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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I am making the transition from teaching English at college level to starting a word processing business. Before I seek out clients, I wanted to create a brochure that offers a free hour of service. I am designing it so that it will show off some of my other skills -- namely graphic capabilities. I have also recently received HTML certification.

Yet, I am uncertain about whether I am offering too many services and should limit myself to those things most qualified at for the present time. Would it be better to expand the services offered as I find that clients have a need? Or should I just go for it? Admittedly, I am a wee bit insecure about the whole thing and feel that getting my feet wet is better than diving headlong into who knows what.

Also, I'd like any suggestions about how to market myself beyond the classifieds and cold calls using the trial offer. It seems that there are a zillion temp agencies and wordprocessing agencies in our area from which I must somehow distinguish myself. HELP!!!

Patricia

Answer from our Guest Expert Allison Gaea Jucha of Yes!Coaching

Dear Patricia:

Congratulations! You have asked so many good questions about transitioning into a new business. First, you're right on in your desire to create a brochure that shows the diversity of your skills even within a more narrowly held idea about "word processing." Word processing has gone so far beyond data entry and resume writing that it now includes programming, publishing, graphics design, and Web development!

What excites you? In fact, I'm wondering what it is you really want to be doing with the skills in your toolbox. Do you find yourself jazzed by the World Wide Web? Desktop publishing? Small business services? Being a virtual assistant? Graphics design? You may find an area of specialty blossoming from within the work you take on now, or you may find you love the variety as a Jill-of-all-trades. Think about what turns you on and consider redefiningwhat you're called based on what you really do.

Develop your portfolio. It's true that you can offer too much. You definitely don't want too many sticks in the fire! So, if all you want right now are word processing jobs - primarily text - don't offer more. In the meantime, you can be developing samples that show how that word processing works within a variety of media - newsletters, Web sites, annual reports, and presentations. Solicit these opportunities from friends or local businesses. Barter your services for a particular project for the portfolio addition it gives you. Then use these samples to demonstrate how these tools can be utilized to promote and represent the client's own business.

Become the solution. Marketing is a tricky, but not difficult, issue. According to Internet marketing pioneer, Seth Godin, of Yoyodyne Entertainment, we're all inundated with nearly 3,000 advertising interruptions each day. People can't pay attention to all of the marketing information that is spewed out at them.

Today, marketing means people, not products. Probably most of your clients will arrive on your doorstep through word of mouth referrals. The others will be easy to sell to because you can develop a habit of knowing what problems your services solve and then going out and finding those problems.

So to go beyond the cold calls and classifieds, consider networking at chamber meetings and starting a referral program to get the word out and about the Raleigh area you're there to do biz.

For more information about marketing, I suggest you read:

Periodical: Fast Company, How Smart Business Works

Book: Marketing Without Advertising, by Michael Phillips and Salli Rasberry, Nolo Press.

Don't worry; make money! Don't be too concerned about standing out from the crowd early on. Your ability to do a job well and on deadline is primary. Your first few satisfied clients will be glad to help you with referrals and repeat jobs. From there, you'll learn what distinguishes you from other services like yours.

Good luck! And let us know how it goes!

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