Subject: Re: Business
From: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller <robin@roblimo.com>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 07:09:38 -0400


>
>>     Almost all the work I have gotten so far has been through 
>> contacts. But that is only meeting about 1/3 of my fairly modest needs.
>>
> Yes.  And, guess what: contacts (everyone says and I agree) is the very
> best way to find new business. 
> So, what's a contact?   On the one hand, it's people you already know.
> On the other hand, by gosh, it's people you go beat the pavement and
> meet all on your own.


100% true. I know people here (Sarasota/Bradenton/Tampa Florida area) 
who want to be consultants, people who are consultants but make very 
little money, and people who are happy, well-paid consultants with 
strong client lists.

The ones who make good livings taking care of local businesses' computer 
needs get their work almost entirely through personal contacts. They 
belong to the Chamber of Commerce. They are active in charitable groups. 
One is an avid sports car racer and has a lot of automotive business 
clients he originally met at racetracks. Another's mom is a 
well-recognized artist; he's primarily a Mac guy and works heavily with 
artists and video people. His "contact circle" started with his mother's 
acquintances and grew from there.

If I wanted to build a computer consultancy here, free software-based or 
not, I'd join 82 Degrees Tech, a local technology business group -- and 
go to every meeting or event they hold. I'd join the Chamber and other 
business groups, and would probably go to some of the "business 
networking breakfasts" that seem to be held all over the place.

I'd shove a business card into the hands of everyone I met in any social 
situation -- and I'd make sure I got myself into lots of social 
situations instead of sitting at home all the time.

Targeting/specializing (or at least appearing to) also helps. If you've 
made a decent-looking Web site for a real estate person, go talk to 
other real estate people. And ask the one for whom you made the site for 
leads, too. You might or might not get any, but the only way to find out 
is to ask.

If you installed a system for a group medical practice, talk to other 
docs. Find contact info for your local medical society and offer to 
speak at meetings and/or write some computer advice articles for their 
newsletter or magazine. "Docs" can be replaced by "Motor Home Dealers," 
"Home Improvement Contractors," "Lawyers" or any other occupational 
group that  needs computers and has money to spend on them.

Cold-calling is a pain in the ass. But repeatedly walking in the doors 
of businesses and telling them, "Hi, I exist and I offer these 
services," and leaving a brochure and business card behind will 
eventually get you *some* business. Do cold calls when you're on the way 
to someplace else and have a few moments to kill instead of as a 
sales-guy "I'm going to make 'X' number of calls today" task. This keeps 
cold-calling from becoming a pain in the ass.

Funny thing: You don't need to be a "good salesman" to make any of this 
work. You're selling computer nerdness, not sales ability. The 
electrician who's done most of my house rewiring (I've been renovating 
an old house) answers his phone with a grunt, but neighbor Chris 
recommended him, and Bob has done good work for me for a reasonable 
price. I've passed his card on to other neighbors since. And the general 
contractor recommended to me by Bob-the-electrician is now doing some 
work for me.

And so on. It's about trust, not being Mr. Smooth Corporate.  It's about 
being the guy people call with questions who gives them straight-up 
answers, even if you stutter.

None of this advice is unique to the computer industry. I followed it 
when I started my limo company -- which my old partner took over when I 
started writing and editing full-time and is still a going concern that 
makes Charles a decent living in an overcrowded, highly-competitive field.

Bottom line:  We humans trust people we know personally more than we 
trust Web sites.  Go out, meet a lot of people, become "the computer 
guy" for a bunch of them -- which may take several years --   and you 
will earn a nice living without killing yourself.

- Robin