timeline for the project? What are the deliverables? What’s the budget? To streamline this process, consider creating a form email you can send to your leads after first contact is made. You may also want to make this step part of your CRM system – add a section to track client communication, record their answers to your questions, and prepare for following up. (Fun Fact: 90% of sales are lost when no second contact is made!)
LONG-TERM IMPACT: The answers to your individualized set of basic questions should begin to inform you if your potential client is going to be a good fit. For example: Does the timeline for this project fit into your current workload? Can the requested deliverables be completed within the given timeline? Does the budget align with your rates?
Step 3: Have your process down pat by preparing for every possible outcome. If the answers to your basic questions aren’t quite ideal, don’t rule out this potential client just yet! Know how to address some of the most common client issues before they arise. For instance, what’s your policy when a potential client requests a tight turnaround? Do you add a rush fee? What if you typically require a certain percentage of a project fee upfront, and a client requests to pay in a lump sum at completion? How do you handle clients who don’t have a clear vision for their project and want your input?
LONG-TERM IMPACT: When you have your policies in place and know how to answer tough questions from clients, you’re not only protecting yourself and your client relationships but also putting yourself one step closer to building a successful business. Addressing issues on a case-by-case basis can get murky – it’s easy for emotions to get involved and cloud your decision-making abilities. Standing firm in your businesses practices will pay off in the long run!
Step 4: It’s the moment of truth: is your lead signing a contract or taking the project elsewhere? Either way, you can add the results to your CRM system. After you score a new client, continue to track the progress of the project to completion. If your lead didn’t work out, remember that you can always gain something from a loss. Go back through the pipeline and identify where you and the lead diverged.
LONG-TERM IMPACT: Once you sign a client, it’s important to continue to track the progress of the project to completion because it will help you if you work with that client on future projects. It also gives you the opportunity to create a case study for the project that could be useful to future clients looking for similar work. Taking a little time to assess why a particular project didn’t work out is equally important. It could help you refine your process, policies, or pricing and improve your pipeline for future opportunities.
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Freelancers Union Spark events take place monthly in twenty cities around the country. Visit the Freelancers Union site to find out about a Spark event near you. Next month’s event is a freelancers tax workshop – you won’t want to miss it! If you’re in the NYC area, stop by the Manhattan Spark, and say hello! I’ll be there co-leading! For more information about Freelancers Union or Spark events, feel free to tweet me @AOCBlogGirl – I’d be happy to answer your questions.
Many of the Freelancer’s Union Spark event topics are very straightforward – for example, how to make your contract your best ally or how to negotiate the rates you deserve – but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from November’s topic, how to build an inspired business. When I arrived, I was excited to learn that a guest speaker, Life Coach Laurie Gerber of the Handel Group, would be leading the discussion. She began by having us collectively make a list of who or what inspires us.
Some of My Favorite Bits of Freelancer Inspiration:
- Learning from clients
- People who follow-through, execute, and get the job done
- Collaborating with others
- Businesses that help you to think of something in a new way
- Failing and pressing forward anyway
I contributed to the discussion by sharing what inspires me most in my freelance career: those who choose an unconventional path. This is what motivated me to pursue freelancing in the first place – I didn’t want a typical 9-5 job, and I didn’t want to climb a company ladder. I wanted to carve my own way and create a career for myself. I’m continually excited by the artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups I work with who share this same desire and practice it in their work.
Next, we were encouraged to draw from what inspires us in order to create a mission statement for our own work – not for our business, not to publish on our websites or portfolios – a personal mission statement. We had to ask ourselves what drives and inspires us to do what we do. For me, this task was much more difficult than I anticipated, and it’s still a work in progress. I tried both re-working the type of mission statement I have on my portfolio site and starting from scratch, but I wasn’t satisfied. I really began to question why I do what I do and how it could be summed up in one sentence. I urge you to take this challenge! If you’re having difficulty like I was, here are some tips from Laurie:
What makes an inspired personal mission?
