David A. Fields returns to Unleashed in Episode 221 to share tips on how to increase the conversion rate of leads into opportunities.
And of course sign up to get David’s weekly blog posts.
You know something that someone, somewhere, wants to learn. Consider creating an online course to share what you have to teach.
In Episode 220 of Unleashed, Umbrex member Paul Millerd discusses how he has created several online courses.
Follow Paul on Twitter @p_millerd
What are three things that you are really looking forward to the most?
When you are meeting for the first time with someone new at a company you are serving, what do you say?
I used to take up the first five minutes of the conversation by force-feeding the person with a summary of the project.
Now I start with: “What have you already heard about this effort?”
In Episode 215 I explain why I find this question so valuable.
In Episode 213 of Unleashed, I share tips on how to source expert interviews for your projects, both through expert networks as well as how to find them yourself. (Here’s a transcript for those who prefer to read rather than listen.)
The episode includes tips on:
- Using an Upwork researcher to create the target list for outreach
- How to reach out and make the interview request on LinkedIn
- How much to pay an expert
- Benchmarks for response rate you should expect
- Pros and cons of recording the interview
- Suggested design of interviewee tracking sheet (Download a template here.)
Generally, it is more economical to source expert interviews yourself rather than using an expert network.
Great source for holiday cards (or other printing needs): NextDayFlyers.
- Far more economical than Shutterfly or other consumer brand
- You get complete artistic control and don’t need to use some pre-existing template
- No Shutterfly logo
NextDayFlyers would be primarily for U.S. customers. What are your recommendations for customers in other countries?
Ever need to store your bags for a few hours while traveling?
BagBNB is like AirBNB for your bags.
As an example, this map shows locations currently available to store bags near Times Square – just $6 per day per item.
Canva is a fun design tool that doesn’t require a weeklong class to get started. I downloaded the app yesterday and in 5 minutes had created my first Instagram-style post (above).
The tool has templates for infographics, proposals, invitations, certificates, tri-fold brochures, menus, letterheads, tags, tickets, gift certificates and a couple dozen other categories.
If you are organizing an event where more than ten people will show up, it is nice to provide name badges.
These are the best I’ve found. They’ve got magnets that go inside your shirt. No annoying pins or clips.
If you re-use the name badges, you can buy these insert refills.
A client asked for some advice on reducing accounts receivables balances, and as a problem-solving tool for his team, I put together the above checklist (download here), mostly based on my own experience of collecting on invoices over the past 11 years.
When kicking off a project, particularly one that involves a broad set of stakeholders, you’ve probably created one-page initiative charters.
You can download a PPT of the above version here.
DocSend allows you to:
- Securely share large files
- Keep track of who has opened them
- Get alerts if the document is forwarded
- Get page-by-page analytics on where people spent time
- Make edits to the doc after you send it
- Auto-expire documents or turn off access at any time
Recap emails: A five-minute investment that dramatically improves the effectiveness of meetings and the client experience over the course of a project. Further thoughts on Episode 203 of Unleashed.
In August I recorded 70 short videos for a course on how to set up a consulting practice. I will get them all edited and available online within the next month or so. Stay tuned.
I just got the first video back from our editor and would love your feedback on the design.
In this episode, I suggest that independent professionals discuss with their significant other and agree up-front on their vacation policy.
When 1.5 billion humans are already using WhatsApp, I recognize that this barely counts as a tip. Nevertheless, I’ve interacted with members of the community who still haven’t signed up.
WhatsApp is handy for making free international phone calls.
For cases where the other party doesn’t have a WhatsApp account, it is useful to also have a Skype account, of course.
Beyond WhatsApp and Skype, what tools do you use to make international calls?
Here is a sample proposal template that I’ve successfully used to win dozens of projects. You can download a Word version here. A friend sent this template to me 11 years ago and it has served me well.
Sometimes, a project needs a horizontal PPT-style proposal that takes a lot more work. Knocking out a proposal in this vertical format, however, generally takes me about half an hour.
- Project context
- Professional arrangements
- Use of this proposal
- Next steps
- Contact info
It takes about three minutes to set up 2 Step Verification (2SV, also called Two Factor Authentication), and the simple step is one of the most important things you can do to keep your email account from being hacked.
