Freelance Fortune: The Newsletter (No. 1: Nov 2009)
SETH KAHAN’S FREELANCE FORTUNE
This is a free, private-roster newsletter that celebrates the free
agent lifestyle and provides techniques for business success.
© 2009 Seth Kahan. You are encouraged to share the contents with
others with appropriate attribution. You may forward this newsletter
This issue of Freelance Fortune is in three sections:
* Celebrating the Freelance Lifestyle
* Ten Ideas for Getting Better Clients
* Ode to a Dog Lover
CELEBRATING THE FREELANCE LIFESTYLE
For 13 years I worked 9-5 at the World Bank in Washington, DC. I tried
to leave and go out on my own in 1995, but the Bank came after me and
kept offering me cooler and cooler jobs, along with some darn good
raises. So, I stayed for some of the best adventures of my life. I was
at the center of 2 global change initiative, led some really neat
programs, and worked closely with President Jim Wolfensohn my last two
I remember getting a call from my boss in early 2002. My position was
funded from the president’s personal budget and they were going to
change it. I had a choice. They could make it into a regular staff
position, and I would just ride the transition into a new office. Or,
they could cut the position, I would be out of a job, and they would
give me a very small severance package. I jumped at the latter. I was
so ready. I was ripe to leave the world of the organization.
At my going away luncheon my former boss asked me what was the best
thing about going out on my own. “Leaving the building when this lunch
is over,” was my reply. I love being in charge of my own time and
deciding where to go next based on what I think is most valuable.
My first year had its challenges. But, every day – every day! – I
spent more time with my 4-year-old son and wife, so my rewards started
immediately. I treasure what I can do with them now that I control my
own time. Nothing beats that!
I also have the freedom to go after and negotiate very large
contracts. And when I get them I can choose to do only the work
required to deliver well, which is a great deal less than what goes
down in an organization. It’s a great way to get a raise: work less,
do more of what counts, and receive more. I like that!
It’s not been all easy for me. I have had ups and downs. And I have
been buoyed by some amazing veterans who have reached out to me to
give me advice, techniques, and support. I have spent a great deal on
my own education. Probably $50k over the last 7 years. But, I can tell
you without a doubt that I have earned many multiples of that in
return. I look forward to sharing some of what I learned through this
newsletter. See below for more on that.
TEN IDEAS FOR GETTING BETTER CLIENTS
1. Know who a “Better Client” is.
Identify the best possible client for your business success. I think
of them as partners with whom I can collaborate on important areas
where we can have real and dramatic impact. My ideal client sees me as
a partner, not a minion. We value each other’s company, time, and
contribution. And, of course, they can write a check that is
appropriate compensation for the value I provide.
2. Read Your Client’s News Sources, and Write for Them.
Find out where your clients like to get information, which periodicals
or websites. Read them yourself. Put together articles and call the
editor to propose a contribution. When you write a paper, emulate the
style. In addition to submitting them to publications, send your
articles, think-pieces, and white papers directly to your clients.
3. Reach Out with Tools Clients can Use.
Provide seminars, assessments, think-pieces, frameworks, checklists,
forms, and anything else that can make your clients’ lives easier. I
send books from Amazon when I know it would make a positive impact.
Take an active interest in finding ways to make their jobs easier. If
they are people you admire and enjoy, sharing the experience of
learning together is a real treat, easily worth the $15-40 investment
in an occasional book!
4. Broker Knowledge Among Clients and Potential Clients.
I will often take two clients out to lunch when I know that they have
valuable information to share with one another. I pick up the cost of
the meal, and do VERY light facilitation, making sure that we dig into
the good material early enough in our get-together that they can
explore more deeply as the meal goes on and come away with real
5. Become Expert at Interpersonal Communication.
Sharpen your interpersonal and conversation skills. Become adept at
being forthright, tactful, and gracious focusing on real worth,
getting to substance, handling difficult topics, inspiring others with
newsworthy and provocative perspectives. Learn when to use email and
when not to. Pick up the forgotten art of coffees, phone calls, and
6. Know How to Steer Clients toward Genuine Value.
Learn how to expertly guide conversations toward topics that make a
difference. Practice efficiency, focus, and good-natured stewardship.
Consider it your job to see that progress is made, topics that matter
are discussed, and actions are taken.
7. Respect Yourself.
Know the value of your contribution and set your life up accordingly.
