Avoiding feast or famine when you’re self-employed

Anna Metcalfe

Cantaloupe Ltd | B2B, SaaS, Software, Tech | Simplifying your 'complex' to achieve results

I know how it is. When your order book is full, it feels great. You’re busy getting stuff out the door. No time for prospecting now!

But that’s exactly when you should be doing something. Otherwise, a deadly famine might be on the way. Here are some practical thoughts on developing a regular prospecting system that operates even when you’re stacked out.

Have you noticed how quickly things can alter? It doesn’t take much. A long-term customer has a change of circumstances. That promised job doesn’t get the budget and is shelved. A client re-structures and your key contacts move on, leaving your business vulnerable.

You might be incredibly busy right now, but what of the future? There’s no place for complacency (and that’s before any thought of the dreaded B-word!)

Make a simple plan and stick to it

The fact is, new customers (and new projects) don’t grow on trees. You simply cannot pick them out the air the moment you need them. They must be identified. Relationships must be nurtured. The timing has to be right. And eventually, they have to choose you. Sales funnels can be lengthy. Yours typically might be a few months to a few years.

Prospecting only when you’re quiet is stressful. You want the work. You need revenue. And yet, they might not be ready or need time to learn more.

So, commit to a prospecting plan – as simple as you like – and STICK to it. Week in, week out.

What should your plan look like?

That depends on your business, your budget, and your objectives. The following activities would be well worth considering, whatever you’re offering.


It deserves a post in its own right (note to self). If your customers are other businesses, you’d be mad not to embrace LinkedIn at some level. Whilst many might see it as a place to promote your company news (it can be) and perfect your own personal profile in readiness for your next career move (fair enough), there’s more to it than that.

LinkedIn is different to all other social media platforms. Why? Because it’s full of actual business people. They’re all there, and you can read about them. Their role and responsibilities, their colleagues, their interests.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to hard-sell on LinkedIn. You’ll already know how annoying that is. But how about creating a list of companies you’d like to be in touch with? Then see who’s in your network from that company.

Got a common interest? Want to ask them about their business? Go ahead! Get in touch and start a conversation.

Just avoid the sales pitch. LinkedIn is about networking and relationship building, first and foremost.

And how about creating some posts? Get out there, start some conversations and interactions. It might just lead somewhere.

Allocate an hour or so each week to LinkedIn. You’ll soon start to see the momentum build.

Email marketing

This is not just about selling either! Emails can be interesting, informative, and helpful to the reader. They also keep you in touch with key contacts. Remind them you still exist and have something valuable to say.

Have you read my post on the value of email nurturing?

If the relationship nurturing side of your email marketing has gone off the boil, think about re-inventing your system. It doesn’t need to drain your time (especially if you involve a freelancer!) and can be working away in the background.

Have you got some great advice about your industry? Or some interesting points of view? Can you offer support for your customers’ frustrations? Then you’ve got the beginnings of a great email campaign to nurture your contacts until they’re ready to act.

And targeted one to one emails

Past customers, old leads and useful contacts. Do you keep in touch? A little bit of thought and effort each week can reap great rewards.

Phone calls might not always be practical, but emails are.

A one to one email to an important lapsed customer is a personable approach. How are they getting on since they purchased from you? Ask them some questions they’ll feel compelled to reply to.

You can even create a templated email structure to work from, making the task even quicker (but always personalise it in a few ways). By expressing interest, you might ignite a conversation that ultimately leads to more business.

Keep your website up to date

Discontinued products, outdated team pages, sleepy blogs with no recent action. It’s a turn off for anyone sniffing around your business. Like maintaining your house or car, you need to keep on top of it. Even when you’re busy!

Develop a list of actions. Tackle a few every week or month. Need some help? You only have to ask.

Too many businesses invest heavily in creating their website and then leave it to rot and wither. I don’t need to tell you what a wasted opportunity this is.

Whilst you’re at it, do you need to keep on top of your SEO? There’s no magic bullet, but a little bit every month will develop a website that prospects for you. Even when you’re up to your eyes in work.

Build up your case study bank

This is another ongoing task that’s incredibly beneficial, and yet, often put to one side when the order book is full.

And that’s ironic.

When you’ve got loads of customers, it’s a great time to create some powerful case studies. Just like Amazon reviews and TripAdvisor feedback, case studies have incredible value for your target audience. Here are real people with the exact same problem they have. And this is how they overcame the challenge and excelled.

A well-written case study can shorten the sales funnel by weeks or even months. It can build trust faster with your prospective customer and give them the understanding they need to act.

They’ve got a long shelf life too; and wide application. Add them to your website. Email a link to your mailing list. Showcase them on social media. Supply them to press contacts.

Imagine if you created just one case study a month? Twelve a year. That’d be a powerful start. No time? *Yawn* I’m talking case studies every day. Get me involved and it’ll just happen, whilst you’re getting those orders out.

Have you got the point?

Can you see the benefit of sticking to a prospecting plan, regardless of how busy you are?

You’ll never starve again if you get this right.

Originally published on

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