Tag Archives: marketing

Tip for New Freelancers: Be a Niche Detective

Last week, I had coffee with a friend who is looking to start her own web analytics consulting business. In addition to giving her operational advice about what tools she’ll need to get started, I emphasized the need to find her niche.creating your own vision

She asked me what the top three things she could focus on to serve clients in the web analytics space. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer in my opinion. That’s because it all depends on the type of business, what tools a company has (or is lacking) and what customers they are serving.

It also depends on where my friend’s expertise lies and how she will differentiate her skills from those of other web analytics consultants.

So, here’s what I told her to focus on to get started:

    • Be a niche detective. Starting a freelance business is like solving a mystery. You need to unravel the clues as to where your skills will be most useful and which customers will demand the most of your time and expertise. So, I told my friend to go out and have coffee with everyone and anyone she considers to be a possible client or industry expert. Each meeting will give her insights to lead her closer to the niche to which she is most suited.
    • Focus on your preferred niche. It’s fine to say that you should follow the path to the money. Unfortunately, as a freelancer, you must also find projects that you enjoy doing the most. That’s because you will be more likely to succeed using the skills and expertise that you enjoy. And that will ultimately lead to getting more and more work in the future through satisfied customers and positive word of mouth.
  • Be picky. I read this article from The Next Web last week about why freelancers need to be picky about clients and projects. I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t mean that you should turn down a lot of projects early on. But once you have gathered some experience and confidence in the skills you wish to sell, it’s important not to burn yourself out or spin your wheels working on projects that take you away from the work that you enjoy doing.

Are you a freelancer or consultant working in a very specific niche? Do you agree? Please share your thoughts below.

How Canadian startups can help each other to grow traffic and sales

In the past 6 months, I’ve met with a lot of Canadian technology and digital media startups – either to interview them for a blog, chat with them at a conferenceseedlings growing , or figure out how I can help them with their B2B marketing or media sales strategy efforts.

One of the most common questions I get from these meetings is “how can I grow my business/sales/traffic on a limited budget?” Besides the obvious tools and tactics that you might already know about (i.e. SEO, PPC advertising, blogs, social media, etc.), there is one resource that I think that a lot of small Canadian digital media startups should be tapping into more often – each other. Perhaps it’s a little idealistic, but I do believe that the more we work together as small businesses, the more we will grow the opportunities for one another.

Because I am constantly meeting with people, I often uncover ways that my colleagues and new connections might be able to help each other out. I get a lot of satisfaction out of making those introductions because they make a lot of strategic sense. Most small web-based businesses are in the same boat when it comes to growing on a limited budget. So, why not identify ways to partner with each other in order to tap into each other’s target customers (when they are complimentary) and strengths (when we can share insights, expertise or a service).

Here are some suggested ways to grow traffic while working with other startups:

  • Revenue Sharing or Affiliate programs: Since most small businesses have limited marketing budgets, why not negotiate with other small businesses to either do a revenue sharing or affiliate partnership (i.e. pay them a % commission) for driving sales to your site?
  • Link sharing: Develop an agreement to share links and content from each others’ sites to drive-up SEO rankings.
  • Guest blogs and product reviews: If another company knows a lot about a topic that is of interest to your target audience/customers, why not have them write a guest post on your blog and allow them to link it back to their site (negotiate so that you can do the same on their site). Or, have them write a review of your product on their website.
  • E-mail lists: If you both have significant e-mail opt-in lists, why not do a barter to share a sponsored message to each others’ list with a special offer or promotion on your website?
  • Social media: This one is simple, arrange to share links to each others’ site via your communities. Perhaps you can give away your partners’ product or a discount via your social networks.
  • Events: If you’re hosting a customer event, invite your business partners to offer prizes or promotions at the event.

If you have other suggestions on ways that small businesses can help each other to grow, I’d love to hear about them.

Image source: iStockPhoto.com

Networking Advice From Some of Toronto’s Digital Media Entrepreneurs

photo illustrate networking - tin cans with a stringIn the past month or so, I’ve been out gathering advice on how to network effectively as a freelancer to grow my list of potential clients.  I’ve received some truly invaluable advice from a number of digital media entrepreneurs in Toronto – you all know who you are!  I figure that there must be others out there who are in the same position as I am.  So, I thought I’d share some of the pearls of wisdom that I have received to date.


1) The 3 Feet Rule and/or Talk to Anyone Who Will Give You an Hour of Their Time

The first part of this tip is the idea that if anyone is standing within 3 feet of you at a party or an event, talk to them about what you do and what you are trying to accomplish.  It’s so surprising how this sparks other people’s ideas and you’ll either get great new perspectives on what to do, or people will share names and contact info of other people with whom you may want to speak.  The second part of this tip is that if someone is willing to give you an hour of their time to share their advice and insight, take it!  They say that the best listeners get the best advice. So, if you don’t go out and listen to what others in your industry have to say, you’re not going to get any new leads, advice or ideas to move you on to the next step in your journey.

2) Social Media is the New Cold Call – Be Easy to Find Online
I’m still pretty new to the world of social media but I have read a lot lately about the notion that social media is the new cold call.  If you are properly focused on who your target customer is and are sharing ideas and information that is of interest to them, they will eventually contact you. A great resource for learning how to do this properly and to get found online is a book called Inbound Marketing. I have already started to meet some really interesting and inspiring people through this platform and can already see how it is beneficial.  The other piece of advice that I have learned is to definitely take your online social networking relationships offline and meet with these people face to face – this goes back to tip #1.

3) The Ripple Effect – Be Grateful and Help Others
I had a great conversation with someone today who told me that by constantly helping others with their business and seeking out new connections, you are building up a network of people who will help you in return.  Of course, you should be doing this because you want to help – don’t do it just for the sake of wanting anything else in return.

4) Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch – Sometimes Your Chicken Will Cross the Road
I learned this rule the hard way when I met with one of my first potential clients.  I thought I had a potential contract in the bag and so I slowed down on my networking for a while and focused on what I was going to do for that client.  Two weeks later, when I still hadn’t heard back from the client, I followed up and discovered that he had left the company.  I had counted on that chicken and was kinda blind-sided when I found out that he had crossed the road – lesson learned!  This reminded me that a freelancer should always be networking – never slow down unless you have a contract in hand.

5) Learn From Others’ Mistakes
This again goes back to point #1.  When you’re out talking to others who might be able to share tips and advice on how they have been successful in your field, definitely ask them about what mistakes they’ve made along the way.  Again, one of the people who I spoke with recently told me that entrepreneurs should be comfortable with failure.  However, he told me that there is no reason to be making the same mistakes that other people have already made – if you can avoid it.  Find out how other people have failed and learn from them so that you don’t make the same mistakes.

If you come across this blog and have other pearls of wisdom that you’d like to share – definitely post a comment and let’s help each other out 😉