Hi, I'm Ron Stauffer. And in this course, I'm going to talk about getting better clients. This course is specifically created for creative people: videographers, photographers, creative writers, graphic designers, web designers – anybody who uses their creative skills to create work for other people who are not their boss or employer.
If that describes you, that means you are a freelancer, or like me, a solopreneur: a small business owner who runs a very tiny business around a creative topic and has to do all the work himself. For over 14 years, I've run my own business, but I never set out to run my own business. I'm an accidental entrepreneur. I got laid off a decade and a half ago and I thought, well, I can either go look for another job and maybe get laid off again or just start my own business. So that's what I did. Being a craftsman -- being good at your craft is one thing. But when you work for yourself, no matter how good you are at your craft, you have to run a business, and running a business is a completely different skill set.
For example, let's say you're an electrician: you might be an excellent electrician. You show up to work every day, you take your continuing education units, you drive a company truck, you do a really good job with wiring and low voltage and fixtures and stuff like that. But that is a completely different ballgame than starting your own electrician business.
That requires a completely different set of skills in addition to all of your craft skills. When you're self-employed, you have to worry about things like invoicing, collections, sales, marketing, customer service, taxes, real estate transactions -- if you rent or buy a building -- and the most difficult part: getting and keeping good clients.
People are messy. People are difficult. And when you're self-employed, people are both the best and the worst part of running a business. And finding good clients seems to be especially hard.
One of my favorite things to do as a freelancer is to meet with other people, just like me. Several times, over the past few years, I've run various Meetups and other industry groups where we all get together and we talk about our problems and we encourage each other and commiserate.
And one thing I've noticed is that the hardest part, isn't the craft we do. It's running a business. If you work for a larger organization and you're an employee, especially if you're a creative type, like a designer, usually it's the company that deals with clients. They're the ones who do the sales and marketing. They're the ones who weed out the good clients and the bad clients and figure out who's going to be a good customer for us and who isn't.
When you're self-employed, you have to do that yourself. And that is really hard. You can't really learn that from a book. It's only trial and error that will help you figure out how to keep and retain people that actually like you and want to pay you.
And for the past decade and a half, let me tell you, I've experienced a lot of trial and error. I've learned all kinds of things about how not to get clients and ways to find the good ones.
A few years ago, I was running a meetup for web designers and we were sitting around a round table and we were just talking about challenges of running our business. And one of the guys in the group was talking about a particularly challenging client who really, really treated him very poorly. What was fascinating was another guy across the table said: "Oh, really? You were working with him?" And the first guy said, "Yeah, why?" And the second guy said, "Well, so was I, but I fired him as a client because he was terrible."
And that really got me thinking: "Wow, there are some really bad clients out there who go around working with various creative professionals," and if we could just talk to each other about, "Hey, don't hire this guy, he stiffed me!" How helpful would that be?
Throughout this course, that's kind of what I'm hoping to share with you. Not necessarily the names of people who've stiffed me, but how to recognize those clients before they become bad clients.
Here's the good news: there are good clients out there. They're really great to work with. And if you establish a good relationship with them, they'll remain clients for a long time, but you gotta figure out how to find the good ones and stay away from the bad ones. That's exactly what we'll be talking about in this course.