Start before you’re ready

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Endless research. Planning. Preparation. Waiting for inspiration, the killer idea, the right timing.

Enough. It’s time to do something. It’s the quickest way to find out if your idea is any good, the best way to gain feedback so you can improve it.

John Goreman said, “Success isn’t about knowing more, it’s about acting on imperfect information.”

I know, you’re afraid of failure. Wasting time, losing money, embarrassing yourself. You want to do this right, or not at all.

Hey, I go through this with just about every project. My left brain keeps reminding me of all the things that can go wrong.

I put the doubts and fears in a lockbox and get on with it.

If you don’t do that, you never find out how far you could go.

So enough with the planning. Do something. And give yourself permission to create dreck.

One thing I’ve learned: dreck can be fixed.

You can take something that’s terrible and improve it. You can even make it great. But you can’t fix something you never start.

Another thing I’ve learned is that things have a way of turning out okay. They’re usually not as bad as you feared, in fact, they’re often damn good.

Look at all of things you’ve done in your life, all the completed projects, milestones, and accomplishments.

You’ve got some, right?

You can get more.

My advice: Look at your list of ideas. Take the one that scares you most, the one that looks too big, too risky, or too expensive, and put it at the top of your list.

It’s probably the one you should start next.

Notice I said “start,” I didn’t say “do” or “complete” or “launch”.

I said start.

Take the first step and see where it takes you. If you like what you see, take another step.

One foot in front of the other until you get where you want to go.

If you get lost, you can do more research. And start again.

If getting more clients is on your list, here’s where to start

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Be happy. Get rich. Part deux.

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Last month, I shared a quote from Albert Schweitzer, who said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

“Actually, science says he’s right,” I said. “By mapping the brain to identify dopamine production they found that pleasure results in greater productivity.

I reasoned that, “When you feel good about what you’re doing, you give it more energy. You work harder and get better results.”

How it works might be open to debate. But I’m convinced that it works.

Another attorney who would tell you the same is my friend, Steve Emmert, who shared something I’d like to pass along to you:

Thanks for this note, my brother. It reminded me of something I reasoned out many years ago, before I decided to specialize in what I love doing.

I perceive that there are four kinds of jobs. Type A is one that pays you well, and you love doing it. That’s ideal. Type B makes you happy even though you aren’t getting rich. Type C doesn’t make you happy, but it makes you plenty of income. And Type D makes you neither happy nor wealthy, but it’s the best job you can get.

Many years ago – you know the story, because you told it – I knew I wasn’t happy in what I was doing. A quick check of my bank balance told me that I wasn’t starving, but I was nowhere near rich. That meant that, by default, I had a Type D job. I decided to transition to Type B, and spent plenty of time planning, then building, and then growing it. Guess what? I missed my target. I wound with a Type A career, by accident. Who knew? I mean besides Albert Schweitzer.

When he said I told his story, he was referring to the book I published based on the interview we did, wherein he shared many other pearls of marketing and practice-building wisdom.

It’s a good read, no matter what your practice area. It might be just what you need to create a Type A practice.

Read it free on Kindle Unlimited

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The thrill is gone. Here’s how to get it back

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Remember what it was like when you started practicing? Everything was new and exciting. Every day brought new challenges and opportunities.

Now? Not so much.

You’re doing okay. You know what you’re doing and you are comfortable doing it. But you’re a bit bored, the practice isn’t growing, or something feels off.

You want that spark again. You wan’t to grow but you can’t find the energy or the ideas.

Maybe I can help.

See, that excitement you felt when everything was new was primarily based on fear. And that doesn’t exist anymore. If you want to breathe new life into your practice, you need to get back to where you were when you were new.

When you didn’t know if you were going to make it. When you weren’t sure if you knew enough or were good enough or could bring in business fast enough.

When you were worried about losing everything.

Yeah, that kind of fear.

Offered for your consideration. . .

  1. Go buy some advertising. Spend more than you think you should. If you’ve never advertised before, this should put a shiver in yer timbers. If you’re a seasoned advertiser, change your messaging. Go with something daring, something that makes you swallow hard thinking about what people might say.
  2. If you can’t advertise, spend a bunch of money and hire an in-house marketing person or an outside consultant. Someone who will shake things up and force you to get out of your comfort zone.
  3. Another option: offer a new service. Either your own or partner up with another attorney and offer their services to your clients.

