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When can I expect to start generating a steady income? (Read: At what point should I start freaking

I am in month 5 of my practice and things are a bit slow at the moment. I am marketing incessantly: a monthly column on YFS Entrepreneur (young, fabulous and self-employed), my blog and guest articles on various websites, a commercial on an extremely popular webshow for entrepreneurs, weekly professional networking group meetings, member of The Hub and most recently, a webinar -- all geared towards young entrepreneurs and business owners, who is my client base. I had a steady flow of clients the first few months that kept me busy but it recently came to a screeching halt. About 600 people come to my website per month but no new clients at the moment. I just published my new annual plans on my website so hopefully that will bring in some new folks. For now, I am a little worried.

Here is what I am wondering:

- Is my client base all wrong? Do they just want to read free articles but have no desire to purchase legal services?

- Is there some key marketing thing that I should be doing and have somehow missed?

- Should I add another area of practice to get me through the tough times?

I am not relying on my firm income to live at the moment. I have until September before I need to start freaking out about meeting living expenses but the 3 week slow down is worrisome. 

Thoughts?

Comments

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    When I was considering whether to go out on my own, I talked to everyone I knew with their own business, from lawyers to dentists to general contractors. Mainly, I wanted to know when I could stop worrying about the next check. The responses were surprisingly consistent. 2-3 years was about how long it took everyone I talked to before they had some cushion from month to month, and stopped worrying so much about the next client.

    So I set 2 years as a "gut check," and 3 years as the point by which I wanted to feel like I was succeeding.

    Looking back over that first year, it was constant hustle, and near-constant worry about the next client. Because it takes time to build a referral base, a reputation, and a pipeline of clients, you should expect the first year or two to be an income roller coaster. Plan accordingly. Save as much money as you can, but spend it when you need to.

    The ebb and flow of business will continue throughout your practice, but it will smooth out to an ebb and flow over time, instead of jagged peaks and valleys.

    I felt like it took about 18 months before I felt some momentum from my marketing efforts. I didn't feel like I could engage the cruise control, but I started to feel like I had a modest stream of potential clients, instead of a trickle.

    Keep hustling and evaluating, and stay impatient, but know that it will take time. And hustle.
  • I agree about the 2-3 year point.

    It sounds like you have great marketing plans, but what about referrals? A gigantic portion of my clients come from qualified referrals and those clients are a completely different quality than clients who were the result of pure marketing - they are usually already sold. Making a number of really key contacts has been critical for me. So maybe think about where you can find ideal networking and good tangental relationships that can feed your business.
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    Totally agree on the importance of referrals. Networking (real, normal networking, not just networking groups) is at least as important as your other marketing endeavors.

    It may not build business fast, but it will build a long-lasting, reliable pipeline of new business.
  • I cannot tell you how relieved I am. I guess I just needed that reality check. I think I got too attached to those few good months I had. 

    Referrals are a good point, too. I am working on expanded my network but I could definitely make more of an effort to meet a different person for coffee every week, like I was a few months ago. 

    Thanks for the responses, guys. They were super helpful and I feel like I can stop having panic attacks . . . at least for the rest of the week. ;)
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