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It’s happened to everyone.
One month your phone’s ringing constantly, and you’re billing 60 hours a week with no end in sight, and the next… you’re listening to the chirp of crickets and watching tumbleweed blow across your doorstep.
If you’re a solo practitioner, you’re more vulnerable than most to this feast-to-famine phenomenon. It’s still a real threat, though, to any small law firm.
According to this article via Conversion Insights, the key to weathering these times is to diversify your sources of clients. You want to have many “fishing spots,” so that if one dries up, you’ll still bring in business from the others.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still heavily favor one source of business… you just want to aim to have enough clients coming from other places to make it through the down times. If you’re ready to diversify your sources of business, here are a few ideas from this article for where to look.
Referral relationships with other attorneys - If you don’t yet have referral relationships in place with attorneys or firms in other practice areas, this should be your top priority. The best way to get more referrals is to start giving them. The first time you send a referral someone’s way, you’ll move from “casual acquaintance” status to their VIP list.
Here’s what you do: Make a list of the lawyers in your area whom you know, but aren’t yet exchanging referrals with. The next time a client comes to you with a need they can solve, send the client their way. Then, follow up your referral with a request to sit down over coffee. You’ll get to know each other, and the other person will get a better idea of how they can refer you.
Client referrals - For many small law firms, their referrals from clients are so-so. Referrals happen, sure, but not at the rate they could. Far and away the #1 reason for this is that the attorneys fail to stay in touch with clients after an engagement. There are easy ways to stay in touch and keep the referrals flowing, like:
The author of this article suggests picking 3 and doing them consistently. In some cases, that may mean picking a client each day and spending ten minutes (e.g., sending news articles), or it may mean spending a couple hours each month to contact many clients (e.g., newsletters).
Building relationships at scale - For many small law firms, the idea of getting clients without their attorney’s interaction is far-fetched, to put it nicely. Each of their existing sources of business relies on rainmakers building relationships one by one, establishing trust that leads to a prospective client hiring the firm.
If you want to supplement your existing sources of clients, though, the best way to do so is to build relationships at scale. Meaning, think of the way you typically build a relationship that drives business. You meet someone, you get to know each other, maybe give them a bit of free information, and eventually (when they decide they need help in this area), they hire you.
That relationship building is limited by your time and energy. Ideally, you would scale it up so that instead of spending 5 hours to get a single client, you spent 5 hours to get 10, 20, or 100 clients.
There are two ways the author suggests doing this:
When you present a seminar to a group—say, anywhere between 10 and 30 people—you get to build rapport with everyone at once. Plus, you get the chance to demonstrate your expertise. If you can deliver valuable advice, you’ll show them you’re capable of solving their problems, too. When it comes time for them to hire someone—maybe a month from now, maybe a year—you’ll be at the top of their list.
The other alternative is to build a Web presence. For most small law firms, the percentage of their annual business that originates on their Web site rounds to zero. If you’re in that situation, it can be hard to imagine how you could diversify your business by acquiring clients online.
The trick is to not think of your Web site as a business card, or a brochure, or an ad. Think of it as simply one more tool to build a relationship.
That means the goal of your site is not to talk about yourself. It’s to show prospective clients you can help them.
Build up your cash reserves - There’s a third way to deal with the ups and downs of your business: be prepared for them. Divorce lawyer Lee Rosen suggests that the key is simply to manage your money wisely—to live on 15% less than what you can realistically expect to make this year. Doing that, you’ll have about a month and a half worth of income in reserve after the first year. With that kind of padding, you won’t have to go into survival mode when a slow month hits.
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This article is courtesy of the website Conversion Insights.