Daniel DiGriz: We’re talking about why it’s so hard for independent consultants to find clients for themselves. Steve, I think that was a concern of yours early on.
Steve Pruneau: Yeah, I was committed to leaving traditional employment before I actually knew how I was gonna get clients. Luckily my first engagement, my first contract engagement was full-time and it was expected to run for about a year. I took it of course, cause that’s the prerequisite for leaving your job is, you have a client. Great. I figured I would figure out how to find the next engagement and clients onward sometime during that year. It didn’t work out that way.
This issue of finding clients for myself, turned out to be pretty difficult for me. That was frustrating, because I know there are thousands, millions of people who can find work for themselves as independent consultants or independent this, that or the other thing. Why was it hard for me. I ended up, at the end of that engagement, kind of taking the easy way out, which is being dependent on somebody else, who can find clients. That’s because recruiters would search online. They’d find a resume and they’d say, “Oh, you have a skill that I know somebody who needs it.”
For the next couple of engagements, I was still in a dependency on recruiters instead of an employer. Well, it’s a little bit better, but not a lot. It’s basically … You’re both admitting that there’s no career path. Good. Now, there’s not much care about when they release you and benefits and all that. For me, the whole quest to be independent required that I’d be able to find clients. The upshot was, this is the real obvious thing.
Well, you have to be able to develop selling skills. That was something that I hadn’t really thought a lot about, which is kind of strange, right? You leave your job. You start out there, as independent consultants. Really? You didn’t think … No. That was me. I hadn’t figured out that I have to be able to do both. It’s not just my trade skill. I have to be able to find and attract clients, who wanna hire me. That was a big deal.
Daniel DiGriz: It’s really funny Steve. It’s a little bit like, I think, when Wiley Coyote’s chasing the roadrunner over the edge of the cliff. Then he looks down and he’s like, “All right, well now what do I do?” I didn’t think about this. You’ve chased that one client that led you into independence and out of the business. Now, where’s your next client come from? Of course, then you’re back, you’re out of the frying pan and into the fire. You’re back into a kind of dependency, but without some of the benefits you had as an employee.
Steve Pruneau: Well, I mean the direct line is, independence requires that you be able to find an acquire clients. That either means you’re gonna sell yourself or you’re gonna work with somebody else who does the selling, or somehow brings clients to you. The bringing clients to you, if it’s a collaborative relationship, great. In most cases, it’s a little bit of dependency and exploitative, certainly is in traditional employment. When you’re working with most recruiters and so forth. Yeah, for me it was, all right, the direct answer is, gotta be able to do this myself. Therefore, I gotta learn how to do this.
Daniel DiGriz: So, you taught yourself how to sell, and you’re selling now? You got help? It’s a combination of both. I develop, took sales training, read about it, listened to it, and developed some fundamentals. I wouldn’t call myself proficient and outstanding, otherwise I’d be a professional sales person. That’s not what I want to do. I wanna practice the work that I love, but be able to find clients for it. Then, I also have people in my professional networks, who can help find clients. We work together. There’s more of a symbiotic relationship.
Sometimes I’ll take work through the traditional means. There’s still a time, when some intermediary will call up and say, “Hey. We want you to work as a subcontractor, so that’s still true. The difference, and this is an emotional difference for me is, I’m no longer dependent on the intermediaries, the way I was in the early years. That’s the satisfying part that I wanted to share really is, that realization. Look, if you don’t want to be dependent, you gotta kind of develop these foundational skills, and it brings a lot of satisfaction. I mean, you have that. I talked to you about your work. You love it that, you can pretty much dig up clients and provide for yourself.
Steve Pruneau: I find it interesting. You’re not trying to become a professional salesperson. You’re saying you’re kind of okay with a functional sales ability. A lot of people say, “Well, if I have to become a salesperson, it’s not worth it. Now you’re asking me to take on two jobs. My practice area and selling also.” I find it more interesting that … You know, that Wiley E. Coyote moment, where you look down and there’s you know, there’s no ground. Okay, I’ve chased this client over the edge of the cliff, where’s my next one coming from? It seems like nobody … Why don’t people tell us that, that’s what’s gonna happen. Hey. If you’re gonna go out on your own, here’s the condition. You have to teach yourself how to do a basic … You have to teach yourself basic sales skills and a level of selling, or some methodology for client [inaudible 00:05:34]. You can’t just build it and they will come.
Daniel DiGriz: Well yeah. I moderate that feeling. I was really frustrated by what you just said, by that point, not what you just said. I was really frustrated by the fact that I felt like I should know, and I didn’t. I take responsibility for my own prosperity and freedom, but I really woke up to, “Yeah, but I’m not really prepared for this.” It took a little bit of unpacking. Yeah, it’s not something that we sort of come out of high school with.
