Category Archives for "Blog"

Nov 19

Finding and Sharing Content with Social Media

By Rob Woods | Social

Postcards_and_magnifying_glassFor most business owners, who use social media, finding something to share on the Internet isn’t really a problem. From Facebook walls to Twitter trends to the myriad boards of Pinterest, chances are there’s always a piece of interesting, amusing, or educational content making the rounds every second of every day.

What can be difficult is finding content that’s relevant to your industry, speaks to your audience, and educates and converts your viewers—and, on occasion, helps to build your brand and authority. Funny cat videos are great, but they’re probably not going to do much to inform or captivate potential customers, unless you sell cat products.

Fortunately, you have a bevy of tools at your disposal to help you identify, analyze, and share content that fits your specific needs.

Google Alerts

You might not think of Google Alerts as a prime source of shareable content, but when configured properly they can provide timely updates on breaking industry news, technological advances, or topics your Web analytics have revealed as especially interesting to your audience.

Google Alerts can also be used to monitor brands, competitors, and trends; and the application supports advanced Google Operators for ultra-customizable searches by result, location, and niche.

RSS Feeds

An oldie but a goody, RSS feeds bring the best of other sites straight to your reader or inbox. Subscribing to feeds from industry leaders, general business and marketing blogs, and competitor sites can help you find and share content that transcends (without duplicating) the content produced by “the other guy.” Choose valuable content that will educate your readers, or offer them sound advice.

The demise of Google Reader left quite a few RSS aficionados in the lurch, but apps such as Feedly, Scoop.It and Hootsuite’s RSS plugin have stepped up to ease the sting and keep RSS relevant.

News, Industry, and General Information Sites

Finding and sharing original, high-quality content is made much easier by avoiding aggregators and (most) user-generated content sites. The closer you can get to the primary source or creator of the content, the better, because it can help boost your credibility when you share it. Reputable publications and blogs from your industry are a goldmine of shareable content, as are news and other sites that cover topics of interest to your audience.

Another choice to consider is Reddit, the fabled “Front Page of the Internet”. While this site is built on user-generated content, its front page is often abuzz with compelling content, and serves as a great leaping-off point for brainstorming or tracking down content to its (ultimately shareable) source.

Where to Find Shareable Content

Great content is as close as smartphone or the search bar of your browser when you use sites and apps design to help you collect, organize, and share.

  • Curata: Promising to “Feed your content need,” this content curation service offers a three-step process—Find, Organize, Share—for discovering and sharing content with your audience. They also offer a free reader tool that lets you start fresh with a new content profile or import your Google Reader data.
  • Storify: Acquired by LiveFyre in 2013, Storify offers users the chance to “tell stories” using the Web. You can search for content from across your social networks, mix and match elements, add your own text and images, and then share your new story with your followers and customers.
  • Flipboard: This mobile application lets you import content from all of your social media profiles and create “magazines” that can be shared with others. It also allows you to share individual pieces of content across your social networks, making it a popular and powerful choice for content discovery, consolidation, and distribution.
  • Pagemodo: A combination content discovery application and social media management tool, Pagemodo connects with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can manage your cover pages, schedule posts for your own profiles as well as pages you own, and find and share content relevant to your followers’ interests using Pagemodo’s tools.
  • Lumi: This content discovery site (and app) from the creators of Last.fm searches for content based on your browsing history. Lumi is a browser extension for Chrome that tracks and anonymizes your browser history, and then uses it to find and suggest shareable content that matches your interests.

Share Your Own Content

While educational content from industry sources and entertaining articles from related fields are an essential part of any social media sharing effort, original content from your business has a very powerful impact all its own. Creating and sharing high-quality, well-sourced infographics, blog posts, articles, and other material helps build your brand and authority, and gives you a platform to speak to your audience in your own unique voice.

Tactical Sharing

Knowing when and where to share your content is just as important as knowing what content to share with which audience. Even the most fascinating content loses value if it’s shared poorly.
To get the most out of social media sharing, you must:

  • Identify your target audience and their interests
  • Share high-quality content that speaks to those interests, educates, and builds relationships
  • Interact with your audience using the sites they prefer
  • Identify the most popular times for sharing on each platform, and plan your own content distribution accordingly

Social media sites fall into two broad categories: ephemeral, constantly-updating sites like Twitter, and single-serve sharing sites like Facebook and Google+, which are more archival in nature than the stream-of-consciousness that is Twitter.

