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Freelancers and consultants: When friendly conversations morph into your performance appraisal

It starts out as a regular conversation. You’re talking with family or friends and the topic of your business comes up. Either because you’re excited about your business and love to share what is going on or because you suspect someone may know of networking opportunities, you enjoy telling what you’re up to. But then the other party turns the conversation into a fact-finding mission to evaluate what you are doing to market your business.

“Are you on LinkedIn?” he asks. “How many connections do you have? Why only 139?”

“How often do you blog?” she inquires. “Only twice a month? Everyone knows that Google “loves” blog content. You should be blogging every day. Or certainly every week.”

“What’s your elevator speech? Why isn’t it rolling off your tongue?” The critic opines.

And “Why are you phoning for work? Everyone knows that cold calling just doesn’t work” (though Aunt Sally has never tried it herself).

Yuck. It’s enough to make you regret showing up.

There’s three reasons to avoid such conversations or to put it another way, three things to help insulate you from advice that is off target, unrealistic, and uncomfortable, even if you acknowledge to yourself that your marketing isn’t ideal. (And whose is?)

First, while it’s easy to feel uneasy about all the marketing tactics you are not implementing or are not implementing consistently, it’s not easy to carry out all these activities concurrently and effectively. If you are doing everything, I assure you that you are not doing everything well enough to achieve the results you want. Every marketing activity requires quantity, not just quality. And quality, as well as quantity, takes a lot of time.

To market effectively, start with one or two strategies and focus. It’s easy to write a huge list of intentions but impossible to take action on all of them.

Second, you have paying freelance and consulting work to do. If you have been in business for any length of time, you may be taking care of assignments. You may even be working on several at the same time.

This is good! Yes, it’s good to have paying work.

Sounds obvious but it’s going to prevent you from doing lots of marketing. It’s inevitable—even necessary—for much of your marketing to fall by the wayside when you do have work. The marketing never stops when you are self-employed, but in practice your top responsibility is to meet tight deadlines for clients with your highest-quality work. Over time, repeat business will be your best source of new work. It’s foolish to postpone current work in the hope of getting more work. After all, the point of the whole business is to do actual paying work.

Third, these cross examinations or impromptu performance evaluations or whatever you want to call them are demoralizing and not helpful. If you are prone to doubt, this could incite even more. These people don’t know better than you. They are probably saying the same thing everyone else says on the internet about marketing but that doesn’t mean their advice is right for you.

In fact, it probably isn’t right for you.

So try to steer clear of these discussions. Opening yourself to too much discussion and conflicting input can drive you crazy if you let it. So don’t let it!


Originally posted 9-10-12

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