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Six Ways to Maintain Your Focus

Lucien Canton-6“Just what do you do all day long?” You’re going to hear this a lot from your friends and family when you start out as a solo consultant. There’s a tendency to think that someone who works from home has all sorts of free time. One of the reasons I became a consultant was because I didn’t want “typical” days; I wanted the flexibility working for myself brings. However, there is a big difference between being flexible and having time on your hands. You need to establish routines and patterns that keep you focused and on track or you’ll suddenly find it’s the end of the day and you’ve accomplished nothing.

Here are some the techniques I use to keep myself centered and on track: Read More→

Five Tips for Taming the Email Beast

Lucien-Canton-6-682x1024There was a recent article in my local paper about how the US Postal Service is in trouble because fewer and fewer people are sending “snail mail” these days. What this means is that all that junk that used to accumulate in your physical mailbox now is finding its way to your email inbox. Last month I did a quick study and realized I was receiving over 2000 emails a month. With that type of volume, how do you keep from missing really important stuff?

Email is just a tool not an end in itself. In this day of instant gratification, however, we have come to expect an immediate response when we send an email. The quid pro quo is we spend our time constantly checking our mail or have alerts to let us know when a message arrives. We’ve also allowed ourselves to be controlled by our perceived need for the most up-to-date information. You need to break this mindset.

Here are five simple solutions that help me stay sane: Read More→

Negotiating A Project Budget

Lucien Canton-6The very first proposal I ever submitted was for a complex government project. I analyzed the requirements of the project, assembled a team of subject matter experts, and worked out what I thought was a reasonable project budget. I shocked to find out that my proposed cost was over three times the anticipated project budget. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one; the request for proposal was withdrawn and reissued with a project budget four times the original anticipated cost.

Over the years I have learned that one of the most important things I need to know about a project is the anticipated budget. If I know what the client is thinking of spending I can craft my methodology to meet that budget. But how do you find out what the anticipated budget is? Read More→

Finding Clients: Are You Asking the Right Question?

Lucien Canton-6One of the most frequent questions I get from new consultants is, “Where do I find clients?” The assumption is that clients are like wild game that must be stalked. You have to go out and look for them. But the most valuable clients are the ones that come to you, either through referrals or by being attracted by your reputation. So the real question should be, “How do I make it easy for clients to find me?”

There are any number of ways to attract clients but trying to use every possibility is both expensive and ineffective. Instead, you need to determine the right mix of strategies for your client base that will enhance your professional reputation and educate them as to your value. Here are some of the strategies that I use in my own practice: Read More→

How To Identify Your Value To Potential Clients

Lucien-Canton-6-682x1024A very common problem with new consultants is to try to be all things to all people. By that I mean accepting any project that presents itself or marketing yourself with a message that basically shouts, “I can do it all!” This usually stems from our insecurity; we’re not sure we’re going to be successful and are desperate for anything that will bring us revenue. Unfortunately, this works to your detriment. It prevents you from focusing on what makes you unique as a consultant and dissipates your talent on projects that can bring you little real return. The solution to avoiding this problem is to develop a strong value proposition. Read More→

Three Tips to Surviving the Initial Project Meeting

Lucien Canton-6Congratulations! You’ve landed that big contract and are about to have your first project meeting. You’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now. But don’t get overconfident; you’re not out of the woods yet. The initial project meeting is a crucial step in implementing your proposal. Get it wrong and you can lose the client’s confidence before even beginning your work. Once lost, regaining that confidence is extremely difficult and may ultimately lead to cancellation of your project.

Here are three tips to get you through that meeting: Read More→

Is Social Media Marketing Wasting Your Time?

Social media has certainly changed how we market ourselves and it is still evolving. According to an Adobe CMO survey in 2013, 54% of the business to business respondents said they had generated leads using social media. But is social media the right marketing tool for independent consultants?

To answer that question, you need to be clear about why you are using social media as a marketing tool. For the solo consultant, there are three main ways to use social media marketing: finding potential clients, building contact lists, and building buzz. Let’s look at these in detail. Read More→

Don’t Waste Money on Your Home Office!

One of the great things about being an independent consultant is the ability work from home. This also has its downside, however. You no longer have the resources of a fully equipped office. New consultants have a tendency to run out and equip their home office with all sorts of shiny toys, often eating up their initial capital. So how can you get the most bang for your buck when setting up your home office?

The answer is fairly simple. You do it by considering the nature of the work you are doing and the basic functions you will need to perform. Avoid anything that doesn’t relate to these two things. Here are examples of how I apply this concept within my own practice: Read More→

Avoiding the One Minute Proposal

“What would you charge to do this?” It’s a question I get fairly frequently from potential clients who call me, “this” being their two minute summary of the project. My response is usually something along the lines of, “I have absolutely no idea.” It shakes them up.

Essentially, you’re being asked to submit a verbal proposal with little or no information about the project. Do you really want to do that in a five minute phone call? Do you really want to commit to a project when you’ve had less than a minute to think about it?

My personal rule is to never give a client a quote over the phone. I always insist on a personal interview. In very rare cases, I will settle for an interview via Skype or, as a last resort, a telephone interview. There are four reasons why you want to meet personally with a potential client: Read More→

Three Crucial Questions to Ask Potential Clients

It’s not uncommon for a consultant to receive a call from a potential client who provides a summary of the project and asks for a quote. I always insist on a personal meeting for two reasons. First, it gives an opportunity to begin building a relationship with the client. Secondly, it provides an opportunity to ask several strategic questions that help can help you build a good proposal.

There are many questions to ask a client but most of them are related to operational issues like budget, timeline, work products, and so forth. However, there are three strategic questions I always ask. Read More→