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Two ways to analyze and grow your freelance or consulting business

Are you frustrated with your freelance and consulting marketing? Perhaps you’ve tried lots of different ways to get clients but you feel stuck?

If so, it may be time to formally review your past clients and where they came from . . . your best access to prospects and your best access to sources of revenues . . . what has worked and what has not worked.

This is the perfect December activity. Annual planning is in the air, New Year’s resolutions are under consideration, and current assignments may be dropping off as corporate clients take off the rest of the year or delay new initiatives for January. So you may have plenty of time available for analysis and planning when you sit down to work.

There are two ways to approach analysis and planning. You can implement the first only if you already have had clients. The second way can help you improve your business even if you have not yet had your first paying client.

The first is to review every client you have had for the past several years. Five years are good if you have that much experience and can pull the data together. (Your tax records may help, depending on what you declared.)

Put together a table that includes name of client company, contact person, type of work, number of assignments, total income, how you obtained the client, and perhaps a more subjective column indicating “good” or “bad” client. If you’re a detail person, you can expand it to include more data, perhaps characteristics unique to your profession.

The second is to think about your ideal client and enumerate his characteristics. This is the way to go if you are new to freelancing / consulting or have had only a handful of clients.

Much has been written about ideal clients, generally in terms of the work relationship and their personalities. For instance, avoid people who want lower prices, who change their minds constantly, or who set tight deadlines but don’t give prompt feedback along the way.

Valid advice, but identifying these traits doesn’t help you determine where to find new clients. You need factual characteristics you can identify before you start prospecting and discovering the stresses in working with real companies and real people.

I’m referring to just-the-facts-ma’am criteria you can research. These may include industry, SIC code, location (do you work only with local businesses, virtually within your own country, or globally?), size of company, and other tangible clues as to whether they are candidates for your services.

For a preliminary list, check out online databases used for researching companies. The search page lists criteria for your consideration; the search then responds with actual companies that are possible prospects.

In my community (Bolingbrook, IL), via the public library’s website I can access such a resource online for free. Ours is called AtoZ Databases; ask your librarian for the one available in your community.

The more data the better, but don’t make your table so comprehensive that it’s out of alignment with your capability to deal with detail and finish time-consuming tasks you find boring.

Now that you have applied strategic thought to your ideal clients, it’s time to start contacting them in a structured, consistent fashion.

Originally posted 11-24-14

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