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EXECUTION Restarting the Engine After a Semi-failed Niche Attempt

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GoodluckChuck

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It's been a while since I posted any progress. The last thread was written at a high point, spring of this year. I was averaging 12k/mo and roaming around the world. It was great!

In the last few months, things have taken a turn for the worse. I attempted to niche my marketing business into the residential construction industry. The results weren't great.

I must have talked to over 50 business owners that inquired about marketing. 4 of them turned into monthly clients but bailed after only one month. 1 of them was my fault. The results my contractor and I produced were not up to par, so I gave them a full refund. The other 3 petered out on their own accord either because of budget or lack of real vision/goals. They just weren't the right type of clients I need to be working with to grow my own business.

Losing a couple of clients wasn't the end of the world because I have a good core group of clients that pay me monthly to maintain their marketing systems. The income generated from this pays my bills, but not much more.

Things started to fall apart about a month ago. A series of 5 large unforeseen expenses have set me back to the point where I've lost all the financial momentum I had built up. With no solid sales in the pipeline, it's forced me into a corner where I have to take immediate massive action or risk losing the life I've worked so hard to build.

Being forced to hustle to get by reminds me of a few years ago when I started my entrepreneurial journey. It's equal parts excitement and fear. It's a good mixture of emotions to instigate massive action.

Here's my plan to get back on track:

  1. I'm selling some stuff I don't use like my Nintendo Switch. I used my copywriting skills to make a rediculous listing on the Facebook marketplace. I talked about how I played Zelda while flying over the ocean... I posted it this morning and lined up a buyer for my asking price. Meeting him in the morning.

  2. I'm throwing a hail mary and going after a new niche market to sell my web design and marketing services. It's an unsexy industry and one that most people probably never heard of. To my knowledge, there isn't another marketing company that focuses on it. That could be good or bad...

    Their largest yearly meetup is this week and I'm going. I've been in contact with one of the keynote speakers and he's agreed to take me by the shoulder and introduce me to a bunch of potential clients. I've agreed to help him with his website and marketing as well as explore ways to collaborate on adding value to this industry. It could be really good, or nothing. I think it's worth the risk. I bought a year's membership for the association and tickets to the event. I got an Airbnb next door to the event center to save on hotel costs and used airline miles for the airfare. Got to love miles!

  3. I'm trying my hand at Upwork. I've had an account for a long time and have hired a lot of people on it, but never used it to find work. I found a lot of listings for marketing and content production related to the remodeling and construction industry, my specialty. I used all my credits sending 11 proposals. I love writing and know a shit load about remodeling, so it could be a good way to make some quick $ and build a reputation for future work with these clients and others.

  4. I've got marketing campaigns going for my marketing business aimed at residential construction. I haven't totally given up on this but will not be spending as much time as I was before pursuing it. I've written a couple of comprehensive articles over the last 3 days that should rank well on Google with a couple of backlinks and on-page SEO tweaks. I'm sending emails to my list of roughly 150 contractors sharing these articles with some semi-aggressive calls to action trying to get the right people to contact me about marketing.

With enough hustle, I know that something will pan out. If things aren't looking good in a month or so, I'm going to have to find a job to make ends meet while I continue to try and build this thing.

I'm disappointed in myself for letting it get to this point. I let my foot off the gas when things were going good and I'm paying for it now. It's a good lesson in life and business and one that I am taking to heart.

I'll do my best to share the details of this lesson as it unfolds so that you can learn from my successes and failures. I'll be vague about some details so that I can be more revealing about others.

Thanks for reading.
 

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Lucky Lu

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You mentioned that when you were thriving you decided to switch niches and did not work. Couldn't you just go back to what you were doing? And fron that move to the new segment at a more steady pace.

Good luck, you will make it for sure
 
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GoodluckChuck

GoodluckChuck

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You mentioned that when you were thriving you decided to switch niches and did not work. Couldn't you just go back to what you were doing? And fron that move to the new segment at a more steady pace.

Good luck, you will make it for sure
It's not really that I switched niches, I just started dedicating time and resources to a specific niche.

What I was doing before was straight hustling any way I could, which is exactly what I'm back to.
 
