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Making lemonade

Posted by Vicki Moulton on August 3, 2009

yellowRemember your grandmother’s advice about what to do when life hands you a bunch of sour lemons? This classic lesson about turning a negative into a positive can be applied quite handily to any sticky business situation.

SCENARIO: Your client assumes you are skilled in anything that’s remotely related to your actual line of business. The line between what you know how to do and what you pretend to know how to do is getting blurrier by the minute. You like this client and don’t wish to lose potential business by revealing the pretense.

DIAGNOSIS: Your professional brand is not well-defined, and you’re straying from your core mission.

SOLUTION: Take this opportunity to define who you are and what you have to offer. Make a list of your capabilities, and include everything that you’re confident you know how to do well. Make a separate list of things you could do with a bit more time/training/networking help. Leave off items in which you simply don’t have any expertise or would find yourself in over your head.

Next, write a short descriptive statement about the kind of work you want to be doing. You can take elements of this statement to become your mission and your slogan. This should include only the work you want to be known for, and be as specific as you can. If you have a web presence, you can turn all of this into your personal brand.

Then, any areas that go beyond your mission/slogan could go under a “consulting” umbrella, meaning you can always find someone else to help your clients with specific needs beyond your bailiwick. (Hey, I’m connected… I can get you someone for that project. Just tell me what you need!) Definitely keep your relationship with the client, and make sure you stay involved as a “project manager,” even charging a consulting fee (while you learn new skills from the other individual). You might consider partnering with that other expert on future projects.

Once you’ve defined your business, client requests for work beyond your core capabilities won’t cause you angst. To paraphrase Grandma, life may hand you lemons, but you’ve already mastered the recipe for lemonade.

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