In my quest to find the right tools to launch Passive Ninja Web Design and Educabana Educational Resources, I have decided to seek some mentoring. The idea for it came from my mother-in-law because she heard about it while living in Florida. She said it was made up of retired business people who help others get started or who are in need of advice. Their site didn't mention the retired aspect, and they seem to accept all kinds of volunteers, but I would assume many of the volunteers are retired. Anyhow, the organization does exist here in SE Wisconsin, and I have signed up for a consultation. I will be reporting the usefulness in this article as my relationship continues.
The SCORE website makes it easy to sign up, even though I was redirected a couple of times because the local site is under construction. The site also provides some basic tools that can help small businesses, most of which I have yet to explore. I also noticed there are webinars planned, and I will mark a few on my calendar.
SCORE was very quick in getting back to me. I believe I signed up on a Friday or Saturday, and I received a call Monday morning. The person talked to me about my business ideas, mostly wanting to know if I had a business plan and what I was looking for from them. He also told me that I should file as an LLC, even though I'd read it wasn't totally necessary. I will ask my main SCORE counselor if he agrees with that assessment. The first guy also told me to set up a checking account and keep finances separate, which I'd already done. He then told me that he'd put me in contact with someone who could better advise with the marketing end of things, so that's what he did.
I was kind of excited after my first interview with my assigned counselor, mostly because I have an opportunity to talk to someone who is not friends or family about my ideas and plans. He also wanted me to revise my business plan, and Lisa suggested I take time off from finding new customers to do this, which is a little counter-intuitive. However, it seems SCORE folks want you to have a business plan.
We talked for about twenty minutes about my web design ideas. He is a retired web design guy, so he will have some insights (and preconceptions) that will be useful (mostly) to my own plan. If nothing else, he can probably give me an idea about what's viable when it comes to price points and expectations. He seemed a bit down on Joomla compared to his now-favored WordPress, but I'm hoping we can still work well together, since it's kind of like I learned French and the teacher wants to teach Latin.
I met my mentor at a coffee shop. We talked for about two and a half hours. He was big on trying to make sure I knew what I really wanted. I was fairly sure, but it's true that I'd rather write great stories than build websites. I'd rather teach a creative writing course than try to sell my old lessons online. However, I have to look at what I have available and what I can do well.
We talked about his career about as much as what I want to do with mine. This can be an effective technique, and it's probably a lot less boring for him to do it that way. However, I could see some startup owners feeling like this method of advising is less than direct. Since it was free advice and my time isn't worth a whole lot right now, I was perfectly happy with hearing about someone else's journey.
He provided me with ideas, but he wanted me to consider alternatives rather than just praise my skills, even though he implied that is sometimes what other mentors will provide. He mentioned jobs I might do well in the IT world, as an analyst, a technical writer, or corporate trainer. I kind of applied to a lot of the jobs he mentioned, but it was good to hear that someone should have hired me. He also mentioned franchises, another direction I investigated. If nothing else, he reiterated some of the benefits and challenges within other career options.
I was provided with very specific help when it comes to self-promotion, and that's one thing I needed as much as advice about web design, since I am selling me as an artistic designer and author. The meeting was worth the time and effort for the pieces of advice alone, and it might be a game changer for me as an author.
At the end of the meeting, my mentor suggested others with whom I could meet, as well. These people might be better at another aspect of business. The point is that I could go back and hear more from one mind, or I could listen to what a couple more minds think of what I have to offer. I like that way of tutoring. I always liked it as an English teacher to know that I was the creative one, while another was the compassionate one, and yet another was the strict one.
My plan is to implement what he said, continue to work towards establishing myself as an authority online, and maybe meet with another mentor to help more with further marketing techniques. The questions I was asked will help me, even if I now have even more questions of my own and more work to do before I can say I'm totally open for business. However, I also have to make a few bucks, so that will be weighed against what I learned and will learn from the SCORE mentors.
Written by Brian Jaeger, owner of Satisfamily, McNewsy, PassivNinja, Educabana, RealWisconsinNews, ManCrushFanClub, WildWestAllis, SitcomLifeLessons, and VoucherSchool.