Christina Holloway High Performance and Leadership Coach
Learn the two simple questions Christina has asked her clients to help her deliver value and grow her leadership coaching business.
What's your background and what type of services do you offer to clients?
It's not your typical "I'm better off on my own" story. I actually really liked my job and I was in the process of getting transferred to a new department with new responsibilities and a better career track. At the same time, the company was going through some major layoffs and downsizing entire departments. Two weeks before the transfer, I went to work and found I could not access the computer system. By the afternoon I reached out to my Human Resources contact (who was handling the transfer) and, after some digging, he informed me that someone processed my employment as terminated and not transferred in the computer system. I remember vividly that instead of getting upset about being let go, I was mad and reminded them that I had just worked an entire day at a company where I was no longer employed. I wanted to get paid. That's the moment that changed my attitude about work. I was no longer at the mercy of a large corporation, but was now in a position where I could negotiate on my terms. They agreed to pay me if I setup a business and invoiced them for the work. And that's how I got started. I set my own hourly rate for compensation thinking that would be the end of it, but instead they asked me to come back for more work, which lasted 13 more years.
In that time, I offered project management and writing services for major Fortune 500 companies and I typically worked with marketing departments that needed management help with launching their campaigns and producing their materials. I focused primarily on operations, finance and project management and I stayed in the technology sector because it was a growing field.
What motivated you to start your freelance career?
Doing freelance work wasn't unfamiliar to me. I played around with it between full-time jobs if I needed extra money, and it gave me the freedom to travel and accept work in other parts of the country. When my employer suggested creating my own business in order to pay me for a day's work, it didn't sound overwhelming or impossible to me. I went along with it because it was something I had done before and I enjoyed it. On the other hand, I was also committing to the formal process of establishing a business entity so I had to make sure it was something I could do, and at that time it felt right. I went with my instinct.
How do you find and attract clients?
At first, I was able to get clients by referrals. I would do a project and someone would call me saying that they heard I did great work and wanted help. For the majority of the time I did consulting work, I would get new projects through referrals. Someone was always referring me for something new. A few years ago, I decided to start offering a different service through coaching and that became harder because I didn't have an established client base interested in hiring me as a coach. I had to start from scratch, and the best way to do it was to establish an online brand and identity as an accomplished coach. From there, I started cold calling, email campaigns and advertisements for packaged offerings including one-on-one coaching sessions, online training programs and workshops. I also did pilot programs where I gave away free sessions or free coaching packages in an effort to get more visibility. To get exposure and establish myself as a thought leader, I wrote articles for online publications as well as my own blog.
How has your business changed from when you first started to now? It looks like you now offer more productized consulting arrangements. Was that always the case or did you start by just doing hourly work?
When I first started my business, I would quote an hourly rate for a specific project based on my responsibilities for that project. I would send a quote and they would approve it before we started working together. As the projects became bigger and my assignments became longer, I started quoting based on project and less on hourly rate. These days, I have packaged offerings and charge a standard price for each one. This increases the value of my time and the number of clients I can accept.
What advice would you offer other freelancers that are just starting out?
Well, things are certainly different than they were when I first started out in 2001. Social media didn't even exist then. The one thing that probably hasn't changed, however, is knowing how to sell and market yourself. I find that having an online presence has been very helpful and I regret not having an online voice sooner in the form of a website, blog and newsletter.
The one thing I did that many others do not, is to get certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business. It's a great certification to have and opens up a new line of clients in government contracting work. There are other classifications if you are not woman-owned, but that's a good start. I would also recommend having a good accountant and a good lawyer. Contract work can be tricky and having a lawyer in your corner helps.
My philosophy and approach to work has always been about self-improvement and strengths development, not just in people, but also in organizations. It's something I weave into every solution I've offered to potential clients. Ask your client what isn't working and what small changes can be made to improve the situation? It will always start a discussion and a path forward. This is the approach I've used to sell my services and develop more productivity in teams, leaders and businesses.
Any online resources/services/apps/tools, books, or courses you would recommend?
I've also been reading a great book on selling lately called "Spin Selling" by Neil Rackham. In addition, I've taken a number of online courses, which can add value if you find the right ones. I found Selena Soo's "Get Known Get Clients" course to be very helpful. In fact, I like anything she does. Her courses are quite thorough.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your business?
My website, www.christinaholloway.com, features my work and offerings, how I give back to the community, and my articles. I can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to see my personal side, you're welcome to check out my Instagram.