They’re the three little words all consultants long to hear…
(No, not those ones.
Love don’t pay no bills!
Unless… no, let’s not go there.)
I’m talking about these three:
“Let’s do this.”
If you’re a service provider, getting the go-ahead from that promising lead – soon to become perfect client – to start that juicy project together feels like your birthday, graduation & New Year’s all at once.
There’s so much to love about this moment, each time it happens:
It’s not just the cash injection about to hit your bank balance…
There’s also the rush of adrenalin that means you pulled it off (again!)…
The thrill of that hard-earned show of trust from a fellow pro you respect, and can’t wait to work with…
Plus the shiver of the unknown, as you get ready to leap into someone else’s world for a while, guiding them on a journey to who-knows-where…
(Though I’m pretty sure it’s important to have some idea where you’re taking them).
Go on, admit it:
It’s something every consultant secretly craves…
The Let’s Do This Moment:
The essential success metric + ego-tickle combo you could survive without, but couldn’t really call it living.
Stated without hesitation or regret, that decisive stamp of approval is a big part of why you do what you do.
I’m grateful for having heard these three little words quite a bit recently…
And importantly, from the right people.
Over the past 6 months I’ve taken on fewer but bigger, better-paid and more exciting projects, and have found myself referring the not-quite-fits to other copywriters.
The upshot is, I’ve been able to focus more on the kind of work I’ve really wanted to do for some time.
(Particularly for projects incorporating the Ask Method, something I’ve been able to get in on early and position myself as a qualified consultant for, since investing in Ryan Levesque’s Ask Masterclass this summer.)
I’m enjoying my work more than ever before, and am about to start a couple of collaborations with copywriters and creative partners that I’m really excited about.
So I wanted to share a few key reasons why I think things have taken off recently, and what we as consultants can learn from that.
First, a qualifier:
Anyone who knows me personally will tell you, I’m no ‘Johnny Go-Getter’…
I’ve never been one for setting impossible targets and then kicking my own arse mercilessly until I soar past them, while throwing back energy drinks and posting motivational-quote bollocks online.
Your humble correspondent is not one of Jeffrey Lebowski (RIP)’s Little Achievers…
Leaping out of bed at 5am determined to better the previous morning’s toast-buttering record before CRUSHING IT ALL DAY LOOOONG.
(tbh, I’m probably closer to a non-stoned version of ‘the other’ Jeffrey Lebowski, the one with the Creedence and the rug.)
I’m careful with my work/life balance, and I recommend anyone who runs their own biz be that way too.
Things can get really out of hand if you don’t keep an eye on your commitments.
However, nor am I someone who can spend all day doing nothing (except on weekends, given the right book/weather/snacks) – I’m professional and motivated, and love to learn.
So this breakthrough – although I’ve invested time, effort and buckaroo$ into it – hasn’t simply been a result of some sudden face-slapping, mirror-confronting crusade to “BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE, YOU WORTHLESS SLACKER”!
It’s come more gradually, but with a sincere drive to improve my practice and grow my biz a little each month.
Continuous improvement: that’s how real, lasting progress happens.
James Clear is great on this subject, so I’ll let him be your sensei for that.
My point is:
Even if you don’t have a ton of time or energy available, it’s still possible to make significant progress and generate some “Let’s Do This” moments of your own from a few key behaviours.
Here they are…
How to ensure you hear “let’s do this” when it really matters
1 – Get Publishing, Dammit
I’ve been focusing on improving my authority positioning this year.
Writing blog posts – like, uh, this one right here – and growing my mailing list have brought people into my world who would otherwise not have heard of me.
I’ve landed a handful of projects as a result of my articles here, and also in Copy Chief (where top copywriters meet entrepreneurs needing copy)…
Simply by demonstrating my knowledge, experience and writing skillz.
Around 18 months ago I set a target of writing two new posts a month, and – barring last June when I only published once due to a doozy of a month with projects – I’ve kept to that schedule.
Of course, publishing your own content rather than working for a client means you’re often only answerable to yourself.
So self-discipline – or accountability, by promising your audience you’ll keep your schedule – is important.
It’s all too easy to let the routine slip, especially when project deadlines loom or “life happens”.
But it’s worth sticking to, even if you don’t see results right away (nobody does, starting from scratch).
Why? Well, these days there’s no better way to prove your expertise in a niche of your choice than by demonstrating your knowledge…
Creating valuable content that’s educational and/or entertaining…
What Ben Settle calls “info-tainment”, and he practices what he preacheth…
…is the perfect way to establish your unique voice, stand out from a crowded marketplace, and put yourself at the front of your ideal client’s thinking when they need help.
