• 22Feb

    I saw a blog post last week from Marc Hausman, The Strategic Guy, about getting hip to sales. As a serial flack-for-hire who returns to consulting every few years, I understand the appeal of being your own boss and putting your own blood, sweat and tears into your job. As Marc points out, and as I hear consistently from the career coaches I interact with at NETSHARE, one of my clients who specializes in executive career management, the future of employment is in the work, not in the job. Companies are increasingly renting talent as consultants rather than hiring it, not only because of the cost savings but because it makes the best and the brightest available to deal with their immediate problems.

    And with the economic downturn, I have seen a flood seasoned professionals turn to consulting as a means to pay the bills. When the going gets tough and full-time jobs become scarce, creative executives rent their skills, at ths same time cultivating the connections they are looking for to land their next full-time gig. In the short-term, this means a glut on the consulting market, so rates adjust and work becomes harder to find.

    For those of us in PR and marketing who love our work, selling ourselves is an ongoing challenge. If you have a small consulting practice (read, party of one), then you are primarily focused on client service and getting the job done, which means business development too often takes a back seat. You need to make time to build your own marketing program.

    Build your marketing network. Use LinkedIn. Talk to your clients. (I get some of my best leads from existing clients.) Work the trade shows. Get yourself out there. Practice your own social media strategy, even though it’s hard to find the time to market your own services when you are working so hard for your clients.

    And in these times, Marc offers some sage advice about going about building your own business. You not only have to sell what you know, but you have to find buyers willing to pay for your services.  PR professionals, like freelance writers (since there are as many or more unemployed journalists as unemployed marketing professionals), tend to take the low bids in a tough market to get work coming in the door. It doesn’t take long until accepting those low bids starts to yield negative returns. It gets harder to make a livable wage because you are competing with the lowest common denominator.

    When bidding for contract work you need to not only find someone with the cash to pay the freight, but you need to stand firm on your rates. Sure, running your own business gives you the freedom to accept and turn down the work you want, and to set the rates and terms you want. However, discounting your services to land a contract that may offer bigger bucks later never works. Once you come in as the low bidder, you will never be able to sell your services for a premium, even when you know you are worth it.

    Don’t fall into the trap that many consultants indulge in – underselling yourself. There never is a payoff later, and those discounted or worse, free contracts seldom bring in new business. Loss leader contracts are just that, a loss, so stand your ground and stand behind your rates. And if you are using your network appropriately, you’ll know if your rates are out of line with the market.

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    Posted by Tom Woolf @ 12:03 am

3 Responses

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  • Marc Hausman Says:

    Great advice, Tom. And thanks for referencing the recent writing I have done on the Strategic Guy blog.

    In particular, I agree 100 percent with this statement from your post: “Once you come in as the low bidder, you will never be able to sell your services for a premium, even when you know you are worth it.”

    This is something the IT outsourcers in India have now realized. When you make price your differentiator, it is incredibly challenging to move to a value-based solution.

  • Sheri Singer Says:

    Agree. Last year, a competitor put a bid in to write the 20-page annual report (50 hrs) for a nonprofit at $1,000. The low-end market rate is about $5,000. The competitor got the job but at what long-term cost to the industry?

    Funny sidebar: She friended the client on Facebook, was late on every deadlines and making excuses while posting photos from her family’s beach house on Facebook. Very professional! You get what you pay for.

  • Jo Murray Says:

    I once lost an account to a competitor who charged about 10 percent of the going rate. The client asked a corporate PR professional whom we both knew what they should do. My colleague told the client that they got what they paid for.

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