- Consider how your work allows you to give value
- Be specific, clear, and concise
- Avoid clichés
- Think about breathing life into your work – give it a persona and a voice
- Reflect on what makes you and your work unique and authentic
The third and final step toward building an inspired business was rating ourselves based on five characteristics of an inspired freelancer:
- You’ve got a clear vision for your business
- Your work is a reflection of what inspires you
- You can easily express what you do and why you do it
- You take risks, and your business improves as a result
- You learn from your mistakes, and your business improves as a result
Those of you who know me can probably guess which of these characteristics got the lowest ranking: risk-taking. I may have taken the great leap to leave the traditional workforce and forgo health insurance, job security, and consistent paychecks, but since then, I haven’t taken many risks in my freelance career. The biggest leap I’ve taken was deciding on a bare minimum rate I was willing to accept and declining to negotiate or work with clients who weren’t willing to pay that amount. Fortunately, Laurie offered a solution for combatting your lowest ranked attribute: make a promise with a consequence. For example: I promise to take one small risk every day before noon or else I’m not allowed to watch TV that day.
Let’s continue the conversation! Share who or what inspires you, your personal mission, or your promise with a consequence tagging @FreelancersU and me, @AOCBlogGirl, using the hashtag #InspiredBiz. AND, if you have any questions about the Freelancer’s Union Spark events, feel free to tweet me – I’ve just signed on as a co-leader for the Manhattan Spark events, so I have all the inside scoop!
I typically scoff at girls who wear makeup to the gym, but I wasn’t preparing for just any workout. I was getting ready for the Skinnygirl Tastemakers Cycling & Cocktails event with Bethenny Frankel herself.
Public transportation had failed me numerous times lately, leaving me trapped in a stalled subway car or sprinting off a bus and down several avenues. Tonight, I couldn’t risk being late, so I decided to walk from my Upper East Side home office, across Central Park, to the Upper West Side Flywheel.
I arrived with time to spare, checked in at the front desk, and beelined for the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and was horrified! I couldn’t meet Bethenny Frankel looking like this! While my 2.4-mile walk to the event allowed me to arrive on time, it did not allow me to maintain my fresh face and perfect ponytail. Fortunately, the Flywheel bathrooms are stocked with nearly every beauty product on the planet, and I was quickly able to regain my Bethenny-ready face.
Around this time my friend Kelly arrived, and we secured our place first in line outside the studio where Bethenny was doing a pre-workout interview. After waiting a few minutes, the door flew open, and Bethenny somehow slipped out in the sea of press. Kelly and I entered the studio and took two bikes in the back. Neither of us had been to a spin class, and we were certain we were about to have our butts beaten (literally). After everyone was in place, Bethenny made her grand entrance, gave a brief introduction, and then left us to suffer through the cycling alone!
Somehow I survived my first spin class, but I was certain my Bethenny-ready face had once again melted off from the sweat dripping down my brow. Outside the studio, Bethenny was ready and waiting for us with a cocktail in hand. She posed for photos, gave a toast, and offered up a short Q&A. I was pleasantly surprised to see my makeup didn’t look too shabby in our snapshot, and I even got her to sign my copy of A Place of Yes!
Many of you know that meeting Bethenny has been a dream of mine, especially since moving to New York City. I’ve admired Bethenny for a long time for her perseverance in business and in her personal life. I believe she is one of the most savvy, strong, and saucy entrepreneurs in the business world, and love her or hate her, Bethenny’s no-BS, ball-busting approach has proved to be wildly successful. Her book, A Place of Yes, was incredibly inspirational and transformative for me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone (in fact, if you need a copy, hit me up – I keep about ten on hand just to give out to others).
If you want to be the first to know about all things Skinnygirl or if live in the NYC area and want a chance to meet Bethenny at events in the future, be sure to join the Skinnygirl Tastemakers.
I started following Jennifer Sterling on social media after discovering her profile through a mutual friend. After a few exchanges on Periscope, we began to form a virtual friendship. It was clear that Jennifer and I had an instant connection. We finally met in person at her intimate event, Nourish & Nosh.