Some consultants worry that sharing too much content may weaken what they offer clients, or could be seen as giving “something for nothing”.
Demonstrating authority through content marketing is practically expected of experts in virtually every industry now, so if the positioning and SEO benefits don’t tickle your feels, try doing it purely for the love of your subject.
You don’t have to be “the best”, just show you have something unique to offer…
Stick with it and you’ll likely find doors opening that always seemed closed before.
If writing’s not your thing, don’t give up…
There’s video, podcasting, infographics or interviewing other experts (asking the right questions is an often undervalued skill in marketing)…
There are now so many different ways to demonstrate your abilities – and personality – it’s easy for even the most introverted solopreneur to fly their flag.
(Speaking of which, over the next few months I’ll be experimenting with more of these in one form or another, so look out for what my partner AND my best buddy call my “featureless face” – these kids! Hilarious – coming to a screen near you very soon.)
2 – Invest In Your Output
Ok, you don’t need me to tell you to never stop developing your skills.
For most entrepreneurs and self-employed folks this is almost like breathing anyway, since we tend to be naturally curious people who love a new challenge…
But complacency can kick in when things slow down – or speed up – and it can be tempting sometimes to just stick to what you know, especially when it’s getting results.
But my recent experience has uncovered three simple, effective ways you can improve your process AND offer more to your clients as a result:
(Don’t) train in vain
As I mentioned, the Ask Method Masterclass took up a big chunk of my summer, and recently I’ve been able to implement what I learned for a few clients eager to jump in early.
It’s worth setting aside some of your income to cover training in new developments in your industry.
(Or some key skills you didn’t have time for in your rush to get started on your own.)
My Ask training’s already paid for itself based on the projects I’ve landed since, so ROI’s been generated pretty fast…
And that’s always important for tight-margin solo sailors like you and I, right?
Even if you don’t end up implementing everything you learn to create a new service, you’re still keeping up with the latest developments, which can open up useful conversations.
And hey, if you discover that the buzz training everyone’s talking about is more Emperor’s New Clothes than game-changer, why not leverage that by putting your contrary opinion forward as the alternative, and gain exposure and respect that way.
Embrace ‘the competition’ (don’t crush it)
It’s always impressed me how selfless and sharing direct response copywriters are amongst those who could be seen simplistically as, well, the competition.
From my first forays into copy a few years back, when established big-hitters like John Carlton, John Forde, Matt O’Connor and others gave me free feedback and invaluable pointers, it’s been a very welcoming industry.
I must admit I was surprised the first few times this happened – but no longer, which is ACES.
Maybe your industry’s like this, maybe not, but it certainly pays to pick the brains of others who do what you do from time to time…
It’s easy to be overprotective of your own processes, and cagey with your wisdom, but the benefits of peer discussion far outweigh the (often unfounded) fears.
Copy Chief is a veritable hive of busy, expert copywriters happy to show their ‘competitors’ better ways to get results, analyse each other’s writing and even share referrals…
I’ve learned so much in my 2 years as a founding member, meeting some excellent people and enjoying access to some pretty fascinating minds as a result.
If you can find a forum or physical meet-up that gets you face to face with “the other guy/gal” regularly, I highly recommend it…
Even if you’re a newbie to your niche, there’s nothing to be scared of.
The good people will always be respectful of your position (everyone started somewhere, right?)…
While the trolls and a-holes tend to be far fewer in reality than they are in your head.
Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come while hanging in an online forum (which I never thought would happen, having been largely unimpressed with my first few forum ventures pre-Copy Chief)…
…and from raising beverages with fellow CWs in grubby watering holes from San Diego to Bethnal Green (ok, probably less of a surprise there).
Stop, collaborate and listen…
It still kinda pains me to type this, but when you’re in business for yourself you must realise:
You. Cannot. Do. Everything.
Aargh! (told you it hurt.)
As an only child, solo-biz owner and stubbornly self-sufficient curmudgeon, I’m unsurprisingly often at the back of the queue when it comes to asking for help.
(Actually, if there was a queue for help, I probably wouldn’t even join it, because I’m also averse to following crowds – but not to making things unnecessarily difficult for myself. Sigh.)
But my recent progress wouldn’t have happened without – through gritted teeth at first, admittedly – collaborating more closely with partners and other qualified experts and, um, letting them get on with what they’re good at.
If you don’t know how to do something, find someone who does.
Learning + collaboration = improved you.
