What I Believe is the Key to Great Sales Success

I love sales, and I’m good at it. But it wasn’t until recently that my “secret” to great sales came up in a conversation.

It was actually during a discovery call with a potential client. We were going over my method for lead generation and this person’s skill for closing sales came up. We went back and forth on the subject, unequivocally agreeing on this fact:

The key isn’t convincing someone to want your product or service; The key is determining whether the person ALREADY wants or needs your product or service and then helping them to recognize it.

The Downside of “Convincing”

If you’ve ever been convinced by a “good salesperson” to buy something you didn’t really want or need, you get it.

Perhaps you were guilted. Maybe you wanted the sales conversation to end. Regardless of the reason, you bought what the individual was selling and then regretted it. You let the product or service go unused and mourned the loss of money wasted.

Whether I’m selling on behalf of myself or a client, I don’t even want to talk to individuals who will end up regretting a purchase. To me, it’s depressing. What I enjoy about business is providing people with products or services they need.

A Different Approach to Sales

How does this change my approach to sales? Quite simply, it makes it better.

Instead of reaching out to people asking them to purchase, I’m reaching out to gauge interest. There is a subtle, yet important, difference here. When you reach out to someone with the tone of, “Hey, what I’m selling is amazing, you should buy it!” it puts people on their heels. They feel affronted and used.

When you reach out with the tone of, “Hey, I’m selling an amazing thing and would love to know if it could be of use to you!” you are shifting gears from focusing on you to focusing on them.

You are filtering through the throngs of people or businesses who fit your ideal target by getting personal. You’re asking if they have a want or need.

Isn’t that nice? They’ll certainly think so.

Why It Works

There are a number of reasons this approach works.

1. Your Prospects Are At Ease

This relaxed, just-checking-to-see-if-you’re-interested approach gets your sales cycle started the right way. Instead of being on the defensive because someone is being a self-absorbed salesperson, your prospect may feel appreciation right out of the gate that you (at least seem to) care.

2. It’s Personal

I don’t have an email list because I consider it impersonal. Whenever I get a stock email from someone that is geared toward selling, I get annoyed and delete it. If someone is trying to sell me with the same message he or she is selling 400 other people, it’s not personal to me. I want to feel special. Reaching out one-on-one to gauge interest with a potential lead makes them feel special.

Disclaimer: Email marketing can absolutely be done “the right way” with this same tone I’m speaking of — in fact, I just subscribed to a service this morning from a great email!

3. You Save Time

This approach can be quick. You’re shooting a quick note to see if someone is interested and they respond with a yes or no. Done. You are saving time, which — in turn — boosts your morale and keeps you going.

Need Help?

I love this process. If you’re looking for help weeding through potential leads on LinkedIn, reach out to learn more about my services. I can take over that part for you, sending quick notes to gauge interest and then handing over people ready to hear your best pitch. Email me at chrissie@chrissiewywrot.com and we can set up a call.

About Chrissie Wywrot

Chrissie Wywrot is a B2B lead generator and personal brand strategist who works with passionate entrepreneurs and professional athletes. To learn more about her services, visit her LinkedIn profile or email her at chrissie@chrissiewywrot.com.

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned in 3 Years As An Entrepreneur

Nearly three and a half years ago, I said goodbye to my NFL job with the Detroit Lions to set out on my own as an entrepreneur. To say the journey has been smooth sailing would be a huge lie, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every bump along the way has been an invaluable learning experience.

With all of that learning going on (believe me … there have been plenty of bumps-turned-learning experiences), there is one lesson that has popped up time and again:

Trust your gut.

It’s easy to veer off-course from gut-trusting. In the early phases of owning our own business, we have no idea what the heck we’re doing … or at least we have the illusion that we don’t know what we are doing.

It’s the equivalent of learning to ride a bike without training wheels: we are capable of doing it, but we have to practice (and fall plenty of times) before we get it down.

