By Evan Carmichael on August 17th, 2010
Ask Evan is a segment on this blog where I answer reader questions. This week’s questions comes from Jessica and McKieva:
My greatest challenge is finding new clients. I have a small public relations business and I live in Mississippi. I can never show potential clients what I am capable of if no one gives me a chance. Please help!
Starting a business is tough and most people want to see that you’ve been in business and are successful before they give you an opportunity. Here are three ideas you can try:
1) Volunteer for a charity to build your portfolio.
Find a charity that you’re passionate about and offer to be their PR representative for free for a certain amount of time. Charities are usually pretty easy to get media coverage for and you should be able to turn them into a success story for your business. Try to pick a charity that is well known so you can tell prospective new clients that you’ve worked with a reputable brand name before. Charities also have boards of directors who are usually businesspeople in the community. If you can show that you can deliver results you might get some extra paying clients from the board members. Finally, make sure the charity is ok with providing you with a testimonial if you do good work for them.
2) Guarantee results.
I’ve been pitched by many PR agencies and the one thing they’ll never do is guarantee results. It’s a hard business and you can never be positive that a story idea will ever get picked up but here is where you can stand out from your competition. If you guarantee results then you get the opportunity to go to work for a client and prove yourself. There’s no risk to the client because if you don’t deliver, they don’t pay and you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to land the client otherwise so it’s time to get delivering!
3) Play up your past experience.
What did you do before you started the PR firm? What experience do you have that you can show people who question your ability to deliver because you’re so new? If you can clearly demonstrate that you have a track record of success it will lower the resistance levels of your prospects and help close more deals.
Hello Evan –
Thanks for the reference material. I am a young entrepreneur based in Atlanta, Georgia. My company, is a professional learning organization. I have always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and finally overcame my fear and took the plunge 2.5 years ago. I began the business as an independent consultant but would like to expand to hiring people on a contract basis. My biggest business challenge is actually transitioning from an independent consultant to a “business owner.” I welcome any tips, advice or comments you have.
First of all, congratulations! Many people cannot make the transition beyond being a one person company – you’re in for a lot of stress and excitement! Here’s my advice to you:
1) Take your time hiring.
I run three Mastermind groups for local entrepreneurs and the biggest problem that they continually discuss is finding the right people (and having hired the wrong people!). Take your time to think about what you want in an employee. It’s usually easy to figure out the skillsets that you need in a new hire. The hard part are all the intangibles and you need to really think about what’s important to you. For example, at my company it’s important that you’re a nice person. This might sound obvious but many people are not genuinely nice people. I learned this the hard way by hiring someone who had the skills I needed but wasn’t a genuinely nice person. Figure out what’s important to you and if you’re going to be able to work with them long term. Don’t just hire someone because you need them and end up bringing on the wrong person.
2) Write things down.
If you’re hiring people on a contract basis then I would strongly advise that you write down how you want them to do the tasks that you give them. Think about every step that you go through to complete the task and then document it and make it easy for others to understand. So many of our processes as entrepreneurs are in our heads and we never take the time to get them out onto paper. Create a training manual that outlines everything and is a resource for them to refer to in the future. As they discover deficiencies in the documentation or if they are given new tasks, have them update the training manual so you always have a current version that you can provide to people.
3) Start part time.
The first person I hired was for one hour a day to take some of the load off of me. That one extra hour a day was amazing! I started to focus on higher priority issues and as my company grew, I outsourced more and hired people for more hours. If you’ve never managed people before then it helps to start off slowly so that you don’t get bogged down in human resources issues that tie up your day. Start with one person on a part time basis, take your time to make sure they are the right person, train them properly, then slowly increase their hours as you learn to work together. Once you’ve figured it out with one person you can continue on hiring!
Good luck Jessica and McKieva! I wish you all the success in the world as you grow your companies!
Readers, do you have any other ideas for Jessica or McKieva? How did you get your first customers? How did you build beyond a solopreneur company?
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below!
Tags: amount of time, board members, boards of directors, brand name, businesspeople, charities, charity, greatest challenge, guarantee results, media coverage, pr agencies, pr firm, pr representative, public relations business, reader questions, reputable brand, story idea, success story, t pay, testimonial