Avoid These 3 Common Personal Chef Pitfalls

pitfall road sign illustration designYou want to have a successful personal chef business, right? Then make sure you avoid the following 3 common pitfalls that many personal chefs make over and over again.

Lacking Patience and Persistence

It takes time to build a sustainable personal chef business or a business that everyone knows exists and refers people to. To build that kind of business you must have patience and persistence. You can’t give up too soon on any given strategy.

Some common examples of giving up too soon follow:

  • You call a few personal trainers you think would be good referral partners, and they don’t call you back or express interest in forming a partnership so you decide not to reach out to personal trainers any more.
  • You call one organization and ask them if you can give a talk to their members, and they say “no” so you get discouraged and stop pursuing any other talking opportunities.
  • You start publishing a blog or newsletter but don’t get immediate new business from your efforts so you start publishing less frequently or not at all.
  • You go to a networking event and don’t get any leads the first few times so you don’t go back.
  • You keep publishing on social media and see no positive results so you start publishing less frequently.
  • You give a cooking demo or talk but get no new leads from the effort so you assume giving cooking demos or talks isn’t a good way to get business.

Do any of the above examples sound familiar to you? You need to give any given strategy enough of chance to be successful before giving up on it.

Executing Actions Poorly

Sometimes you may be taking the right kind of actions and you may be consistent doing so but still aren’t getting the results you desire. If this is happening to you, it could be due to you executing the actions poorly.

For example, if you aren’t getting positive results from networking, you may not be networking properly. There are specific approaches you should take and specific things you should say to get good results from your networking efforts.

If you are writing a blog or newsletter but aren’t getting any clients, I bet you don’t know how to properly use blogs and newsletters to sell your services.

There are skills and approaches you need to learn to be effective at what you do if you want the actions you are taking to be effective.

Relying on passive marketing approaches only

I’ve mentioned this issue before, but I still see most personal chefs relying almost solely on the passive marketing approaches. This is such a shame because if you are doing this you are letting go of your ability to make things happen yourself and are instead leaving things up to chance.

What are some examples of passive marketing approaches? They are things like handing out business cards, posting fliers, getting a website up and running, advertising, getting a press release published, and doing a good job so that referrals start coming your way and word-of-mouth starts to kick in.

And why are the above passive marketing approaches? They are passive because you simply put something out into your community and then wait for something to happen. You are hoping that the above efforts will lead to people reaching out to you proactively to learn more about your business.

But guess what? While the passive approaches sometimes will get you clients, they aren’t usually enough to keep the flow of new business coming your way consistently.
Now I am not saying that you don’t use passive marketing approaches but that you shouldn’t rely on them solely.

You should also work on active marketing approaches which include things like picking up the phone and following up with leads and past clients, going to networking events so you can get other people’s business cards and book consults with interested parties, building relationships with spheres of influence, and giving talks and cooking demos during which you invite people to take further action with you.

With active marketing approaches, you are in the driver’s seat. You are the one actively inviting people to learn more about you and your services. You are the one following up.

Do any of these pitfalls resonate with you? If yes, which ones and why.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Clients + Tips

Iced Christmas cookies in a tin box.The holidays are a nice time to give a gift of thanks to those people responsible for your pay check – your clients.  It can, however, be hard to think of the perfect holiday gift to give. You want the gift to be special but at the same time you don’t want it to be so over-the-top that it comes across as inappropriate.

The best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful. A thoughtful gift is one that…

• Fulfills a desire your clients mentioned in passing

• Relates to the work you are doing for them

• Helps them with some everyday task

You should only give gifts to current clients with whom you have an established relationship (not necessarily ones you have just recently met and definitely not ones you are currently negotiating with). You don’t want your gift to appear as a bribe.

Be sure good past clients who you haven’t touched base with in a year are on your list.  You don’t, of course, want to give anything to former clients who ended their relationship with you on bad terms.

And don’t leave out the people who refer lots of clients to you and with whom you have a good and ongoing relationship.

If you are still struggling to think of the perfect gift to give, here are some ideas…

The Gift of Food

Gifts in a Jar

There are all kinds of layered mixes for soups, cookies, cakes, Chai tea and anything else you can dream up. Layer the ingredients in a mason or canning jar. Make a decorative label with instructions. These gifts are fun, decorative and personal.

Vanilla Extract

It tastes so much better than store-bought and all you need is a good vodka (or rum), vanilla beans, and a jar. The beans need to be split in half and you should use about 3 vanilla beans for each cup of vodka. Store in a dark cabinet, shake every few weeks and in about 8 weeks you’ll have vanilla extract. You can either leave the beans in or take them out. If you leave them in the flavor will continue to mature.

What’s nice about making your own is you can experiment with all the different vanilla varieties and even come up with your own special, signature vanilla blend.

Spice Rubs

These would be a welcome treat and make seasoning meat and fish so much easier for your clients on the days you don’t cook for them.

Pickled Vegetables from Your Summer Garden

And if you don’t have a garden, you can pick up some vegetables from your local farmer’s market. All kinds of vegetables pickle well including carrots, radishes, cucumbers, onions and more.

