Spend a little time each week on business development, regardless of whether or not you have a full roster of business.
If you take Alice’s approach, you’re likely not thinking about or doing much business development in the abundant times. Your career is 98% focused on client retention – doing the work and hopefully making them happy enough to bring in repeat business. Focusing on client satisfaction is key – it’s more cost-effective to get work from established clients than it is from new ones.
This approach is easier in the abundant times as it does not require you to be putting yourself out there on a regular basis. It’s easier, that is, until one of your clients decides they don’t need you anymore. Suddenly you’re left with a gaping hole in your schedule and your paycheck, and no groundwork started to fill that hole.
This means that you must now sell your services from a place of need, which is more difficult to do. I know from choosing vendors and being a vendor myself that clients rarely choose the person who is most in need of the business. That need feels like desperation, which is often off-putting. Some people have a knack for the hard sell, but most of us don’t.
Alice’s approach, which is very common, is tantamount to taking your health for granted until you are diagnosed with a disease, and only then buckling down and changing your diet and exercise regimen. The sudden need for change is uncomfortable, difficult and awkward. It forces you into a high-stakes game right at the moment when you’re feeling panicky and uncertain.
By contrast, if you’re networking and connecting with people consistently each week, the odds are new clients will come onto your roster faster than you’ll lose your older clients. Therefore, the loss of one client, even a big one, will not be a devastating blow. You have other work coming in. You may even be able to expand your work with some of those clients to the point where you don’t need to replace the old client right away.
If you’ve been consistent, you’ll have contacts and relationships that you made when you were not feeling desperate for a new project, which will make it far easier for you to contact them asking for business if necessary.
The time invested may wind up being similar whether you are doing a little networking each week or doing a mass campaign for a month. But the success rate of the first approach will be much higher, and it will feel far less icky and vulnerable.
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