Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Gearing Up

February 6, 2004

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This year my business is undergoing a few changes. In the past, I have had alternate sources of income which allowed me to limit the amount of consulting work I do. Now, though, I have a need to think about this work more as a primary source of income. In that light, I am gearing up a series of initiatives to present a more business-like manner to my clients and, hopefully, increase my billable hours by a significant amount. Whether you are just starting out, or looking for ways to revitalize an existing business, these tips should serve you well.


The most important action you can take in any business is to increase the amount of communication between you and your clients. Sometimes, we can start to think that no news is good news. Unfortunately, this limits the possibilities for helping your clients with their small, but annoying problems. These are left to fester until a larger problem prompts the client to call you. In an effort to increase communication, I have initiated several programs.


One of the most important aspects of communicating with your clients is consistent and thorough follow-up on every telephone call, email and service call. I automatically schedule a call in my PDA immediately following each client visit. I usually date this follow-up for 1 week in the future. I do the same for telephone service calls and email. This relatively simple procedure can go a long way towards improving relationships with your clients. Out of every 10 support calls, I would guess that 5 have additional questions after the fact. This is only normal, as it can take some time to insure that everything is working properly or to notice additional issues that need to be addressed. By calling or emailing, you insure that the client is satisfied with your work and you can generate additional work by immediately addressing new issues that need to be solved.

Monthly Email Newsletter

As I go about my Internet travels each month, I collect interesting news items, information on new software upgrades and a variety of other information. This material then makes it into my monthly newsletter. This newsletter gets emailed to all my clients. Every month I find that I will get several emails or phone calls from my clients. Regardless of the content of the newsletter, its arrival is a reminder to them of questions and problems that need to be addressed. Additionally, the content can drive requests for appointments to install new software, perform system cleanup and maintenance and a host of other duties.


Along with this newsletter, I also publish a weblog entitled, My Word. ( Many of the same items that appear in my blog also appear in the newsletter. Here I announce new software upgrades, stories from my personal life, interesting photos, information on Los Angeles events and more. Readers of the blog get a more personal glimpse of my life, as well as getting timely delivery of information.


In addition to the methods above, there are several other ways to build your business. One simple method is to cultivate referrals from your existing clients. While you might think it commonsense that these clients would recommend you, it never hurts to remind them. Some people simply don’t think about referrals until you make it easier for them. Leave behind business cards, brochures and other material that make it easy for them to recommend you to a friend or colleague. Once you a start a referral program like this, I can almost guarantee that you will start to see new business.

Invoices and statements can be turned into a promotional tool instead of just a reminder for payment. Include interesting tips and hints with the invoice. Include an easy-to-use referral slip/business card on the form. Use these items as one more opportunity to assist your client.


Just like a farmer, it is up to you to cultivate your good clients while weeding out the bad. Not every referral will result in a good client, so it is important to recognize problems quickly so you can ease out of the relationship. Working with difficult clients is a drain on your energy, resources and time. You should be more concerned with the quality of your clients, rather than the number of clients.

Finally, be open and caring with your clients. All of them deserve your respect and attention. Treat others as you want to be treated and, more often than not, this is how others will treat you. This is exactly what makes a high-tech career (or any career, for that matter) worth living.

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