I’ll bet you do great work with your clients. But if your clients are the only ones who know what you can do, you won’t stay in business. We all hope that satisfied clients will refer us to their friends and colleagues, but clients aren’t always your best source of referrals. So, we need to let more people know how terrific our work is.

Hard work

There are many ways to let prospective clients know about your work, But for most self-employed professionals, there are only four categories that make sense: networking, speaking, writing, and media. These are the best avenues for people to become familiar with not only you, but with how your work creates tangible benefits.

Networking allows you to make contact with people personally, whether your interaction is in person, on the phone, or online. Networking gives you the opportunity to describe your work to them, and in many cases, let them experience some aspect of it.

Speaking can be done live, both in person and virtually on webinars or teleseminars. Or, your speaking can be recorded on video or audio. Speaking allows you to share your work more deeply by demonstrating it or telling stories about it.

Writing can be done in a dozen different forms, from blogging and article-writing to authoring a book or ebook. With writing, it’s possible to make your expertise widely accessible, in print and online.

Media and social media allow you to share and publicize all your activities, including your speaking and writing, to a larger audience than you can reach on your own.

What each of these approaches has in common is that you must show your work somehow in order to be able to share it easily with others. You can show your work powerfully with the acronym TUG, which stands for: Tangible, Understandable, and Germane. Here’s what I mean:

  • Tangible – Give specific examples of the results and benefits of your work which are anchored in physical reality. Saying, “My client saved $1500 on his taxes” makes a tax preparer’s work tangible. “I prepare and file tax returns” does not.
  • Understandable – Describe what you do in terms that anyone in your target audience can understand. “I write newsletters and employee communications for corporate clients” is understandable. “I’m a communications consultant” is easily misunderstood.
  • Germane – Relevant to your audience and applicable to common situations they encounter. If you’re a career coach seeking clients who are in job search mode, talking about how to handle tricky interview questions is germane. Sharing approaches for living a more balanced life, however, would be off target, because it’s not the main area of concern for your ideal prospects.

When you read the descriptions above of the TUG factors, they may seem obvious. But in practice, I’ve found that employing these elements is often neglected.

Take blogging, for example. I frequently see professionals publish blog posts on any topic that comes to mind. Instead, you should be writing on specific themes you believe are most likely to attract your ideal clients. If you’re a management consultant seeking corporate clients in need of team-building, it makes sense to write about resolving workplace conflicts. But blogging about family mediation — even if it’s within your expertise — is not the work you want to be known for.

Another mistake I often see is with speaking topics. Yes, you should limit your speaking to topics that will appeal to the clients you most want. But you should also select topics which allow you to include an element of tangibility in your talk. Could you demonstrate what you do with a volunteer from the audience? Or show a video of your work the audience can learn from? Or have the audience experience an exercise or model that you use with clients?

A well-constructed description, story, or demonstration of your work – delivered via networking, speaking, writing, or media — will TUG potential clients into your orbit. Without the TUG factors in place, you may end up expending far too much effort on telling people about your work, without seeing any results for it.

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