I just signed up for a SCORE business mentoring meeting, and I realized I did not have any information online for my official business name, Brian Jaeger Publishing LLC, so this is an attempt to make sure anyone who searches under that business listing will find my work, but I also wanted to mention the importance of getting mentors of some sort for your own small business.
My first SCORE meeting went kind of sideways. The man I met with was not sure I was doing what I should be doing, and that’s never a great feeling. He prided himself on being honest, and that’s great, but I was also looking for honest ways for me to grow my business, whereas he had all kinds of questions about whether or not it was my calling. More than a year after that meeting, I can say it did help me, but maybe not in the way he intended. Mostly, he pushed Linkedin and Twitter, two social media devices I rarely used, and I now have used them quite a bit, so that’s good. But he also said my websites were gaudy and that I should look into jobs that would suit my skills rather than trying to do it all myself. He just didn’t understand that my skills were in writing, teaching, and web design, not coding, which meant I was better at the end result than the beginning process. That’s when I realized it was more about marketing than simply accepting my position.
My second mentor was a church member who had gotten into website design almost by accident. The problem was, once again, I was told that web design companies would only look at me for one part of what they needed done, whereas I could do all the parts. It was useful confirmation that I was not terribly employable by the major designers, and that the major web design companies are complete dinosaurs, making their profits off business owner ignorance. However, I have to be a little careful with what I wish for, since it’s the coders at these companies that spend their weekends creating the free components I use for my websites. It’s kind of a trickle-down technology situation, so I do want some of them to still have jobs.
My third mentor was at a similar library-hosted SCORE seminar that I will be attending. I had settled in as a web designer, book publisher, and school lesson writer by that point, so he had some specific marketing ideas that went with my actual successes. However, he also identified my web design business as being too general. I didn’t want to agree, since I pride myself on being able to design any kind of website, but he made a useful point that people search within their realm of need. He also mentioned many options for marketing myself, like meetups and chambers of commerce. I looked into both, but never pulled the trigger, since I also decided to go for one of the niches he’d mentioned: church website design, which led to Luthernet.
My latest mentor is a church member who once made his living off of church fundraising campaigns. He provided useful advice about making sure I knew the right people, as well as some ideas about what services might be useful for churches. He also said the process is a lot easier for non-salesmen (like himself and myself) when there’s a salesman around. While I’d offered that position to my wife, she didn’t really want it any more than I did, so I am still the marketing manager of my sole proprietorship. The other thing that the church member told me I’d have to do is be more willing and pushy about meeting people who are best positioned to recommend me, while always making sure those opportunities would be useful to those people. I had attempted this method to some extent, though I have had few responses to my attempted contacts, meaning I probably have to pick up the phone, like he said.
In my next meetings, I hope to bring all that I have learned and experienced to this point in order to move forward with my writing, teaching, and web design in a way that can maximize my time actually building the websites and writing the content that makes me special. Marketing is a necessary evil, though I was also recently advised that as long as it keeps rolling forward, I’d make it. I see marketing as a hill, however, and I’ve been climbing up that hill for over a year. Once I find the top, it all should keep rolling forward, but my signature on the bottom of several often-accessed websites has yet to lead to that rolling so far. I really believe that with all I have done to establish myself over the past year that I am at the top, but I can’t really wait for gravity alone to get all of the wheels turning. Two more SCORE mentors should have the last piece of my business puzzle.
I am embedding what I have done so far so that others looking to get a business going can see the effort it might take. Sure, your results may vary, but so will your business offerings.