Something new. With an element of risk. That’s what you need to reanimate your slumbering practice.

Okay, one more: run for office.

Throw your hat in the ring. Get behind a microphone and say something half-way intelligent or completely unintelligent, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get to meet some new people and take the chance of embarrassing yourself.

That’s what I thought. That advertising thing is starting to look good, isn‘t it?

This will help you come up with a plan

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A law practice is like a jigsaw puzzle with no picture on it

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I saw a jigsaw puzzle once that had no picture on it. Just plain white pieces. It’s harder to assemble because there is no frame of reference, no clues about what goes where.

You can’t line up the man’s nose with his eyes and mouth or the windmill in front of the mountain.

A puzzle without a picture is more difficult to assemble but you can assemble it because you know there is a solution. You know the pieces fit together so you keep going until you figure it out.

Can’t say the same about a law practice.

What does a successful law practice look like? There is no picture. You don’t even know if there is a solution.

That’s why one of the smartest things you can do to build your practice is to find other lawyers who have done what you want to do and model them.

Associate with successful lawyers in your field, watch them, learn from them, emulate them.

Do what they did and you can get what they got. Or pretty close, especially if they are willing to help you.

Jim Rohn said, “If you want to be successful, study success.”

No, there is no cookie cutter. A law practice isn’t a franchise. There is no operation manual to follow.

But if they did it, you can do it. And, like assembling a puzzle, knowing there is a solution makes it more likely that you’ll find it.

Marketing legal services: The Formula

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What’s the big idea?

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Think big. Act small. That’s the ticket to success.

Thinking big means setting big goals and finding big ideas to achieve them.

If you want to triple your income in the next 12-18 months, you can’t rely on small ideas to help you get there. You need big, hairy, audacious ideas. Things you’ve never done before.  Things that simultaneously excite you and scare the hell out of you.

Here’s a test to see if you have a good candidate: when you share your idea with someone who cares about you, they either laugh at it or try to talk you out of it. Or both.

(They do this because (a) they don’t want to see you get hurt, or, (b) they don’t want to see you succeed, because your success diminishes them.)

Big goal. Check. Big idea. Check. Now what?

Now you execute. You do the little tasks that advance your idea and move you towards your goal.

We live our lives minute to minute, day to day. The little things we do each minute create momentum towards our goals. It’s the only way we can get there.

You can’t triple your income in the next few minutes but you can do something that moves you forward.

Think big, act small. That’s how you get where you want to go.

What’s your big goal? What’s your big idea? What will you do in the next two minutes?

You can triple your income by bringing in more referrals

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What successful people do with their time

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I just read an article about time and how we use it. “Unsuccessful people spend time,” the author said. “Successful people invest time.

“Spending time means consuming it by watching TV, playing games, hanging out with friends. That much is clear. What is not as clear, and wasn’t addressed by the author, is the idea that we also consume time when we do our work.

Meeting with clients, drafting documents, arguing motions, and everything else that defines being a practicing lawyer consumes time. Yes, we earn income when we do that but, by and large, that’s all we earn. It’s an equal exchange–our time (and work product) for money.

Investing time is different.

Investing time means doing things that can provide a bigger return relative to the time invested. Building relationships with influential people is a good example.

What is the value to you of a new referral source or business contact who provides information or leads, sends traffic to your website or introduces you to influential leaders?

Incalculable.

Investing time also means doing activities that build key skills and knowledge. Improving trial skills, speaking skills, networking skills, and sales skills, for example, can provide you with value far beyond the time you invest in acquiring those skills.

But it’s not just the increased value we derive by investing in people and skills. It’s that the value we get compounds.

One relationship leads to two. Two leads to ten. Improved marketing skills bring you new clients, repeat clients, and higher paying clients. It can quadruple your income in a short period of time, as it did for me.

How much of your valuable time do you spend each week? How much do you invest?

The answer will predict your future.

How much time do you invest in learning how to bring in more referrals?

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Are you ready to be an overnight success?

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Ever wonder why some people seem to be an overnight success? Are they just lucky?

I think luck is a factor. Some people have it, some don’t. But more than luck, the people who quickly build a practice or business or their career do so for a very good reason.

When opportunities present themselves, they act on them.

Many people see the opportunities but do nothing. Or move too slowly and miss the boat. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Good things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle.”

