The Evolution of a Digital Whale

I have been working on evolving Digital Whale into a consulting business rather than a community management business.  My idea is to offer customized, 1 on 1 workshops where I give business owners/manager/employees the tools and guidance they need to establish and manage their social media.  The idea is to distill all the fragmented information out there into a digestible one hour presentation and pepper in some of my ideas for their business’s social media marketing when appropriate.

I recently rewrote the copy of my flyer to showcase only the workshops.  I also developed a menu of workshops that I offer and attached it to my flyers in hopes that it workshop titles with short descriptions makes my offering more concrete to potential clients.  The workshops are split into beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories.  I set my prices at $150, $250, and $300 based on level since the intermediate and advanced workshops will require more front-end research and custom slides.

Now I just need to hit some businesses to test the waters.  Although, if I get any takers I’ll be in a tight spot.  I don’t have a projector, screen, slide software, or actual slides to deliver the presentation.  It seems that it will cost me over $1000 to get it off the ground…but you can’t let a little thing like that stop you.

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Here’s to Keeping It Real

My girlfriend has grown impatient with my lack of progress.  We have no doubt hit rock bottom.  I say that this is rock bottom because no matter what I can wait tables anywhere and sustain this level of existence and unless I commit a felony I can always get a job waiting tables somewhere.

Today I submitted a couple of ideas I’ve had rolling around in the back of my head for a while to a fast pitch event that connects entrepreneurs with angel investors.   I bounced some of the details of my ideas off her and she was clearly annoyed by it.

Tonight we had a good talk after a few drinks.  We started out talking about her goals.  She’s at that point in life when she realizes she is going to have to make a decision about what she wants to do with her life but hasn’t found her calling.  I can relate because I’ve been there.  I try to be sensitive but I also try to challenge her to think it through and work the problem without talking down to her, making her feel stupid, or pissing her off.  Usually I piss her off.

As usual the conversation turned to me.  What have I accomplished?  Why am I so special?  She is reserved and it’s rare that she opens up about what she really thinks although I can usually tell what she thinks before she admits it.  I love the real conversations.

She admitted that has grown impatient and weary of all my ideas.  No surprise to me because it’s no secret that she wants to get married, buy a house, and start a family.  She feels that every new idea means failure of the current idea and further delay.

She came at me hard.  She said that as this drags on she increasingly doubts that I will be successful.  I can see why she thinks that.  She sees other guys my age with stable salaried careers.  I tried to defend my choices by arguing that the experience I’ve gained is far better than any of our peers/friends who have chosen a stable career.  I added that although I they may seem better off right now, in the short run, in the long run I have better positioned myself for greater success.  She countered, “why do you think you’re so special.”  Using my own words against me.

It cut deep but strangely I loved that with one simple question she was challenging everything I believe in, everything I’ve ever done, and everything I’m striving for.  It forced me to do some soul-searching.  Why am I special?  Damnit, I’m special because I have ideas, the courage to give them a go, and some savvy to execute them.  Instead of wavering I am now even more entrenched in my conviction that building my own successful business is my path to happiness.

But how do long do I have before she leaves me?  I have always wondered but never asked.  Given her rare brutal honesty it seemed like time to ask so I did.  She roundaboutly said 5 years although I suspect it’s really much less.  Judging by her increasing impatience and frustration I give it 2 years at best.  Can’t blame her, wouldn’t blame her, that’s just real.

It’s tough to swallow when those closest to you don’t think you’ll succeed and may leave you if you don’t.  On the flip side, I am more motivated and energized to make something happen and for that I am grateful for her brutal honesty and implicit challenge.  If she continues to challenge me in this way it will be far better than her benign complacency, pretending to listen or care about my latest idea.

Here’s to keeping it real.

Telling a Potential Client Not to Hire Me

I finally had my meeting with the interior designers yesterday.  In preparing a strategy I decided that the best strategy would to use social media and blogs to show off their design point of view.  This would be best done through pictures (lots of pictures) rather than writing and I suggested Pinterest, Tumblr, WordPress, and Facebook. I had lots of ideas on how to use each platform, build traffic, and all that stuff but we didn’t have time to get into it.  The catch of the whole thing was that to establish their point of view they would have to curate the pictures and create most of the content…..it’s their point of view not my point of view

Moreover, designers typically develop personal relationships with their clients so that they may serve them better by getting to know their tastes and preferences and because they typically work with clients over a long period of time.  And these girls proclaim to be especially big on that.  So it’s totally different than the pizza place around the corner where the transactions are wham-bam and are carried out fairly anonymously.  Their brand is different too because they are their brand.  So I suggested that they do most of the networking too….

What do they need me for?????

I saw this coming and was prepared to answer before they even asked.  I told them I would set everything up so it’s professional looking.  These girls don’t know anything about social media…not even Facebook.  So I stressed that it will save them a lot of time and frustration if I set it up for them and would also look better.  So that they could handle their end of the efforts I offered to sit down and teach them how to use each platform to get them comfortable.  Since they only wanted to spend 30 minutes a day on it I tried to explain to them how I would handle all the behind the scenes crap like photoshopping, peppering in some marketing messages, tracking the data and compiling a monthly report, guidance to reach goals, sending them content to curate, and resolve any technical problems that can and will crop up.  They didn’t seem to see what I would actually be doing….

They just didn’t seem to understand how much time I would be saving them if I did all the behind the scenes shit.  They don’t know what goes into it.  I tried to tell them that it can take several hours a day to do it all well and for them to get it done in 30 minutes they will have to have someone doing the dirty work so they can focus on just the blog post or adding new things to their Pinterest board.  I envisioned even sending them tasks to ensure they make the best use of their time.

