Dancing outside my comfort zone

Posts tagged ‘Flying solo’

Upgrading My Marketing Mindset

Marketing Makes Me Ill

I admit it. I’m a hater, at least when it comes to marketing for myself. The idea of trying to sell my own services is the stuff of nightmares. But as a solopreneur, I’m learning you simply have to suck it up and find a way to do it.

That’s not to say we have to sound like those annoying car salesmen who used to frequent the limited TV channels when I was a kid. We just have to learn to put ourselves out there and give people an opportunity to ask us about the services or products we offer.

As a writer, the most common of these is pitching. Unfortunately, my brain has twisted that word into a rather unappetizing pretzel as palatable as the afore-mentioned care salesman. Though I can’t get completely away from pitching, I have been able to soften the word so it doesn’t stick in my craw.

Proposing vs. Pitching

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to write proposals and that’s where I start to hit my stride. I spent far too many hours working with a proposal team in my last job, and have taken much of what I learned in those hours to heart. There are plenty of do’s and even more don’ts about proposal writing. My favorite of all of them is the “so what?” approach to evaluating a proposal.

The “so what?” approach essentially looks at all you’re offering the client or customer from their standpoint. If you can’t show the benefits of something you’re offering, or demonstrate how it will make their life easier, they’ll likely read it and wonder why you even included it. Many things fall into this category including lengthy descriptions of your assets and attributes. Believe me, a potential client doesn’t give a horse’s patoot how many years you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. They want to know what you can do for them. They want to feel comfortable handing over not only their hard-earned cash, but tasks they want done on time, within budget, and above all, done right.

Testimonials from previous customers are great, but in this day and age, they’ve probably already looked at your website and seen the testimonials.

The Key is in the Customization

Remember all those resumes and cover letters you’ve sent out over the years? And remember when you finally learned that sending generic ones would most likely get you passed over no matter how good your qualifications were? A decent proposal (or pitch or query or whatever word you choose to use) is much the same. Sure, I use a template. I suspect most freelancers do. We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel every time we propose a job. But you have to take the time to learn something about the client and their company.

Sometimes, they’re not very forthcoming about their business, so you have to read between the lines. Sometimes, you’ll get a little bit of information from your direct questions, but the real gold comes from doing a little research, and from conversations and emails. In short, from less formal communications.

Lately, I’ve found that asking an innocent question in the context of the conversation will yield gems you weren’t expecting, but which will give you insight into what the client is really trying to accomplish with the service or product you offer. (From here on out, I’m just going to talk about services since that’s what I do. Product marketing is an entirely different ballgame anyway).

Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts

In the last couple of months I’ve learned a few useful things about potential clients and proposals which are making me look at the whole process from a much less revolted point of view.

  • Rarely is the service you’re proposing your contact’s priority. They’ve been given the task of coordinating with potential candidates, but they have a lot of other responsibilities which are more important than what you’re proposing.
  • Patience is rewarded. Because of the first point, you may experience long lags between your responses and theirs. Get used to it. Check in once a week or so, but don’t be a pest. You’ll often learn where things stand priority-wise if you ask for a little time to respond to their latest request.
  • Always believe that no news is good news once you’re communicating with the potential client. I’ve sent out my share of queries which never even get opened, so I know what it feels like to send my best efforts into a black hole—every freelancer and solopreneur I know has files full of rejections by silence. So when you do get someone to respond, take it as a yes until such time as, god forbid, they tell you no.
  • (This one should probably have gone first, but this list is not in order of importance) Spend time on the company website getting to know who you want to be working with. This is where strong investigative skills come in handy. But you can certainly take note of the obvious things like pages on their site (for me, one of the first things I look for is evidence of a blog. If it exists, I look at how active it is, and when they last posted). From there, look for the services or products they offer, the people they serve, and the problems they solve.
  • Leave room in your proposal for services above and beyond what you’re proposing. Make sure you have a clause which covers you for “scope creep”. I see many freelance service providers complaining about clients who take advantage of them.  Putting the “scope creep” clause in the proposal and contract tells the client exactly what they’re signing up for and when additional work will require a new or modified contract.
  • Whether you’re dealing with the company President or someone 20 steps down the ladder, respect and consideration go a long way. Those gate keepers have the power to lock you out. Never lose sight of that. I’m reminded of the years I worked in Corporate America. Until computers rendered a lot of secretarial tasks obsolete, every director and upper-level manager had a secretary or admin and woe be to the person who got on that admin’s bad side. When all else fails, put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be treated by someone whether you’re just recommending them or you’re the decision-maker?
Learning to Wait, Revise, and Rethink