Make the Most of Twitter

The Twittersphere is a fast-paced and continually evolving environment. Sharing content can feel like putting a message in a bottle and tossing it into a raging river, hoping someone, or even anyone, finds and reads it. Twitter’s mutability can work in your favor, however, if you use the correct tools.

Applications such as Tweriod can help by analyzing your Twitter activity (and that of your followers) to determine the best times to share a post. Because Twitter connects people all over the world, and is constantly updated, sharing your content just once limits your impact. But, armed with analytics, you can make smarter choices about sharing both original content and content from others.

For example, if Tweriod finds that you have only ten followers active at 5 AM on Monday (your time), that might not be the best time to announce your new product line or a persuasive blog post. But if you see spikes in follower activity at 10 AM, 1 PM, and again at 4:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, posting at those times will most likely yield greater returns from interested (and present) followers.

In addition, it’s not only acceptable, but recommended, to share good content on Twitter more than once throughout the day to accommodate followers in different time zones. If you’re based in New York City, and you tweet your latest blog post first thing in the morning, it’s likely that people in California will miss it. By the time they start their days and log into Twitter, your post has come and gone, replaced by the thousands of other tweets that followed it.

Space out three to four tweets to cover different time zones, including an “in case you missed it” for good measure. Use this sparingly, though, for your best content, and most often for your own content or important industry news rather than smaller items of interest.

SMART SHARING TIP:Understanding the general ebb and flow of Twitter (and all social media sites, really) is useful as well, since it gives you a tactical advantage. Knowing the most (and least) active periods of Twitter’s entire user base as well as those of your followers and visitors to your site allows you to share specific content at specific times for maximum impact.

Single-Serving Shares

What do all these sites have in common?

  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

Unlike Twitter, these sites are all single-serving shares. When you share to sites like Facebook or Google+, you’re sharing not just in the moment, but for the foreseeable future and beyond. It’s critical to understand the best time and day to share on sites like these, because you only get one chance to make an effective impression. Stacking up duplicates like airplanes over O’Hare isn’t going to win you any friends. It makes you look like a bot or a spammer, and damages your credibility accordingly.

A post to Facebook, for example, will remain visible on your profile forever (or at least for the life of your profile, unless you delete the post or change its visibility settings). And it’ll feature in your friends’ newsfeeds, depending on their settings, for as long as it’s fresh, which is to say, until it stops attracting interaction from readers, is replaced by fresher content, or three hours (on average) have elapsed.

Even after it’s been replaced, it still lingers on as a part of your page or profile, so repeated posts may come back to haunt you if someone’s taking a leisurely scroll and notices you have seventeen copies of the same Mashable article shared on your Facebook wall, or multiples of the same photo in your Instagram feed.

A number of companies have developed analysis tools to help you make the most of sharing to single-serving sites. Analytics site GoSquared, for example, offers both real-time and historical data to help you build a posting schedule around traffic trends while also allowing you to take advantage of spikes or lulls in site activity.

In many cases, social media sites themselves offer analytic tools to help you schedule content sharing. For example, Pinterest, like Facebook, offers its own analytics service for businesses.
When it comes to sharing content on a single-share site, you must also make sure it:

  • Is relevant to your site and industry
  • Is credibly sourced
  • Is connected to your business specifically
  • Invites dialogue and interaction on your social media pages and your main site

Start with Facebook and Google+, then move on to sites like Pinterest and LinkedIn. Remember though, to spread out your posts to avoid cannibalizing your own posts and limiting their effectiveness. And if you use apps such as Buffer, Hootsuite, or TweetDeck to automate your posting, be sure to customize your posting schedule to avoid duplicates on single-serve sites.

SMART SHARING TIP: The one exception to this single-share rule is your own original content. Adding an extra share can help boost traffic to your site at key times. For example, if your analytics reveal that Thursdays at 10 AM is the time your site draws the most traffic, then definitely share original content from your site to your social media accounts at that time. But adding another share when your site’s drawing the least traffic—let’s say Tuesdays at 7 PM—accompanied by a friendly “In case you missed it…” can pull in visitors you might not have otherwise attracted.