Spiced Nuts

There are so many different spice combinations you can use. Experiment and make your own recipe. Spiced nuts often have a combination of the following kinds of spices and flavors:

Hot and Savory Spices: Tabasco, chili powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, rosemary
Sweet: Maple syrup, honey, sugar
Salty: Sea salt, soy sauce

Marketing Tip:
Double whatever you give to your clients so they have an easy gift to give to someone else if they want to. You will make your client’s life easier and you end up promoting yourself and your business too as long as you include a label or tag with your contact information.

Always package whatever you do in a creative, decorative, fun way. Special packaging will make your gift all the more special.

The Gift of an Experience

Instead of giving a homemade food gift, consider giving some kind of experience since experiences are known to give more satisfaction than things. Perhaps give a free pass to your clients to attend one of your upcoming cooking classes. Or maybe host a holiday party for your clients and tell them they can bring a friend. This way you are treating your clients to something special, but you are also getting a chance to introduce yourself to their friends who may become future clients.

Keep your receipts. Gifts for clients are tax deductible. You are allowed to deduct up to $25 worth in gifts for one individual per year.

Want more ideas? Below are some links to websites with all kinds of holiday food gift ideas along with decorative packaging concepts.

What gifts are you giving your clients this year? Please share in the comment section below.

How to Craft Communication that Gets Clients

Problems we can help Chalk IllustrationWhat you say and how you say it can make or break whether someone will hire you or not.

I know. I’ve personally experienced how words can drastically affect outcome.

When I started my coaching business, I used to go into great detail about my credentials, experience and the services I offered. People would exclaim how they could really use my support, but when it came time to have an initial consult, they wouldn’t schedule one.

Has this ever happened to you? If yes, maybe you were making the same mistakes I made.

In the past, I was focusing my communication on me and how my services worked and NOT on the prospect and how my services could help my prospect solve his concerns and biggest struggles.

Your goal whenever you communicate either verbally or in writing is to relentlessly focus on the problems your ideal prospects face, the vision of what they want instead, and how your services and offers can help them bridge the gap and take them from where they are to where they want to go.

Let me share with you an example of words that won’t attract clients and an example of words that will.

Below are two ways a personal chef might answer the question: “What do you do?”

Example 1 (Weak): I am a personal chef. I plan your menu, food shop, cook fabulous food, and clean everything up before I go.

Example 2 (Strong): I help busy, women executives who struggle to find family time get healthy, kid-approved meals on the table each evening with no effort.

Do you see the difference?

In Example 1, the focus is on you (I am a personal chef) and what you do (plan menus, food shop, etc…).

In Example 2, the focus is on your potential client (women executives), the precise struggle they face and want resolved (more family time and healthy meals their kids will eat), and how you can help.

Example 2 is way more powerful because people want to know what’s in it for them.  How are you going to help them with their particular issues and what they care about.

But here’s the catch.

To know how to craft communication that will highlight the exact struggle and solution your prospect desires, you’ve got to know who your target market is. Who do you want to service? What is your niche?

If you decide you want to service anyone and anybody, you are casting your net wide, and you won’t be able to create communication that is very specific or meaningful. Instead, you will have to use words that are general so they can appeal to a very broad audience. When you do this, your marketing communication will become weak and less effective.

But how do you choose a niche and how do you know if it will be a profitable one that will work?

To find out, register here for a free training call on How to Attract More Ideal Clients with Ease by Discovering Your Profitable Niche.


Major Headshot Mistakes That Personal Chefs Make

nine portraitsWhat does your headshot say about you? Does it convey the positive aspects of who you are and your company brand? Or does it convey something negative about you and your company that will turn prospects away?

Over the past months as I have been reaching out to personal chefs via social media and their websites, I was struck by the fact that quite a few personal chefs aren’t doing themselves a favor with the headshots they are using.

I actually caught myself making assumptions about the personality, professionalism, cooking ability and trustworthiness of the personal chefs I was reaching out to based solely on their photos.

I am 100% sure that prospects who see your headshot do the same thing. Your headshot makes the first impression when someone has never met you in person. And I bet if your headshot isn’t up to snuff, fewer prospects will give you a call.

So don’t make the same headshot mistakes that other personal chefs make.


Mistake #1: You Don’t Have a Headshot

People do business with people especially when you have a small scale business that offers personalized services. You are your brand. You need to show people who you are. You don’t want to hide behind a company name, logo, or a photo of your food. You also don’t want to leave a space for a photo blank nor do you want to fill it with a headshot of your dog!

When there is no photo of you, it is much harder for people to connect with you. In addition, how can people trust you to come into their homes to cook if they can’t even see your face? They may wonder what you are hiding.

Mistake #2: Your Headshot is of Poor Quality

Here are some things to watch out for…

  • Dark image that makes it hard to see your face
  • Blurry image – this sometimes happens when a small photo is enlarged too much
  • Overexposed image so that your photo appears washed out – not sharp
  • Unwelcoming expression – you look angry, sad, tired or just plan odd (yes, I have seen headshots like this)
  • An appearance that is too informal so you look as if you just rolled out of bed

Mistake #3: Where Are You?