When it comes to trusting my gut the past three-and-a-half years, there are four key areas that stand out as the most important to my growth in my business and as an entrepreneur:

1. Knowing When I Didn’t Fit the Norm

This has been huge for me. When we get excited about business, it’s easy to get caught up in the what-everyone-else-is-doing trap.

You may think you’re supposed to build an email list, post to all the social media channels, and develop a “lead magnet” or a course. The truth is that those things may not fit who you are as an entrepreneur.

I don’t really have an email list — I don’t need it. My bread-and-butter is networking and selling on LinkedIn. An email list is actually too impersonal for me. I also don’t have a lead magnet (why do that when I can just send a personal message?) and I don’t post to Instagram, Pinterest, or SnapChat.

You may do one or all of those things and they may work for you — that is fantastic! But I’ve learned to trust my gut and do what fits me and my business.

2. Knowing When Advice Isn’t Right

It’s easy to get caught up in what your mentor, coach, or business bestie is saying, especially when things aren’t going so well and your confidence is in the toilet.

They’ve been in business longer than I have … I should just do what they’re telling me to do.

The bottom line is that you know your business (and yourself) the best. If you have doubt that what someone is advising you to do isn’t right for you, don’t do it. Even if the person giving you advice is one of the top business minds out there … you have to trust your gut.

I have learned this lesson from being on both sides of the spectrum: listening when I shouldn’t have and ignoring when I should have. The exercise builds confidence through success and through failure.

3. Knowing When to Cut the Cord

We’ve all had that conversation with ourselves regarding those clients. You know who I’m talking about … those clients.

Is it me or them? Am I the problem? What the heck is wrong with me?

This insecurity regarding our clients flares up the most when we are first starting out and excited to welcome anyone who wants to pay us. It also flares up when we have a “down period” and haven’t yet learned how to manage it mentally and professionally.

We let clients who are bad for us and our business hang around too long because … they’re paying us, right? Plus, we feel bad. What will they do if we let them go? Raise your hand if you’ve tried to make a client break up with you. Come on, raise it.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my business coach, who said, “Why are you letting him dictate your business?” It’s important to trust your gut when it comes to firing clients. When you have to do it, suck it up and do it.

(And don’t get caught up worrying you’re losing money … letting go of one client opens space up for another!)

4. Knowing When to Stand Up for an Idea

Have you ever been caught kicking yourself because you didn’t stand up for an idea in the face of a client’s objections? You were worried you’d be wrong and end up with your pants around your ankles, so you just gave in?

Yeah, me too.

Then, inevitably, what the client wanted didn’t work and you are left knowing you were right. The truth is, you have the expertise. You just have to trust your gut and know that you know what you’re talking about.

I find this often happens because we are so immersed in our expertise that we believe everyone knows the basics of what we do. I, for example, may believe that everyone knows the power of LinkedIn, what Twitter is used for, and that a blog title should be made up of more than three words.

But everyone doesn’t know these things and they’re looking for me to guide them toward the right thing to do.

It’s Gut-Check Time

When have you trusted your gut and reaped the reward? When have you not trusted your gut and realized you should have?

I want to hear your stories in the comments below!

About Chrissie Wywrot

Chrissie Wywrot is a B2B lead generator and personal brand strategist who works with passionate entrepreneurs and professional athletes. To learn more about her services, visit her LinkedIn profile or email her at chrissie@chrissiewywrot.com.

Facebook

Let’s Take the Mystery out of Facebook So It Can Help Your Business

There are countless ways Facebook can help your business, but even the most intelligent entrepreneurs struggle to crack its code.

While it’s simple to use, it can feel like you’re shouting to no one, pushing out post after post to little fanfare. You may even find yourself questioning your own skills.

This can’t be that difficult … can it?

The answer is yes and no. Facebook is a powerful tool you can leverage for your business, but it can easily become a nuisance if you don’t understand how it works.