As with Twitter, identifying lulls in site activity as a whole (rather than specific to your page or followers) can give you a tactical advantage. The number of users will be lower during these times, but you’ll also have far fewer competitors vying for the attention of those users, giving you an outstanding opportunity to connect with new customers and readers.

Using the Tools

Taking advantage of the capabilities offered by social media management tools gives you an edge, both in discovering content and sharing it with others. Three of the most popular and powerful applications for doing so—Hootsuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck—can be used individually or together to help you make the most of your social media sharing.


HootSuite
—This utility is ideal for managing multiple social media accounts simultaneously.

  • FEATURES:
    • Three plans available: Free, Pro, and Enterprise
    • Lets you update and monitor all your social media accounts from a single application
    • Allows automatic scheduled updates across accounts and to individual profiles
    • Includes analytics reports to help you track activity on your accounts and accounts you follow on multiple social media sites
    • Team feature lets multiple people contribute to and manage accounts
    • Integration with a wide range of social media sites and applications, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and more
    • Mobile app, custom link shorteners, and browser integration available
    • Pro and Enterprise plans offer additional features such as message archiving, geo-targeting, and advanced technical support
    • Free 60-day trial
  • LIMITATIONS:
    • Feature set is limited with Hootsuite’s free plan; no teams, basic integration, and only 5 social media accounts
    • Enterprise feature set may be overkill for small or new businesses; Enterprise plan can be quite expensive, depending on the upgrades and features purchased
    • Adding team members and purchasing advanced analytics can quickly become expensive.

 

Buffer—This relative newcomer to the social media scene has features similar to Hootsuite. However, Buffer’s simple, powerful integration across multiple sites and application make it an outstanding choice for both scheduled updates and sharing on the fly as you surf the Web.

  • FEATURES:
    • Free, Awesome, and three-level Business plans available
    • Lets you schedule updates across all accounts or to individual sites and apps
    • Sharing can be planned using the scheduler, or done on the fly while browsing via plug-ins and extensions
    • Detailed analytics help you track your account activity and that of accounts you follow
    • Team feature lets multiple people contribute to and manage accounts
    • Integration with a wide range of social media sites and applications, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and more (plus extensions for browsers such as Chrome and Firefox)
    • Awesome and Enterprise plans include extra features, unlimited posts, a greater number of social media accounts (up to 12 for Awesome, and up to 150 with Business), and team management (two team members for Awesome, up to 25 with Business)
    • Free 7-day trial for Business plans
  • LIMITATIONS:
    • Free plan is limited to only one of each kind of integrated social media account (e.g., one Facebook profile, one Twitter account, etc.); posts are limited in scope, timeframe, and number
    • No free trial with Awesome plan
    • Google+ Profiles are not currently supported (Google+ Pages are supported, however)

 

TweetDeck—This application is ideal for companies who want a powerful and flexible way to manage their Twitter accounts, track follower activity, and share content to the Twittersphere.

  • FEATURES:
    • Free
    • Customizable tweet scheduler for targeting specific audiences
    • Powerful filters and custom columns let you sort followers and content by keyword, create lists, and track trends for better sharing and content collection
    • Support for both Twitter and Bit.ly link shortening
    • Available as a mobile app, browser extension, and desktop application
  • LIMITATIONS:
    • Twitter-only; no integration with other social media sites or applications
    • No analytics or connection with other social media apps means you’ll need one or more additional application to help you maximize your sharing success

Finding and sharing great content doesn’t have to be a struggle. Be sure to use quality content that’s both fresh and relevant, and keep tabs on your audience’s interests and online activity to find inspiration.

Remember that sharing isn’t just about broadcasting–it’s about starting and encouraging discussion. Sharing content with your audience is just one more way you can connect with them, and work toward building long-term relationships.

 

 

Nov 14

24 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming A Consultant

By Rob Woods | Personal , SEO

Eight months ago I lost my job. It was, in retrospect, something I should have seen coming. I was managing marketing for a highly seasonal website (blackfriday.com) where the owner/CEO didn’t really believe in spending a lot of people resources or money on marketing. Although I had learned a lot about parts of the online world I didn’t know about previously I was coming to a place where there was little new for me to learn and no real potential for advancement. Regardless, we can get comfortable in a good paying job with good benefits and where we like the people we work with. I didn’t really see it coming, or didn’t want to.

