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Tell Your Story and Create a Virtuous Cycle

The question: how to get work and, more importantly, how to gain a continuous supply of work with acceptable fees? Better yet, at more than acceptable fees? If you’ve done a few projects that have some similarities, the work makes you happy. But if from time to time you find yourself between projects and without enough to keep you gainfully occupied, you need to create your own personal version of a virtuous cycle.

Step one, do the work
A virtuous cycle is a series of events that result in a favorable outcome, time and again. For creative professionals it means using your work, and the insights gained from your experience to attract the attention of future clients. The first step in the virtuous cycle is doing the work. Remember, the work you do and the perspective you bring to the work is what differentiates you from your competitors. You are unique; therefore your work is unique.
Step two, develop insights and stories
Each creative project adds to your personal knowledge base and provides the opportunity to form insights that will help future clients succeed while furthering your differentiation from other design firms. Those insights can form the base for stories that share your perspective with prospective clients. Remember, these stories must be about how your work helped your client succeed. They are about you only as reflected by your clients’ success.
Step three; get the stories in front of prospects
Email campaigns, public speaking, article placement, new business pitches are all places to tell your stories. Your site, your blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, print and online publications are all valuable for placement. These are not case studies – case studies commodify. Your stories must be personal; heart-felt narratives about helping others to succeed. Tell them with understanding and humility.
Step four, respond to inquiries
Inbound calls and emails, are proof that your virtuous cycle is working. They mean that the caller accepts you as an expert, at least to the extent that they want to know if you can help them. They have read a story, seen you speak, or been referred to you. What they know about you aligns with a need that they have. That inbound call means that as an expert fees become ‘non-negotiable’. Remember, if you do respond to pressure to reduce fees you will loose some of your power in the relationship.

Behave like an expert
Throughout this process you must maintain and advance your expert status. Expert behavior is characterized by:
  • Determining how to meet client needs.
  • Asking questions and creating plans.
  • Developing lists of deliverables required to achieve success.
  • Developing budgets required to accomplish the scope of work.
  • Writing contracts, not proposals
Why the Virtuous Cycle is important
  • Learning to think of your work as only the first step in the process of gaining influence and opportunity is critical to achieving success.
  • No matter whether you work for yourself or someone else the four steps of the virtuous cycle will attract the opportunities that fit just you, furthering your unique expert status.
  • Obviously, you’ll have a much more satisfying career if you are in demand.
  • I’ve written this column to help you, but please note: it’s just a continuation of my own virtuous cycle.

A well-managed Virtuous Cycle, combined with real expertise, negates the need to negotiate.

About the Author: 
Ted Leonhardt has provided management consulting and negotiation training exclusively to creative businesses since 2005. His mission is to help them get full value for their work. He cofounded The Leonhardt Group, a brand design firm in 1985 and sold it in 1999. In 2001 and 2002 Ted was Chief Creative Officer for Fitch Worldwide, London. In 2003 through early 2005 Ted was president of Anthem Worldwide, a brand packaging design group.    

For more on Ted, visit:

For more, pick up a copy of Ram Castillo’s internationally and industry-acclaimed book ‘How to Get a Job as a Designer, Guaranteed’.

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Author: Ram Castillo


Contact: VISIBILITY – Len Stein  /  /  914.527.3708


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About Ram Castillo


Ram is an award winning Design Director, Blogger, top ranking Podcaster, Speaker, Instructor and Author of two internationally acclaimed books 'How to get a job as a designer, guaranteed' and 'How to get a mentor as a designer, guaranteed'. He's based in Sydney, Australia and in 2012, started the blog which helps thousands of design students and graduates be employed. Ram has since been featured in Communication Arts, HOW magazine, Herman Miller, deFrost*, and Apple.

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