Thinking Inside the Box

One of the most common business analogies is to think outside the box.

I was lucky early in my business life to have a great coach, Mark LeBlanc, who said, “Out-of-the-box thinking is great. But most entrepreneurs fail because they don’t build a box. They don’t define who they are and what they do.”

From my perspective, building a box gives you direction, focus and even a sense of safety. Here are the four sides:

1. Define the skills you enjoy the most. It could be writing, interviewing, editing, consulting, presenting, strategy, video production, or a host of other talents such as planning, mentoring, managing projects or even budgeting. Really examine your work practices and breakdown your work into 10-12 skills; then prioritize them by desire.

2. Build the business around your skills. As a freelancer, you ARE the business. So, how you spend your time really matters. In my 22 years as a freelancer, I’ve learned the hard way that I am no bookkeeper! I’ve also learned that while I can conceive marketing ideas, I’m not that great at implementation. I may be good at presentations and training, but I’m not so comfortable in sales situations. In the same way, evaluate your skills and find a way to partner with others, or to pay for professional skills that you are lacking. One of the biggest values of Freelance Austin is the opportunity to network with other freelancers, and partner with them. Focusing on what you enjoy makes the work better and more profitable.

3. Get clear on who you serve and how. Decide who your peeps are. What clients are fun and easy to work with? Who you don’t serve becomes just as important as defining who you do. During your years as a solopreneur, the target may change a bit, and that’s fine. Having a distinct idea of your market niche is essential. Targeting conserves energy, resources and marketing dollars. 

4. Create a defining statement. In sales conversations, it’s very common to describe the airplane, rather than the destination. Our clients don’t necessarily have an understanding of how things get done. What they need to hear are the results you bring with your service. In my career coaching practice, one of the most important benefits, of course, is getting a new position. But over the years, I found that doing a resume makeover is actually the first step, and mentioning that is a strong benefit. Even stronger ideas, which usually close the sale, are jobs that earn more money and are more challenging, engaging and fun. Speaking benefit language leads to quicker and bigger assignments. The simplest format is: “I work with _____________ ______________ _______________, who want ______________ _______________ ______________________.”

There you have it. A simple 4-sided box to work within. Will you get assignments outside the box? Of course, and each one can lead you to refining and strengthening that box. The box gives you focus, confidence and even more income. 

By the way, “I work with young professionals who feel they need a career makeover and want to earn 30-50% more in a job that is more engaging, challenging, and fun.” It’s my box, and I’m thinking IN it. 

Catherine Jewell
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