Going Indie – Four Ways to Win More Work

Let’s assume you’ve done everything right from the last post. You’ve structured your agreement to specify exactly what done means and you’ve finished that work. What next? Do you want to collect your check and send the client on their way? Heck no!

Quite often you will be constructing specific agreements with a specific scope of work associated. In this case, you need to be looking out for opportunities to spin up a second or successive contract after demonstrating your capabilities by successfully completing a project on time.

I think of it like a that old game: Barrel of Monkeys. You need to carefully and strategically link one scope of work to a future need just like you pick up a stranded monkey extending a chain of plastic primates.

Every fixed-fee scope of work always has more work at the tail-end. Whether it’s out-of-scope bug-fixes, feature-tweaks or new-features, there’s always something to put into a maintenance agreement. Be prepared to handle transitional work and think about how you want to structure an agreement to handle it.

The Best Place to Find More Work is With Your Current Clients

Any seasoned sales-person will tell you the same thing: the best place to find more work is from your existing clients and software is no different.

Keep your clients happy and you will guarantee your own success in your new career as an independent technology consultant. Whether it’s more work with an existing client or a new project from a referral, I like to keep four things in mind when it comes to client management:

 

Happy Clients Lead to More Work

Any seasoned sales-person will tell you the same thing: the best place to find more work is from your existing clients and software is no different.

Keep your clients happy and you will guarantee your own success in your new career as an independent technology consultant. Whether it’s more work with an existing client or a new project from a referral, I like to keep 4 things in mind whenever I interact with clients:

1. Be Nice

If you’re a child of the 80s like me, you might appreciate (or perhaps scoff at) this Patrick Swayze reference. In Roadhouse, his character, Dalton, is hired as a new cooler, tasked with turning a brutal and profit-less bar into the hottest club in town. He has three rules for his new bouncers to follow, expressed in a memorable two-minute monologue that is one parts zen and three parts cool Patrick Swayze. My favorite rule:

“Be nice.” Always. Being a likable person is, by far, the most important aspect to any client-vendor relationship. If they don’t enjoy speaking to you, there’s a good chance they won’t be clients for very long.

Tough circumstances where your client is being unreasonable are opportunities for you to stake your claim. It’s like Lincoln said (yes, Lincoln and Swayze side-by-side):

nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

Prove yourself by staying calm and thinking clearly in a tough situation, and be rewarded with more trust, license and authority. I like this being nice thing.

Dalton goes on to say “I want you to remember that it’s a job, it’s nothing personal.” As soon as you start taking things personally, you get defensive, your tone changes and everything falls apart. So stay cool, don’t take things personally and be nice.

2. Identify the Real Decision Maker

Part of your job as a consultant is to hear the signal through the noise. With any project, there’s bound to be a decent amount of noise coming from different roles in the company, obfuscating their real needs.

Part of this is finding the real stakeholder: the person who everyone reports to, the person who can green light or shoot down everyone’s hard work. The more you can get this person involved in the day-to-day the easier it will be to achieve excellent results that make everyone smile.

3. Solve Real Needs

Just because you’ve found the real decision maker, it doesn’t mean you need to pander to their every request. Identify the high-level goals and push aside the asks that don’t cultivate big and measurable results.

Identifying the best solution is not always easy, however. And once you have one, it can be even harder to convince decision makers to change their mind. In my experience, the best way to do it is effective but often thankless, and that’s okay: It has to be their idea.

Sure you can create a rich Keynote™ presentation with your breakdown of the current problem, their proposed solution and your solution, but then you’re basically going head-to-head with your client. You never want to tell a client their idea is bad if you can help it.

Instead, get yourself involved in a brainstorm, white-boarding session or any open discussion where you can dive into the problem with less friction. Here you can plant a seed for your idea and let the client cultivate it into a full blown strategy with your aide.

4. Be an Active Listener

This sounds trivial and debatably falls under #1 above. Even when your client is emailing you requests that are trivial or even distracting, try your best to always address them.

I make a point of responding to each and every request I get, even if it requires a seemingly tedious response. It’s always better to educate your client and to be transparent about your thinking, then to let a question go unanswered. If you ignore it now, they might forget about it in the short-term, but you can bet it will come up again if you don’t address it.

Suggested Read:

Harry Beckwith may be a traditional business consultant, but his content is just as applicable to the business of an indie technology consultant or freelancer. Check out What Clients Love for more tips on keeping your clients coming back for more.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series. If you enjoyed this post, you can follow me on twitter: @frivolousjosh

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