Tag Archives: clients

Encore! How to Still be a Winner After Losing a Potential Client.

What do you do when you lose a potential client? A few weeks ago this happened to me. I was disappointed but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time that I hear the words, “I’m sorry but…”.  However,  over the years I’ve learned to see this as an opportunity and not as a loss. Let me explain…Read more.

Encore! Are Your Clients Extremely Satisfied With Your Service?

I was in my neighborhood bank today and as I was coming out, I noticed a sign that read “We hope your experience with us today was extremely satisfying”.  I thought it a bit odd. Most of my banking is pretty perfunctory. As long as the ATM doesn’t screw up, I’m pretty delighted. But the sign got me thinking. What would make your personal history service extremely satisfying for clients? Here’s what I think…Read more.

Monday’s Link Roundup.

For this Monday’s Link Roundup I’ve found some great tech articles for you. Two that particularly interest me are Kindle’s Personal Document Service and 5 cloud storage services compared.  Kindle offers some intriguing possibilities for personal historians. And if you use a cloud service as I do, then do yourself a favor and compare services. You may want to switch.

  • We’re Crazy About Books and Confused About eBooks. “…you don’t have to read books to be crazy about them. Published authors command attention and respect even from the people who don’t have to budget how much they’ll spend at their local bookstore … A book is a social object, to riff on Hugh McLeod’s conversation. Not only that, it’s a fetish item or physical souvenir. We gift books. We hold onto books after we’ve read them because we largely can’t make a case to let them go.”
  • What Hoops Will You Jump Through for Your Clients? “… we usually do our best to meet client requests–even that means jumping through some hoops to keep the client satisfied. However, some customer requests are just plain unreasonable. This post describes some “hoops” that aren’t worth jumping through–even to make a client happy.
  • Kindle’s Personal Document Service. “It’s looking like a Kindle Christmas in my family…Why? It’s all about Kindle’s new Personal Document Service. Designed to make it easy for Kindle owners to send personal documents to their reader, it also allows them to authorize others to send documents too. This means I can “publish” family stories by simply emailing the document to my family’s Kindle addresses.”
  • Free For All: From CreativePro.com. “This month’s mixed assortment of free resources includes 2012 calendar templates; a vector kit of pre-press and markup symbols; 13 typefaces; 60 photos of paper; and one way to sign and send a document without a fax machine.”
  • Unlikely Book Club.[video] “Steve Hartman reports on the book club that’s inspiring people in other states and countries. It all began with an unlikely friendship between two men, one a lawyer and the other homeless.”
  • 5 cloud storage services compared. “… personal cloud services have been slowly easing their way into almost everyone’s computing plans.That’s not you you say? You don’t use a cloud service? Really? Do you use Dropbox to store files? Do you get your e-mail at Gmail? Are you experimenting with Apple’s iCloud? Doing work with Google Apps, Office 365, or Zoho Docs? Congratulations, you’re a cloud user.”
  • Protect Your Legacy for up to 100 Years. “The SanDisk Memory Vault is the first product from SanDisk engineered to preserve your most important photos, videos, documents, and scanned files for generations to come. The company claims the device has been tested to support data retention for up to 100 years.”

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3 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier About Being a Professional Personal Historian.

Want to avoid some pitfalls as a newcomer to the personal history business? Read on.

We  love our work. Right? But that doesn’t mean we  can’t be blindsided by some unsuspected snag. Looking back on my seven years in this work there are a number of things I wish I’d known earlier. Here are just three:

1. Some personal history clients can be darn right disagreeable.

It’s true and I have the scars to prove it.

For the most part, working with people on a personal history project is a satisfying experience. That’s why early on I was lulled into a dream-like  state, believing all my clients would be simply wonderful.  Wrong! One “client from hell” snapped  me out of my reverie.

What did I learn? I now make sure that I only work with clients that are a good fit and that I like.  In addition, I’m very clear from the outset about what I will or won’t do.  And I always make certain clients sign a contract.

