self employment

5 Signs you are you courting the wrong clients

Do you feel like you spend so much time trying to grow your client list but you aren’t bringing in the revenue to show for all your efforts? You may be wasting a lot of energy courting the wrong customer.

Many fledgling entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to make everyone their customer. Motivated to grow their business quickly, they fear turning any business away so are too general and don’t take the time to define and target their ideal customer.

I see this in every kind of business from coaching to retail to service. In fact, I just heard a story this morning about a young woman who in an attempt to build a Mary Kay business, held a party for all her friends, college students who are mostly on financial aid.  No one at the first party purchased except the host who received a huge discount. But the representative wanted to build her customer list so she asked each of the girls attending to host a party. The idea is for each of them to bring in other friends who will purchase and bring their friends who will refer their friends and become repeat customers. But, if none of them purchased at the first party and they each have a party to get the free hostess gifts she is going to waste more time and effort doing several more presentations to the same girls who will do nothing to grow her business. She’s wasting energy wooing the wrong client.

I saw this in my own businesses as well. Years ago I studied massage and wanted to grow a practice quickly so gave discount coupons to everyone I knew in hopes that some would become regular clients. Thinking I should practice all the different bodywork I had learned,  I would do whatever type of massage the client wanted. What I saw very quickly was that many of them enjoyed the massage but couldn’t afford weekly or even monthly bodywork. Then I sat down and wrote out criteria for my ideal client.  I decided to specialize in one modality and only target clients who could benefit from upper body, neck and shoulder work and who could afford to pay for the work regularly. Then I made a list of people I knew who either fit that profile or who were in a position to refer my target client. Rather than offer discount coupons, I gave this targeted group gift certificates for a free session. Instead of attracting clients who were only taking advantage of a free or discounted service, these were chiropractors, physicians and people with the means to pay and refer. By putting my time and effort into targeting a very specific profile rather than courting everyone,  I very quickly built up a thriving practice.

When I opened a gallery of contemporary american craft in a tourist town, I realized that the majority of people walking down the street patronized the shops that sold souvenirs and imported nicknacks. I quickly learned that only a small percentage of the visitors either valued or would pay for handmade items. I knew in order to make it, I would have to adjust my inventory to appeal to at least twenty percent of the foot traffic. I could have started carrying chinese knock-offs and thus brought in more customers but I had made a commitment to support American crafts people. Also, if I carried the same old trinkets everyone else did, I would appeal to a larger population but what would differentiate me from the other shops in town? So, I made the decision to stay focused on a specific client and added in some more affordable pieces that were still handmade and continued to target the customer who would refer and return. Yes, I missed eighty percent of the foot traffic but the twenty percent who I did reach were my ideal client and became loyal, long-term customers.

If you’re you working too hard to be everything to everyone and finding it frustrating and unprofitable, ask yourself the following questions about your client list:

Can most of them afford to pay you fairly for your product or service?

Do they come in regular contact, either in person or virtually, with others who are your ideal client?

Are they people you enjoy working with who will tell their friends or clients about you?

Will they become long-term repeat clients?

Are they likely to purchase other products or services you offer in the future?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, you are courting the wrong client. Stop and make a list of the qualities your ideal client possesses and then figure out how you can reach those people. If you stop trying to reach the eighty percent who won’t become long-term paying clients, you’ll find the twenty percent you do target will bring in the majority of your income.

Join a tribe, create your sewing circle, make a living and a difference

Last week, I put out a call for people who love to sew but hate to market. I was thrilled at the overwhelming response from readers and astonished at what some had to say. Many of the emails I received were from people looking for a “work-from-home JOB”.  Why would  someone who for a long time went by the name “self-employment muse.” want to “hire” you?
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that my mission is to help people create meaningful self employment, that I once had a payroll of over one hundred. While I loved knowing that my business was enabling people to earn a living, it broke my heart when the business could no longer support that many employees. I am committed to empowering people to be responsible for their own livelihood and not be at the mercy of a boss.
It’s my conviction that the creation of small businesses will be the cure for a sick economy; that the only real security is self employment. When I put out that call last week for people who love to sew but hate to market, it was in response to all of you who say you are looking for a way to make a living doing what you love. You love to create but not sell. I LOVE marketing, letting people know about cool products, especially handmade items.  So, what I’m looking for are people who want to be self employed, want to have their own business and be their boss. I don’t sew but I have a product that I know will sell if you, the crafters, supply it.  It’s my goal to create a tribe of entrepreneurs who love what they do and have control of their own time, income and environment.