Here’s the key: give Facebook what it wants, and you’ll see a return.

1. Facebook Wants Your Money

It’s harsh, but it’s true.

Facebook is a robust advertising asset because it collects everything. Do you need to promote your content to women who recently had a baby? Someone who just changed jobs? A person afflicted with Lyme disease?

You can target all of that within the ad manager and that’s the route the platform wants you to take. Organic content — or content left to perform without paying to promote it — can work, but it has become increasingly difficult for businesses just starting out.

Facebook has made it tough for businesses to build an engaged audience without paid advertising, so it should be expected when you’re earning your first 1,000 followers.

2. Facebook Wants You to Engage its Users

Speaking of an engaged audience, that’s what Facebook wants you to have. The user experience is extremely important to the brand, which is why shares, comments, and likes will increase exposure of your content to your followers.

Have you ever logged onto the platform and seen a post with “Jane and Joe recently liked this post …” at the top? That’s a post receiving a lot of likes, comments, and shares, so Facebook believes you’ll want to see it, too.

It’s how it weights published content: when a post gets a lot of attention right away, it jumps to the top of the news feed. Create content your followers want to engage with and you’ll generate more exposure for your brand.

3. Facebook Wants You to Record Videos

That’s right, Facebook wants to be the No. 1 source for online video, and it’s well on its way. In fact, it predicts that the news feed will contain only video within the next five years.

If Facebook wants it’s platform to be video-focused, it means it’s going to help things along by favoring video posts. This past March, Facebook changed it’s algorithm to give preference to live video vs. on demand. It’s why you will get a notification if a page you follow is going live.

Here’s what this means for you: get on the video train, or it’s going to leave without you. Whether you’re talking to your audience, conducting a Q&A, or posting live from an event you’re attending, you will increase your traction by dabbling in video.

Additional tips

  • If you have a large following on YouTube, you may be posting YouTube links to your Facebook page. What you may not know is that YouTube links won’t do well within the news feed because Facebook wants you to natively upload them to their platform.
  • Are you open to putting a bit of money into Facebook ads? Make sure you have a clear focus when you do. Boosting random posts for additional clicks may be fun, but it’s wasting money if you don’t have a specific objective.
  • When you’re earning those first 1,000 followers, cross-promote your page as much as possible. Since Facebook allows you to embed its content, you can upload a video and then include it in a blog post. It’s a win-win: you give Facebook what it wants (video) and you promote your page to your blog audience!

I could dig so much deeper into each of these areas! Do you find these tips are too simple or too complex? Let me know which of these is most helpful to you by commenting below!

new clients

A Client Being the Wrong Fit Doesn’t Make YOU Wrong

As I have immersed myself into a world of female entrepreneurs, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to have a woman-centered business – especially when it comes to look for new clients.

Many female businesses have a strong why attached to them — women want to start a business to change or influence the world. The result? It puts their hearts smack dab in the middle of their businesses.

It reminds me of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail. Her independent bookstore, which had been in her family for generations, is purchased by Tom Hanks’ character (the owner of the movie’s version of Barnes and Noble).

He tells her the buyout “wasn’t personal.”

What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Many female entrepreneurs operate their businesses personally, because they have a genuine cause behind them. So when a client relationship doesn’t work out, it’s easy to take it personally and believe it’s because there’s something wrong with the business.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve had a client relationship that didn’t work out. Let me ask you this: did you find your mind drifting toward self- or business-doubt?

If this client doesn’t want my services, are my services wrong?

Am I not as good as I thought I was?

Even the most confident business owners may have fleeting moments of doubt.

Here are a few things I ask myself when a business relationship or partnership turns out to be the wrong fit:

1. Was I Looking in the Right Place for New Clients?

Let’s say you’re a fitness consultant who specializes in quick, 5-10 minute workouts for busy moms. If you’re marketing your services to a group of hardcore gym rats, you’re going to fail and — quickly — lose your business confidence. Hardcore gym rats want to spend hours working out in the gym. You’ll hear no after no after no.