So, I was out on my own. What was I going to do now? Look for another job? Great senior online marketing jobs are few and far between in Vancouver, BC and I wasn’t willing to move. I had already turned down some great offers elsewhere. I could look for an SEO only position in Vancouver, but those don’t pay so well. Hmmmm. I had done some consulting on the side for a few years at both of my last in-house jobs. Could I do this full time?

I decided to dive in to consulting after a brief period of unemployment and enjoying not going to the office every day (a 1 ½ hour commute each way). These are some of my random thoughts and tips on what to think about before you get started. If you have the choice to time when you start consulting, work on this stuff first and your launch will go a lot smoother.

If this is tl;dr at least skim the headings!

Ease Yourself into It

If you can manage it, get yourself a client or two BEFORE you leave your day job. It will ease the financial worry of “Yikes, I now have $0 income. How do I pay my mortgage? Do I need to take anything that comes along that pays?”

Trick Your Body & Mind into Thinking You Are Still Working a Day Job

This one was a weird one that I hadn’t expected. After 20 years of getting up, showering, driving/taking the train to work, and walking up to the actual office I had conditioned myself to that morning routine. It was a gradual transition into work mode. I even found myself mentally preparing myself to be “work” Rob as I approached the office. Going abruptly from that to rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee, and walking 40’ to the office didn’t let me mentally change into work mode. At first I still had to get up, get showered and dressed in work clothes, leave the house (even just to walk around the block), and come back in straight to the office (my den) to get ready to work. Now of course I have slowly moved to the ability to do the work-at-home thing of occasionally wearing sweats all day, not shaving for three days, and showering sometime before dinner.

Do Not Over-promise

You will want to do this. I struggled with this and still do. Be pessimistic about timelines. You’ll want to promise everyone the moon and the stars. These are new customers you are getting and you need them to pay your bills so you’ll want to bend over backwards for them. Until you are really confident in your ability to produce work, unde-rpromise. Otherwise you’ll end up working days, nights, weekends, holidays, and still breaking your promises.

Don’t Overestimate Your Productivity

Similar to “Do Not Over-promise”. Be realistic with yourself about how much you can get done. If you aren’t used to working at home, there will be distractions. There are also the thousand other things that need to get done to start running a business, setting up bank accounts and invoicing, getting an accountant, buying your own laptop, setting up the place you will work, buying office supplies, etc. All of these things take away from that eight hours you thought you could work today.

Reach Out To Your Contacts

This is a biggie. The first step is of course having contacts. If you are a comfy inhouse marketer and you think you don’t really need to network, think again. If you needed a reason to go to conferences, offer others help with no quid pro quo, participate in social media, go to meetups and “hang out” on Google, this is it. Unless you have an ironclad marketing plan and a budget to go with it most of your new clients are going to come from referrals.

So far with one possible exception ALL of my clients (and there are some pretty damn good ones) have come from some awesome industry folks who were either too busy or not the best fit for a given client. You do have to actually let your contacts know you are looking however. Use social, email, phone, DMs, PMs, etc. to let people know you are looking, what your strengths are, and what you see as the best clients for you. By the same token, when you get leads that aren’t right for you, keep the karma flowing by passing them along.

Stay Positive

You are going to get disappointed, worried, depressed, scared, and possibly even lonely. You no longer have a support system at work. You have no one to ask for advice or share the blame/glory. You may even be going from a fun, collegial, community work atmosphere to working all day by yourself in a private office (or your kitchen). Find ways to keep your goals in mind, to interact with people, and to relax. Take a walk. Get a massage. Find somewhere to co-work. Have a glass of wine (you can do that now, you work for yourself).

Have a Slush Fund / Be Patient

If you are good at what you do and you have a great network, the work will come but it might not come at first. You are going to have some lean months, especially at the start. Have enough set aside, if you can manage it to pay all your bills for three months. If you get a few contracts that reserve will start stretching to four, six, etc. months. Having this fund and knowing it’s for building your business will allow you to feel less stressed, spend more time on building the business, and help prevent rash decisions like taking on clients/contracts you shouldn’t.

