How to go from “order-taker” to partner

Let’s face it, if you can advance a client from sporadic jobs to consistent weekly or monthly projects, your bank account will certainly flourish. Be warned, the process will look short, but the time commitment may be months, even years. If you have the guts to see it through however, you’ll build a client list that will put your kids through college… or at least provide you with that dream vacation you’ve been needing!

To transition from order taker to partner, follow these steps:

  1. Objectively Measure: Review your list of clients and pick out the top 2 that you’d genuinely like to know more about. Which ones do you not only love working for, but who also pay you well for your services and expertise? For which clients do you believe you can further their business and in turn gain more projects and more billable hours for yourself?
  2. Research: Dive into their industry. You probably already know a lot, but dig deeper into their competitors, available market analysis, online searches and more. See yourself as an actual partner that goes to work for this client only, every day. Research nuances, trends, future projections that could affect the health of their business. Review their current and past processes and procedures to see if there are ways they can make their work flow more efficient and effective, especially where your field of expertise coincides. Now take your findings and those challlenges to the next step.
  3. Be a Solutions Maestro: Many of your clients work with you because you provide solutions. Take control of your profession and prove you’re a master of solutions to your client. If you are timid about presenting, research how others in your profession present solutions to their clients. How they set up the meeting or bring it up in other situations. About 90% of this action step is mental. So if you need to build some confidence, gain it by reading, educating yourself or conferring with your mentor. The more you practice, the easier it will become to articulate your thoughts.
  4. Now Speak Up: Don’t be afraid. Once you’ve found places that can be tweaked to help your client’s business run like a well-oiled machine – tell them about it. They’ll be thankful you are thinking of their fiscal well-being. Now, don’t start making suggestions on who they should fire. Leave that up to HR and the big wigs, but look at places they are spending money outside of the company that could be streamlined. If this client pays you and it’s within your field or expertise, you have an obligation to do so. If it’s a big idea, present supporting studies or data or discuss further with colleagues in your field to get some other perspectives to back up your solution. Also, don’t be afraid to fail. Your idea may be criticized or dismissed before being welcomed. If you have a solid relationship with your client, they’ll respect your thoughts, creativity and partnering quality whether or not they agree with your solution. And over time, you’ll probably notice them approving your problem solving abilities more and more.
  5. Build on your Positive Past: If you continue to provide great work and solid solutions at an affordable rate, your client will value you. They’ll want to work with you more and eventually they’ll think of you as a partner. Do this with 2 to 3 clients and you’ve got a steady stream of business and income.

For more on research, partnering, and providing creative solutions, read my post Breaking into the Real Estate Market.

I’d love to hear from your experience! Whether you’ve been a creative solopreneur for less than a year or more than 10, what are you doing to be more of a partner to your clients?