Congratulations! Someone asked you to help them turn their hobby into a small business.
This is great news for you and your potential customer. For many, this is the place where the wind catches the sail and a lot of work happens. However, now is the time to take a deep breath and wonder if you want to start the project should do at this point.
I recently had the opportunity to work with two new customers. One is a dear friend of mine I’ve known for almost 15 years, and the other is a pretty great EdTech company that asked me to help them redesign their digital presence.
To be honest, when I had those two options, it was exciting and my urge to jump in and run with the projects quickly consumed me. (Note that there has been no TeacherCast podcast for some time?) At this point, however, I remembered the importance of communicating when starting new projects to ensure that everyone is on the same page with the same goals.
Why is communication important?
I’m sure that happened to you. You’re pretty good at something and someone asks you to show you how to do this special skill. They get very excited and start teaching them to the best of their ability and suddenly find themselves in a situation where the learner is frustrated. Only when you step back do you realize that you have taught at level 5 and that your learner had to start at level 1.
Or take another situation that I have often found myself in.
Someone comes up to you and asks how to “do YouTube”. You go in a monologue for 30 minutes about the importance of video SEO and keyword search among your competitors with the best keyword and tag search apps. At that moment you notice that the learner’s eyes are glazed. They ask them what’s going on and they explain that they just wanted to know how to edit a short video of their family and publish it online.
The point is … when you start a project, it is important that everyone is on the same page at the same time. For this reason, it is important to consider 5 simple questions before starting a potentially incredible (or unfortunate) working relationship.
5 important questions for your new customer
What are your customers’ goals for this project?
That is a big one! In the case of my friend. He came to me and told me that he wanted to learn how to start a channel with YouTube that would help him generate additional income to support his family. He has a clear goal in mind and together we are working on a plan to achieve this. This plan includes weekly audio and video content, and a written component for virtual music performances for which it is paid. All of this is being conducted through a new website that we are designing to entice his surrounding community to hopefully hire him for additional appearances.
Knowing that financial stability is his goal, we work on the smallest details of creating SEO-friendly blogs and examine what other musicians in his niche are doing to spark interest online. When you look at this situation from a business perspective, it’s about building marketing funnels across multiple media to attract attention and increase brand awareness. (More information will follow shortly after the website launch)
Is it a business or a hobby?
Another good question. For many, creating a website is a hobby. Maybe it makes a few dollars here or there, but it’s not a vehicle that is supposed to generate a mortgage payment. But what if it is could do that?
My friend’s main source of income is his musical endeavors. The aim is to bring his knowledge, talents and interests from the concert hall into the virtual space. It won’t be easy, but with the right focus it has a lot of potential.
When working with new customers, friends, or a group that is approaching you, it is very important to understand where this project ends up on their priority list. Is this project something you are ready to sacrifice family time for? If the answer is yes, it’s a business … if the answer is no, it’s a hobby.
How do you define “successful”?
When I created TeacherCast in 2011, I created a website where I could simply put my digital things. Over time, it developed into a very successful and recognizable educational brand. It’s a success for me. For others, success could be defined as something completely different.
Talking to your customer about what they think is successful is paramount. It has been a success for many to bring a podcast to 50 downloads a week. Getting 50,000 is also a success. How do you determine what makes success? The answer is simple … have this conversation.
A friend of mine in Texas recently went all-in on his YouTube channel. I remember sharing his screenshot a few months ago after getting their first 1,000 subscribers. Then he got 3000 subscribers and then 5000 and now he’s at 10,000. Each of these benchmarks is a success. For this creator, however, he doesn’t seem to call it a success, because even though he gets subscribers, the channel doesn’t convert to dollars every week or speak any opportunity to speak.
Having a clear idea of what is and is not successful for both the customer and the project is extremely important when planning the next weeks to months of your life.
How much time will you spend on the project each week?
Everyone has one thing in common. We only have 24 hours a day and we all have to sleep for a couple of them. When hiring a customer, it’s good to know how much time they’ll spend on the project each week. Will the project be a full time job for you or will it be just a weekend?
For example, if you use podcasters and podcasts, you can simply sit down on your phone and create a podcast of 5 to 10 minutes. It’s another thing to go through the steps of planning, organizing, finding guests, and creating show notes – not to mention the time it takes to record, edit, publish, and promote. Some are interested in working on the surface, others in jumping in cannonball style and not only getting themselves wet, but the whole world.
Have you ever been asked to help on a project, and after several hours of planning and putting things together for them, you find that they haven’t lost their weight and are looking for you to do all the work? Yes … me too and that’s why the question of time commitments is on this list.
What do you need from me?
Probably the most difficult question for a future or even current customer. This is not just a matter of time, but a question of value and worth.
What does your customer need from you? How much is your time worth to them?
If the customer pays you, this is a simple question. You have time, money and expectations to balance yourself.
If the customer doesn’t pay you and you give your time, you need to weigh the value of what you should do with what you can or should do outside of this relationship.
Some of my customers make me do a lot of work for them, and I’m always happy to offer the service. Other customers just put me in their group to gather ideas. I love being part of both of these scenarios because I always find something that I can learn and walk away with.
A clear goal for the relationship between customer and mentor is always important before a project starts.
What should you do if you are asked to look after someone?
Do you have customers? Are you looking for customers? Do you know where to find customers?
Being a mentor to a friend, a company, or even a complete stranger is a huge responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. My advice to everyone in this situation is to know your role, to know what expectations you have of them and you of them. Above all, be professional no matter what happens.
What do you think? What questions do you ask your current or future customers before you start your projects? Please leave comments below.
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