When I started my firm 10 years ago, I had never worked for a PR agency. Needless to say, I made some mistakes as I attempted to figure out the business side of being an independent PR practitioner. Many of these mistakes had to do with wasting time on pointless and/or inefficient activities. Two of these were covered in 4 Ways I Wasted My Time as a New Independent Practitioner – Part 1.
For any independent PR pros looking to streamline operations and get more time back in their day, I share my mistakes with you in the hopes you can avoid them. Here are the last two of my four biggest time-wasters when I first started out as an independent practitioner.
3. Inefficient Business Development
In the early years of True Blue Communications, I spent WAY too much time on business development that ended up going nowhere. I was falling short by:
- Not properly vetting leads. Namely, I pursued prospects that didn’t have the budget for my services. Unfortunately, I often didn’t discover this until after spending many hours cultivating the lead.
- Giving away hours of free consultation during the “courting process.”
- Writing lengthy, overly detailed, time-consuming proposals.
Now, getting to know a prospect (and them you), and showing your potential value for their organization is an important part of business development. I don’t dispute that. However, after I recognized the above issues, I set about circumventing them in a way that kept what was important at the heart of business development but cut the unnecessary.
Here’s what has worked for me:
- In the first interaction with a prospect or very soon after, I share our fee range or the starting price for the services the prospect is interested in. I make it clear that I will give them a firm price after we discuss their needs further and define the scope of work. However, giving a ballpark price up front gives the prospect the ability to speak up right away if they don’t have the budget for our services. If they don’t, the conversation stops there. On to other things for us both. No harm, no foul.
- Framing the first meeting with the prospect as a “complimentary consultation.” This conveys that we are a strategic communications firm that will make service recommendations based on the prospect’s best interest. It also sets the tone that, if the prospect needs more communications consultation beyond that first meeting, that will incur a consulting fee.
- Sending a one-page proposal (two if it’s a robust program) outlining the high-level scope of work, fees and terms. I now save the nitty-gritty details for the contract, which I send the prospect after they approve the proposal.
4. Unwittingly Over-Delivering
There is a time and place for over-delivering. By “over-delivering,” I mean going above and beyond the contracted scope of work without charging a higher fee. In fact, I like to over-deliver here and there, to give my clients extra TLC and value.
But, there is a fundamental difference between what we do now and what I was doing as new independent practitioner – awareness. Making it a conscious decision to over-deliver versus not realizing I was giving away so much of my time for free.
The reason I was unwittingly over-delivering boiled down to a single flaw – I wasn’t tracking my time. I structure many of my contracts as flat fees, either for projects or monthly programs. So, I was putting in as much time as needed to get the job done – plus whatever extra my clients may have been asking for – without realizing how much they were getting for free.
When I started tracking my time, I got clarity on where my time was going. I could better identify where I was unwittingly over-delivering. I was able to adjust future contracts to be fairly compensated for my work and expertise. And of course, suddenly, I was making more money because I was actually being paid for my time.
Any thoughts about how to spend your time wisely on business development and tracking billable work? Any more time-wasters to add to the list? Post them in the comments below!