Mantra – A word or belief that is often repeated and which sometimes expresses a belief. Alternate – a word or sound believed to possess a special spiritual power.What follows about finding work you have heard before. You may roll your eyes and call them clichés. But they are only so because they are so often repeated. Why? Because they are time-tested and true. I prefer to call them mantras. Sounds a little more elegant. But still time-tested. Still true.
Colin’s first mantra is a four-parter. It goes like this. Show Up. Be present. Be passionate. Deliver the goods.
Was it Woody Allen who said that eighty percent of life is showing up? It is an elemental truth that you can’t play in the game if you don’t show up. I am amazed at the number of freelancers who don’t attend to this very elemental rule of thumb.
Showing up is going to yet another networking event on a cold wet Wednesday night when you would prefer to stay home watching “The West Wing”.
Showing up means picking up the phone and talking to the PR guy your friend recommended would be a good contact.
Showing up is following up leads – no matter how obscure you think they may be, but you’re hesitating because you hate cold calls.
Showing up is keeping in touch with former clients you haven’t talked with for awhile.
Showing up is joining and attending meetings in such organizations as CPRS or STC or IABC, or EAC, PWAC or LTBN. If you don’t know what those initials stand for you, you are not doing your showing up homework. (OK, LTBN might be a little obscure, but if you live in Vancouver, New York or New Jersey, do a search because they are cutting edge for entrepreneurs.)
Showing up is volunteering to help any of the aforementioned organizations. If you don’t show up, you will never find consistent work. Period.
Part two of the mantra – Being present. This may be the most difficult of the four. At its heart, being present is listening to what your prospective client is saying. Years ago I came to realize how bad I was at this when I tape-recorded an information interview with what I hoped would be a future client. I was shocked at how often I interrupted the flow of conversation. How often I stopped listening to ask the next question. How often I interjected with thoughts of my own. And in the process I was doing a disservice to us both.
Being present means nothing more than being in the moment, and keeping yours ears open, and your mouth shut. Don’t worry, your turn to speak will come. Your colleague will be so impressed that you took the time out to listen that he/she will want to reciprocate and hear what you have to say.
Subsequent to my embarrassing lesson of talking too much, I made it a point to start my conversation with a question such as “How is your day going?” Or “I am curious about hearing about a day in your life as a PR rep?” You would be surprised at how happy people are to respond to such a question, because usually no one ever asks, or takes any interest in their lives. And as I have said in other columns, the whole purpose of networking is to initiate a dialogue in the short-term, and a relationship over the long.
The third part of the mantra – being passionate – is a little trickier. Unlike truth, goodness, or reason, you can’t fake passion. You are either passionate about what you do, or you are not. And a client will spot a faker right away. I was once in competition with two other speech writers to write a speech for a CEO of a very large multi-national company. I won the competition and went on to have a very successful relationship with this client.
A few weeks into our work, I asked him why he chose me. It wasn’t because I was necessarily the best speech writer, although I had enough confidence in myself to believe that I was. In fact, he didn’t even look at my references or speech samples. Rather, he was attracted to my obvious passion for the craft. He felt I would bring that same passion to his project.
If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say that what you are doing with your professional lives is what you really want to do, then how are you going to persuade a perspective client that that is how you would feel about his/her project. And right there you are dead in the water.
The final part of the mantra is in many ways the most obvious, although I can’t count the number of times a client has told me that freelancers have let them down on this one. It is delivering the goods – on time and on budget.
My father taught me at an early age about the importance of keeping your word and honouring your commitments to friends and clients alike. In short, there had better be blood on the tracks, and it better be yours, before you fail to do what you say you are going to do. Never getting a second chance to make a first impression applies here. It’s simple. Keep your word. Do the job. The result is that in your client’s mind, you become their path of least resistance, and why would they go to anyone else when they know you will deliver the goods.
So that’s it. Show up. Be present. Be passionate. And deliver the goods. So simple in principle. And you know what, just as simple in practice. Just do it.