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Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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Featured Biz Question - Scheduling Contracts

I've just started an at-home technical writing business. I currently work a full-time job as well, but it looks like I'll be let go in January when my contract is up (due to lack of work for the company, plus they're not marketing the tech writers as much anymore). And that's why I'm making a stab at this business out of my home and getting a "feel" for its possibilities before my job ends here, and I decide whether or not to run my business full-time, or go out and get a full-time job.

The problem is that I've been waiting for about a month for my first prospective client to sign a contract with me. There's substantial work there and I've been promised the work, but I have others with whom I can contract. Right now I'm making no money while waiting for this first contract to come through. My question is: Should I wait for this first contract to come through before I seriously market the other contacts so I don't risk getting too many contracts to handle at one time?

Thanks for your input!

Answer from our Guest Expert Laura Wiegert of Creative Consultants

Dear CyberSchmoozer:

I can certainly empathize with your dilemma! As a business owner in a related field (marketing and desktop publishing), it's one I know well. It can be hard on the nerves when you've verbally committed yourself to a client who's dragging his feet, knowing that in the meantime, you could be doing other work.

However, I think you've patiently waited long enough to sign on the dotted line, and it's time to talk with this prospect! I'd use a soft approach first. Let 'em know you're in the process of planning your work schedule, and to best meet their needs and deadlines, you'd like to know what their timetable is. Hopefully, this will prompt them to pinpoint dates and get you a contract. If they still can't give you an answer, I'd very nicely lay your cards on the table. Tell them you want them to be your first priority, but you have other prospective clients who need your services also. If they aren't ready to proceed right now, you'll be taking on other work that may affect their timetable when they are ready. If you communicate clearly, I think they'll appreciate your honesty. Perhaps this might cause them to finalize the project details with you, but if they don't, then go out and contract with others! Remember that you, too, have a business and you can't sit around and wait for one client while others are slipping away! (continued)

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About the Expert

Laura Wiegert

Laura Wiegert
Owner of Creative Consultants
Laura is a marketing production expert helping businesses stretch their dollars with effective advertising, marketing, and public relations. She also has a flair for writing, design, and desktop publishing. more