Does that mean you have a horrible service? Of course not! It just means you’re looking in the wrong place for new clients. A hardcore gym rat doesn’t bring the right set of qualifications to the table to make the relationship a good fit.

It’s up to you to make the proper adjustments to find people with the right set of qualifications: busy moms with little-to-no time to exercise.

2. Why Did This Seemingly-Ideal Client Become Not-so Ideal?

Sometimes a prospect seems to be exactly what you’re looking for, only to reveal itself as the wrong fit. Let’s go back to the fitness consultant example. You’re out for coffee with a friend when you strike up a conversation with a woman wearing workout gear. She’s just come from her spinning class.

What a coincidence! you say, I have a set of workouts I’ve developed that you may be interested in! This woman is, in fact, a busy mom and she clearly likes to exercise. You schedule a discovery call. You call her the following day, excited to add new business. At the end of the call, however, she tells you she’s not interested.

What went wrong?

It turns out that this woman really enjoys going to her spinning classes so she can be social with her friends. The idea of exercising alone in her living room just doesn’t appeal to her.

You’re totally bummed, but the first thing you shouldn’t do is internalize it and tell yourself you have a bad product. What you should do is refine your search process and stop prospecting women who attend classes at the gym.

3. Was There A Point I Should Have Said No?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new client, especially when you are in the business of impacting lives for the better! When a potential business relationship doesn’t work out, though, it’s important to ask yourself if there were any points along the way that you should have said no.

Maybe in our last example, the fact that the woman had just come from a spinning class should have been a red flag. Have you ever found yourself qualifying the red flags because you’re so eager for a little extra money, a new client to help, or the rush of a “win?”

Sure, she’s just come from spinning class, you may think, but just because she enjoys going to the gym doesn’t mean she won’t like doing my workouts, too! After all, she likes to work out and she’s a busy mom. I’ll make this exception and she just might work out!

When we act like the client is doing us a favor, we set ourselves up for disappointment. It’s important to enter into a prospecting situation looking for mutual benefit. Don’t make concessions so the client will say yes. Stay true to you, whether it’s in regards to business philosophy, money, or communication style.

As a female entrepreneur with an eye toward making a difference, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to help everyone and growing discouraged when it doesn’t work out. Know that these things happen and that you shouldn’t want to be all things to all people!

Keep your eye on the right clients for you and keep on keeping on — it will all work out!

female entrepreneurs

Why I Believe Female Entrepreneurs are the Best to Work With

I spent the first decade of my career in a male-focused field where women were the exception, not the rule. I equated stereotypical masculinity with power and pushed down my feminine qualities in the hopes of getting ahead.

Fast forward three years and I recognize feminine toughness and the power it wields. So many women are getting business right because they have their priorities straight and are secure with who they are.

See if you relate to these four ways of conducting business:

1. There is no such thing as work-life balance.

For successful female entrepreneurs, work-life balance is a myth. There is no special formula that will allow one to reach harmonious rhythm.

Work is life and life is work.

Female entrepreneurs make a living doing what they love while remaining flexible for self and family. There is no juggling necessary because owning a business allows for making it to gymnastics by 4:15 or soccer practice by 4:45. And if it doesn’t? Arrangements can be made.

The idea that there has to be clear separation of work and family has gone by the wayside. When work needs attention, work gets attention. When family needs attention, family comes first.

2. Priorities are in line.

Just as the definition of work-life balance has changed for female entrepreneurs, so has the idea that life happens. These ladies won’t bat an eyelash when you can’t speak over the phone until after your kids go to bed because they’ve been there or they are there.

When one of my clients hurriedly got off the phone because her kids came home from school, I was pleasantly surprised. This was a far cry from the “don’t ask don’t tell” culture of: “we won’t ask what you’re doing when you have ‘an appointment’ and we don’t want you to tell us because you’ll be judged.”