They replied with oh no’s and sigh’s and groans because they don’t want to get into it.  I got a sense that they were somewhat afraid of it and one said how much she hated writing.  She told me that she was looking for someone who would just do it all for them so they didn’t have to.  I can’t blame her I guess but that just wouldn’t make any sense.  How could I speak for them on fabrics and curtains and shit?  I can’t…and like the all mighty Oz in the Wizard of Oz our charade would be exposed.  Imagine a client coming in and saying hey I enjoyed our conversation online about carpet and I really liked the one in such and such picture on your pinterest….uh, who are you?  What picture?

Anyways, they said they’d think about it which sounded more like nah no thanks but we’ll see.  Maybe they dive into it themselves and realize how much time it takes and how complicated it can get and how hard it is to grow a fan base across multiple platforms and they give me a call.

I could have gone in there and promised to do it all for them and taken their money knowing full well it wasn’t going to work out but I just can’t do that.  I don’t want that kind of a reputation.  I want to be the type of guy who will tell a potential client “this isn’t for you” if it’s not or “you need to do this on your own” if that’s the best way.  Damn I really needed the money though!

The New Flyer is Working

The new flyer I designed a few weeks back seems to be doing the job.  The big change I made was putting a bunch of social media logos around my giant digital whale logo hoping that it would make people realize I do more than just Facebook and Twitter.  People are drawn to the logos and ask me about the ones they don’t recognize.  “What’s Pinterest?”  “What’s Foursquare?”  It really get’s the conversation going and gives me the chance to instantly establish myself as an expert.  Some even circle the ones that interest them the most during our conversation.  Most don’t even read the copy even though it’s less than 100 words.  More affirmation that visuals are much more powerful than words, especially when it comes to first impressions.

A Chance

I went out selling yesterday and landed a meeting for next week.  I have a chance to earn my first paying client!  It’s a small interior design business that is equally owned and operated by two women.  Their online presence is nothing more than a bare bones website and a listing in a few directories.  They want to utilize social media but they don’t know anything about it beyond a vague familiarity of Facebook and Twitter and they don’t have the time to delve into it.  This is just the type of client I am looking for.  I am excited and enthusiastic as I put together a strategy to present to them at the meeting.  I just hope they can afford to pay me enough to make it worth the time I will have to put into it.

Blind-Sided

My landlord came to me and said he and his wife want to move in and he wants my girlfriend and I to move out.  He proposed that we move back into the main house.  We just moved out of it in November and it costs twice as much!  Currently our rent is $600/month including utilities and as you know if you have read some of my earlier posts, even that has been hard to pay sometimes.  This month was on track to be the first month that I could pay all my bills, inject a little capital (maybe $100) into my business to at least print business cards and put gas in the tank to drive around town hunting for my first client.  It was also looking like I would be able to put $100 in savings in case we hit a bump in the road and $100 towards debt to finally begin to dig out of this hole.  Now it’s looking like it will all have to go towards two non-refundable pet deposits, moving costs, deposits on utilities, and higher rent.  Not even close to enough to cover it.

We are basically renting month-to-month and don’t have a lease which was to our advantage back in November since we were considering moving to another city.  Now the only recourse we may have is some sort of squatters’ rights claim which I am seriously considering depending on whether or not we can save enough money and find a cheap enough place.

I was so optimistic that we had turned the corner and this month/year would be the start of better days but now everything is in jeopardy again.  If our monthly bills end up being too much higher I will be forced to get a second job and Digital Whale will go to the back burner along with the rest of my dreams.  OR….I could land two clients this month and make it all happen.  Do or die.  Less than 3 weeks.  Tomorrow I go selling.

Inspiring Others

One of my friends at work is a beer enthusiast, or more appropriately a certified beer expert.  It’s her passion and she lights up whenever we talk about it.  She has accumulated a vast body of knowledge of all things beer; pairings, cooking with beer, beer history, glass ware science, hops, and brewing techniques.  She is one of two women in the entire state that is a certified brewer and she is plugged into the beating heart of the beer culture in this town.  It pains me that she is stuck working in this restaurant and I can tell it pains her.

Yesterday we were talking and she began telling me that she wants to move to a bigger city and find a job in a micro brewery, preferably a brewer position.  Then she told me that although she enjoys making the beer she likes educating people about beer the most.  What she really wants is to have a job where she just talks about beer all day, like a beer historian, or consultant.  I asked her then why the move and why wait?  You could do that here, tomorrow.  I threw some rough ideas out about how she could make money doing that as a consultant to restaurant owners and maybe eventually opening up her own micro brew that focuses on a unique beer experience and the history behind beer.  She instantly lit up but then just as quickly began to tell me all the reasons it couldn’t work.  I knocked down all her objections one-by-one and layed out the model for how she could give it a try for less than $200.  It’s basically the same model for how I started Digital Whale.  It’s pretty much the same type of business just different subject matter.

She realized that she doesn’t have much to lose except her time and as she put it, she has lots of time.   She was inspired and you could see the pistons pumping in her head as she vowed to put some stuff together.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.  Her passion for beer is exceptional and I bet her ideas will be too.

Her inspiration was infectious too as I look down the barrel of week two of January with my goals in the sights.  I keep wrestling with the idea of starting a failure club or group for young entrepreneurs.  Although I know I don’t have the time to devote to it this month, hopefully I can make that one of my monthly goals soon.