The longer I do this work, the more I come to realize that we self-employed professionals can be our own worst enemies when it comes to getting clients. We know what we should be doing to market ourselves better, and then we don’t do it. Or we don’t know what’s the right thing to do, so we throw a dart and pick something randomly, or respond to the latest email we got, instead of considering our options and making a well-reasoned choice.


Or we make a valid choice, then second-guess ourselves, dropping one marketing strategy and picking up another, without putting enough effort into any one approach to produce results. Or we spend too much time talking to ourselves and not enough talking to prospective clients, worrying about why the last prospect never got back to us, whether the blog post we just wrote is good enough to publish, or if the latest version of our tag line finally gets across our message.

Tag lines and blog posts and marketing strategies are all important. But in determining whether or not we’re going to get clients, there are some other factors we should be also paying attention to. Here’s what it really takes:

  • Courage — We must be willing to take risks, try new ways of doing things, and reach out to strangers. Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the willingness to take action while being afraid. All that’s required is to be willing to act.
  • Trust — We must trust that we’ve gotten the best advice we could, made the best choices available to us, and done our best work on the job at hand. Trusting in our advisors, our choices, and our efforts, we can keep taking the next step instead of being stuck or backtracking.
  • Persistence — We must contact our prospective clients more than once, try repeatedly to get to know people better, and practice marketing approaches to improve our performance. And we must be willing to do these things without always seeing an immediate result.
  • Consistency — We must deliver the same message over and over about the benefits of working with us, show up at the same meetings month after month, and use the same marketing tactics again and again. Only with consistency can we build familiarity and momentum.
  • Empathy — Marketing professional services requires building relationships -– with prospects, with referral sources, and with our clients. Successful relationships are based on empathy. The people we interact with must feel that we truly understand them and care about their concerns.

All these factors are human qualities, not tools like a website or brochure, or tactics like making cold calls or attending networking events. But just like marketing tools and tactics, qualities can be developed. You don’t have to be born with them.

You can build your courage by taking small risks and building up to larger ones. Or by learning new skills in an unfamiliar arena.

Trust can be built by reflecting on and acknowledging the helpful advice you’ve gotten, valid choices you’ve made, or productive work you’ve done. Keeping a success journal can help you focus on the positive rather than the negative.

Persistence and consistency are disciplines that can be learned through practice over time, substituting helpful habits for unhelpful ones, and boosting your performance by relying on support and accountability from others.

Empathy can be developed by getting to know the people in your marketplace at a deeper level. Go where they go, do what they do, read what they read. Get inside their heads and hearts to grasp where they’re coming from. And make sure you haven’t chosen your target market just because you think that’s where the money is, instead of because you have an authentic desire to serve that group.

These five qualities are ways of being about marketing, not ways of doing it. Yes, the doing is important. If you simply sit in your office and be brave, trusting, etc., without taking any action about getting business, new clients will not magically appear. But if you try to just do marketing without these being qualities in place, it’s quite likely you will ultimately fail at it.

Try this experiment for one month -– whenever you find yourself becoming discouraged or uncertain or fearful or avoidant about marketing, stop what you’re trying to do and spend a day focused on building whichever of these five qualities seems most lacking. It’s my bet that by the end of the month, you’ll find that marketing has started to become easier and more productive.

And that’s what it really takes to get clients.

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