In that moment, she put work second because it was time for the kids. Later, she may squeeze in some work or get up early the next morning. It ebbs and flows.

3. Emotions are completely okay.

I don’t know who came up with the idea that emotions aren’t allowed in business, but it’s ridiculous. Expressing healthy feelings within the working world is 100-percent okay and can be a huge asset to the success of a business.

When employees know they are appreciated and cared for, they do better work. Have you ever had a job where your boss treated you like expendable garbage? Your morale was undoubtedly low and you were probably at your professional worst.

Emotions also contribute to empathy and compassion toward clients or customers, which will only improve business. Operating within the parameters of healthy emotions will breed happiness and loyalty among both customers and employees.

4. Business is centered around trust and respect.

Trust and respect are not exclusive to female entrepreneurs since I know men who build their businesses this way and plenty of women who don’t.

In my handful of years as an entrepreneur, though, I’ve found more women than men willing to accept what they don’t know before trusting areas of their businesses to experts.

When it comes to content and social media, for example, I give a lot of credit to those who recognize it isn’t their wheelhouse while respecting my expertise. That allows me to build upon their strengths with mine, taking their businesses up another level.

Take it from me: pure-hearted, female entrepreneurs are without a doubt the best allies to have because they are driven, grounded, and supportive. If you aren’t already in a community to female entrepreneurs find one now!

Two of my favorites are Natalie Eckdahl at BizChix.com and Adria DeCorte at adriadecorte.com.

finding clients

A Dollar Earned in Misery Isn’t Worth It

finding clients

The stress of working with the wrong clients isn’t worth it. Photo: Huffington Post

You want to work with everyone when you’re just starting out, but finding clients who value what you offer is critical to your success.

Still, you want to say yes to everyone. After all, you need the money! Even in this early stage, though, it’s important to weed out clients you have to convince to hire you or who clearly don’t see the value in what you provide.

As a content and social media strategist, my services don’t always deliver a direct monetary return. The majority of my clients are looking to establish trust, brand recognition, and warm up cold audiences.

Many businesses see that as an add-on rather than a necessity. I recognize that I must seek out the first group and avoid the second, even when the latter is well-intentioned.

As an entrepreneur, it’s vital that you to gravitate toward clients who see your services as critical to their businesses.

If you don’t, your business will suffer. Here’s why:

You Will Feel Undervalued

If you are providing a service your client sees as a “bonus,” you will feel like you’re on the outside looking in.

When you jump in to talk strategy, your advice will be (politely) ignored or brushed aside. This is because the client doesn’t really believe what you have to offer is a necessity to his or her bottom line.

While this is directed at what you offer and not at you, you will feel like you aren’t being heard or appreciated for the hard work you’re putting in.

You Will Feel Unproductive

This has happened to me even with the most well-intentioned of clients. If my services are not seen as a priority, emails and text messages go unanswered and projects remain incomplete.

Some of these clients even pay well and on time, but the work associated with them hangs in the balance. These open-ended projects clutter our minds and our planners, delivering a hit to our productivity.

As much as we want these relationships to work, they need to fall by the wayside.

You Will Feel Unfulfilled

As entrepreneurs, we love the work! So when a client doesn’t engage, it’s both frustrating and unfulfilling.

I was talking to a new client just yesterday and dug into the strategy surrounding her content plan. After a minute or so digging into the nuances of different social media platforms, my energy level skyrocketed. I was so pumped to be talking about what I love!

When you work with clients who don’t see eye-to-eye regarding your services, that fire is missing. Projects remain on the ground floor and the back-and-forth that drives and challenges you isn’t there.

It’s a huge buzz kill!

All Dollars Are Not Created Equal

A dollar earned amidst passion and energy is worth far more than a dollar earned in misery.

