It’s heading towards two years since I made the greatest decision of my life; going self employed. Now as designer, especially a self-taught one, finding work is incredibly tough and because I’ve never been a business man before either, marketing myself to begin with was also hard.
In July 2017, I looked around at companies and designers I aspired to be like, or at least I thought I wanted to be like, and I thought I would set out building my brand, Forty3.Media, with free Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts. Posts like: ‘I can do this’ or ‘You need this’ - you know, the usual sales pitching that we all know doesn’t work. I came across a video online By Chris Do from The Futur called: “Stop Selling, Start Closing”. The video is short but explains that the more you try to sell something, the more a potential client will defend themselves from the pitch. However, the more you whisper, the more you ask the potential client questions about their business, diagnose their problem and ask why, then lean back and disengage from them, the more the client will lean towards you.
This video changed everything for me. I’m fully aware that in the creative media business, companies enter tenders to pitch their proposals against other companies to try and win work. I decided, and I hope other creative businesses are reading this, that I will NEVER enter a tender and compete with other business to win work. For a new creative start up business to have this audacious and slightly arrogant approach is suicidal, but I wasn’t prepared to be sending companies proposals where business owners or marketing directors would look at it and potentially cast it aside. I didn’t want to give them a chance to think I’m not good enough, too cheap or too expensive, or don’t have the ‘relevant experience’, especially when they don’t know me and have never had a conversation with me. Think about it: you’re self employed, you chose to be your own boss and control your own destiny, but at the same time you’re sat waiting for the results of a proposal like awaiting a job interview and therefore approval from someone you don’t even know. This wasn’t for me. No thanks.
When I started networking with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, I attended most of the events in the North West. Traditionally, you place your business card in a bowl and ten ‘lucky’ members cards are pulled out and you then have sixty seconds to pitch yourself to other business in the room. I was terrified at the thought of standing up in front of a hundred people to talk crap for sixty seconds on why I should build them a website. Unless you make the room laugh you are quickly forgotten into noise of half-arsed clapping. I did this half a dozen times but never again. I’m in no way disrespecting the Chambers networking methods - I’m still a proud member and wouldn’t have scaled the business without there help and guidance and I look forward to continuing our working relationship for years to come. I have built up a fantastic network of people and I’m fortunate to call some of them my friends.
I have also found myself at times annoyed or slightly angry when talking to potential clients over the telephone because sometimes they will ask what experience I have at building websites in, let’s say, the electrical industry. If at that moment in time I haven’t actually built a website for an electrical company, the potential client will reply by saying: “we need someone who has experience working in the electrical industry”. This is frankly a load of crap. I don’t just build website designs, I sit down with clients and have a conversation, sometimes for hours on end. We have a discovery meeting and we delve deeply into the businesses, their hopes, dreams, fears, targets and goals. We find out what problem they have as a business and how I can solve the problem creatively with design and strategy. I’m not an order taker, I’m a problem solver.
In the little over eighteen months of running my company, I’ve never once entered a tender for work and I’ve managed to grow my business 200% six months into year two. I strongly believe the reason for this is simply down to pricing my work to the value I believe its worth; I’m one hundred percent not the cheapest agency to work with in Manchester, but my services are worth so much more to the clients than the value they pay for it. When I start a relationship and a project I strongly believe in, there isn’t another agency in Manchester, or even the UK, that wants the clients business to win and succeed more than I do. I’m so passionate about what I do I think sometimes I want their business to win more than the client does! Forty3.Media becomes irrelevant to me; if I put all my passion and positive energy into the businesses I’m creating work for, then the businesses do the pitching and advertising for me.
Fuck the pitch, forget the presentations and let’s have a conversation. Be different.
To end this blog, I want to use the words of Mark Twain:
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, its time to pause and reflect”