No matter how long you have been working creatively, it’s tempting to take the hook of possibility.
Sometimes that hook lands a big opportunity. Sometimes it pulls up a discarded, decomposing piece of junk. Almost always, it’s hard to tell the difference.
I’ve written about those “great exposure for you” false opportunities. A promoter wants you to donate your time, energy, artwork, writing and dresses it up like an opportunity. Choose carefully, make sure it is a real opportunity for you.
So when the woman called from a town three hours away and asked me to teach a class in her town rather than have her drive to Phoenix for the class, it was understandable. When she promised she would bring her friends to fill up the class, the warning bell clanged in my head. But my Inner Critic stepped up and whispered “opportunity” sweetly and seductively. The Inner Critic pointed out that asking someone to drive three hours was too much for them (but not for me), and I needed exposure, and getting in that market would help the new book sales.
Instead of pointing out that exposure is what kills people if they go out unprotected, or listening to Pema Chodron’s wisdom that we keep learning the same lesson until we understand what we need to learn, I took the hook. And the line and sinker while I was swallowing.
Yes, I did. Instead of calling on my “You are Enough” Inner Hero, I chose the Martyr Mask of the Inner Critic. Two hours and five phone calls later, I had arranged a class and a demo, rented a hotel room, spoken to the marketing manager and created the to-do list for the class. After hotel, gas, demo time there was no profit, but who cares? It was an “opportunity.” (You may now start to snicker).
I proudly emailed the woman who wanted to take the class–it was scheduled. I sent her the date and time, and gave her registration details. (You may now slap my forehead and ask, “What were you thinking?”)
No reply. You already know what happened. You are smarter than I am. The next day I got an email telling me the day really wasn’t good for her or any of her friends, and I should email her next time I was in town. You see, she had good resistance to the hook.
Learning from my mistake (again), step-by-step:
1. When talking to a prospect, find out exactly what they want–a class close to their location? Attention? Conversation? Mention a price range to see if it changes their interest level. If they mention friends who will be brought along, ignore it. That phrase is very similar to “I’ll call you” after a first date or “How are you today?” when your boss comes into your office. It’s something polite to say. No offers or interest are implied.
2. Compare what they want to what you have to offer and what you need. Travel is expensive, so your class price might have to increase. Would you go to that town to teach without the call? What real opportunity exists for you? Is there interest? Is there a client base? Consider this before taking any action.
An excellent counter-offer on my part would have been to ask her to gather her friends, agree to a location, and have me come to teach a custom class at a price that made me a modest profit. Don’t take the hook until you have something you need, too.
3. Do not make a commitment to please a prospect. A prospect is an unknown quantity. A prospect is not yet a client. Every company, business, and freelancer has to weigh the conversion cost of prospect to client. If you lose money occasionally, it’s part of doing business. If you lose money frequently, you need to look at how you are doing business.
4. Avoid needy puppy behavior. Needy puppies don’t get the business.
Worse, they don’t get respect. Think about what you have to offer. That’s enough. Do not offer to jump through burning hoops to prove your worth. That will just get you burned.
5. Create a marketing plan and stick to it. Set a time in the future to evaluate it. Changing it based on the last thing you heard (“Squirrel!”) is not a good business plan.
—Quinn McDonald wishes she had stopped, looked and listened to herself before lighting the hoop on fire and jumping through it.