I REMEMBER IT VIVIDLY It was the Friday before fourth of July weekend and I was a wreck, sweating, sobbing on the phone with my business coach, angry and depressed. Though I had had conversation after conversation with prospective clients about working with me, none had hired me. No money was coming in. Bills were piling up. Panic was setting in.
Scratch that. Panic has long set in.

Now, I was just exhausted. And then my business coach said to me these magic words that would change my life forever: “I wonder what it would be like if you just took the weekend off and did nothing but meditate and go for walks and read for pleasure and take naps and go out to dinner with hubby and play with your dogs, confident in the knowledge that the Universe has your back–and the more you relax, the more money will show up as if by magic, and everything that doesn’t allow that, can we destroy and uncreate it all times a godzillion?”

Of course, I thought she was nuts. But I was so tired, the thought of a weekend filled with naps and walks sounded pretty good to me at that moment, so I went with it. Nothing else had been working, so what the heck.

By Tuesday, I kid you not, I had four…FOUR…emails from prospective clients who now were ready to work with me. On top of that, I had another person who was ready to meet me the next day cash in hand to get started. It wasn’t much cash, only $250, but it was cash.

This story illustrates the first of three critical skills I learned that shifted everything for me in my practice:

1. I learned how to let it go and let it come to me. There’s a time to sow and a time to reap. In between, there’s God’s work, so to speak. You are a magical infinite being, a creator of your own world. Through your words and your actions, ask for what you desire and then give it time and space to grow.

It will. This was not an easy lesson for me to learn. I’d prefer to fret, apparently. I had to learn how to let this go. I did this by realizing a) I have a choice. I can choose what I think about and, therefore, how I “feel;” b) Worry doesn’t change the weather anyway; and c) In fact, worry usually makes it–whatever “it” is–worse. Turning your attention to something else and letting the issue you were worrying about resolve itself is surprisingly effective and better for everyone involved.

There’s a book I read years ago called “How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers,” and in it, the author talks about how useless it is to chase after dogs (and men) because what do they do? They run. The best way to get their attention is to “act like you’re having loads of fun without (them).”

Really, it’s the same concept with anything you want, isn’t it? Focus on having loads of fun, on the creativity and the joy of the work and see what magic starts to happen in your life.

2. I learned how to have a sales conversation. I find women, in particular, struggle to ask for money. Not all women, of course, but a lot of women. I know I did for a long time. I was raised not to discuss money. It was part of my “money story.” I grew up in a household where to discuss money was “unseemly.” To this day, my parents keep their financial information very private, refusing to even discuss it with their adult children (one of whom is an estate planning attorney, go figure).

As a marketer, a Gemini and a former Junior Leaguer, I know all about how to have a social conversation and quickly put people at ease. I am a master of small talk and networking. I’ve attended more rubber chicken dinners than I care to count.

I also have always been very clear how I can help people. I’m good at what I do. Really good. But, for some reason, I always struggled when the conversation turned to talking about what I charge for my services. Does that sound familiar? Can you relate?

If you can relate, let me let you in on a little secret: There’s a script for this. Yep. Sales (we lawyers call them “consultations”) is a skill you can learn, just like any other. This isn’t some sort of gift some people have and some people don’t. Once I mastered this skill and put it together with my other skills, holy cow!

If you still think “consultations” are about giving advice to “prospective” clients who have not yet paid you so they can “decide if they want to hire you,” we need to talk. From an attorney’s perspective, consultations are sales conversations, an opportunity for YOU to size up whether or not the person sitting in front of you (or on the phone with you) has a case that is worth your time and attention. You should be in control of this conversation, leading it, asking the right questions, directing the next steps. If you want to learn how to do this, call me. ‘Nuff said.

3. I learned to set boundaries. It’s my business and my life. I get to choose the work I do, how I spend my time, and with whom I work. I’m also willing to accept the consequences of my decisions.

Once I learned to set boundaries with no apologies or explanations, I felt so much more free. I’m free to be compassionate and kind as well as firm. You see, if a client texts me after hours, I can choose to get upset and fuss about them “disrespecting me” or I can choose to express gratitude and joy that I get to do the work I do. If they abuse the privilege, I can also kindly but firmly say “I only return calls during these times, so set your expectations accordingly.”

I also can charge what I like and when someone says “You are too expensive!” I can say: “I understand you feel you are not ready at this time to work with me and that’s okay. There are other resources for you,” confident in the knowledge there are clients waiting to work with me because everything always works out for me (and for them). I no longer get offended by such statements because my boundaries are clear, most importantly, in my own head.

Setting and keeping boundaries were perhaps the hardest for me. Sometimes it requires difficult conversations with people you care about. Sometimes you feel like you are losing a friend. In the end, though, it’s always worth it, because you gain a little more respect for and knowledge about yourself.

If you desire to create a more successful practice in 2018 and beyond, and to develop these and other practice growth skills, and you’d like to talk about what it would be like to work with me, I invite you to schedule a conversation with me. To do so, all you need to do is complete my practice assessment form and submit it. Takes a couple of minutes. I’ll contact you and we’ll get a time on the calendar to chat.

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