Learn to detect the warning signs in the early stages of prospecting and then — in the nicest way possible — run like hell when it’s not a good fit.

Trust me, it’s the greatest gift you’ll ever give to yourself and to your business.

Save

service

Determine Your Services as an Entrepreneur

I just spent the past half hour combing through and updating my service pages. I haven’t looked at them in awhile and will admit they needed some help. Despite being a content and social media strategist, I have struggled to articulate my own services. It’s common among service-based entrepreneurs: we can advise others, but can’t advise ourselves!

Let me know if this sounds familiar: you’re thrilled to provide your talent to the world. You have a number of clients you’re working with and things are going well. But when someone tries to ask you what you do, you have no idea what to say.

What is up with that?

You know you’re good at what you do … why can’t you articulate it? I have a few theories.

1. You’re good at a lot of things.

I’m thrilled to have come across this article in Forbes that talks about being “multipassionate.” I had never heard of the term before, but the article put a label to the struggles of having to pick just a few services to offer. I provide premium content strategy, social media strategy, and LinkedIn Profile Development … but I can also do public and media relations, photography,  graphics, and websites.

Yes, it’s a good problem to have, but the more you water down your services, the fewer people you’re going to reach.

2. You’re Still Finding Your Niche.

We’ve all experienced the phenomenon of wanting to be all things to all people because — let’s face it — we need money. You want me to facilitate a fundraiser? Sure … I could do that. You need me to write a speech? I suppose I could do that.

If you find yourself saying, “I guess I could do that,” abandon ship.

It’s a necessary evil in the beginning, but a habit you need to drop as you get better and better in what you do. Gravitate toward the clients and projects you enjoy the most, which will not only increase your productivity, but will give you a clue as to what services you should headline.

3. You Haven’t Spoken to Anyone Else

Time and experience will help you find your voice, but so will talking to an objective friend, colleague, or business coach. Last week, I took part in a one-on-one strategy session with Natalie Eckdahl of BizChix.com. It provided so much insight! Not only did she help me recognize the projects I needed to drop, she offered service advice (e.g. “No one wants that”).

I don’t recommend speaking to a business coach unless or until you have very specific problems to solve, but it’s something to keep on the back burner for the future!

If you’re an entrepreneur or freelance consultant, how have you struggled to find your voice?

early entrepreneur

Dear Early Entrepreneur, This Is for You

Dear Early Entrepreneur,

This is not a post that will give you six easy steps to business success. It will not provide four tips to pricing yourself properly or offer three ways to cope with difficult clients.

This, fellow entrepreneurs, is a post simply meant to relate.

Regardless of how you became a first-time entrepreneur, the early reality is the same. Solos with integrity, passion, and talent are the ones who hover in the shadows afraid to pronounce themselves as experts while the frauds with the opposite are charging insane rates and delivering crap.

What the hell?

You want to put yourself out there at the same high price — one you deserve — but you know you’re still learning and it makes you uncomfortable. The last thing you want to do is make a promise to a client who takes a chance on you and fail miserably. It’s a phobia of yours, actually.

Well, friend, I’m here to tell you that it gets better. Unfortunately, the feelings of inadequacy are growing pains of the truly successful. Why? Because the truly successful know what they don’t know. The truly successful are always learning, growing, and failing forward.

Early days are going to suck, I’m not going to lie. You’ll take on clients you’d like to strangle because they treat you like they’re doing you a favor for working with you … even though they sought you out. As much as those situations are awful, they will teach you how to negotiate, stand up for yourself, and price yourself.

Your talent will rise to the surface in your eyes and your doubt will melt away. When you walk away from those PITA clients, you’ll do so with renewed confidence and understanding that you truly have something to offer as an expert in your industry.

Each difficult circumstance will grow your business IQ. One day, you’ll find yourself speaking with authority to a prospective client and wonder where this new person came from. You’ll look back and see that this person emerged from the dues you paid selling yourself short.

