Lisa’s told me about a dozen times so far that I should maybe be looking into something other than churches as my target group for website building. The problem with that theory is that I have already invested a lot of time and thought into the websites (Luthernet.org and BraveNewChurch.com), as well as my book. In the last week, I have received many conflicting opinions from seasoned businessmen about my endeavors, and I think that means it has potential, but it also means I need to keep diversifying to make sure of future jobs.
Let’s start with the negative. One of the SCORE mentors I met with recently was not convinced. It might have been in the way the conversation started: I talked about where I am at now, not where I started a year ago. Since my current position is better, but still not where I want to be, he seemed to want to guide me to a better position rather than trying to focus on how far I’ve come. I appreciate that point of view, and I can see where it might be useful. He thought going back to small businesses was a good idea because they make decisions fast, and I had told him that proposing my ideas to churches had so far mostly been met with a time-consuming process. He also reminded me that churches tend to get volunteers or staff to work on websites as time allows, and they’d rather spend money on mission work. Agreed. So, after feeling really good about my prospects, I felt like I also needed to expand a bit. He gave me the idea to present at chambers of commerce meetings or offer my services to local marketing firms that don’t have web design as part of their packages. Those are good ideas, and I will go that direction, but I also have to focus on the recent positives that were discussed with other mentors.
The meeting prior to the somewhat depressing meeting had me talking to two knowledgeable gentlemen about how far I have come, and how much I have tried. I think because I explained the whole story, they were able to see me in the context of what I have been trying to set up. I started with my TeachersPayTeachers sales. When I described what I had to do to get 300+ lessons online, but that those lessons have since provided a small income every month, they liked it, even asking why I don’t focus more on writing ACT quizzes. I told them it was just because of the time needed, but that I continue to come up with activities and quizzes whenever I’m not working on building websites or marketing. But they both saw the potential for having so many items available for purchase for many years to come, so I had them thinking along with my own train of thought. When I told them about my Amazon books and sales, they saw that as more than just the few sales that I get, but also as proof that I can get it done. Yes, I have a lot of ideas, but many people with ideas stop at that point. I was able to offer the ideas for sale, including my practical guide for building websites for churches. When I described my attempts at getting churches to have me build websites, they offered useful advice about how to send the letters and how to follow up, but it was when I talked about trying to contact districts and circuits that they were really excited, since that was what they saw as the way to really become the go-to web designer for churches, making the marketing easier and giving me the chance to just do what I do best. They even really liked the idea a church member had given me to make Lisa my content-writer for churches, selling that service along with the new websites.
All in all, I once again got some affirmation and some criticism, but I also learned that it’s somewhat how you present yourself that leads others in a certain direction. The mentor who saw the flaws in marketing exclusively to churches did so partially because I did not focus on the big picture of what I have done and continue to do, but also because he saw the business-to-business potential for my abilities, and I can appreciate that sentiment. The other mentors were able to see it the way I am starting to see my role (or future role), being able to give churches and small businesses quality, mobile-friendly websites in a few days at an insanely low price. They were even worried that I’d get backlogged soon. Honestly, I have thought about that, too, since what I can do just makes so much sense that I’m thinking it’s bound to start happening. But I told them I would just stop writing and working on lessons, work until early morning, and get the website done, just as I’ve always done before.
The biggest lesson I learned, however, wasn’t really about me. It was about the customer. I saw both mentoring sessions as me presenting to a customer. Granted, they were there to advise me, but I also had the job of presenting my case for getting the right advice. Therefore, what I take out of it is that if I can convince my customers that what I can do is really as awesome as I believe it is, they will be more likely to agree. If I start out with an attitude that makes it appear as if I am unsure of my talents, then the client might look for reasons why I am not the one to hire. The fact of the matter is that I can explore any possible niche in website design and create something as good as the $10,000 websites most of the time. I believe that, and the results seem to indicate it. I just believed that the most noble place to exhibit my talents was to work for churches and offer something that would seem miraculous compared to what they have currently, and I still think that is mostly right, though I will continue to ponder the question of what makes a person both successful and happy, adjusting my main job with my side jobs as I figure it all out. The fact that several businessmen over the last week have given similar and conflicting advice is a good sign. A year ago, I wasn’t hearing much affirmation at all, but my hard work and dedication has at least led to the possibility that some of what I am doing is right. Not all of it, sure, but we’ll get there.