Patience has never been my strong suit. I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m gaining a newfound level of respect for a friend who is a commercial realtor. Many times, I’ve seen her comment on the latest iteration of a contract, often in double digits. As I propose and re-propose myself, I’m learning it’s just part of the process. People re-evaluate. When they see something in black and white, it makes them think about what they truly want. They’re not trying to be difficult. They simply want to be clear on how the problem they’re facing should be solved.

I’m also gaining an appreciation for marketing, and despite the many voices telling me it’s just a numbers game and I have to send out a million pitches, I believe we have to find what works for us. When I hear someone say they get sick to their stomach whenever they pitch, yet they spend a significant part of their day doing it, I have to ask Why would you want to do something that feels like a bad case of morning sickness? Be creative. Find something that works without the physical discomfort.

I’m one who gets physically ill just thinking about selling myself. But I’m also not willing to give up on myself, so I’m taking my own advice and looking for a better way. Part of that is talking to people who more about putting yourself out there to gain recognition and trust rather than playing the numbers game. I spent enough of my life playing with numbers. I’m learning I prefer words, hands down.

Gratitude Always Works

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful there is more than one way to reach my goals.
  2. I’m grateful for the examples I see before me. Some, I’ll incorporate into my strategy, others I won’t. It doesn’t mean any of them are bad. Some are just a better fit for me.
  3. I’m grateful for dance nights, even when the DJ plays the same old boring dances instead of the many new ones we’ve learned. I get my exercise, my social engagement, and my hugs.
  4. I’m grateful for the upgrades I’ve made in my house in the last week or two. They’re neither expensive nor earth shaking. But they make me feel better, clearer, and more confident of my ability to attract the things I dream of.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, manifestations, inspiration, motivation, companionship, friendship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

The Facebook Live associated with this post can be found here.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

February 27, 2015 Obsession

I often wonder: Is it human to obsess over something in our lives?

Do you do it? Do you obsess over something in your life? It could by your job or one you want; your weight or your appearance; your choices; your relationships…or lack thereof; your children, human or otherwise; it’s almost anything you spend too much time thinking about and which often paralyzes your actions and turns your stomach into a churning knot.

For me, it has always been about a man to whom I was attracted or with whom I was involved. In fact, it got so bad and my choices were usually so personally destructive that I finally just stopped putting myself out there or looking at anyone with more than causal interest over ten years ago. For the record, I don’t recommend such a drastic solution to whatever your obsession might be. It is a bandaid solution at best, and in the end, it cures nothing. Because, you see, once again, I find myself obsessing over someone who, in true obsessive fashion, I’ve convinced myself is completely unsuitable; but convincing myself that he’s unsuitable does not now, nor has it ever stopped my obsessing. It also doesn’t put me in a mental and emotional place where I might actually find a healthy relationship should I choose to do so.

Nor does it stop the flutter in my stomach when the gentleman in question happens to be in my vicinity, although, to my credit, I’ve learned from experience that I can and will behave normally should we actually have contact. I also no longer invent scenarios where all is wonderful and rosy between us. The one thing I’ve learned in my extended period of monkdom (assuming monks are non-gender specific) is that I don’t need to feed my obsession.