2. Keeping up with changing technologies never stops.

A few years ago I invested several thousand dollars in the latest prosumer camcorder. It was a beauty. Now it’s  obsolete. It doesn’t shoot in HD and isn’t flash-based.  I’ll soon have to purchase a new camera which will also necessitate an upgrade of my editing software.

It’s not just keeping up with the latest equipment and software.  You’ve also got to budget for these upgrades. I’m embarrassed to admit that in this department I’ve been somewhat lax.

What’s the lesson?  Build into your production budget a rental fee for your equipment. Make sure that those fees go into a designated new equipment fund. And keep repeating to yourself: “This too will soon be obsolete.”

3. Working in an unregulated profession has it’s disadvantages.

There’s no certification or governing body for personal historians.   Some are experienced veterans and others are just starting out. Some charge nothing or very little while others charge thousands of dollars.  For potential clients this can be confusing. They may well ask why they should pay you a professional fee when someone down the street is offering a bargain basement deal?

What’s the answer?  I’ve learned not to sell myself short and not to be “nickel and dimed” to death. I sell myself on my years of experience as an award winning  documentary filmmaker.  I promise a professionally produced personal history that my clients will be thrilled with or they get their money back.   If they still prefer to go with “Joe”  down the street and are happy with a less qualified person and an inferior product, I’m not going to sweat it. Life’s too short.


So what are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced as a professional personal historian and what did you learn? Love to hear from you!

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Photo by iStockphoto

News Flash! Being Relaxed Makes People Spend More Freely.

The  recent issue of  the Journal of Marketing Research  examined the correlation between relaxation and consumer spending. It turns out that all things being equal consumers are more willing to pay higher prices if they feel relaxed.

It’s no surprise then that we find luxury products typically displayed in high-end boutiques that ooze comfort and elegance. Commenting on the research Wired Magazine wrote:

Why does relaxation turn us into spendthrifts? When we feel safe, we are better able to fully focus on the potential rewards at stake. Instead of worrying about price, we can contemplate the advantages of having a sophisticated camera, or the thrill of falling through the air. As the psychologists demonstrated in subsequent experiments, those subjects who were more relaxed thought less about particulars – the specific cost of the gadget or the dangers of the risky behavior – and more about the abstract pleasures they were trying to purchase.

What has all this to do with personal historians?

We are in the business of providing a high-end product. Asking individuals to part with $10,000 or more for a personal history requires more from us than offering up a good resume, a nice smile, and an attractive brochure.

If as the research suggests a relaxed personal history client is more likely to say yes to  a life story, shouldn’t we be looking at ways we can enhance the “relaxation” factor?

Here are some ideas worth considering:


Take a look at  Dolce&Gabbana for some clues on how a high-end retailer provides a very subdued and relaxed online presence. Now examine your website. Is it friendly, inviting, and easy to navigate? Are the colors and photographs calming. Does it offer free resources? Does it have space to breathe? Does the copy tell a heart-warming story? In other words, does it feel relaxed!  If you’ve said yes to all these, then you’ve made a good start. If not, then you’ve got some work to do.


As with your website design similar rules apply to your brochure – easy on the eye, inviting, and friendly. Also check out the feel of your brochure.  Is it silky smooth and durable like an expensive art card? Avoid stock that’s flimsy and feels cheap.


If possible, choose to meet clients in a calm, relaxing setting. A good choice is often the client’s home. People are usually at ease in their own place unless it’s crawling with rambunctious kids and pets. ;-)

If you can’t meet in a client’s home, consider a location that’s subdued and attractive such as a boutique bakery/café, a quite corner of an elegant hotel lobby, or perhaps even your own home.


If you’re hungry for a contract, you’re going to be telegraphing this regardless of your outward expression. A look of desperation in your eyes does nothing to put potential clients at ease.

A more relaxing approach is to assume nothing and make the meeting an opportunity to learn more about your client’s wishes. Go with the idea of helping this person realize their personal history project even if it doesn’t in the long run involve working with you.


We know from experience that trusting someone puts us in a more relaxed frame of mind. I’ve previously written about this in 3 Keys to Creating Trust with Potential Clients.