If it’s a job you’re looking for, I’m not your gal.  But, if you’re seeking inspiration and guidance to be your own boss, to join a tribe of inspired entrepreneurs, let’s talk. You have the equipment since you already sew. You can do all the sewing yourself or create your own community, your sewing circle. And we’ll all be making a difference, making income doing what we love. That’s what inspired livelihood is all about.

Are you Missing these Opportunities to Sell Your Crafts in January?

This post was originally published two years ago today but is every bit as relevant today.

By now you are likely back to work after the holidays. I hope you enjoyed time with family and friends or just relished some quiet solitude, if that’s what you desired.

“Back to work” has a different meaning when you’re self employed, particularly if you love what you do and where you do it. If you are in an area of the country experiencing winter storms, you’re probably feeling extra grateful that you don’t have to bundle up and scrape the ice off your windshield before you brave the icy roads for your longer than usual commute. This morning as the airwaves buzzed with school closures, traffic delays and treacherous road conditions, I sure appreciated my self employed status. If you already work from home, is your business meeting your financial expectations? Are you finding your work fulfilling? How are you dealing with potential isolation?

Maybe you are still working for someone else but have promised yourself that 2010 is the year you’ll break free and start your own business.

Whether you’re looking for ways to supplement your income, increase the volume you are already doing in your business or just starting out, January is the time to map out your immediate and long term business strategies.

What are you doing right now, this week to ensure that you will have income this month?

If you’re thinking that people are not spending after the holidays, you’re missing out. Whether you sell a tangible product, information or service, January can be a strong month if you stay open to thinking differently about your potential clients or customers.

Think about all the people who receive cash gifts for Christmas! They may have been eyeing that handmade piece you showcased in December but were in the giving rather than “self-gifting” mindset before the holidays. Now, they have “me” money but unless you remind them you are still out there making fabulous stuff, that money won’t find it’s way to you.

What about the people whose new year’s resolutions involve eating healthfully or learning a new skill? Now is a better time than pre-holiday to market your personal chef, fitness training or voice coaching services. Let’s say you teach macrobiotic cooking or  jewelry making or sell supplies? Both the recipient of cash gifts and the new student are your potential customers.

There are also a number of little known holidays in January. Just google “January holidays” and you’ll find that today is National Bird Day. Who knew?  I have no idea who comes up with these fairly obscure days of celebration but had you known this earlier and planned ahead, you could have arranged a show and sale of your handmade bird ornaments or bluebird earrings at the Audubon club.

Think of what you could have done had you known that tomorrow is Dia de Reyes.  Tonight, January 5,  figurines of the Three Wise Men are added to the nativity scene. Before bed, Mexican children place their old shoes under their beds, where the Wise Men will leave them presents.

Next week is Japanese Coming of Age Day and the 24th is the Anniversary of Gold Discovery Day in California. (1848). My head is spinning with ideas for marketing your creative services and handmade crafts on those and other January holidays like Chinese New Years and Australia Day, both Jan. 26th. If you’re asking yourself what those  celebrations have to do with you, have you forgotten that you are reading this on the “world wide web”? As my friend Barbara Winter says, “your clientele is no longer limited by geography.” So, go explore what’s being celebrated in your neighborhood and around the world. Rather than thinking you’re too late for Christmas, you’ll find you’re early for some creative offerings or craft selling opportunities. What are you doing now to ensure you’ll have cash flow next month?