Don’t Take Small Clients Unless You Really Have To

This may sound a bit harsh but small clients take just as much work (or more) than big clients. It may not seem like this makes sense, but it’s true. That client that can only pay you a grand per month is going to have all the same questions, needs, and difficulties as the one who can pay you five grand. When you are starting out you will want to take the small ones to get things rolling. Do it if you have to, but try to quote on a limited time engagement. Ask yourself – if I had enough of this kind of client to pay my bills, would I be happy with that, or would I be working 100 hours per week?

Take Clients Who Already Know Something (If You Can)

This can be a tough one. Clients who really know nothing about the area you are consulting for are the ones who likely need you most, but they are also a LOT more work. Whether they just don’t understand, or are eager to learn, they are going to take a ton more of your time teaching, and less actually doing, unless of course training and teaching is what you offer. If a client already knows the basics you can spend less time explaining definitions and why you are doing something and just get down to the business of getting results. They are also a lot more likely to be able to actually implement your recommendations.

istock_000008771613xsmallStick To Your Guns On Pricing

This is one where I failed. Find out what others charge who have your level of ability. You might want to start a bit below them but don’t drop your drawers on price. At first you may be tempted to take that contract at a low price to get things started. You’ll end up regretting it and resenting the time you spend on it compared to the contracts that pay you twice as much.

Admit Where Your Talents Don’t Lie

If you are really good at SEO, don’t take PPC work. If you are really good at content creation, don’t take on a link building contract. The work will come. Stick to what you can be awesome at (and get great reviews for and referrals from). Don’t try to stretch into something you are “just OK” at just to get a paycheck.

You WILL Be Interrupted

(8 hours working never = 8 hours of billing) If you are billing by the hour, never start the day thinking I’m going to work for 8 hours and that will fulfill the 8 hours of work for this contract. The phone rings, someone pings you on Skype, the dog needs a walk, fifteen emails come in that need an answer. I’d estimate that initially you’ll be working 4-6 hours for every one you can bill to a client. After 2-3 months I was more like 1:1 and now I’m probably billing a 2-3 of hours of client work for every hour of “something” else.

Don’t Get Distracted Until You Are Established

Experienced consultants with a good client base and a feel for how much they can get accomplished in a day are the ones you see tweeting that they are going to the beach for the afternoon, working at the coffee shop, taking a break to mow the lawn, or cook up a five course meal in the middle of the day. There will be a ton of things you can do because you now work for yourself but in this phase should you be doing those, or focusing on building your consultancy? The lawn can always get mowed later. Or tomorrow.

Set Up Your Systems and Forms

You are going to need a ton of things that you don’t have: a quote form, an invoice form, an audit template, a how-to guide, etc. These are going to take time to set up. Remember above where you are working 4-6 hours for every 1 you can bill the client? This is why. If you have the option take the time to get all this set up before you start focusing on client work.

There are lots of good web services that can help make your life easier, more portable, and more device agnostic. Some of my favorites are:

QuoteRoller: QuoteRoller is a great web app which allows you to create quote templates and track the success of your quotes. It’s great for cutting down the amount of time you use creating new quotes and integrates with a bunch of other services, including FreshBooks (below). With FreshBooks you can push a client from QuoteRoller straight into the FreshBooks system and instantly turn a quote into an invoice. (Hat tip to Rhea for the heads up on this one).

FreshBooks: FreshBooks is a great cloud based app for doing all of your small business accounting and invoicing. I really like the ability to track time spent per project/client and with one click turn all outstanding hours worked into an invoice. It also does automated invoicing for recurring engagements. Freshbooks also has a full suite of mobile apps so you can do your billing and accounting on the run.

EvernoteI really like Evernote for capturing all of my notes about a client in one place. It can do a ton of other stuff but having one central location where you put all your contacts, info, links, to dos, notes, etc. for one client so you know where to look for it or search for it is a godsend when you have multiple clients. This also has both web and mobile apps.

TrelloThis is a great web and mobile app for project management. It has a really easy to use interface, it’s free, and you can grant clients various levels of access to each project.

Odesk: Odesk is a great place to outsource labor intensive tasks like web research or cleansing and organizing data. I’ve used them quite a bit and am actually using them for some virtual assistant tasks as well.

