But I had no money. I was never getting ahead. Everything that came in went straight out again. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. No credit left, no overdraft, no savings. Nothing.
One time it was particularly bad.
So bad that I had one of those little electric meters for people who can't pay their bills on-time. I'd promised a client I'd have something done for him. I'm nearly done and boom. Lights go out. Computer goes off.
I spent the next 6 hours trying to get the £5 minimum together so I can top the damn meter back up again. I'd gathered £4.84 and needed 16p to make up the £5. Couldn't find it anywhere so in the pissing rain I go outside and look on the floor. 2 hours later I've got my 16p and I'm back on!
I made the promise to myself that I would never let it get that bad again. Fortunately, I've been able to keep that promise to myself.
I want to teach you today how I've been able to do that. I devised a 7 step plan over the coming years (adding to it and re-ordering it) which has meant that there's always business out there, you just need to find it.
Bad times in your business happen at any level. That was the lowest level for me, but we all have them at different stages. It's never mattered how big our business has been over the years, this plan has saved me countless times.
Remember, this is in order. Putting effort in half way down this list is fruitless as it's specifically designed to go after the people who will close first.
This might sound obvious but have you got an answer for every single one of your outstanding proposals? When I say 'an answer', I mean a date to follow up, or a decided next step.
Now is not the time to put up with flaky nonsense.
If someone says "Call me back in 2 months", say "What for? What will have changed by then?"
Push them. Get an answer.
These are the people who said no, or you decided it was dead months ago. If it's been 6 months, then it's good to contact these people again and see if you can resurrect a project, or help with a small part of one.
Who knows, maybe they chose someone else who did a crap job and you can swoop in and save the day.
You will have spoken to people about working together who never quite made it to the quote / proposal stage. Just scroll back through your inbox and make a note of anyone who jumps out at you.
If you see someone's name and think "Ahhhh yeah, what happened with that guy?" then perfect.
Just make a list, then just drop them an email with something simple and basic. Ask how they're doing and offer some advice and help. If you click their email signature and they have a new website (and you sell websites), make a comment (be complimentary) but make a further suggestion.
Be helpful. It doesn't go unnoticed. Just don't send them an unwanted list of issues (in the website example).
If you have an email list or an audience of any description then fire out an email saying
"Hey I'm thinking of doing a webinar about ________. If you'd be interested in learning about how to do _______ then hit reply and say 'In'. Then we'll sort out a date and time."
Then once you start getting replies, just go back to each of them a day later and say:
"There were only about 7 of you interested so instead of doing a webinar for 7 people, I might as well just do them 1-1. You'll get so much more value from it. When would you like to do it?"
This is a great idea from my friend Tim Coe. It goes like this.
Get a sheet of paper and put a line down the middle. Write down all your best clients on the left-hand side.
Then on the right, write the best and most valuable thing you could do for them for £95. If you're a digital agency, you could spruce up their Facebook and Twitter pages for that. You could add some social sharing on their website. You could re-write a homepage. Send a quick email offer for a client.
The list is endless if you're in the digital space, but even if you're a gardener, you could offer to go round and clean something. You're not looking for the most profitable of tasks here. The idea is to get conversations going and give them something easy to say yes to.
This might seem like the most obvious thing to do but it's after the £95 offers for a reason. You don't want to be contacting someone about a referral, then the next day saying "Hey, fancy this thing for £95". It looks rubbish.
This way, you can go back to the people who take you up on the £95 thing and, in context say "Do you know anyone else who would like this kind of thing". If you get no response from them in step 5, who cares, ask about a referral anyway, you might as well.
A final point on referrals. Unless you have a specific referral programme, just understand that no-one in business (except certain financial products) makes these referrals to people based on money. If you get recommendations, it's not because you're sending them a success fee so don't bother suggesting one.
When I was younger, I used to go to networking events for property development. I was a web designer but I'd always come away with tons of leads because the attendees had their guard down and my approach came across different.
That should do you. If you're in a bind, execute all of that and if you're still stuck then just pick up the phone. It's impossible to be good at what you do, talk to loads of people and have no money.
Keep talking. Keep being great and keep helping people. It solves nearly everything.