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How “We’re booked” was ruining our business.

“We’re all booked up until next year.” That’s what we were telling everyone in the second half of 2012. We said that to potential new clients, existing clients, and even colleagues and fellow app makers.

It felt great to say. We were really proud of being off to such a strong start, so having an opportunity to show what a hot commodity we were seemed like a great idea. Better yet, we were doing those clients a favor by telling them the hard truth up front—right?!

More than just using the phrase, we put ourselves into a “booked” mindset that shut us off from opportunity. We were just too busy programming to field opportunities, and it bit us in the ass later.

We finished up the projects that kept us so busy and then hit a major lull. We started doing business development again and responding with an “open for business” mindset, but we were basically starting over from square one. It would be months before our next major projects would kick off and we could send out invoices again.

The specific way that we screwed up was jumping into “all booked up” too early in the conversation. I started conversations by asking about timeline and would say something nice like “I want to save us both some time here because we’re all booked up…” That’s terrible business development, which is as much of a creative exercise as the rest of your business. These were opportunities to get creative, but instead I started off on a nonconstructive foot.

I can’t say how much work we lost, but I can say that we stay busy when we’re in an “open for business” mindset, and the business stopped flowing when we were “all booked up.”

Here’s our advice: You’re never too booked for business development, or you’re going to have a hard time staying in business. I hope that sounds stupidly obvious, but it’s hard to keep sight of that when you’re under the gun for a deliverable. How can you spend hours responding to feeler emails and meeting people for a casual coffee to talk about what they have coming up? I’ll let you know if I figure out an easy answer. I’m pretty sure it’s summed up as “hustle”.

As a mentor recently told me—you just can’t take time off from biz dev because you’re too busy doing the work.