Associate with others who value what you have to offer. Make it a
point to build a lifestyle that supports your best effort and highest
returns. Surround yourself with players who love working with you, on
and off the court.
8. Treasure Existing Relationships and Show It.
Go the extra yard. Help out when you can. I have one client that hit
hard times in 2010 – they have employed me for over 5 years to provide
leadership training for their top members and work with the CEO and
senior team. In my conversations with the CEO I learned that he was
facing severe cutbacks of staff and programs. I offered him two days
of time in the year ahead to use at his discretion, gratis. He took me
up on one day, and our relationship was cemented. I made it clear that
I support him.
9. Build Relationships for the Long Term.
Give people the space to grow. Invest in valuable partnerships. Plant
seeds, water daily, and provide lots of sunshine. Be eager to have
conversations that make a difference. If someone is going through a
particular challenge, drop him or her a line. I am working with an
Executive VP who is a real piece of work, tough and cynical. His wife
just underwent a difficult operation and he mentioned it to me in
passing. On the night after the operation I sent him a short note of
support, wishing them both well. He gratefully responded. It’s still
hard working with him, but we don’t have to pretend life is other than
it is. That authenticity helps us both in the long haul. Fortify your
relationships to make them last.
10. When you have a Great client, Ask for Referrals.
Tell your best clients how much you value them and why. Say, “You are
one of my best clients. I love working with you because… Do you know
other people in your position that could use me the ways you have? I
would welcome more clients like you.”
ODE TO A DOG LOVER
Juliet is our older dog. We got her when she was a puppy from a woman
who saved dogs, Katy Barr. Katy trolled animal shelters in Virginia
and scooped up dogs right and left to give them a good home. Katy’s
land was covered with fenced runs, junked cars, and almost 100 dogs.
When you drove up Katy’s driveway, you were invariably greeted by a
pack of barking dogs of all sizes.
Katy herself was in her 60s the last time I saw her she was walking
around in unlaced army boots with a floppy hat on, sprinkling flea
powder on whichever dogs passed close by. I brought her a 50# bag of
dog food because Katy financed the dogs’ care from her own pocket.
If dogs hit hard times, they could count on Katy. Regularly a dog was
dropped off at her place with a note and not much else by someone who
either found the dog or could no longer care for it. There were even
feral dogs in a huge, chained enclosure. When Katy gave me the tour,
the sealed off area was so big I could only see the fence closest to
me and the thick woods inside. The dogs did not appear. Katy explained
that the three of them had been targeted for extermination where they
had been living, so she went out and trapped them and brought them
here to her property to live out their days. There was also a dog
whose owner was serving 10 years in prison. The dog was waiting
patiently and seemed content with the living quarters Katy supplied.
13 years ago I first saw Juliet in one of Katy’s pens. She was about 4
months old and had already had 3 homes: her original, an animal
shelter that had scheduled to put her down, and now Katy’s. She
melted my heart and my wife, Laura’s. We would be her fourth home and
here she lives today – one of the kindest, gentlest dogs I have ever
had the pleasure to share life with.
Once or twice after we got Juliet I went out to visit, drop off some
dog food, and listen to the amazing stories Katy told of her life.
Like the time she was in a play and wore car headlights over her
breasts. Or the time the authorities closed down her dog operation and
hauled her into court. They confiscated her dogs and put a good number
down. They had a helicopter circling her home when they conducted the
operation, as if it was a SWAT action. But, she beat them in court
without a lawyer. Turned out she conformed to Virginia statute on the
number of dogs she could own given the size of her acreage. When
quizzed on the stand about the fact that a couple of her dogs had
severe loss of hair, she stood up and said, “I’m talking to all you
bald men out there – there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!”
Katy cut her own path. She knew what she loved and cared about and
built a life around it. I haven’t been able to find her recently. I
suppose she passed on. But, she will remain in my heart as an example
of someone following her heart and creating a life with and for those
she loved most, her canine companions.
– You can receive more great ideas on how to improve your success as a
freelancer via my blog, FreelanceFortune.com
– Mid-November I will be opening up a new Mentoring program for people
who want to study with me and increase their business success – stay
– The teleconference, 3 Techniques for Engaging Clients in a Tough
Economy, is now available at SethStore.com
– Eleven people are participating in a guided business experience,
crafting a “surge” between now and Thanksgiving. If you’d like to
join, send me an email. It’s free.
Every big success has at its core people who care deeply. And at the
core of every person who cares deeply is the human proclivity for
being part of something larger, something good. – SK
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