If you are the overly cautious type, can you train yourself to see the opportunities around you and, more importantly, can you train yourself to hustle?

Maybe.

Here’s how I’d go about it.

Start by taking some business classes (yes, even if you don’t have business clients). Learn how to appraise a business or an apartment building. Learn how to read a balance sheet and how to buy or start a small business.

Read biographies by and about entrepreneurs and how they built their fortunes. Find ways to spend time with them. Pay attention to how they speak, how they think, and how they manage their priorities.

And then, here’s the killer strategy: Develop the habit of making decisions quickly, without having all the facts.

Start small and try lots of things. Sell something on eBay. Buy something on Craigslist. Give yourself permission to be wrong most of the time because that’s how things usually work. You might try fifty ideas and find one that works.

But one might be all you need.

Earl Nightingale said, “There comes a time in every person’s life where they are given the opportunity to earn more in the next 12 months than they have in the previous 12 years”

Make sure you’re ready for it.

How to meet business owners and professionals

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Give your life a tune-up

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You’re busy. Taking care of business, living the life you’ve created, traveling forward in time towards whatever comes next.

Are you going where you want to go? Are you doing what you want to do?

If you’re not sure (or, even if you are ), I encourage you to make a list (yes, another list) and find out.

Make a list of everything you do you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to.

If you didn’t have to have an office, for example, would you? If you didn’t have to write articles, record videos, network, or advertise, would you?

Include big things and small things and everything in between.

Would you practice law if you didn’t have to? Would you do trial work, stay with your practice area, maintain certain expenses (e.g., employees, software, etc.) or take the same types of clients?

Do the same thing with your personal life. Relationships, activities, hobbies, investments, expenses.

Write it all down. And make no assumptions about whether you really do have to do what you’re doing. We all do things on autopilot, because we’ve always done them or because we don’t think we have a choice.

Set aside the list for a while. Come back to it with fresh eyes. And then eliminate, delegate, or modify the things on your list that don’t serve you.

Or, consciously accept them (for now) if you believe there is no alternative or that the price you’re paying is worth it.

This exercise will allow you to make better decisions about what you’re doing. It will help you gain clarity about your goals, priorities, and responsibilities, pare down or eliminate activities you don’t enjoy, and improve both your effectiveness and efficiency.

It will help you become more productive and more prosperous and improve the quality of your life.

So, what’s on your list?

Getting more referrals gives you more options

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What ‘working smarter’ looks like

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There are lots of ways to work smarter. Targeting niche markets instead of “anyone with a legal problem” is an example. Networking with influential professionals in your target market instead of generic ‘Chamber of Commerce’ attendees is another.

One of the simplest ways to work smarter is to continue doing what’s working and abandon what isn’t.

And also doing what’s working for other lawyers.

No, don’t copy them. Emulate them. Do what they’re doing but do it better.

When I started practicing, there weren’t many examples of lawyers doing things I could emulate. I wasn’t a member of the country club crowd and I didn’t have money to advertise, so I had to get inventive.

I looked at what other self-employed service professionals, salespeople, and business owners were doing for ideas. Much of it didn’t apply but some of it did. Eventually, I found some things that worked and made them my own.

Years ago, a fast food company hired someone to go out and locate profitable sites for new restaurants. His job entailed examining car traffic and foot traffic, retail sales per square foot, rent comparisons and other factors.

But he didn’t do any of that.

All he did was locate all the McDonald’s in town and choose a location across the street. McDonald’s had already done the research and proven the value of the location and he piggybacked on their success.

Working smarter, he did. And so can, you.

You need a marketing plan. This will help

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Opportunities or obstacles

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Wealthy people, and those destined to become wealthy, look at problems as opportunities, stepping stones to something greater.

An opportunity to learn, meet new people, or improve their skills.

Others look at problems solely in terms of the risks and costs.

Wealthy people don’t try to avoid problems at all costs. They look for the opportunities hidden in those problems. They continually try new ideas and new methods and eventually realize the outcomes they seek.

Everyone solves problems but wealthy people go out of their way to find problems they can solve. They believe that the bigger the problems, the bigger the paycheck.

If you have trouble seeking out big problems in the quest for a bigger paycheck, as an attorney you can do the next best thing: seek out clients with big problems.

In your quest to build wealth, remember that the problems you solve don’t have to be your own.

How to identify and find clients with big problems

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