Chances are that
a) You know you should turn on 2 Step Verification
b) You haven’t done it yet
Why not do it now? It’s OK, this email can wait. Here are links to common services:
Is everything you’ve ever done so confidential that there is no way you can sanitize it? Then take a free day, hire yourself, and create a sample deliverable, outside in, e.g.:
- Is your focus M&A? Then pick a recent publicly announced merger, and prepare the strategy document that you would have shown to one of the CEOs to justify the deal.
- Do you specialize in operational improvement? Observe the Department of Motor Vehicles and create a one-day diagnostic of improvement opportunities (should not be hard to find some.)
- Is your focus digital marketing? Pick a set of consumer brands and do an outside-in assessment
- You’re an expert in PE due diligence? Pick a company that interests you, interview some customers and former employees, and put together some pages
Sending a handwritten note to a client is a nice touch, whether after an introductory call:
“Such a pleasure to meet you; looking forward to exploring ways for us to support your Asia growth initiative.”
or at the end of a project:
“So pleased to hear that the Board approved the recommendations you presented….”
Having a stack of handsomely-designed correspondence cards (plus envelopes and stamps) on hand helps overcome the activation energy that this extra step of client service requires.
Moo.com makes beautiful 32pt cards, 4.13″ x 5.82″ (10.5 x 14.8 cm).
The chart is from The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors, by Matthew O. Jackson, a fascinating survey of academic findings on how we are affected in all sorts of ways by the people with whom we are connected.
To me, the book reinforced the core mission of Umbrex:
To provide opportunities for top-tier independent consultants to connect with one another.
And the book inspired this week’s tip: Connect on LinkedIn with other members of the Umbrex community.
You can find all members of the Umbrex community on the Umbrex website. The hyperlink on every member’s name goes to their LinkedIn profile.
The website’s filter tools allow you to find members who share your geography, function, or industry.
As always with LinkedIn, good etiquette is to include a personalized note, such as, “I’m a fellow Umbrex member [based in Munich] / [focused on pricing projects] / [focused on the high tech industry]. I tend to work with [type of clients]. My contact info is […..]. Looking forward to connecting.”
Note: if you aren’t in the habit of sending out multiple connection requests, you may want to limit to about 10-15 per day or LinkedIn may put restrictions on your account for possible bot activity. Over time you can increase the number gradually.
If you haven’t created a company page for your firm on LinkedIn, please do so – it is worth the five-minute investment of time, making a profile look more professional. Here’s the instructions.
Even if you have automated and shifted from physical mail to electronic delivery as much as possible, some important communications still come in hard copy via the postal service.
If you are away from home for a stretch of time and live in the U.S., the United States Postal Service has a nice free feature called Informed Delivery (not available in all zipcodes.) When you sign up, you get an email every morning with an image of the outside of all the envelopes arriving that day along with a listing of any packages being delivered.
Not so exciting when the incoming is junk mail (as in the sample below from my own inbox), but nice to know when a paper check from a client will be arriving.
What have you found to be the best way to send or receive funds internationally, when the transfer involves a currency exchange?
When I found that my bank charges a currency exchange fee of nearly 3%, I started using OFX, where the fee is under 1%. Several Umbrex members have told me that they use Transferwise, which seems like a more powerful solution.
Note: the initial setup involves a bit of know-your-customer anti-money laundering administrative hassle, so if you anticipate needing one of these services, get it in place in advance.
I received an email from LinkedIn on Tuesday letting me know about a new feature:
Here is the text of the email:
“Today we’re piloting a new product dedicated specifically to business owners and freelancers: Open for Business. This new feature will enable you to showcase the services you provide on your profile, so that you and your business can be found in search on LinkedIn. From there, potential new clients can reach out to you for free — it’s as easy as that.”
I just added this new profile section to test it out. I don’t know if this feature is being released selectively, or if everyone can now add it. If you have questions or insights about this new feature, please share on the Forum.
Here is a screenshot of my LinkedIn profile with the new section added:
I had the Chase Sapphire credit card for about a year before I bothered to get Priority Pass, which is one of the included benefits but requires an extra step to sign up.
For me, the Priority Pass membership alone justifies the annual fee for the Sapphire card, with the free access to lounges in nearly every airport. around the world.
When I travel with the family, I’ve never had a problem getting the whole crew admitted for free.
(In fact, writing this email from the VIP lounge in the airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador.)
There’s plenty of apps to read, review, and mark up PDFs.
