If you are in professional services, are a small business owner or a freelancer, you probably have had periods when the steady flow of work seems to turn off. In the early days of our consulting practice, we experienced this feast or famine cycle ourselves from time to time.
"Feast or famine" often happens in young businesses. The roller coaster experience goes something like this: You get a new client or two and become very busy doing the work. But the downside of being busy is that you stop most or all of your marketing efforts. Then, one day, you look up and realise that the client work is completed -- and you have no new clients.
At this point in our own business, we tend to experience less fluctuation. However, occasionally, one or the other of us needs more work. When this occurs, we find that doing one or more of the following steps gets the spigot running again.
Get in front of people
When you have gone weeks or months working with your head, your visibility has probably decreased. You need to increase your interaction. So, attend networking events that have produced results in the past. Go to business happy hours and socials. Spend a day or two working out of your local coworking facility.
These collaborative offices are a great way to meet other small business owners, develop new relationships and find future clients. If you are good at public speaking, reach out to organisations that use speakers and volunteer your services. If your schedule is flexible, suggest to these organisations that you can fill in as a last-minute substitution. We know a consultant in Richmond who lands one or two speeches each month substituting for others.
Depending on your business, you may be able to use Facebook, LinkedIn or other ads to generate work. According to Wordstream, Facebook ads are relatively inexpensive, reach a targeted audience and, when focused on the right outcomes, can be extremely effective in generating leads.
We would also suggest that it can be worth the additional expense to get expert help with these ads. This is especially true if you can use the time saved to generate additional sales. While the ads are relatively easy to create and place, expert help can increase your conversation rate. If you get just one more job, the additional work will have easily offset the cost.
Reach out to current and former clients
For most businesses, the best source of new clients is current or former clients. Don't be shy. Contact your clients with an invitation to have lunch or a drink after work. Let them know that you would appreciate their referrals. This may trigger your clients to pass on the referral they have been meaning to make.
Alternatively, it may cause them to reach out to you with additional work. Just last week, Polly emailed a former client to ask him to lunch. The lunch was to thank him for a referral. At the lunch, Polly was pleased to pick up a new piece of work from this client. She didn't even have to ask.
Develop systems to keep the pipeline filled
It is always better to keep the pipeline filled rather than have to scramble when the work dries up. To do this, you need to make marketing your priority. Schedule time each week to network and keep your face in front of others. Develop a drip marketing campaign or write a weekly blog. Spend a few hours thinking about how you acquired your best clients, then put together a plan that will help you find and earn more of these types of clients. Make your plan's action steps part of your daily and weekly focus.
Certainly, if you find yourself without work, getting paid assignments must be your focus. We all need to pay our bills.
To increase your chances of finding work, focus on the first three suggestions. Utilising technology to generate leads, and getting out in front of people through networking and speeches, can help you get quick results. However, we find that reaching out to current and former clients is often the fastest way to receive new work.
Then, once your workload is back on par, don't repeat your former habits. Put systems in place to ensure that the pipeline always stays filled.
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