Web Banking / Mobile Banking: You are going to be super busy setting up your business so you don’t want to be wasting time running to the bank constantly. Get web and mobile banking set up so it’s easy to pay bills, transfer payments to your account, move money around, etc. Get one, if you can, with the ability to photograph and deposit checks remotely to save running to the bank each time a client pays you.

LastPassI never thought I’d need a password saving app until I realized that because I have numerous clients, I know not only have a ton of apps I use to manage them, I also have several Google accounts to log in and out of, several CMS systems, a bunch of blogs and social accounts, different analytics programs, affiliate programs, AdWords, AdSense, and so on, and so on. Save yourself what totals to HOURS of looking up passwords and get a password saving app like this (thanks to Michael Gray for the tip on this one).

Talk To Your Accountant

Find out what kind of company structure makes the most sense for you. Figure out how much you need to set aside to pay your taxes and actually set that aside in a separate account. Don’t touch it unless you are starving. Find out what you can write off as a deduction and track that through the year. Keep a running total of your expenses, don’t wait for next April to figure it out. Keep projections of how much you think your total income and expenses will be for the year. Enter those in a tax return prep software and update from time to time. Do you still have enough set aside?

Talk To Your Banker

Figure out what accounts you need. Do they need to be separate from your personal accounts? Can you access them via the web and mobile apps? Now that you are on your own how much do you need to set aside for your retirement? Get all the info for your bank accounts so customers can pay via direct deposit or electronic transfer if possible. Trust me on this last one, you can use Paypal but they take 3% or so off the top for transferring money to your bank. That doesn’t seem like much but if you bill $60,000 this year they are taking $1800 of the top. Keep as much of that in your pocket as you can.

Know Your Expenses and Bill Accordingly

You are going to have costs that you didn’t have working inhouse. Health insurance, retirement savings, disability insurance, that $99 / month Moz membership work used to pay for, that conference they used to send you to. SEO tools alone cost me over $500/mo that I wasn’t spending before. Don’t forget about those paid vacations you don’t get anymore. Want to take a vacation? That’s time you aren’t able to bill. Do you skip vacations or do you have enough set aside you can afford not to bill for a week or two? My rule is that you need to bill the same per hour, if you are billing 40 hours/week, as you used to make inhouse in $1000s. Used to make $80,000? You need to bill at least $80 at 40 hours/week x 50 weeks to have about the same lifestyle. Want to only work 20 hours / week? You now need to bill $160 / hour.

Have a New Client Onboarding Package

Have everything you need to start working with the client ready to go. Include any questions on the background and history of what they and/or other consultants have done in the past. Ask for the access you need and explain how they go about granting it. Include your payment routing info. Ask for contact info for anyone you need to deal with. Getting this information piecemeal can be a “death of a thousand cuts” to your productivity every time you have to ask for it, wait, get it (maybe), ask for the next.

For example for an SEO consultant this may be:

  • History of the site including former vendors, consultants, rebulilds, redirects, etc.
  • Access to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
  • Access to analytics
  • Admin access to social media accounts
  • Access to other reporting tools or project management tools
  • Contact info for the hosting company, development team or vendor, writers, social media interns, web designers, etc.

Don’t Split Your Time

If you have several clients stopping and starting work for different projects can eat up a ton of time. It takes your brain a while to change gears, especially if you are used to focusing on a single project at a time inhouse. Work full days on a single project if you can. If you are working about 20 hours / month with a client don’t make it one hour per day every day. Compact it into three full days, or five half days. Set the expectation with the client that you won’t be working on their stuff every single day, unless they are your only client.

Set Expectations for Working Hours

If you answer client calls or emails in the evening and on weekends they will EXPECT you to be available evenings and weekends. Set the standards early. Let them know that outside of emergencies you work 8 am – 5 pm, Mon – Fri. Let them know you look at email two or three times per day and it may take several hours for you to respond. If you need to work outside those hours (and who doesn’t occasionally) schedule emails you write in the evening to send at open of business tomorrow or those you send on Sunday to go out Monday. Many mail clients have a scheduling feature. If you use Gmail checkout the Boomerang plugin for this.

Think About Finding A Partner

Working alone is tough. There’s no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to offer an alternate opinion, and the only skill set the business has is yours. A partner can help by complimenting your skill set and by sharing some of the stress and uncertainty. Now, of course, with a partner you also have less autonomy and you need to find twice as many clients. If you are good at doing the actual work and not lead gen find someone who is the reverse. Hate to travel and speak at conferences? Maybe you can find a partner who loves it. Suck at bookkeeping? Maybe they are great with numbers.