Whether it’s been working on projects with other copywriters (see above), or with my creative partner, the awesome design & development dude John Dryden Nanna at Dryden Labs…
…or just finding the right web hosting, co-working spaces, agency partners and mentors…
Letting go of the reigns a little and working as part of a team has been an important skill I needed to improve on.
It’s always fascinating to peek inside other people’s processes, to find out:
a) what you’re doing right and
b) where you’re making a total plum of yourself
…and I’ve benefitted from both.
Mentoring is something I haven’t sought out in a while, BUT…
I’m about to start a super-exciting program with a hugely-respected senior copywriter that will add tons of value to my practice.
I can’t wait.
Seriously folks, if a control-freak lone wolf like me can learn to suck it up and seek help in the right places, anyone can do it.
Get collaborating – it’s fun!
(Almost as much fun as doing everything your own way, mwahaha.)
3 – Express Your Value AND Your Personality
It can be tricky getting the balance right with content creation…
Yes, you want to showcase your unique personality, because people hire people they know, like & trust – not faceless automatons.
But at the same time, you don’t want to spend too much time talking about yourself when you should be selling a desired outcome.
Creating original content is obviously useful for building up a relationship with prospects before they even think about hiring you, so that when they do need help, you’re top of their mind and ‘pre-qualified’…
Starting a discussion with someone who arrives in your inbox already convinced you’re the one they want is a lot easier than trying to ‘sell’ someone who’s shopping around for the right fit.
And that’s what educational or entertaining content can do for you – especially when you lace it with the right amount of personality.
But don’t lose sight of this:
All your readers, viewers and listeners are primarily driven by their need to solve a problem, to learn, to get somewhere they want to go.
So make sure everything you put out has value to someone…
Put the ego aside when reviewing any content you publish, and ask:
“What does this offer, and to who does it benefit?”
If you’re just blowing your horn, all the personality in the world won’t stop your audience from switching off.
Likewise in your sales copy, don’t focus too much on the ‘how’ you get results…
Unless your methods are completely unique to you and/or particularly exciting in their own right…
Stay focused on the outcome for the prospect/client.
Case studies are great for this, as long as they help your prospect picture themselves in the position of the client whose problem you solved.
With so many more ways for marketers and biz-owners to express themselves, it can be a battle to wade through all the new content that hits your inbox or social feed.
Competition for attention is higher than ever – so always keep your prospects & audience’s needs in mind whenever you seek a moment in the spotlight.
4 – Be A Consultant, Not A Freelancer
I’ve stopped introducing myself as “a freelance copywriter” when people ask what I do.
A little while back I read Liam Veitch’s book ‘Stop Thinking Like A Freelancer’.
In it he talks about how his business really took off when he quit being ‘a freelance designer’ and started being a businessperson instead.
I enjoyed it, but the message only truly hit home recently, when I noticed a pattern from interactions I had with people calling themselves ‘freelancers’ in any discipline – and those who didn’t.
The term ‘freelancer’ instantly makes you think of a person operating in a marketplace – one with pre-set parameters and expectations…
When you need to hire a freelance designer, developer, writer or plumber, you start thinking about all the criteria you’d need to apply to find the right person:
Cost, availability, timeframe, accessibility, experience – usually in roughly that order.
And the problem with this model is:
If everyone in your marketplace is a ‘freelancer’ offering essentially the same thing, eventually a lot of prospect decisions are going to come down to price.
So, if a prospect thinks you can do the same job for them as The Other Guy, but at a cost of $100 more, The Other Guy (that sneaky bastard!) is going to get the job.
And this is no position for a smart, experienced, well-qualified and ambitious solo biz-owner like your good self to be in.
So if you identify yourself as ‘a freelance x’, you’ll always be one of many.
As a consultant however, with a speciality in one or two particular areas, you give yourself the opportunity to become ‘the’, not ‘a’.
As the unique provider of a unique service, you stop being a gun for hire, having to compete in a price war (fine for products, not so fine for people).
With this in mind, I’m changing how I position my services…
And although I’ll retain a profile in one or two key ‘marketplace’-style referral sources – like CopyHackers For Hire – I’m being much more selective about the projects I take on.
Doubling down on your niche, and positioning yourself as a specialist rather than a freelancer with particular traits might seem scary at first…
But if you want to stop fighting over scraps and become THE go-to expert in your niche, it’s a bold move that will pay off.
That’s going to be the focus of my next 6-12 months, and I’ll share any breakthroughs I make with you right here.
Ok, here endeth today’s lesson.
I hope you can take these key strategies and apply them to your own consulting biz to start generating some “Let’s do this” moments of your own.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from consulting?
Share them in the comments below, I’d love to get your take on this.