#215: Laura Khalil on How Women Can Muster the Confidence to Go After Bigger and Better Clients

When you’re running your own business, you have to muster the confidence to grow and do better every year.

You no longer have the safety net of a day job. The steady paycheck. Or a team of co-workers all working together to make things happen.

It’s all on you.

But how do you find the confidence to push yourself?

That’s the topic of today’s episode. My guest is Laura Khalil, a keynote speaker and trainer who shares courageous leadership skills to help ambitious women and allies in tech succeed.

She is a master storyteller, award-winning brand marketer and dedicated researcher of human behavior.

Although much of what we talk about here centers on how women can improve their performance, the advice applies to men and women alike.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about your business and the clients you serve

Laura started her career in publishing. After a few years, she moved to Silicon Valley and landed in technology where she worked in content marketing, social media and PR.

Laura was taught that if you work hard, people will notice. But she found that wasn’t the case. She would advocate for her projects just like the guys, but she would be told she needed to soften her language and smile more.

She’d pick up and go to the next company but the pattern would repeat.

By 2013, she’d had enough and started her own marketing consulting practice. She was primarily a writer and storyteller, but she branded herself as a technology marketing consultant.

Within the first six weeks, she was contacted by Intel. Eventually, she worked with other big clients, such as GE, Inuit, and Twitter.

Corporate clients are just like other clients, but you have to speak their language.

All the traits that she was penalized for as a fulltime employee became assets as a self-employed person.

Traits that you’re penalized for as a fulltime employee often become assets when you’re self-employed.

How were you able to land those first big clients?

Laura saved some standing searches on Twitter along the lines of “contract writer marketing” and she would reach to those people.

She would briefly introduce herself and provide a link to her very targeted portfolio.

Her positioning matched what they were looking for.

The key to her success was having a clear market that she serves. Working as a generalist watered down her value.

People in these companies don’t have time to conduct massive searches. Make their job easier by being easy to find.

With Intel, she started with a small social media project. She expanded the scope of work as they got to know her and her work.

You won’t make six figures if you consider yourself just a writer. Think of yourself as someone who provides solutions and brand yourself that way.

One of the concerns I hear is that bigger organizations are less responsive to “I do more than write” messages. The scope is pre-defined.

That’s not wrong. But when you think of yourself as an agency that provides solutions, clients will start to recognize that you can do more and may expand the scope of your projects. But you have to show them the value you bring.

If you’re brought onboard to work on one small project, make sure you’re well paid for it. You have to set the tone early. If you set your price too low, you can turn them off.

And don’t charge by the hour. Use a retainer or charge a project fee.

How did you muster the confidence to quit your job and go after these big companies?

Laura has been in lots of boardrooms with lots of different people. She treats them all as equals.

When we put people on pedestals, we minimize what it is that we have to offer.

Treat everything (especially your mistakes) as learning experiences.

Any other mindset resets for landing these clients?

Everyone grows at the border of support and challenge.

Everyone grows at the border of support and challenge.

If you’re nervous to present to a group, ask yourself what’s the benefit — even if you fail. How will it prepare you for what comes next?

Accept that not everyone is going to love you. Twenty percent will be crazy about you. Seventy percent will be in the middle.

Ten to twenty percent won’t be onboard. Don’t worry about them. Focus on the others.

Remember, if the people aren’t onboard, it’s not about you. It’s just not the right content for them at this moment. It doesn’t define who you are. It’s not about your character.

Can you talk more about confidence — and the feeling that many women have that they need to check all the boxes before going after opportunities

Studies show that if a woman looks at a job description and doesn’t have 100 percent of what’s listed, she won’t apply.

If a guy has 60 percent, he will apply.

We hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard. Perfectionism is a byproduct of imposter syndrome.

Believe in yourself enough to give it a shot. You may not land the opportunity, but you will learn from it.

Women network horizontally, but they also need to networking vertically. Make friends with decision makers. Men already do this, but women don’t do it as much.

If you lack confidence, ask yourself “What would [name of confident person you know] do?”

Having some conversation openers at the ready also helps. People love to talk about themselves.

Know when to stop talking and listen.

When you ask what a prospect’s budget is, pause for at least four seconds. An uncomfortable silence forces the prospect to respond. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

Where can listeners learn more about you?

Brave by Design podcast on Spotify


Brave by Design



Plus … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1.  Grab a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.

You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

2.  Download a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.

I’ll show you the 3 things you need to do to get your business off the ground safely and land your first paying client faster.  — Click Here

3.  Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’d like to work with me to grow your income quickly with better clients (and become one of my new success stories). Just email me at [email protected] and put “Case Study” in the subject line.

4.  Work with me privately.

If you’re a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time, with less stress, I might be able to help you get there faster than you think. Email me at [email protected] … put “Breakthrough” in the subject line and I’ll get back to you with more details.