How To Avoid Selling Yourself Short
There are many ways in which entrepreneurs, freelancers and consultants are taken advantage of, and asking for ‘spec work’ is at least an up-front way of asking for a free sample. More often, potential clients ask for very extensive proposals–almost demanding to produce the solution or creative work in the proposal itself or during an interview. Very often, consultants / freelancers find out later that the client hired nobody but just used the ideas in the proposal to do the work that they call their own. OR – clients take ideas from all the proposers and give them to the one vendor selected to do the job.
Most experienced entrepreneurs, freelancers and consultants understand this ‘game’ and are unwilling to provide much detail in their proposals – and they refuse to do spec work. It often makes a freelancer look desperate or unprofessional when they agree to do ‘spec work’. There are better approaches.
Avoid selling yourself short, by using the following techniques to build relationships and secure paying jobs…
1) Build a portfolio of work that past clients agree to let you show to potential clients – including reviews of your work and its impact on their organizations. Also build a list of former clients who are happy to provide a reference.
2) Propose a very short project or consultation as a way for the client and the consultant to get acquainted and see if there’s a good match. I often propose a half-day consultation through which I can provide some initial advice or some rough prototypes. It’s a way to “date” before taking a larger step into a “marriage”.
3) Have the client invite you in as a ‘guest’. As a guest, I might talk to executives over a lunch, be invited to one of their meetings, etc. During the process, I can begin to see if there’s a match, provide examples of how I might approach working with them, perhaps show them examples of other solutions that match their current needs.
4) If it’s a not-for-profit client, offer to do some pro-bono work. When I was getting started as a communications consultant, I used this as a way to try out new kinds of projects that were a step above what I usually did in terms of complexity or new types of technologies. I would get full rights to show all aspects of the project to potential clients, and often made some good contacts with board members, etc.
By guest contributor, Diane M. Gayeski, Ph.D.
Diane Gayeski is the Dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, where she has taught strategic communications for over 30 years. Dr. Gayeski also owns, Gayeski Analytics, a consulting firm that helps companies improve organizational performance through new approaches to training and communications.