In his landmark book E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber said, “Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant.”
It’s easy to dismiss this quote and assume it’s for a bigger operation. Yet I’ve met many coaches, consultants, copywriters, designers, photographers, fitness trainers — that are constantly overwhelmed, late on deliverables, and wasteful with their time and creative energy.
A simple system of forms can cure these problems. Here are three that I use everyday (that I’m making available to you):
1. Initial Questionnaire
This form replaces the “Tell-Me-About-Your-Business” phone call. You can gain insights about a client’s wants and needs, set expectations on fees, and decide whether you are a good fit for the project even before you exchange a word.
Have I ever taken on a client that did not initially fill out this form? Absolutely, but most of the time that came through a personal connection, and I still ask them to fill it out. Some tips:
- Ask open-ended questions. Get them to write out their problems and objectives.
- Ask for budget parameters. This allows you to hint at your rates. The lowest range on my consulting form is $3,000, which implies I will not work for less.
Be strict. Set the tone by establishing professionalism and structure from the very start.
2. Official Proposal
If someone fills out a form and I feel we are a good fit, we talk for 15-minutes. If things still look good, it’s now my responsibility to send a clear, concise proposal.
I rarely write a proposal over three pages, including the signature page. Most of the time, it’s one page. Long proposals aren’t necessary because clients have been vetted via the initial questionnaire and phone call. The proposal takes about 15 minutes to write:
- Situational Appraisal (to ensure I am fully understanding the situation)
- Methodologies & Deliverables (what I will do, and how)
- Timeline (duration of the project)
- Parameters (available number of calls, when I can be reached, etc.)
Clients can expect to have a proposal within 3 business days of our call. I usually have it in their inbox by the second day, and ask that they accept or deny the proposal within 3 business days from that day.
This means there is a maximum five-day turnaround to find out whether I take a project or not. If they don’t respond within that time, I cancel. If they ask for an extension, I rarely comply because of other projects in queue. If they return a few months later, you can be sure that as the sun rises and sets: my fee will increase.
Hardball? Maybe, but if we can’t get on the same page at this point it’s likely that the working relationship will be a disaster. Not doing it. Sorry.
“That may work for you, Mike — but me?”
Friend, there are like 7 billion people in the world. There are plenty of others you can help. You just have to attract them.
If you really need the cashflow, consider that agreeing to work with the wrong client will likely double or triple the hours you intended for that project.
Having this system guarantees I spend no more than 35 minutes from:
- reading questionnaire responses
- talking on the phone
- writing the proposal
It’s also why over 90% of the leads that go through this process end up hiring me. They are the best potential clients.
3. Client Testimonial Form
Testimonials are hard to write, so I created a form that “leads” my client down a logical thought progression. I ask questions like, “What compelled you to hire me in the first place?”
The form starts the response for them i.e., “We were experiencing difficulties in gaining new leads.” The client finishes the thought, and once completed, I have a full sentence that reads, “We were experiencing difficulties in gaining new leads, and Mike helped us by implementing etc. etc. etc.”
We both know testimonials are integral to your marketing, but you may have struggled obtaining them. Have a form in place that smooths the process. You’ll be surprised at how much better your clients respond.
You know most people that “want to talk” have no intention to hire you … right?
Friend, please hear me: you will absolutely, positively encounter freeloaders looking to milk you for free info.
They are experts at “discussing a project” or a “huge opportunity.” They are pros at getting you to share your insights and strategies, and you fall for it because you’re too eager to win them over. After the call, they simply walk away having played you like a cheap ukelele.
They had no intention of contracting you. Ever.
To give these people hours of your workweek will kill your business. But if they have this kind of access to you in the first place, it’s your fault. It’s like the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Requiring clients to fill out your forms forces them to have skin in the game. They must invest time and thought into working with you before they get to speak with you. A system ensures you are in a position to help … instead of getting hoaxed.
Handle Every Project Like a Pro From Start to Finish With Your Very Own Essential Business Forms.
My forms are available as templates here, but even if you don’t use my resources you need a system like this in place. Protect your time and energy for your best work instead of wasting it on poor leads and freeloaders.
Moreover, a system itself is a marketing and positioning tool for the best clients. Consider: the top 1% of clients expect professionalism, punctuality, and organization. They are willing to pay top dollar for it.
So, which is more marketable … playing email tag and finally getting on the phone in-between meetings, or having a clear-cut process that maximizes efficiency and shows the potential leads that you mean business? You know the answer.
- New Client Intake Form
- Official Project Proposal
- One-Page Project Proposal (for repeat clients)
- Client Testimonial Form
- BONUS: “Click-To-Client” Email Prospecting Templates
The Essential Business Templates for Your Personal Brand give you everything you need to automate and supercharge your business.