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.
When you live in New York City, it’s bound to happen eventually. Against your better judgement, you will decide that it’s absolutely necessary to attend a sample sale for one of your favorite brands.
Anyone who knows me can imagine that the sample sale environment is not my cup of tea. I don’t possess most of the characteristics required to be a good sample sale shopper: I’m anxiety prone, I like to take my time, and above all I’m incredibly indecisive. But when I saw that my all-time favorite lingerie brand, Hanky Panky, was having a sample sale at the Chelsea Market, I couldn’t resist. I figured, it’s just lingerie, how complicated or intimidating could it be?
A couple weeks before the sale, I saw a deal on Gilt City to pay $10 for one-hour of early access to the event. I was sold. In the fine print of the voucher, I noticed a note: bag and coat check will be required. I’m guessing this is a pretty standard practice to prevent theft at sample sales. I quickly decided I didn’t want to have to deal with that. I would bring only what I absolutely needed: my pocket-sized credit card case, my phone, and a reusable shopping bag that could easily fold up and clip to my belt loop. My first tip for successfully navigating a sample sale: avoid the bag and coat check, be a man, and use your pockets!
On the day of the sample sale, my Gilt City voucher allowed me to gain access at 11:00A, but I’d still resolved to arrive by at least 10:30A. My second tip for successfully navigating a sample sale: arrive at least half an hour before the doors open. I arrived around 10:20A and was number six in line. I was feeling both accomplished and incredibly nervous. Everything had perfectly fallen into place, but would I be able to hold my own once the doors opened?
Finally, it was 11:00A, the moment of truth. They checked my voucher, and I whizzed in, past the bag and coat check and line that was forming there. My plan had worked! I beelined for the bin of small v-kinis and literally started grabbing one in every color. I continued to the bin of extra-small boy shorts and the racks of small tanks and chemises with the same approach – grab one of everything. The employees were looking at me like I was crazy, offering me bags left and right to hold my loot. I, of course, had no intention of buying forty pairs of underwear or a dozen tanks, but I figured it was best to grab now and decide later. My third tip for successfully navigating a sample sale: if you see it and there’s a 1% chance you might want it, pick it up, and don’t put it down until you’re ready to make your purchases.
I survived my first lap without a hitch, but as I made my second round, things started to heat up. Every inch of the space was mobbed, and you had to shove your way in to each rack and bin. It was time to assess what I had, return what I didn’t want, and head to the checkout line. My fourth tip for successfully navigating a sample is to be sure to check the payment methods that are accepted – this particular sale accepted cash and credit card, but some may be cash only!
I left feeling excited and empowered – I’d successfully conquered my first sample sale with a total savings of $215 off retail! Despite the anxiety and insanity, it was totally worth it, and I’d absolutely be willing to brave another sample sale again. If you’re scoping out sample sales and planning to attend in the future, I’ve got one last piece of advice. My fifth and final tip for successfully navigating a sample sale is to note that you may not be able to try items on, as we were not at Hanky Panky.
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.
Living in New York City has forever changed my perspective on the 9/11 attacks. There is an indescribable energy and sense of community in this city that you do not fully experience until you build your life here. I can’t even begin to fathom how that energy shifted on September 11, 2001.
“The President announced that Friday was a National Day of Prayer. Our Social Studies class gathered in a circle at 12pm, held hands, and everyone bowed their heads. That was awesome. But the truth is, I’m scared.” – Journal, September 14, 2001
I was reading back through old journal entries from that day and the days and months to follow. I was only thirteen at the time, in the eighth grade, and I was scared for our nation. I visited NYC for the first time with my parents five months later, and we went to ground zero.
“There wasn’t much wreckage left. We got to see all the mementos people left on the fence around the construction site. There was a slightly different smell and feel in the air.” – Journal, February 9, 2002
I moved to NYC last November and finally went to the 9/11 Memorial a few weeks ago. It was an incredibly emotional and sickening experience. In fact, it was too much for me to handle all in one visit, but I look forward to going back sometime soon. What you realize when you live in this city is how close everyone is not only physically but also emotionally. The community here is like a set of dominoes. When one shifts the others follow suit, altering the collective energy. I imagine on September 11, 2001 that as the Twin Towers fell and people fell, NYC fell with it. Not in defeat, never in defeat, but in reverence.
Today is my first 9/11 in NYC. As I reflect on the impact of the attacks that happened fourteen years ago, I’m awe of the resilience and strength of this community, and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a part of it.
Crave, a verb:
1. To long for; want greatly, desire eagerly
2. To require; need
A few months ago I debuted the first edition of CRAVE with a compilation of my virtual hoardings. You know all those pictures, articles, and posts you Like on social media? What happens to them? How many articles have you Liked and actually read? Did you ever buy that great new product you Liked? Most times, the answer is no. So, I began periodically reviewing my likes and bookmarking the information in a folder called Cravings.
In this edition of CRAVE, I’m sharing some of my latest cravings from a Saturday of shopping around New York City. A couple weekends ago, I was hosting some out-of-town company. We walked through the park, hopped onto the subway, and ventured out onto the streets of Soho with one destination in mind: The Reformation. Coincidentally, we’d both been eying dresses from the sustainable LA-based boutique. Next, I suggested we shop for accessories at Erica Weiner, a Brooklyn-based antique and vintage-inspired jewelry brand with a shop on the edge of Little Italy. After that, we let or instincts guide us and roamed based on the flow of the crosswalks. This landed us at our final destination: a below-ground shop with an interesting window display and a name we couldn’t resist: Fair Folks and a Goat. As we explored the wares, I was reminded of that spark you get when a store window catches your eye, you wander inside, and touch, feel, or taste things as opposed to just reading reviews or looking at images on a screen. It was then I realized how much I’d been craving a shopping experience offline.
Not in NYC, don’t worry! All of these retailers are all available online as well.
Pining for… the perfect LBD to take from day to night? Head to The Reformation and check out their collection of ribbed stretch jersey shift dresses. I opted for the Arly Dress in black. No matter which style you choose, it can easily be dressed down for daytime with flats and a crossbody or dressed up for nighttime with wedges and a clutch.
Yearning for… a unique conversation piece to wear to your next event? You need a Heartbeats necklace by Erica Weiner. I wore my Heartbeats necklace featuring the Talking Heads lyric “This must be the place” to a garden party a week after purchasing it, and nearly every person I chatted with that night remarked on the necklace and the quote.
FAIR FOLKS AND A GOAT
Longing for… the most functional bag to carry in the city or on your next trip? Let’s start a movement to revive the fanny pack, which has now been rebranded by Herschel as the hip pack. If you’ve ever lived or traveled in an urban environment like NYC, you know it’s essential to have a great bag that is functional and fashionable. I typically turn to my crossbody or occasionally a backpack, but I have to admit, the hip pack is the most aptly designed for pedestrian, city life.
Still craving more? Check out CRAVE: First Edition!