One of my personal conclusions is that dependency is almost socialized from elementary school onward. They don’t really ask you, do you wanna be a professional sales person. They ask you, do you wanna be a doctor? Do you wanna be a policeman, a fireman? Do you wanna be an engineer? All of that is a dependency on somebody who’s offering you a job. Nobody says, “Oh, you know, if you wanna be free, then you have to be able to find work and clients yourself.” You also said another thing, which is, you eluded to, but we’re talking about kind of a basic level of proficiency and I would say yes.
It’s sort of like, trying to work today and not knowing how to use a spreadsheet, or if you don’t live in a city that has subways and trains, then it’s trying to get by in life without a drivers license. These are just fundamentals. It’s not like saying, “Well, only some people can drive.” I’m suggesting, at least it was my experience from this journey, is everybody needs to do this. That’s why I’m talking today is, selling is fundamental. You may not be the best salesperson, just like people in my business may not be the best at software implementation and projects, but it’s foundational.
Steve Pruneau: I think a lot of people would then say, “All right. Why can’t I just hire somebody to do this for me?” You know, I’d rather stay doing my practice here. I’d rather spend my 40 hours a week doing my practice area. I think one thing that a lot of independent professionals conclude or rule of thumb is, well, for every business week you spend two on client [inaudible 00:07:53], three days executing your practice area. You kind of have to charge accordingly. I think we may have talked about that last episode. You know, you eluded earlier to sort of my sales experience.
My sales experience suggests that it’s really hard for another person to represent your value [inaudible 00:08:10] if you can’t do it. It’s all well and good to say, “I can sell at a basic level of skill. I can represent my value proposition effectively.” Now, I can hire somebody to simply extend that. If you say, “I can’t do it at all myself, I have no idea how to communicate my value proposition or how to convert people.” The other person can only do so much.
The fact is, you’ve gotta educate them, and make them ready. The myth is, that a salesperson is just sort of a drop in component to a business. You can just plug ’em in and suddenly you get more clients. That’s actually doesn’t work. I would [inaudible 00:08:46] that every business owner must learn to sell as a fundamental part of running a business. Every independent consultant must learn how to sell, as a fundamental part of getting people onboard with their practice area. There are a lot of people offering us … Unless you have a practice area, where there’s almost nobody’s doing it, there are a lot of other people doing it.
The other thing is, that you know, you don’t have, when you’re first starting out as an independent, very often it’s just hunger. You don’t have a lot of the resources to hire a salesperson. You know, a good sales person, one that is effective and has a track record, is gonna, in many times, require more of a salary as well of a commission than yourself earned from your practice area. Unless you’re ready to double your rate, that’s an issue. Of course, I like something you said Steve. Well, in the end, if you’re gonna hire somebody to do all your selling for you, that’s called a job. You basically aren’t trying to be independent at that point. At some point independence literally is defined as being able to sell yourself.
Daniel DiGriz: Well, that’s the ultimate internal conflict, right? If you really just wanna kind of live a steady life, and kind of work your job, and not have to worry about where’s my next job gonna come from, that is traditional employment. For me … I’m like a lot of people. I like that idea, but for me, the need for independence to not be dependent on someone else, so that if I don’t like the situation, or the working [inaudible 00:10:28] whatever, I can walk. For me, that need for freedom overpowered any interest in kind of a steady week-by-week, work 40 hours and you’re good, kind of situation. I think for everybody, that’s the determining factor.
How important is it to you to be free to walk, and also free to find increasingly lucrative engagements, where you can add more value and earn more. That way, in that regard, you don’t even have to ask the boss for a raise, because you don’t have a boss. Yeah. All of these things are out there for me, just like you said. It comes down to which is more important to you, that steady job, meaning I only wanna do one kind of thing, my trade skill, or having multiple activities, where you do your trade skill, but you’re also out there looking after yourself, finding new engagements.
Steve Pruneau: Well, I know for me what the answer is. I think you’ve decided on the same thing. Yeah, so for those those of us, like me, who had the desire, but not the skill, the real eye-opener was, yeah, I’ve gotta learn to do this. You gotta get past. I had to get past this part about, well shouldn’t I know? Well, I don’t know. I wasn’t taught it. I wasn’t socialized. I didn’t make the connection between freedom and being able to sell, until pretty far into life. Once all that’s put away, then you just get on with it, and say, “Okay, this is fundamental, like using a spreadsheet, or having a drivers license, and so, let’s do it.”
May contain transcriber errors.