I find LiquidText particularly elegant. It’s the closest digital tool I’ve found that feels like I’m reading and writing on printed pages.
You can highlight and make annotations on LiquidText – but that’s not what makes it great. My favorite feature is how you can pull out selections, organize notes, and add comments in one place from multiple documents.
LiquidText is currently available on the iPad. It should be available for Microsoft within the year.
Pay one monthly subscription and you get unlimited access to their library of books, audiobooks, and magazines.
Sarah Sonnenfeld loves Tripit, a tool that “makes sense of all your travel plans and creates a single itinerary for every trip.”
1. Forward your confirmation emails
2. Get a master itinerary
3. Download the app
At Top Tier New York last week, at one session we discussed favorite tech tools (thanks to Sarah Sonnenfeld for facilitating.)
For a SaaS project management tool that can be shared with clients, several members recommended TeamGantt.
One stat: 41% said making outbound phone calls is the marketing activity they dislike the most.
(On Episode 170, David A. Fields shared his advice on how to make outbound calls.)
How do you market your practice?
What has worked?
What have you tried, but didn’t get any traction?
Feedly is an app I love to discover and then follow blogs.
The discovery tool is great: enter one blog that you’d like to follow, and then the app suggests a series of other blogs on the same topic that you might also like.
Some of the favorite blogs in my feed are (and I don’t agree with all of them. Part of my goal is to regularly read writers I disagree with, to challenge my thinking)
I believe that hosting a podcast is such an amazing opportunity for independent professionals. A single activity that allows you to simultaneously:
- Build relationships with your guests (potential clients)
- Learn something
- Raise your visibility / build credibility in your chosen niche
In case you missed the “How to start a podcast” session last Friday but wanted to attend, we recorded the session, and here is the video.
And you can download the PDF of the presentation here.
In this episode I refer to, and strongly recommend, Chapter 22 of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: 6 Steps to Unlimited Clients & Financial Freedom, by David A. Fields.
“First, I try to set my rate so that I *lose* maybe 10-20% of potential projects because the client says I’m too expensive. That tells me I’m at the outer edge of what the market will bear for someone like me.
Second, I will often discount for smaller companies. They usually have smaller budgets and lower expectations. But I enjoy working with smaller organizations, so it’s partly related to your idea of the Fun Discount.”
David A. Fields is hiring a Principal to join his firm, and I thought his approach is worth sharing, for anyone who is looking to grow their team.
First, there is a detailed video explaining the position. Then an online application that sorts for those who are seriously interested. Pretty cool idea to have an in-depth video of the person you will be reporting to.
Gotta love a 2x2x2 matrix.
Eden McCallum in partnership with London Business School did a survey of independent consultants and current consultants.
A web version of the results is here.
A different downloadable version of the results is here.
Outbound calls are one of the best ways to keep relationships strong and stay top-of-mind with decision makers.
But making outbound calls – even to people in your core network – can be awkward.
It helps quite a bit, though, if you have a plan for what you’ll say and how to steer the conversation.
At the Top Tier events last year, one of the highest rated topics was David A. Fields sharing his approach to making outbound calls, including:
- Why you should not always try to “add value” whenever you make a call
- What to say if you reach voicemail
- How to navigate “The Turn” if a possible project opportunity gets mentioned
- What to say when asked what you’ve been up to
David was kind enough to return to Unleashed as my guest to discuss his approach on Episode 170, which we’ve added to Unleashed Essentials – the top episodes I encourage people to start with.
You can download for free the call outline that is excerpted above by going here. That link will also take you to a Script Bank that David developed.
This chart is pulled from the article “Notes on Designing Your Company” by Kevin J. Boudreau, Harvard Business School working paper 16-131. You can download the full document here.
This was the second-most downloaded article on SSRN (Social Science Research Network) the week of March 18th.
SSRN is a fun place to browse – you can get a free account, see the rankings of the most-downloaded papers, and download papers for free.
Other top-ranked articles include (free account required to download):
- A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory
- Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain
- The Evolution of Fintech: A New Post-Crisis Paradigm?
- 18 Topics Badly Explained by Many Finance Professors
- How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the U.S. Share of Mass Public Shootings: U.S. Rate is Lower than Global Average
An Umbrex member asked me last week if I’d recommend that she get disability insurance.
