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Freelancing and consulting: Why postpone what we can start today?

A marketing guru that I followed said that when setting up an appointment to meet with a prospect, whether by phone or in-person, it’s best to play hard to get. Look at your calendar and then don’t let on that you have many slots available. Don’t offer a time that is less than a week in the future. Tell him you only have two times that are still open.

His logic was that you wouldn’t go to a dentist who had lots of openings, now would you? He must not be much good if he is so unpopular.

A year or two later I had a jarring experience. My dentist referred me to an endodontist for a possible root canal. When I arrived, there was only one other person in the waiting room.

As my appointment progressed, the endodontist concurred that I needed the root canal. (By the way, root canals aren’t nearly so bad as you may imagine. Much less painful than many other medical procedures that are characterized by “discomfort” but feel more like outright pain.)

So I went to the receptionist to schedule the procedure, and she offered me several time slots that very same week.

Uh, wait a minute! Isn’t that the sign of someone in the tooth business who is not in demand?

I proceeded to select a time only two days later because I needed to get it done. Postponement was almost unthinkable. (That’s how you know you need a root canal.)

Again, I arrived at a waiting room that was almost empty. And somewhat surprisingly, the procedure went well.

I determined that the endodontist structured her practice and her partner’s practice to serve clients when they need service. Which is now!!

She keeps things moving along because patients don’t want to wait for root canals. They’ll go elsewhere rather than wait. Anyway, next week will provide a new supply of patients.

That’s how I like to run my freelance writing business. No, I can’t finish most assignments in a few hours and I don’t turn over patients at the same pace as the endodontist.

But I like to schedule an initial appointment as promptly as possible.

I rarely meet with clients in person since most are hundreds of miles away. Since I meet by phone, the time required is limited.

And since I spend lots of time at my desk, I generally have lots of freedom to fit these discussions in quickly. Actually, I welcome them as a break from writing and a change of pace.

This doesn’t mean I start writing that very same day or even the next day.

However, I love to think about research and writing assignments before I start. Sometimes I do internet research. Sometimes I play with ideas while I walk or do chores. I may think about a project as I fall asleep and ask my subconscious to supply me with ideas.

But mostly I like to move things along. If I want an assignment, I don’t mind showing that I’m available.

Originally posted 6-3-13

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