Using Small Projects as a Fast Track to Bigger and Better Work

One of my favorite behavioral psychology findings is the concept of small asks.

Especially when trying to win over a new customer or build a relationship with someone I look up to.

The idea that starting small is the best and easiest way to win a new account, pitch a huge project, or develop a relationship with a VIP might seem counter intuitive. If you get your shot, why not swing for the fences?

It’s easy to believe that you should go for it when you (finally!) get your chance to pitch the CEO.

Ah, if only it were that easy.

There is a tremendous amount of value playing the long game and starting small. Here’s why I like thinking that way.

First, it gets your foot in the door with the client.

It’s fine if you ask for the big project or retainer in the beginning. What’s your plan to get there if it falls short? After all, not every client is ready and willing to sign up for a major initiative with you the first time around.

By having smaller introductory offers you make it more likely the customer will hire you.

Many of your customers want the bigger project. For many customers, it’s important that you prove that you will deliver on a smaller project before talking about taking on something bigger.

Which is the second reason I like this approach. Starting small gives you an opportunity to deliver value on a key project.

Now, why is this so important? What changes when your customer experiences how you work, and deliver, on a small project?

The #1 thing: trust

You start building trust with this customer.

Everyone says they can do more. They’re able to deliver on bigger and better work. Your customer has heard this over and over, but when they hire someone it doesn’t always work out. This is your way to prove you can deliver.

Your customers are looking to see what you do while working on a smaller project. How you handle it speaks volumes about how you’ll deliver on a bigger project.

It’s not just in the results. It’s in how you communicate, how you stick to deadlines and guidelines.

In the end, it’s about how your customer feels working with you. If they don’t think it’s worth their time, why hire you for something even bigger?

It’s also your opportunity to make sure you really want to do that bigger project with them.

Now, if you want to do more work for that client, if you’ve made them feel like working with you is a great experience, then you’ve set yourself up to have a great shot at earning that big project or retainer. There’s one more thing you can do to set yourself up even better.

The third reason I love starting small is that a well designed first project sets up future projects, including retainers.

What do most of your customers need to do before they hire anyone for that big project or for a long-term retainer? That’s the question you want to answer, and the answer should be the first project you do for your customer.

Sometimes the better question to ask is, what’s the first major chunk of that project?

Both are a great way to set up the next project, by taking care of a fundamental need first that puts them in position to say “yes” to an even bigger project.

Build trust, show your customer you’re great to work with, and set them up for even bigger things. A simple and effective way to start working with any client.

How could you apply this to your business? Let me know in the comments!