Short answer: Absolutely.
It is a bit of a hassle, but I would encourage everyone (in the U.S., at least) to get long term disability coverage. The process takes 4-6 weeks, and there is never a better time to start than right now. Cost is ~1-3% of annual protected income.
A good website to compare quotes is Policy Genius.
I discuss considerations in buying disability insurance and the factors that affect the price in Episode 157 of Unleashed.
We all know the 80-20 rule. What about the (70 : 30) Squared Rule?
The (70 : 30) Square Rule says when you are having an initial context discussion with a client, client should be speaking 70% of the time, and consultant should be speaking 30% of the time. And when the consultant is speaking, 70% of that 30% should be asking questions.
Once we’re in the room, the goal is not to establish our credibility, but to deeply understand the problem.
It is hard to self-monitor to actually know how much time we are talking vs. asking questions. Consider asking a colleague to join you and give you feedback. Or record a call (if legal in your jurisdiction) and listen to yourself.
More thoughts in Episode 159 of Unleashed.
Instead of a whole deck, what if you go to a meeting with one piece of paper? I love this infographic created by Umbrex member Ian Tidswell.
I can imagine having a robust two-hour discussion based on this one page alone. Have you ever gone to a client discussion with just one piece of paper?
Found this on LinkedIn, posted by Chelsea Peitz.
Over the past week I’ve been binge-listening to the LinkedInformed podcast with host Mark Williams, thanks to a tip from Mahan Tavakoli. I’ll be sharing my key takeaways in this weekly email. Here’s one:
I’ve been writing sub-optimal posts on LinkedIn. I generally do a post about each episode of Unleashed with the name of the guest, a short summary, and a call-out to subscribe to my weekly email.
I’ve learned that anything that smacks of being self-promotional is disfavored by the algorithm and limits views. And that ideally, posts should invite conversation. Pose a question.
According to Mark Williams, if you are seeking to raise the profile of a post and increase your own profile as well, the best thing you can do is comment on the post (perhaps ask a question of the author). Liking a post is OK, but doesn’t help as much. Sharing a post is not as good as commenting on it, because it breaks the connection with the other comments on the post.
I’m curious about what you are posting. If you’d like me to comment on your LinkedIn post, mention me with an “@Will Bachman” and I’ll see if I can think of something to add to encourage conversation.
Umbrex member Caleb Williams asked me my perspective on the difference between these terms:
- Independent professional
- Independent consultant
- Independent contractor
- Independent advisor
- Freelance consultant
Since I’m trying to learn how to do video, I posted my two-minute answer here. Would love to see your thoughts on those terms in a comment to the video post.
Incidentally, I used Headliner to do the captions. It transcribes your video and adds the captions for you. Pretty great tool.
Interactive scrolling display of the lifespan of news at newslifespan.com.
I can imagine using a similar visualization on a consulting project (perhaps the impact of a series of promotional campaigns?
If you were a taxi driver, what might you do to increase your tips?
- Providing phone charging cables to the back seat
- Asking the passengers what music (if any) they would like to listen to
- Learning a bit of local history and offering to, e.g., tell passengers what movie scenes were filmed on which block, or where famous murders took place, or which apartment buildings have empty condos owned by Russian oligarchs
Those ideas (which might or might not work – haven’t tested them) have nothing to do with the basic function of a taxi: to get you from point A to point B.
But they do affect the client experience.
Starting with Episode 128 of Unleashed, published yesterday, I’m doing a six-part podcast miniseries on ways to enhance the client experience, based on a framework developed by David A. Fields that we used at the Top Tier events in 2018. Several dozen Umbrex members contributed ideas during the workshop.
Episode 128 introduced the series, and Episodes 129-133 (today through Sunday) provide some suggested ideas on how to improve the client experience across these five phases of a project:
- The proposal phase
- Onboarding / kickoff phase
- Project execution
An exercise for daily reflection that I’ve been working on. Pick one of the above questions and write for fifteen minutes. If it is helpful, make a list of things while considering the following categories:
- Children / Parents
- Things I have to do / want to do / am afraid to do
Now, the next step would be to begin unpacking each item you’ve listed.
For items you are anxious about, try answering:
- What steps do you need to take?
- What do others need to do?
- What needs to happen when?
Getting it on paper makes things a bit more manageable.
This is from Self-Knowledge, published by the School of Life.