help me solve my problems
November 9, 2013 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I plan to make this a three-part series over three weeks, where I ask you to help me solve the three problems that keep percolating in my head. This week: my career

So there are three things that have been constantly on my mind lately, and I feel a bit frozen. They're not terribly interesting or even terrible problems, just what's been bothering me non-stop. One is related to being overweight, one is related to where I should live, and one is related to my career.

I'll start with my career this week. So I've started a business providing consulting to companies that want to expand abroad. My motivations for doing this are many, and boil down to this just feels right- it feels like my calling. Some motivations: I want the flexibility to be able to take care of children when I have them (want to start trying as soon as I can make this work a bit), I thrive off of responsibility and independence, and I have experiences and skills that give me some qualifications to do this with a measure of credibility (could use some more, but have enough to get started).

So a lot of the assignments I've made for myself are with clients that pay straight commission- there's no retainer coming in, but if there ends up being a pay-off, it'll be big. I have three customers like this, and three more in the making. They're in the same category of work and industry (the contracts with each client are almost replicas), so the work that I do for one helps me with the work that I do for another. I'm constantly ridden with fear that it's not going to work, and it drives me crazy. I don't have any money coming in but do have some money going out (think $800/month, mostly travel expenses). I can financially afford to do this for another year or two as I have savings (yayyyyy for saving for grad school and then not going!!) and a partner who is willing to support me, but what I can't afford is to derail my career and not have any real income in a couple of years.

Although I'm not making any money yet, I am making progress on a reasonable basis towards success, albeit not guaranteed success. I'm learning a lot. It's a much better, more enriching experience than going to grad school would have been, at least for me personally. How long do you think I should do this for before throwing in the towel? It's been a bit more than a year that I've been doing this, but before I had a lot of other things to deal with, and really it's only been five months since I've been doing it seriously

So to deal with the issue of feeling like *I need to make money now, at least just a little bit!!!* I figured I'll start looking for consulting gigs that I can do on a retainer basis. Do you have any ideas for how to get new clients?

I need inspiration. I need resources. I need hope. It doesn't help that I'm still trying to settle back into this country after a few years abroad, and generally have a lot of things to put into place (social life, etc). I basically need a hivemind brainstorm.

Thank you! I'm sorry if I was too nebulous with my question, I tried to give it some direction, but generally feel overwhelmed by it all and am constantly seeking mental clarity to drive myself forward.

One more thing: this business was partly inspired by many of your answers to anonymous career questions that I've posted. So thank you :)
posted by cacao to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If commission is the appropriate way to be compensated for this service, then it seems to me that the way to go is to create products and services that introduce you to potential clients that will either a) ultimately retain you according to the potential big payout model; b) discover that this sort of expansion isn't for them, enabling you to make money from them now, or; c) improve such that they become vectors for future sales of these new products even if they don't become commission-creating clients. So, can you put together useful but introductory packages, e.g., seminars, books, short-term "diagnostics" scheme, conferences, etc.? Can you gives peaches at related industry meetings. Can you write for the applicable association vehicles (magazines or web sites, etc.). And can you evolve to the adjacent industry either vertically or horizontally?

If you give us more info about the industry, the advice will improve.
posted by carmicha at 12:14 PM on November 9, 2013

Best answer: Do you have any ideas for how to get new clients?

Wild stab since I can't figure out what you do from reading your question.

But I have clients, and have had clients find me or I find them, so I will share what has worked for me, but I have no idea if it will/will not translate for your industry. You can experiment and see.I will also list what I have seen other people do, although no experience with these last things on the list.

LinkedIn. This has been phenomenal for me; very large projects, and it takes little to no work for me to find them. It has worked to get clients in the UK and UK.What has worked for me has been to set up a detailed profile(detailed as you want to list qualifications and similar projects) because someone may plug in search term plus special word Q and if you have the experience, voila. You can also put in your contact info and link to your web page. I 'm not concerned at all about contacts, because companies do a search. So it is passive for me, put up the profile and let it do the work.

Find companies and contact them. If you already know the industry of your companies, are there search terms that you can do to find companies in a similar position? Early on I found a list by googling search terms "industry Y", "list","email phone" and it worked to get a list of 50 companies or so. Or are there publications that profile "best companies in the industry for Y" -- I also view those as a potential list. So if you need to then contact several and tell them about your services.

Old contacts. Are you going into this industry because you have work experience doing it? IF so, contact your old colleagues. Either they may pay for your services/refer your services/or tell you company Y needs your type of service.

There are other things that I have heard of pple doing (here in ask meta) or known people who have done things. I don't know the details of your business, so, overkill and I will list them all below.

LinkedIn Groups. I have known at least one person who set up her own groups related to her industry. She runs the group and answers detailed questions in other forums in LinkedIn. She has gotten work from it, as in someone sees details (it obviously sounds like she knows what she is talking about), and her skills listed in her profile, so they contact her. I think that this would/could work phenomenally well if you have a unique skill set. If you do this,you would be answering questions (like here in ask meta) and moderating an online group.

Google ad words. I have a friend who has an importing business (small scale, products from other countries and he sells them to stores). Now, in the past, he just used a catalog and went to trade shows. His business had seasonal peaks. Now he uses the web and pays for the use of certain google ad words (in his words, he owns a certain term and will always be on the top of a list). After doing that change, he gets business from all over the world so there is not a low season for him (as in his clients are from the US, Australia, Europe). He also stated that it was not a full blown spend hundreds of dollars, he experimented - a few days with term X, a few days with term Y, cap it at X amt of money, etc. Now I don't think this will work for all businesses, but ...I can't figure out what you do/so if it applies, give it a go.

Blog. I know it sounds insane, but I have heard from a few people who have specialized skills/unique personality really make the blog thing work for them and it is their main way of generating leads and clients.

SCORE - It looks like you are US based from your previous questions? SCORE is a volunteer organization for small business owners. Now, if you are a public speaker and have a service applicable to small business owners and/or growing businesses, I would volunteer to give a talk at their larger meetings. I've seen people give out business cards and web page info - this may help you to get someone a few years from now. If you do get clients this way, also look for any small business groups - I know NYC has a business library and they bring in speakers, for example.

Register your company if you come from a group that is not as commonly represented in your industry. Do you qualify to be part of a minority owned, women owned, or economically challenged owned business? In many states, you can register your business - there is paper work involved,but some companies will ask if you are registered/proof of registration/and even pull from these lists as preferred vendors. Again, no idea if it applies to your business or skill set. I've looked up this info before, never did it because I wasn't sure if I could offer a service to the city, for example, and it seemed like a hell of a lot of paperwork ....but you may want to look into it if it sounds applicable. I have to say that if you want to do this, look into your city offers meetings about it.NYC, for example, has meetings for free and pple have essentially offered help/support in registering a business.
posted by Wolfster at 12:36 PM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

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