Being booked solid is never a guarantee. I’m always working on it. It’s an ongoing process and sometimes elusive. In this post I’ll share some tips to help you stay as busy as you want to be.
Make It Personal
Being booked solid requires unshakable motivation. It’s got to be emotionally anchored deep within you. Because once it’s there, decisions are easy because your “why” is crystal clear. Your “why” is the glue that will carry you through the inevitable ups and downs of being a small business owner.
Your “why” can come from anywhere, and often involves those closest to you. For example, in the Spring of 2015 I had to immediately stop working for several months due to two simultaneous family emergencies.
My mother and my daughter were both hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses within a week of each other. My daughter required an ambulance, ICU and an extended hospital stay. Mom went home the next day, but unfortunately passed away 15 months later after a long illness. Thankfully my daughter survived.
During that time I had to drop two large client projects without any notice. As far as my clients knew I was completely MIA. It killed my credibility with them and my income. When I was ready to return to work, I had no choice but to start over from scratch.
I don’t know anyone who likes to sell. Sales is hard. But it’s a lot easier if you have the right motivation. My mom and my daughter gave me the “why” I needed to dust myself off and make things happen.
Jump Start If You Have To
So what if you’re at ground zero with no experience? What if you are working a full time job, can only work part-time or have been unable to work due to family responsibilities? How do you move forward?
That’s exactly where I was in August of 2015. I hadn’t worked for 4 months. I hadn’t networked at all. Except for a few blog posts, I hadn’t updated my website or my portfolio for over a year. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to start.
Thankfully I had joined a sales training program right before my mom and my daughter got sick. The Ugurus business bootcamp was truly a lighthouse in the storm during those dark days. They helped me figure things out.
I asked my mentor what to do. He said, “Just start where you are”. Together we agreed that I would reach out to 10 colleagues on LinkedIn and let them know exactly what was going on and what I was trying to do.
My goal was simple. Ten calls or emails. Ten honest conversations about how or if I could help them. The results were amazing. Within two weeks I had a month’s worth of work lined up.
Ironically, one of the new projects was with one of the clients I dropped that Spring. By the end of September I was booked through the end of the year.
Work Your Plan
Recovering from zero gave me a big boost of hope and confidence. From there I created a larger plan, knowing that my next project was probably at least 90 days out. I expanded my outreach list to include previous coworkers, recruiters, friends, family, and anyone who would listen.
And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I make sure I have a steady stream of leads, qualify them, and move them through my sales process.
Not every opportunity works out. But constant, persistent action does. Right now I’m booked solid, but if I don’t consistently work my plan the wheels will eventually fall off.
Get A Sales Process
Once you get going, a proven sales process makes all the difference in the world. I believe that learning directly from someone with more experience than you works way better than any book.
Whether you want to improve your tennis game, music chops, or any other skill, hanging out on a regular basis with someone who’s already accomplished what you want to achieve will get you there faster than anything else.
The needle really moved for me thanks to my involvement with Ugurus. While the company is focused mostly on helping small web design agencies, everything they taught me was totally applicable to my small UX/UI consulting business.
Ugurus teaches an excellent sales process that I use daily for all of my business development. It’s a simple approach to consultative selling that just works.
The process consists of deciding on a niche, building a manageable list of leads, qualifying them, taking qualified prospects step-by-step through discovery and following up until you get a yes or a no. It’s about action, not excuses.
Add Value First
Once a prospect is qualified, the first step is to immediately add value. Be genuinely interested in and curious about solving their pains and problems. Help them identify and think through some of the issues before they ever pay you.
This will immediately demonstrate your value. By the proposal stage, your clients should see your contribution as an investment rather than a cost. You do that by establishing trust, rapport, and offering real solutions from the beginning.
Under-Promise, Over-Deliver, Rinse and Repeat
We live in an era of endless distractions. It’s hard to find good people that follow through. So if you’re reliable you’ll stand out. All you need to do is what you said you would do. Keep your commitments.
Once you develop a steady client base, nurture the heck out of them! Make sure your clients are thrilled with your work and they’ll never leave. It’s so much easier to sell to existing customers than to someone who doesn’t know you or your work. Repeat business and referrals are the key to being booked solid.
It takes ongoing effort and an open mind. The digital design landscape is constantly changing. Besides maintaining your client base, you also need to keep your skills sharp and attend to all the other aspects of your business like finance and marketing. There’s lots of hats, and they’re all yours.
Over To You
If you’re a freelance UX/UI designer, what do you do to stay busy? Are you booked solid? How did you accomplish that? What’s the one thing you could do right now to move your business forward? Let me know in the comments, or find out if my UX Mentor Program is right for you.
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