Business at a Distance

By Dr. Lynn Friedman
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 29, 2005; 4:10 PM

How can self-employed people move their businesses to an entirely new locale? That is, how do people, who sell their time, relocate and move to Washington? I have in mind attorneys, accountants, therapists, dieticians, personal trainers and other kinds of freelancers. These people sell not only their time but also their reputations. But reputations are often local. So, how do you move beyond your current community?

Consider taking the following steps:

  • Become active on Washington-based, listservs. Join listservs within your profession. Lurk and once you have the "lay of the land" weigh in on topics related to your expertise. Also, join listservs of professional groups who use your services.

  •  Join the Washington chapters of your professional organizations. If you write well, become involved in sharing your expertise in their newsletter.

  •  Establish a Web site with your Washington address. Post your articles. Make it clear that you are available to give talks.

  • Before moving, consider how you currently obtain your referrals. Do you network with colleagues? With people in adjacent professions? Do you give workshops? You may be at a stage in your career in which you receive your referrals exclusively from satisfied clients. If this is the case, think back to how you originally obtained your first referrals.

  • Select a few techniques that have worked for you in the past. (Please note: These vignettes are told, with the permission of the clients. The facts have been significantly changed to protect confidentiality).

     If you like to write, you may want to follow the example of one man. An attorney, to whom I provided consultation, built his practice by providing workshops on estate planning for accountants.

    With help from an accountant friend, he familiarized himself with the tax code in his area.

    In his workshops, he described a number of estate planning strategies and commented on the tax implications for each. Also, he wrote several interesting pieces on this topic for local accounting newspapers. He published these articles, and he did not relinquish his right to republish them. This led to many interesting referrals and contacts. In fact, a number of the seminar participants referred themselves to him.

    They found him helpful and in turn, referred their clients to him. When he was ready to relocate, I suggested that he update the articles (the tax code had changed) and resubmit them to journals in his new locale.

    Once again, the referrals started flowing.

    Also, I suggested that he tell his current contacts about his plans to relocate and seek their help and guidance in developing an effective strategy for building a new referral base. To his surprise, many of them had very useful contacts in his new locale. They contacted their colleagues on his behalf. This led to some exciting new business. If you like to give workshops or presentations, you may want to consider this strategy.

    A dietician, to whom I provided consultation, hated to write but loved to present. She began giving presentations, geared toward family doctors, in local residency programs. Her basic pitch was that she had developed some effective strategies for working with a group of various patients, such as cardiac patients, diabetics and those suffering from eating disorders. She described a strategy for increasing compliance with dietary regimens noting that her interventions relieved some of the physician's burden and stress. Her talks were well-received and she started presenting at national medical conferences. When she was ready to relocate she had a national reputation.

    You don't have to be a genius to make these strategies work for you.

    The real key is to pick something that you enjoy, develop a personal approach and provide your referral sources with information in a user friendly way.

    If you are interpersonally skilled, you may want to pursue this approach. Consider an interim job or a consulting position. Choose something that will help you establish the requisite networks to re-establish your business. For example, if you are a therapist, work for a counseling center. In this capacity, you will be in a position to refer to other therapists who, in turn, may refer others to you. Note that it is important to talk with folks in Washington to assess whether what worked in your former locale will work here. Different parts of the country have different mores.

    Lynn Friedman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst and work-life consultant in full-time, private practice near the Bethesda metro. She is on the adjunct faculty in the Organizational Development-Human Resource program at Johns Hopkins. More of her work can be found on http://www.drlynnfriedman.com/.


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