As an independent contractor, it can feel overwhelming to imagine competing with big businesses and win new work. But there are many advantages a smaller team — even a team of one — can bring to the table, and these should appear front and center in your customer service strategy when networking and pitching to companies.
Here are 10 ways you can meet the competition head-on:
1. Build a Professional Presence Online
Make sure you spend some time building a strong presence online with a website, social channels and, ideally, a blog. Be clear and concise about who you are and what services you offer on your website, and make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Maintaining active social channels and a blog will give potential new clients confidence that you’re a real person with the knowledge and experience to deliver on your services.
2. Emphasize Faster Turnaround Times
You should emphasize your ability to deliver faster turnaround times as a smaller team. After all, you don’t need to wait for the go-ahead from higher-ups, and you also have the ability to decide when and where you can make yourself available. In an increasingly fast-paced working world, this is a huge competitive advantage.
3. Highlight Cheaper Project Budgets
You also bring more affordable project estimates to the table. Since you have less overhead and fewer employees to pay, make sure you highlight this to potential clients. You can also consider going after clients with smaller budgets that may fall below the radar of larger service providers.
4. Wear All the Hats
Learn to embrace the strength of being your own boss. Because you do both the networking and the delivery of services, you can build stronger relationships with people from start to finish. This single point of contact can work in your favor in terms of better communication channels, because you’re the one shepherding the relationship from beginning to end.
5. Join Industry Organizations and Attend Networking Events
This is one of the best ways to make new contacts in your industry. Invest in a membership to key organizations in your field, and consider networking events and workshops a key part of your business development.
6. Take Advantage of Greater Flexibility
Smaller teams can deliver a more specialized, customized offering to clients. Unlike larger organizations with established workflows and fixed deliverables, make sure your clients understand that you bring added value in terms of meeting their specific needs.
7. Flaunt Your Personality
At the end of the day, your clients are real people. Don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your work and communications. It’ll make you stand out more in their minds and create a personal connection that goes beyond the relationships larger companies offer. Who doesn’t prefer interacting with real people over big, faceless corporations?
8. Be Confident — Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Persistence is key. Be confident in your abilities, and take pride in your work. You won’t win them all, but don’t get discouraged. Use all your failed attempts as learning opportunities for next time, and remember that if you don’t win the work this time around, that connection you’ve made may prove fruitful in the future.
9. Frequently Reach out to Your Network
Nurturing those personal relationships will keep you top of mind when a need arises. Make it part of your customer service strategy to follow up with your contacts on a regular basis (every few months, for instance). Keep a contact list or database either within your email client or as a separate file, and keep contact information up to date.
10. Always Carry Business Cards
If you don’t have business cards yet or you’ve run out, order them now. You never know where you might meet your next client, so carry those cards with you, even if you’re not going out on business. Smart customer service strategy recognizes that you should be ready to make a new connection anywhere.
As an independent contractor, you bring many distinct advantages to the table that larger companies just can’t compete with. Keep these tips in mind as you build your business, network and pitch your product or service to a client.