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GoodluckChuck

GoodluckChuck

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Sent 13 proposals on Upwork in the last 12 hours. I got one gig so far. Nothing huge, but it feels good to be able to make a couple hundred bucks appear out of nowhere. Instant feedback like this is rare in the entrepreneur world.

I got it because I made the cover letter personal and included a link to where my company website so they could see what I'm all about. The guy that hired me used to live in my city.
 

NMdad

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I like your #2 strategy of infiltrating a niche association--especially helping the keynote speaker, who can then introduce you to prospects. Industry associations can be good sources of prospects/clients, since you can often get a list of their members--or at least their leadership, who are often good prospects--and even after talking with a handful of prospects, you'll obtain deeper niche-specific info that'll help you formulate ways to help them.
 
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GoodluckChuck

GoodluckChuck

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Update:

The Convention:
The convention went well. I met a lot of people, namely a few influential people that are looked up to in the industry. I also connected with the marketing director of the organization and the editorial team and talked about writing articles for their website and publications. They are also interested in me possibly teaching workshops. All together the stage is set to add value to the industry and generate awareness for myself and my offerings.

I was also able to snag roughly 2500 names and business names of people that attended the convention. The event had a special app that allowed you to look through the list of attendees and add them to your list. You could then email yourself the list, so I've got an excel file with the names and business names. It took a few hours to manually get all of them, but I think it will be worth it. These folks were willing to spend hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars to attend this event. That's a good sign.

The plan is to go through and sort them based on region and type of business. Then, I'll go through the list and manually find the contact information and make contact. I'll use the event as a conversation starter and possibly leverage some of the connections I've made to instigate a conversation.

I learned a lot about the industry and the people that make it up. There is certainly a need for web design and marketing even though the industry as a whole is pretty busy right now. A lot of companies are seriously behind the times and haven't acknowledged the importance of technology. The ones that have embraced it are growing wildly.

On Monday I'll start reaching out to the people on my list and talking to them. We'll see what comes of it. This will be the first large cold outreach campaign that I've done so I expect to learn a lot.

Upwork:
Upwork has impressed me so far. With zero reputation, no specialized profiles, and nothing but a general profile, I've managed to land jobs with two people out of 15 proposals. For the first guy, I've already completed 5 jobs and have 2 more cooking over the weekend; all writing gigs. The second person hired me today to write some website content over the weekend.

The money isn't amazing but the ease at which I've been able to find gigs surprised me. If I were a young digital nomad sitting in Bali, I could earn enough in a week on Upwork to pay for a month of living no problem...

I'm looking forward to building up my profile as I believe it will just get easier to get higher-paying jobs.

I attribute the little bit of success I've had to my being able to write and communicate well. That's really all it is.

Selling Stuff:
I sold the Nintendo for $370 though I was asking for $350. I think Christmas time is the best time to sell this type of stuff. The demand was through the roof. Glad to have a little bit of extra change in the pocket for something I haven't looked at in 7 months.
 

ArnoldCopywriter

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Sent 13 proposals on Upwork in the last 12 hours. I got one gig so far. Nothing huge, but it feels good to be able to make a couple of hundred bucks appear out of nowhere. Instant feedback like this is rare in the entrepreneur world.

I got it because I made the cover letter personal and included a link to where my company website so they could see what I'm all about. The guy that hired me used to live in my city.
You mentioned having copywriting skills. Use those skills to small business owners that need sales copy. Find a business that is in desperate need of a copywriter, and you'll score a bigger check than scraping Upwork.

Ideas: Vets, Lawyers, Dentists, Gamers, Dating Site Owner, Local Grocery Stores, ...

... write them a stellar sales letter about how you can help market with your copywriting skills.

I
 
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GoodluckChuck

GoodluckChuck

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Update:

It's been a very interesting week. This whole "nearly running out of money" thing has forced me to take an honest look at myself and what I've been doing. The self-reflection brought some valuable realizations:


1. Money has been going out as fast as it's been coming in

Though I had fastlane moments where I was making money for very little time invested, I was spending it like a sidewalker, as fast as I could get it. This is the core of my issue with money lately. I've made decent money this year, so there's no reason why a handful of moderate expenses should put me into a place where I'm uncomfortable. This week I took a close look at my spending, cut the unnecessary reoccurring expenses and made a budget to put savings first.

