Preparing for a rush of clients

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

My client, Cate, runs a graphic and web design firm. On a recent consulting call she complained,

I feel like an accordion. When clients pour in and I need to ramp up, I’m stretched. When times are thin and I need to pare down, I’m squeezed.

And it seems like I never have the right people in the pipeline. How can I change this so it’s not always a last-minute clusterf**k? (Her words, not mine.)

Good question.

What Cate raised is common to small business owners – particularly in creative and knowledge-based fields:

How do I create the right team as my needs scale up and down?

The answer goes beyond just “do I hire an employee or a freelancer?” Or knowing how to interview. Or searching sites like ODesk or UpWork.

It comes down to knowing your needs.

And you do that by putting on your strategic planning hat and being proactive … instead of just reacting to the craziness when it shows up on your doorstep.

For Cate, this has happened multiple times. So she had experience to draw from. Here are some paces I put her through:

  • Identify the work. When clients flood in, what’s usually the work you need done? What kinds of projects? What’s their complexity and duration?
  • Build the capacity. Based on the work, what level of talent and expertise do you usually need? Are there specific skills you require? Which skills are a must-have versus nice-to-have?
  • Remember your values. Which “intangibles” are most important to you? Responsiveness? Detail-orientation? Collaboration? Communication? Give an example of what each of those values looks like in action. E.g., All client requests require an email response within 1 business day, with a cc to the project manager.
  • Know your logistics. Where do you need the work to get done? Does it require being on-site or in the same time zone (yours or the client’s)?
  • Check the references. View their portfolio. Cate kicked herself for rushing headlong into an avoidable situation: A web designer Cate had contracted included a customer’s site in his portfolio. Working with that vendor turned out to be a disaster. Had Cate dug a little deeper, she would have found the customer’s actual site didn’t match the designer’s JPG image. Why? The customer changed designers because they weren’t happy with the vendor. Had she known … well, hindsight is always 20/20. And beyond verification, it’s a good way to see if the look/feel/voice/style/approach of this potential hire (or vendor) matches yours.

So think big! Have the systems to handle an onslaught of clients before it happens so you can serve them well when it does.

If you’re wanting to put out the welcome mat for new clients as we move toward Q4, I’d be happy to help.

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