Be sure you don’t get lost in your photo. You don’t want the background to take center stage. You should be center stage. I’ve seen some photos that should have been headshots with a tiny, tiny person in them and a beautiful landscape all around. Putting up a photo of some scene with you as a minor player is almost as troublesome as having no photo of you at all. See Mistake #1.

And I get it.  When personal chefs have a photo that doesn’t put them center stage, I bet it’s because they are uncomfortable seeing their own face so large and clear for all to see, but you need to get over this feeling because it is hurting your ability to build relationships and get business.

Mistake #4:  You Include Yourself and Others

Your headshot should be your headshot.  No one else should be in the photo.  Don’t include your wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend, child, friends or pet in your photo if it is being used where a headshot should be.

Just recently when I was on LinkedIn I saw a profile that had a name of a personal chef and then a photo with 3 girlfriends where the headshot should have been.  I had no clue which of the three women was the person whose profile I was viewing.

If you feel you could use help getting a great photo of yourself, don’t hesitate to hire a good photographer who specializes in doing headshots.  The money you spend will be well worth it.

Share your headshot mistakes, tips and experiences below. We all learn when everyone shares.

How to Break the Feast or Famine Pattern of Your Personal Chef Business

Action vs Inaction Lever Toggle Switch Driven InitiativeHave you experienced this? When you are busy, you are super busy servicing many clients, and you don’t have any extra time or energy to do much else. And then in a blink of an eye a few regular clients leave, the steady flow of referrals you once had is drying up, and no one seems to be reaching out to you via your website any more. Go figure!

You are experiencing what many personal chefs experience, and I believe it’s due mostly to a marketing problem. I don’t believe it’s primarily due to a time of year problem or the intrinsic nature of a personal chef business.

As I see it, the marketing problem has to do with personal chefs focusing on passive not proactive marketing approaches. When they do this, they are taking a less active role in getting business.  They are leaving things a bit more up to chance.  There is a wait and see attitude.  Such a marketing approach is more likely to lead to a feast or famine business pattern.

What are passive marketing approaches?

They are things like…

  • Posting fliers
  • Advertising
  • Creating a website
  • Listing your business online with a personal chef association, culinary school or other entity
  • Writing up a profile for a personal chef matching service like Thumbtack, Kitchen Surfing, etc..

I consider these approaches passive ones because you take action once and then sit back, wait and hope for the business to come your way.

Passive marketing approaches also include things like handing out business cards instead of asking for business cards and setting up a time to re-connect, waiting for people to refer instead of asking for referrals, and giving a talk without an invitation for people to take a next step with you.

Passive marketing is more of a set it and leave it approach.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t implement passive marketing approaches at all? No, because many of these approaches do bring in business. I am just saying that you shouldn’t rely on them exclusively if you want to have a business that is less boom or bust.

To break the cycle of feast or famine in your business you must utilize proactive marketing approaches as well.

What are proactive marketing approaches?

They are things like…

  • Following up with leads consistently and having a lead generation strategy in place
  • Attending networking events every week
  • Building relationships with people who are connected to your ideal clients
  • Scheduling talks or leading cooking demos regularly during the year
  • Finding ways to put yourself in front of your ideal clients on a consistent basis
  • Keeping people you know in the loop about your business and staying in touch with them
  • Asking for the business

Proactive marketing approaches are ones in which you take charge, reach out, and ask. They are marketing activities that should be happening on a regular basis no matter if you are fully booked with clients or not. They aren’t marketing activities that can be set and left. Instead you have to take an active role on a regular basis when implementing proactive marketing approaches.

I believe many personal chefs rely more on the passive than the proactive marketing approaches because such approaches cause less discomfort to implement.  You don’t have to be in front of people as often, and you don’t have to put yourself out there and ask anyone to do anything for you directly. You can hide behind your fliers, advertising, website, etc. Passive marketing approaches are a lot less scary.

Another reason why personal chefs don’t always spend the time they should on proactive marketing approaches is because they take more time and effort to implement, and when personal chefs are fully booked, they are extremely busy. They literally don’t have the time (or energy) to market.

I understand.

But what this says to me is your personal chef business isn’t really sustainable if this is the case. If the effort to service your clients is so intense that you can’t comprehend doing anything else after servicing them, there is an issue with the way your personal chef business is working.

You’ve got to find a way to service your clients without it depleting you of your energy and taking up so much time. So take a moment to think about ways you can make your business sustainable. Can you…

  • Improve your efficiency in the kitchen?
  • Offer less and still have a happy customer?
  • Create a set menu?
  • Hire someone at a lower hourly rate than yourself to do the clean up?
  • Order groceries online and have the food store deliver?
  • Find commercial kitchen space so you can service a lot of clients all at once in one place?

And I could go on. The point is you have to find a way to structure your business so that it isn’t completely depleting you of your time and energy when you are in the feasting mode because you must be able to have time to market in a proactive way even when you are fully booked.  If you are able to do this well, you will experience a lot less of an all or nothing business cycle.

What are your thoughts? Did you find this post helpful? What resonated with you? How do you handle the feast or famine nature of your business?