By Agent 0.100.0.0. (AS)
One of the challenges and thrills of running a small business is the process of finding and securing new business. I have still yet to find the sweet spot formula that lands us a signed contract, but over the past few years I have been able to separate those who are willing to hold our hands and jump off the deep end, and those who aren't. I still give every prospective client the same amount of love and affection, regardless of where they come from. But I'm pretty in tune on those who are actually willing to seal the deal. So what's our secret to constantly getting fresh work into the door? Hustling.
Over the past two years this has been the most important and effective ways for us to get new clients. When a colleague, friend or even more importantly another client, sends someone our way, the chance of us actually collaborating together is very high. First of all there is an inherent sense of trust between us. They have most likely already been introduced to our work, and the recommendation validates our capabilities. There have been several instances where specific teams have referred us to other teams within their organization. This is ideal. Not only are we being referred by a colleague, but we're already an approved vendor and in their system. This saves a lot of time.
It's a misconception that there is no leg work to be done to get referrals. In order to have people send others our way, we must always be on the top of our game. We have to treat our client's projects with the utmost respect and give them all the attention they deserve. Additionally, we have to put ourselves out there within our networks, constantly talking about the projects we are working on and our growing set of capabilities.
TO BADGE OR NOT TO BADGE
In the past, we have always made it a part of our contracts that we can have a link out to our own personal site on the web platforms that we design/develop. Depending on the number of views, this can actually bring a fair amount of traffic over to us. But do those visits actually turn into business? We've yet to be able to make a case for this, because the answer is no.
Recently, we've be removing them from our designs because in reality it sticks out like a sore thumb. We are more interested in keeping the integrity and the design aesthetic, and a line at the bottom of the site that says "Made in Collaboration with OperationCMYK" doesn't always fit. If someone really wants to know who designed one of our client's projects, they can ask.
While for some the thought of attending networking events and Meetups, with dozens of people and open bars sounds like a perfect night out, for me it's just the opposite. Those situations can be awkward, where I swoop around the room, trying to master my 2-minute pitch that sales pitch on what it is I do and how great it is. Those spaces can also be highly saturated with people who do what I do, and I'm not interested in a pissing contest. Instead I've found other ways to get myself and the company out there.
For example, I joined a Shuffle Board League! This might not be the most obvious of places to look for new business, but it gets me out and into networks that I'm not usually a part of. A the focus of these gatherings is not on "networking" per se, but in having fun and socializing. Meeting people and talking to them about what I do is more organic and feels less like a "sale".
As a company we have also made a strong effort to keep people coming through our doors. We are constantly throwing parties or hosting events. Getting people into our space and talking with them is a fantastic way to meet people. Once they see our studio and get introduced to our work they've formed a connection with us, and us with them.
I would be lying if I said I didn't look for work online. It's still a space where lots of companies and individuals go to when they are looking for designers/developers. I found some online resources like Craigslist.com to be an absolute flop. In the hundreds of ads that I've responded to, not one has lead to an actual project. However, the alumni resources at both NYU and The New School have been an extremely successful way to start conversations. Many of our projects over the past few years have come from these institutions; each has a dedicated jobs listing website, mailing list and Facebook page.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
I spend about 1/3 of my time looking for and trying to secure work. It's a job all in itself. The looking, the talking, the meetings, the writing of proposals...all in the name of possibility. But it's something I have to do. I've realized that for every ten proposals I write, maybe I'll get one or two. But that's just what it takes, it's the name of the game. There is a certain amount of cost that I have to put into my company in order to see a return. And if I just settled for any type of odd job, I wouldn't be able to build a successful portfolio that really represents what CMYK is all about.