Fishing in the Wrong Pond
Today was the third day in a row I heard from someone how hard it has been to find customers, clients, or an audience. Most of the time, when I hear this complaint, I start by asking which people they've been spending the most time with. There are usually two responses - either they've not been spending time with people at all, or they've been spending time with others in their profession. Both situations tend toward the problematic.
Isolation for solopreneurs, freelancers, and artistic creators is often built into the path. The career, by nature, tends to favor solitude and can be a kind of lonesome existence. Much of the difficulty with these folks is balancing the need for quiet, creative space and the ongoing need to cultivate customer relationships and generate business.
But the group who spend most of their time with people in the same professional pond either have to adapt their services for peers and colleagues or find another pond. This is the situation that's been coming up this week.
I think one of their difficulties is knowing what they do, but they aren't sure how to find the people who need it. In this situation, I usually ask a couple of questions. First - How clear are you on what you offer? Is your specialty something you can easily articulate for others to understand? If they are able to communicate their specialty and their offers, I have one other question.
What's the larger purpose that your work or business serves?
Maybe you've heard the stories of people doing menial labor who went about it vigorously because it was in service to a greater cause than their self-interest. The nurse aide was happy to be offering her service as a contribution to victory in the war. The mailroom clerk who understood he had a role in the smooth operation of the New York Stock Exchange.
I've found that often, this understanding is the missing link between businesses and customers, services and clients, and artists and their audiences. When you identify the larger purpose you serve, you start to see people who want that nearly everywhere.
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