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, what am I really hungry for? In the kitchen? In the bedroom? In life? Jennifer’s approach to holistic health shows you how to nourish your body at the table and away from it.
The Nourish & Nosh event consisted of three primary components, each of which are integral to Jennifer’s signature system: feeding your body through movement, food, and sexuality.
The evening kicked off with a Nourish Movement Class, a sensual, restorative, and mindful mix of guided choreography and improvisation to an amazing playlist composed by Jennifer. I left the class feeling both energized and rejuvenated in my body.
After working up an appetite, we came together to enjoy a carefully curated plant-based meal, free of eight of the more common allergens (wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish). I’m not personally affected by any food allergies, but I was blown away by how delicious an entire three-course meal could be without these ingredients, particularly this Moroccan Spiced Delicata Squash Stoup (yes, stoup! soup + stew = stoup!).
For the final component of the evening, we circled up for a discussion about understanding our authentic sexual tastes with holistic sex and relationship coach, Anain Bjorkquist. The biggest takeaway was the one thing we can learn from the kink community: to explicitly communicate what we want from our partner. Ultimately, this candid conversation allowed us to tie together all aspects of the evening and explore the idea of nourishing our bodies by finding pleasure in all that we do: in movement or exercise, in food, and in our sex lives.
To learn more about Jennifer and her approach to health and movement, visit her site, connect with her on Facebook and all other social media @JennMSterling, and join live her on Periscope. If you’re in the NYC area, attend the next Nourish & Nosh in November – you don’t want to miss this amazing event, available at the early-bird rate until October 25th! Not in NYC? Check out Jennifer’s brand new e- course, BodyLove, a 30-Day program that will leave you feeling confident and irresistible from the inside out.
“Goals take commitment but are much more achievable when handled realistically and from a place of possibility.” – Cyndie Spiegel
Cyndie Spiegel is a business strategy coach for creative entrepreneurs who believes in the profound effects available through integrating meditation into your career. I first discovered her on Periscope and instantly connected with her upbeat personality and creative spirit as well as her background in fashion. I also find Cyndie particularly relatable because she never fails to lighten the mood or emphasize a point with a swear word (or two). I finally had the chance to meet her in person at the Freelancer’s Union popup event, Meditate, Create, and Cultivate.
Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly curious about meditation. I read a couple books (both of which I would highly recommend – a personal narrative by Dan Harris called 10% Happier and a beginner’s guide called 8 Minute Meditation). I started practicing but never consistently. Then, within the past couple weeks, meditation started popping up in various facets of my life – in a yoga class, on Periscope, and in my horoscope. When I saw Cyndie’s workshop, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to delve deeper.
Meditation is often thought of as a spiritual practice. However, Cyndie believes in approaching it in a more practical way. She guided us through a basic ten minute meditation followed by a series of activities focused on letting go of limiting beliefs and gaining clarity in goalsetting. First, Cyndie directed us to sit comfortably, close our eyes, and root ourselves in the present moment. Next, she encouraged us to honor the time to connect with ourselves and our inner wisdom. As the minutes went on, Cyndie reminded us to be patient, keep sitting, and focus on our breath. The activities that followed aimed to harness the clarity and openness gained through meditation and apply it to a goal we intend to accomplish in the next three months.
To me, goalsetting can be intimidating and overwhelming. The simple act of stating a goal can make you feel vulnerable or anxious as the pressure to achieve it amounts. Detailing the steps, checkpoints, and barriers to accomplishing a goal can be equally staggering. You may begin to realize that the path to your goal is long or that there may be a number of roadblocks along the way. These feelings and beliefs are the exact limitations that can prevent you from realizing your goal. After using Cyndie’s meditation method, I felt the negativity dissipate, and I was able to approach the goalsetting process with more confidence. I left the event feeling incredibly energized and excited to expand my meditation practice into my career and my current and future goals.