As personal historians we need to judiciously apply all the marketing techniques at our disposal in order to reach potential clients and gain their confidence.

The “relaxation” factor isn’t a magic bullet. But combined with other marketing approaches it can give you an added advantage.

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Photo by Sarah Ackerman

Encore! What Gardening Can Teach You About Growing Your Business.

Do you want your business to grow? Then why not apply some basic gardening know-how to your enterprise?

It’s  harvest time here in Canada.  And I have a bumper tomato crop. Well, it’s just one pot but it’s outdone itself. It got me thinking that running a business is not unlike  nurturing a garden…Read more.

7 Tips on Creating a Winning Outgoing Voicemail Message.

Have you listened to your outgoing voicemail message lately? Does it sound professional? Like someone you’d want to do business with? If not, you could be losing potential clients. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Avoid old answering machines with poor quality audio.

What kind of business impression do you create if your prospective caller can hardly make out your voicemail message because of static and a barely audible voice? If I were hiring you to do a video or audio recording, I’d have second thoughts!

Be smart. Use a telephone company answering service or a good quality digital answering machine.

2. Make it clear as to the person the caller has reached.

You might say something like, “Thank you for calling. You’ve reached the voicemail of Kathy Smith, owner of Lifestory Productions.”

Don’t leave an announcement like, “Hi, I’m not in. Please leave a message after the tone.”  Callers have no idea if they’ve reached the correct number or if their message will actually reach the right person.

3. Leave instructions.

Many voicemail messages end with something like “Please leave your name and number after the beep.”  It’s a start. But if all you get is “Hi, this is Bob call me at 200-4000,” you have a problem. Who is Bob and what does he want? Does this call require immediate attention?

A better outgoing message provides the caller with some guidance. Here’s a sample: ” Please leave your name, the reason for your call, a number where you can be reached, and the best time for me to call you.”

4. Be concise.

Callers don’t want to listen to a lengthy monologue before they can leave a message. Your voicemail announcement shouldn’t be more than 20 seconds long.

5. Avoid being cute and clever.

Even if you have the wit of a Mark Twain, cleverness can wear thin if a caller is hearing your message for the third time. Keep it simple and business-like.

6. Script and rehearse you message.

We’ve all heard voicemail messages that covered the spectrum from flat and bored to breathless and rushed.

The tone of your voice is as important as the words being spoken. I once worked with an actress on some narration for a documentary of mine. At one point she said, “I can do that line with a smile in my voice. It’ll work better.” She was right. She actually spoke the line while smiling. It sounded friendly and welcoming.

Begin by writing down what you want to say. Read it aloud. Edit your message until it sounds right. Now try it on a friend or family member and get a critique. Before recording your message do several rehearsals so that you can deliver your lines flawlessly and with a  smile in your voice.

7. Record your message in a quiet environment.

Nothing reeks more of amateurishness  than a voicemail message  with a background cacophony of dogs barking, kids screaming, and TVs blaring.  Find a quiet room to record, preferably one with lots of sound absorbing material like a bedroom.

And finally…

Here’s a sample of an outgoing message that you can adapt to suit your needs.

Hello.  You’ve reached the voicemail of Kathy Smith, owner of Lifestory Productions. Please leave your name, telephone number, the reason for your call, and the best time for me to reach you. Thanks for calling.

Photo by Christomopher

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3 Keys to Creating Trust with Potential Clients.

Here’s a shocker! I was reading that a CBS News/New York Times Poll revealed only 30% of respondents believed people in general are trustworthy. Not surprising perhaps but disillusioning.

But all’s not lost. When a  similar group was asked,“What percent of people that you know are trustworthy?”  the response jumped to 70%.  Clearly knowing someone makes a big difference. The more people get to know us, the higher the level of trust. It makes sense.

A key factor in whether potential clients will hire us as personal historians is trust. But how to build trust in an introductory meeting?

I turned to The Oxford Dictionary for help. It defines trust as: a  firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. If we take each of these components of trust, they provide clues to building rapport with a new client.


Reliability begins with the simplest of acts – showing up on time for your meeting. Nothing kills  reliability more than changing an already fixed appointment date or showing up late or early.