This representative will have risen out of the ashes of feeling bad for quoting a high price only to quote a low one and grow resentful of the client for paying pennies.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll figure out what you should sell. Right now, you want to offer everything. You want to say ‘yes’ to anyone willing to pay for your services. That happens in the beginning, but it gets better. As you work with more and more clients (and you will because you’re good), you’ll recognize what you bring to the table that no one else does. You’ll start to sell yourself as a premium product because you are one.

The early days of being an entrepreneur aren’t glamorous. You’ll want to work 9–5 because you feel like you’re supposed to, so you’ll hit F5 on your favorite job board ad nauseum hoping to find your perfect fit. You’ll analyze and over-analyze potential projects as though you’re dating, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you’re desperate.

You’ll look at the rates you’re charging compared to the amount of time you have and recognize that it doesn’t add up to paying your bills. How will you ever make it work? The answer, friend, is that you’ll see what you’re worth and you will adjust.

Once you come out the other side, you’ll be in the exclusive club of business people who did what they had to do to truly make it. You’ll see you didn’t cut corners, cheat the system, or lie about your skills. Yes, you will have embarrassed yourself, cursed yourself, and cried for yourself. But you will have learned.

It’s all worth it.

In the end, it’s all worth it.

If you’re in the dark and despair of early entrepreneurism, chin up. Know you’re on you’re way and that it gets better. Lean on your support system, ingest wisdom, and drink lots of wine. Once it’s all over, you’ll have a sense of pride you didn’t think possible because you had the balls to do what so many others can’t. You will have put yourself on the line … and you will have won.

freelance rules

I’m Breaking All the Freelance Rules

I read and listen non-stop to articles and Podcasts about being an entrepreneur and freelancer. I know all of the tips or “best practices” for growing a business, being productive, and maintaining sanity. I understand the reason behind all of those tips, but following them is a completely different story.

As I was getting ready to hop into bed with my laptop — no-no No. 1 — it occurred to me that tonight I am breaking all the rules.

1. No Laptops in Bed

Yes, the first is the laptop. The idea is to avoid bringing a computer to bed because it associates work with sleep and then you forgo the sleep when it’s time to sleep. I typically abide by this rule and don’t bring my laptop to bed. The only problem is that I do bring it to my living room couch … until approximately 1 a.m. That really messes with my sleep, let me tell you.

Then there’s the whole “no screen time” thing after a certain point in the night to shut off the brain and get Melatonin settling in. I’m lucky I shut off the computer, let alone my brain.

2. No Writing What I Want to Write

Instead of writing what’s on my mind and what I want to say, I’m supposed to “channel my target audience” and answer questions for them. When I decided I was going to rattle off my list of transgressions, I recognized that I was committing a transgression by writing the post to begin with. I’m rolling the dice that my target audience is made up of fellow rule-breaking achievers who need to understand they aren’t alone.

3. No Distractions During Work Time

You know I watched that Michael Jackson video with disbelief that he was actually painted as a sex symbol. I also have the ID channel on in the background, airing a brand new Dateline. I have not set aside a specific work time with a timer running to keep me completely engaged in the task at hand. Anyone who listens to or reads books on Productivity will think that joke is funny.

4. No Work-Work Balance

You know what I’m talking about. I’m supposed to have that ever-elusive “work-life balance” that some claim doesn’t really exist anyway. Work is supposed to be part of your life, right? Well, right now it’s really a part of my life. The fact that I spent all day today not working is a huge achievement. Essentially, my crazed entrepreneur side feels guilty for avoiding work while my doting mom side feels a huge sense of achievement.

Thankfully, Dateline is over, but a new On The Case with Paula Zahn has started. Blast.

Paula Zahn

Ah, Paula. How you pull me in.

