Liz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, began reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
Liz and I have known each other for what seems like a long time. Thanks to Ram Dutt of Meylah for connecting us both last year – LIz and I have learned from each other on many different fronts.
In her own words, Liz explains how it required her to reinvent herself to get her first client:
After being in business for close to 25 years, and with a propensity to re-invent myself every four or five of them, I’ve had many “first clients.” Given that we humans are pattern-seekers, to answer the question, “How do I get my first clients?” some time ago I sat down and reviewed them all in relation to each other to try and discern what, if anything, those experiences had in common. The answer does not surprise me; but it may surprise you. What I discovered only enhances my confidence in myself and in life; hopefully it will do the same for you.
First, a little back-story. I’m a professional writer, among other things, but “communication” in all its forms is the glue that holds everything together. My first “clients” have, naturally, been as varied as my portfolio career: A publisher for my first book; a magazine editor for my first article; an international airline for my first paid speaking gig. Right up to the most recent: A real estate sales manager looking to write a book with my professional help, which I provided under my previous brand identity; and the principal of a consulting firm wanting the same when I adopted my current role as “Dr Liz” at the close of 2011.
I have a website that relatively few people visit. I don’t advertise. My marketing efforts have stepped up recently, mostly because they give me the chance to play with creating content that can be presented in different and fun ways – like this Pllop. But I can’t honestly say I’ve garnered any business from such activities. At least, not yet.
I hardly do any talks and have given up organizing events because I’m tired of going to so much trouble when few people bother to show up. Towards the end of last year I began to feel like Neiman Marcus in a profession littered with Wal-Marts. I don’t believe in churning out crap books in a couple of months, just because it’s easy to do so. My ideal client is someone who holds passion and prestige in the same high regard that I do. Which is why I now help serious business professionals craft high quality books, with a view to becoming bestsellers that stand the test of time.
I work with relatively few authors, teach strategic communications at a leading university, write my own books, spend a lot of time in nature with my dog, and pretty much live the life I’ve always dreamed of (the beach view is still to come, lol). Every morning I wake up with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I feel truly, truly blessed. And the only reason I’m telling you all this is because it has – at least so I believe – a direct bearing on the answer to the question, “How did you get your first client?” Indeed, it’s how I attract all my clients. It’s the easiest thing in the world but it’s also — ironically — the hardest thing to understand rationally and, for many, to do.
It’s enabling serendipity.
How clients come to me is always by word-of-mouth, sometimes through recommendations from people I don’t even know. I have no idea how that happens, but I do have a clue as to why.
For example, let’s take my most recent “first client” experience. There is a group of people whom I’ve known professionally and personally for about eight or nine months now. I was first introduced to them when I was operating under my previous brand identity. The work I did then was no different to what I do now, only I was charging a lot less and not working with the clients I really wanted.
When my mentor told me to ditch the old identity it was a no-brainer; I did so without a second thought. I’d felt unhappy for some time, just didn’t know why. When this suggestion was made to me it was like a light bulb had turned on over my head. Ping! Now I knew what needed to happen.
We changed my website, my business name, my logo, my Twitter handle, my Facebook page (something I’d only done 18 months previously) and suddenly I felt free and invigorated. I just knew it was the right thing and good things would come from it.
Shortly afterwards one of the members of the group I mentioned earlier referred a client to me. They had never done this before. This new client didn’t bother looking at my website, didn’t even want to speak to anyone else. I signed them up at my new, higher rate; they never quibbled. Then a second member of that group referred someone who immediately became a client. Then another.
Had I changed my services? No, they were exactly the same. The only thing that was different in that regard was how much more I was charging.
Had I changed how I felt? Absolutely! I now had a vision for the caliber of clients I wanted and the achievements I desired to make happen for them. I didn’t do anything except respond to a deep desire for change.
And that, my friends is “the big idea” I want to share with you.
What my previous identity had provided was not a long-term business solution at all – it was merely a short-term, contrasting experience that provided a step towards discovering what I am meant to do. And it’s misunderstanding the difference between these two kinds of experiences that makes hard for most people to change as nimbly and as frequently as I’m willing to.
When you’re banging your head against a brick wall (it hurts, doesn’t it?) stop and ask yourself, “Who am I really? What truly inspires me?” Within a short time a door will open and all you have to do is find the courage to walk through it. When you do that your first client will find you. Just as mine always have. As Dr Seuss once said, “Ninety eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”
But for that to happen, you have to be prepared to go to places you might otherwise not.