I quit my job as an insurance agent in 2011 to freelance full-time.
During my first year of self-employment I made very little money but somehow still managed to stay “really busy.”
That’s because I was busy in all the wrong areas. I spent hundreds of hours building and tweaking my website, writing blog posts and yes going to meetings!
You would think after leaving Corporate America I would have learned that most meetings are a complete waste of time.
But sometimes I’m a slow learner.
Because 6 years ago my calendar was full of meetings. I was so desperate to make a living freelancing that I would talk to anyone who gave me a chance.
I did it in the name of “prospecting and networking” of course. But the truth is 95% of those meetings I should never have taken. These were not people in a position to hire me. They were just nice and willing to talk.
But my time wasting rampage didn’t end there… I also decided to join several offline networking groups in town. These were even worse than the unqualified “leads” I talked to on the phone.
Now I was spending hours driving and then spending what little money I had on crappy pizza to listen to a bunch of other desperate people try to get business from me!
After a year of this nonsense I finally started to take control of my schedule. I came up with new strategies, refined them and finally settled on a system that works for me.
Today, the few meetings I have each week are profitable ones. 90% of the time I’m either meeting with someone who booked a discovery call with me from my website, delivering a sales pitch or having a client meeting.
And I make good money now (I’m on track to net $100k this year).
So here’s my “money-making scheduling tips” that I have learned (the hard way) over the last 6 years.
They’re not right for everyone, but hopefully you can apply some of the principles to your own scheduling.
1) Only schedule meetings 2 days a week: I have to reserve time for Focus Sessions otherwise I’ll never get any important work done. If I’m constantly treading water doing shallow tasks all day (i.e. checking email) I’ll go broke. My meeting days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. And once a month I’ll schedule local meetings on a Friday. Usually these are with friends where we grab coffee and talk shop or play chess.
2) Use a scheduling app: I use a program called ScheduleOnce. I love it because it syncs with Google Calendar and I can designate certain recurring times (Tues and Thu) to be available for meetings. It’s also great when trying to schedule meetings with people in other times zones since it does the conversions automatically.
3) Propose the time: Whenever I can I initiate the request for a meeting. This allows you to be in the driver seat and maintain more control over “when” you meet. Say, “So, do you want to get something on the calendar for next week?” When they say yes, then say, “Great, I’ll send you over a link to my calendar right after this call.”
4) Have an agenda: One of the best ways to get the most out of your meetings is to come prepared with an agenda. This is especially true for sales-related calls like discovery call, pitches and sales follow up calls. If you want to close more business then come prepared. I use a free app called WorkFlowy to make a bullet point list of the agenda items.
5) Keep it to 30 minutes: Rarely does a meeting need to exceed 30 minutes. If you’re not careful about this it’s easy to spend an hour with someone on the phone when you really only need 30 minutes. I’m not strict about this because I understand the importance of building rapport and giving people time when I have an audience with them. But if I can tell the meeting is going nowhere or the person is not a good fit then I become more strict about this rule. 🙂
6) Start with a phone call: I’m always scratching me head when I hear freelancers tell me they drive around time meeting with potential prospects. That’s such a waste of time! Why spend an hour or more when you could find the same information in a 15-minute discovery call? Most the time the prospect wants to know your price range, when you can start and just get an overall feel for who you are. This can all be done on the phone.
7) Talk money early: This tip is specifically for discovery calls. If you want to avoid wasting time with unqualified prospects then do yourself and the prospect a favor and talk money early. Don’t avoid it and tell them you’ll send them a quote after the call. Be bold and tell them what your price range is for the project in question. I told someone a few days ago, “Hey my fee for writing website copy is $300–750 per page. Is that within your budget?” He said yes and so we’re moving on to the next phase.
So hopefully these tips help you. I wish I would have known them 6 years ago but better late than never!