The other thing that can be tough working on your own is the solitude. If you can’t work in a noisy environment and need a quiet place you may find yourself locked in a room, by yourself, interacting with no one you aren’t actually related to, for days on end. Having a partner around can alleviate that without having to actually work at the local coffee house.

Be Prepared for Travel

This is one I didn’t really expect but a lot of clients seem to want to meet you in person or have you work inhouse for a few days, meet the team, etc. First, set the expectation as to whether you can travel or not. If you are a single parent with no support system let clients know as part of the quote that travel is not an option. Second, agree on the ground rules for who covers what expenses. Do they cover air, hotel, parking at the airport, food, taxis, car rentals, etc. Be clear about this before you book your travel. Third, set the expectation that if you travel, that’s a part of your work for them. If you have to spend 8 hours in airports and on planes that counts as you working for a day because you can’t work effectively for other clients as you travel. Last, be realistic about how much work for other clients you can get done while you travel.

It’s great to plan to work in the evenings until the client invites you put for dinner and drinks or you realize you are burnt out after working 10 hours that day with the client already (he says as he writes this post a week late, at 38,000 feet, on a plane between Dallas and Vancouver after being on the road 9 of the last 11 days).

Get Paid With Money

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Credit: AMagill

This may seem obvious but I’ve had several offers to work for equity, or to work for a share of future profits, or a share of profits if we can just get this site out of the penalty. Don’t do it. You may be tempted. You’re just starting out so you aren’t that busy. You need anything you can get because you don’t have a lot of contracts yet. You know someone who worked for equity and made out like a bandit. Just say no. These deals rarely work out and if they do it’s at some time far in the future. You are going to dump a ton of time on these projects that you could have spent doing the things to attract new clients with real actual money.

Trust Your Gut

Overall if there is one thing that I’ve learned so far it’s that if you have doubts about a deal, if it just somehow feels like it’s not the right fit for you, that it could go sideways, that it’s going to be more a pain than it’s worth, trust your gut instinct. You’ll be right far more than you are wrong. Take the projects that are right, that are with quality clients, and not just the ones that will pay your bills because you are scared something else won’t come along. Don’t settle.

There you have some of the things I’ve learned in the trenches the last eight months. I don’t claim to be an expert though. Have some tips or advise for budding consultants? It would be great if you could share them in the comments!

 

alarm clock
Jul 10

30 Day Challenge – Early to Bed & Early to Rise

By Rob Woods | Personal

Rooster Crowing, VermontI have decided to take on a 30 day challenge (a la Matt Cutts) and post it here publicly for all to see, for extra motivation.

I’ve always been a night person. From an early age I can remember always staying up late. I even remember watching the original Saturday Night Live which means that at the age of 7 or 8 or 9 I was staying up until at least midnight on weekends. Mornings are painful, mornings hurt, mornings require a bucket of coffee. I’ve always hit my peak of productivity and creativity at about 8 pm.

That doesn’t seem to work anymore. I’m now a self-employed independent SEO consultant. I have a business to run and grow and clients that work on Eastern time (3 hours ahead of my Pacific timezone). The more I think on it (and the older I get) the more I notice the time I spend on various activities. Sure, I stay up late, but it’s really wasted time. It’s TV mostly, which is by and large a waste. Getting up later also means less time with my kids. Now that I work from a home office I see them a lot more, and the more I see them the more I want to be able to do things with them. Working until 7 pm isn’t really conducive to doing a lot with your kids. I also love cooking and grilling and that doesn’t work too well starting at 7 or 8 pm either.

So, my 30 day challenge that I am setting myself is to break a several decades long habit of late nights and get to bed by 10 pm and up no later than 6 am. Every day. Weekdays. Weekends.

It’s going to hurt at first. It’s going to suck. Normally the only thing I get up for at that hour is fishing. So tonight I’m setting the timer on the coffee pot and come hell or high water, I’m getting up at 6 am tomorrow. I’ll check back in in a couple of weeks for an update. I’m hoping I’ll be a lot more productive and have more leisure time as well. Here goes…