Angela Maiers is an author, educator, writer, and speaker whose work is focused around social media, literacy, and learning. Though her consulting firm Maiers Educational Service, Inc., Angela helps organizations harness the power of social technologies. Angela’s books include The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning and Classroom Habitudes: Teaching Habits and Attitudes for 21st Century Learning.
Below, Angela shares tips on using an online presence to augment one's network and client base, publishing books and going on speaking engagements as a professional, and cultivating attractive services.
The Perks of Starting a Blog for Purely Practical Reasons
As she puts it, Angela started her blog out of laziness. She wanted to be able to compile all of her notes in one place and send just one link to clients who would like to find more information or review her latest notes and research.
This approach to blogging may work well for you if much of your work involves research and writing up others' findings, insights, and studies. At the very least, it yields a worthwhile resource for you. In a best case scenario, your blog will turn out to be a valuable resource to others and ends up introducing a large number of people to your work.
How Blogging can Expand Your Existing Client Base
Angela already had plenty of work before she branched out into the online world. Part of her research for her dissertation lead to a book offer, plus she was also asked to go on speaking engagements, so plenty of people knew about her work and requested her services. Angela's initial venture into social media was more driven by her passion for literacy and linguistics from a cultural and anthropological standpoint (clearly social media is a great place to study linguistics from that standpoint) than a desire to make more money or find new clients.
That said, Angela's blogging and social media activity naturally opened up unexpected interaction, which was strengthened by her interest in getting to know the readers of her blog and the people she met on social media. This interaction expanded her client base, and also left Angela with an arsenal of new skills that augmented her preexisting talents and expertise.
Angela's experience goes to show that even if one already has clients, there is still much to gain from creating a more robust presence online through which additional people can find you.
Tips on Getting Clients
Every client Angela has served has been gained through word of mouth. Angela does not do anything beyond her natural work and interaction to promote her services. With regard to garnering clients through word of mouth promotion, Angela recommends:
- Building up a body of accessible work: The more you share about your work, the more you demonstrate your expertise (and with a presence on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, Angela makes her work VERY accessible)
- Building up years' worth of experience: People do not pay you to speak, they pay you to share 25 years' worth of experience
- Make yourself visible and meet as many new people as possible: Doing so boosts what Angela playfully describes to be "tactical serendipity"
- Maintaining an active presence on multiple social networks: Most of Angela's international clients reach out to her via Facebook, others prefer to contact Angela through LinkedIn, and Angela considers Twitter to be her #1 marketing engine
- Make sure people get what they need: Whether you are sending someone to your site, your book, or one of your keynote speeches, make sure they get something valuable out of it
- Create work that caters to your target market's interest: This naturally involves being very in tune with their unique needs
Legal Considerations for Professionals
With regard to contracts, Angela has found that no two will ever be the same. Some clients write up massive contracts full of legalese; others require only the simplest of agreements. Much of a client's style will be dictated by its business structure and sector (Angela works with many people funded by grants, as well as government agencies- these groups in particular often have special requirements).
The important thing is to be flexible and to know whether or when you would feel more comfortable bringing in a third party to handle negotiations for you. Speaker's bureaus and agencies, for example, can remove the burden of negotiation from clients who offer keynote speeches and other public speaking services, however they can also take as much as a 25% cut in fees. It all comes down to what matters more: saving time and avoiding hassle, or saving money. For the most part, one should be able to handle negotiations and contracts independently (this has been Angela's approach).
Choosing How to Publish as a Professional
In addition to publishing books independently, Angela has worked with traditional publishers. Given the academic and didactic nature of her writing, the publishers she interacts with often specialize in books for the educational and business sectors. It may be worthwhile for you to also consider if there are any specialty publishers who might be particularly interested in material on your area of expertise.
Angela sometimes does not determine whether she will self publish or reach out to a publisher until a new book is finished. Generally speaking, she feels it can be more appropriate to opt for traditional publishers if a book's content is static. If a book's content is, however, very time-sensitive, it might be better to self publish in a lean, efficient manner.
How to Build Attractive Services
Many professionals online attempt to sell services and information. Angela argues that the actions and approaches that separate one from the crowd include:
- Selling information and services that meet a well-known demand or strike a chord for people (this matters infinitely more than the manner in which you package services)
- Customizing information and services for different audiences
- Only training people how to do things you actively do yourself (doing otherwise is like training people to ski if you only watch skiing on TV)
- Understanding what it is that makes you valuable to other people and cultivating services that leverage that value
- Focusing on elevating others instead of elevating yourself
- Not claiming to be an expert or guru
Ultimately, what separates Angela from others selling services online is her dedication to making a long-lasting impact. The fact that she would be perfectly willing to give everything away for free if she did not have to support herself only seems to strengthen her earning power.