My admiration goes out to those who are able to swim in the sea and avoid the undertow

On the relatively few occasions when I’m actually among other humans in areas where there are friends, strangers and everything in between, I find my attention caught by the women who can move comfortably from man to man, chatting easily and making whoever they are with the center of their attention, even if it is only for the space of a dance. Even though, to me, it might be clear that a woman is on the lookout for that someone special, they seem to enjoy the process of the search. How do they learn to do that, or is it just an innate talent? Even worse, for me is the realization that there was a time that I was far more comfortable in the company of the male of the species, but at that time, I was also oblivious to any attraction they might have felt as I was quite happy just being “one of the guys”.

I supposed I’m still that person as long as I don’t feel that pull of attraction myself. I don’t know how to read the signs so I’m never certain that attraction is returned. Instead of putting out feelers (assuming I even knew how) I assume the worst and come up with all sorts of reasons why I couldn’t be attractive to the man in question. Yes, in spite of all of the work I’ve done, and the progress I’ve made into loving myself unconditionally, I still have one area in which I’ve yet to overcome my insecurities.

As I near my 60th birthday, which my daughter is taking great joy in reminding me, and see the many years I’ve traveled alone, save for my furry family, I wonder if this is simply the path I came here to follow. I have to wonder if my true purpose, like a writer’s life, is meant to be a solo flight. But then I think again and wonder if it is just that my own self-defense system fails to recognize the ones who attract me with their minds rather than their physical appearance and charisma? The truth is, I’ve been single or essentially single for nearly a quarter of a century and, to be perfectly honest, I’ve settled into this lifestyle I carved out for myself. To find a connection with someone which is powerful enough to overcome so many years of having it my way is going to require something extraordinary. Is there even a possibility such a thing exists? Or that I will recognize it? I suspect that it will take one of the Universe’s biggest and best head slaps just to get my attention. (am I just asking for it now?)

Common sense says that the first step towards curing an addiction (or in this case, compulsive obsession) is to recognize that you have a problem.

If I define this obsession as a simple self-defense mechanism to protect my heart from hurt, is it really a problem, or am I making more of it than necessary? If I acknowledge that it is a problem, does that mean I will ultimately find a cure, assuming a cure is to be found? Or could the real issue be that I’ve learned to love myself so much that I no longer see any reason to share me with anyone else?

Admittedly, I’ve learned to smile genuinely rather than gag when I see couples looking at each other with all of their love spilling out of their eyes. I am genuinely happy for my friends who have warm, loving relationships. But when I picture myself, I see that beautiful 13 acre property overlooking the beach and I have already determined what will go in each of the rooms and which rooms are scheduled to be remodeled to better suit my needs…yes MY needs. Which brings me back to my original question. Aside from the short time in which I was part of a couple and ultimately conceived my daughters, did I choose to ultimately walk my path in this lifetime alone? Is this simply an opportunity for my Spirit to feel completely independent? Are the defense mechanisms I’ve developed simply there to keep me focused on my true purpose?

And what about you? Is there something you continue to obsess about without really understanding how to get past it, or, in truth, why you even need to? Though I walk my road alone, it is always nice to hear that some of the things which challenge me are shared by others and, in fact, I’m not as alone as it might seem.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for introspection.
2. I am grateful for the weeks when I’m busy cooking and refilling my freezer. Not only will I have weeks when I don’t need to cook, but my grocery bills drop dramatically for awhile.
3. I am grateful for long cooking sessions. Chopping and preparing are wonderful times to think about life or work through a rough spot in a manuscript or simply drift along on a lovely cloud of joy.
4. I am grateful for a weekend of sharing the kitchen with my daughter and having my grandpuppy come looking for attention while I’m working in my office.
5. I am grateful for a mind which questions, folds, spindles and mutilates every thought or weird dream which finds its way into the twisty, windy, darkness which connects my mind, my soul and my purpose.
6. I am grateful for abundance: questions, answers, oddities, blessings, challenges, lessons, love, joy, happiness, health, harmony, peace and prosperity.

Blessed Be

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my website at http://www.shericonaway.com which contains a link to this blog and my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. I’ve created both page and website as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” it or leave a comment! Thank you!

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