5. No Avoiding Exercise

Today I went shopping for summer clothes. I had to sprint through Old Navy because I had my two older kids with me. I grabbed what I thought was my size with the intention of trying everything on at home and returning anything I didn’t want. Well … the fashion show was a very, very sad sight. No, I’m not overweight, but, yes, I have a lot more cushion in certain areas because I have completely neglected exercise for the past six months.

Aren’t us entrepreneurs supposed to take care of ourselves physically as well as mentally to keep our work high quality and ourselves from burning out? Well, answer me this, female entrepreneurs: how do you work out during the day when you’ve already showered and gotten ready for the day? And if your answer is to NOT shower and get ready for the day, how much fun is it to drop your kids off at school looking like the walking dead? I wore a skirt and linen shirt to drop my kids off last Monday and five people said, “Must have a meeting!”

Yeah, I did. Whatever.

6. No Going Insane

I’m not sure if this is a rule and I’m exaggerating just a touch. But reading all of these things I’m not doing helps me recognize just how much I have to work on. The irony is that all of the things I need to work on consist of taking care of myself.

Anyone else have experience with this? How do you tear yourself from work to truly take care of yourself? Give me some answers while I go back to my wine drinking and ID binge-watching.

get high-quality leads

How to Get High-Quality Leads

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer writer, it can feel like everyone you talk to is trying to get something for nothing. The stress over what you should charge is great; you don’t want to price yourself out of jobs because you need money, but you also don’t want to charge so little that you have zero desire to complete the project.

I completely understand. When I was first applying for freelance writing projects, I took a job for $25 per article because I thought it would give me good experience and a byline. I ultimately had zero desire to do the work and regretted taking the job.

So now for the million dollar question: how do you get quality leads? My answers may surprise you.

Find a Niche

Believe it or not, the first thing you should do is find a niche. Now, this can seem counterintuitive because your current goal is to get anyone to pay you, but – trust me – you want to find a niche. It achieves a few things:

  • You gain confidence. Confidence is like the chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon in freelance writing. You need confidence to get projects but you need projects to get confidence. What a niche does is give you a focus for something you know you’re good at. It will change your pitches in a way you might not even recognize.
  • You make yourself more appealing. If you write about insects (hear me out with this metaphor) and you find a job for insect writing, you will instantly be the writer to hire when you pitch that client.
  • You immediately know where to look. Sticking with the insect metaphor, choosing to focus on that niche will help you find the best opportunities. Whether you’re looking on a job board, individual publications, or networking, you will have a clear focus and the recipients of your pitches will feel that focus.

Get Started SOMEWHERE

get high-quality leadsWhen you are first starting out, it’s important to find work wherever you can get it, and that will more than likely be with lower-paying clients. The key is finding the right lower-paying clients.

There are two types of low-paying gigs: the kind with people who are cheap and the kind with people who are in a cheap industry. The key when you’re starting out is finding projects in the latter category.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you write about marketing. A quality “cheap client” would be a small firm that has a minimal budget and could use good content to promote their services. It’s not that they don’t value the service, it’s that they don’t have the money to spend.

A poor “cheap client” would be a successful franchise that sees little value in content marketing. Signs you should run? If the client says something along the lines of, “Yeah, we don’t need that, we’re just looking for …”

Use your gut.

Understand it Takes Time

What you don’t want to hear. Ultimately, there are critical pieces of success you won’t find in a blog about how to be successful. You need to go through the process of working, misfiring, working, misfiring, learning, getting better. The more you do, the more you learn, and the more you make.

The great thing is that all of the misfires teach you invaluable things that shape who you are as a professional and build your confidence as an entrepreneur. Without warning, you will find yourself talking price with a self-assuredness you didn’t know you had and you will recognize you are on your way.

Once the ball gets rolling, it just picks up speed. You will get a big win and, before you know it, you’ll get referrals and then unexpected reach-outs.

The key is not to worry that you aren’t there yet. Getting high quality leads isn’t a formula, it’s a feeling-out process that will work itself out if you have the talent and willpower to push forward and learn as you go.