It also helps if you’ve been in business for a few years, have a track record,  and have a set of glowing testimonials.

Avoid being needy. It reeks of desperation and raises questions about the health of your business. No one wants to sign a contract with someone who’s about to go under.


Refrain from being somebody you’re not. People can smell phoniness.  You don’t have to adopt a “marketing”  persona or be over solicitous.  Go into your meeting with a new client confident, friendly, and mindful. That’s it, nothing more.

Forgo trying to be all things to all people. For example, if your specialty is producing video biographies, don’t “fudge” things by selling yourself as a book specialist in hopes of  getting the job. You won’t sound convincing. It’s better to recommend a colleague whose expertise is print. You’ll win points for being honest. While you might lose the contract, your good name will spread in the community. And that matters.

We all expect straight answers. Your clients are no different. Questions about your fees, expertise, years of experience, and the time to complete a personal history need to be answered  without obfuscation.


If you’re new to personal histories, you may have little to show prospective clients. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t highlight your previous experience to establish your proficiency.  For example, print and video editing, interviewing, counseling, radio and film producing all require skills that come to play in producing a print or video life story.

Regardless of the number of years  experience, you want to display your interviewing expertise from the moment you meet your prospective client. If you’re friendly, curious, attentive, and  non-judgmental, then you’ll have modeled  good interviewing skills. This is subtle “selling” but it works in establishing trust and rapport.

Photo by iStockphoto

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From the Archives: Are You Using Storytelling to Promote Your Personal History Service?

Are You Using Storytelling to Promote Your Personal History Service? “For most of the 190,000 years that humans have been alive on this earth, they’ve learned their most important information, including survival skills, culture, religion, etc., through stories. The human brain, in fact, is wired specifically so that stories, and storytelling, have a much stronger emotional impact than information that’s presented quantitatively or according to some other emotionless structure.” ~ marketing guru, Michael Bosworth … Read More

Would You Hire Yourself?


Every time we meet potential clients, we have to prove ourselves.  They’re sizing us up and assessing whether we’re the right fit for them.  Here’s a cheeky question. Would you hire yourself? My quick reply  is of course I’d hire myself. Why wouldn’t I? Here’s a list of my qualities and skills:

  • Friendly
  • A calm and inquisitive nature
  • Good listener
  • Reliable
  • Sense of humor
  • Meets deadlines
  • Six years in business and a proven track record
  • Testimonials and references from previous clients
  • Prior life and work experience that shows a connection to my current interest in personal histories
  • Membership in two professional associations – the Association of Personal Historians and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association.


This sounds like a pretty good list.  Right? But here’s the catch. What’s missing? Some years ago I did a little self-examination that revealed some cracks in this otherwise “sterling” picture of myself. And to be honest, these weaknesses  contributed to the loss of potential clients. Here’s what my analysis revealed:

  • I was focusing more on “selling”  rather than “soliciting the  needs” of the client.
  • I failed to show samples of my work.
  • I wasn’t precise and clear about my pricing.
  • I didn’t offer alternative personal history products that clients might find more within their price range.
  • I failed to show my passion for recording life stories.

I’ve since worked on these weak points and can now claim that I’m almost perfect. ;-) But seriously,  we all need to do a periodic self-examination and ask, “Would I hire myself?” You might be surprised at what you find.


It’s your turn to shine a light on your abilities and shortcomings as a personal historian. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Have you have a body of work you’re prepared to show potential clients?
  • Do you get projects delivered on time?
  • Are you clear about your fees and how they’re structured?
  • Do you have a “stick with it” attitude or give up easily?
  • What have you done in the past six months to keep up with changing technologies?
  • Do you belong to any professional associations? How active are you in them?
  • Do you present yourself in a professional manner?
  • Are you a good listener and able to empathize with people?
  • How much experience do you have in running your own business?
  • Do you have testimonials available for distribution?
  • Do you offer a variety of products and services?
  • How do you show passion for your work?

What other questions could you ask yourself? Please share your comments. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Photo by Visionello

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