What should you do if your client work disappears overnight?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on April 2nd, 2020

What should you do if your clients suddenly:

Here are two possibilities to explore: 

First, find out what your existing clients new priorities are

Your clients had a problem yesterday that they trusted you to help them with. That problem probably didn’t go away all of the sudden... it got replaced by a bigger problem.

It’s worth chatting with them to get clarity on their new priorities and to determine together if there’s a new and different way that you could help them.

However urgent their old problem was, their new one is more urgent (otherwise, they’d still be focused on the old problem). Either you can help with the new problem or you can’t, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

Second, find new clients who are in a growth mindset

Finding new clients is something you should be doing all the time, but when you suddenly find yourself in a famine cycle, you don’t have much choice but to start doing some prospecting.

How?

Like so:

Take a deep breath. Step back and think for a second. Consider the current business environment and ask yourself, “What kind of businesses would be spending money right now?” Using some basic common sense, you should be able to come up with a dozen or so very quickly.

I’ll start...

Here is a list of businesses just off the top of my head who are probably printing money at the moment: online gaming, streaming entertainment, esports leagues, video communication software, ecommerce platforms, delivery services, info product businesses, remote learning platforms, etc. 

Once you have target market or two that interests you, hypothesize what they might be spending money on that you could potentially help them with. Don’t limit your thinking on this to “how am I going to sell what I have always sold to these new types of clients?” Instead, think very broadly about how you could potentially engage in new ways. This could lead you to a new an innovative offering, a deeper specialization, or a new niche. 

An example of thinking more broadly...

Let me give you an example of what I mean by “thinking more broadly” about how you could engage with new clients:

I was recently chatting with a nice guy who runs a generalist web development agency. They are located in a low cost of living area and had been limiting themselves to local clients. When tough times hit, all of his clients disappeared. He asked me, “What should I do?”

I suggested finding 300-500 boutique shops in major metropolitan areas in the US and reaching out to them to see if they needed help setting up an online Shopify store. These business were all forced to close their physical locations and are likely sitting on inventory that they’d probably love to move. The typical boutique owner isn’t as qualified as a web developer when it comes to setting up a Shopify site.

Shopify is great, but there’s a lot going on in there including DNS configuration, POS integration, theme selection and setup, etc. These are all things an experienced web developer can tackle fairly easily but would be showstoppers for a non-technical retail store owner. 

But isn’t shifting from “general web development” to “shopify store setup” a big change?

From an ego standpoint, maybe so - e.g., Rails developers might consider “configuring a Shopify store” to be beneath them. But from a technical standpoint, it’s not really outside of their wheelhouse. In this particular case, my guy jumped at the idea. We’ll see how it goes, but I’d bet on him (even though this is a target market that is NOT printing money right now). 

Here’s the thing...

Don’t sit around waiting for the old normal to return. Start building your new normal. 

Yours,

—J