I also talked to my girlfriend about the fact that I'm changing my spending habits to reflect my vision and build wealth longterm. No more spending willy nilly like I'm rich or something... While this moment in time was a stressor on our relationship, we've come out of it with a stronger bond and a willingness to be on the same page to pursue our mutual long-term goals. It brought a lot of things to the surface and has shown me that our relationship is healthy.


2. My "failed niche attempt" was actually a failed follow-through

I seriously took my foot off the gas as far as pursuing sales goes. I didn't realize this until I was going through my website and automating some things. I set up marketing systems for a living so my clients enjoy little features such as getting a notification on their phone when a new lead comes in. Why hadn't I had this stuff initiated in my own business? Why, when I look back over the last few months, can I see dozens of leads that never got followed up with correctly? My sales guy needs to be fired. I'm my sales guy! Shit!

This wasn't a failed niche attempt, it's a failed follow through. The title of this thread must be changed...

When I was traveling in Asia in the Spring, I pumped the breaks hard on sales because I didn't want to be up in the middle of the night selling. I wanted to be enjoying my travels. When I came home, I was slow to adjust back into a normal working routine. I got sidetracked with things like 75 Hard and neglected my business. It sounds silly now that I have realized what I was doing, but this is a perfect example of self-sabotaging. I think, deep down, I was enjoying having little responsibility and still having enough to get by.

Changing life goals and a changing environment have snapped me out of that mode in a very uncomfortable way. It was kind of like a FTE in my own mind and I'm so glad it happened... I needed life to scream in my face to wake the F*ck up!

I spent two days going through my website, updating everything, and setting up automation so that I'm fully prepared to be the salesman my company needs to grow. Just this little bit of momentum has really picked up my spirits as now I'm talking to new leads daily and can work on qualifying them as time goes on.

I have adjusted my thinking to look at things more long-term than ever before. I'm looking years ahead and spending my limited time in a way I think will pay off the most for me personally and financially.


The Daily Execution Model

First, I spend 3 hours per day teaching myself how to program web apps. (Right now I'm using Django, if anyone cares...) I have a few apps in mind that I want to use myself and I see this skill as being a fantastic addition to my other professional skills and something that will allow me to have a greater impact in the future. I set a timer early each morning, about 6 am, and practice coding until the 3 hours are up. I also read documentation, etc. at night before I go to bed. I see this as the minimum I need to invest in building this skill to get anywhere soon.

The rest of my day is spent on/in the business. 30 minutes each morning making passes through my own marketing and making adjustments on design and copy. The rest of the time is split 70/30 - 70% is pursuing new sales and 30% is working on client stuff and Upwork proposals.

Upwork will move to the back burner as higher-paying work comes in but it's sort of like an atm for quick money doing simple skill-building work like writing. I see building a solid Upwork profile as a great idea for anyone who does freelance work and has extra time. I know a few agency owners who get the majority of their clients through Upwork because they have built up a reputation that attracts the clients they want.

It's almost Christmas so it's not the best time to be talking to prospects, but it will be over before we know it and I'll be sprinting hard, only looking back to remind myself of where I don't want to be.
 
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GoodluckChuck

GoodluckChuck

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Update:

Well, you know what they say. It's a process. That's exactly what I'm experiencing.

It's been over a month since my last update and I've been diligently working on the strategy I laid out in past posts, doing my best to track my efforts and progress.

This might be the last update in this thread since the main point of it seems to be that it's easy to get off track even when you think you're on track. It has been a lesson in humility and self-honesty for me and I'm happy to have gone through it. I'm also happy to share some of the progress and insights to help someone out someday when the words reach them at the right time.


Programming:
Since the new year started, I've spent about 60 hours on learning programming. Between Christmas and New Years I interviewed for a job as a front end web developer for a high volume company that builds marketing-related apps for big names like Linkedin.

I didn't apply for this job... I stopped in to see a friend of mine right before Christmas and told them I was teaching myself software development and I thought I would be able to learn 100x faster if I were in the right environment. Without even telling me what they were doing, they pulled out their phone and sent an email to a hiring manager at this company...

I went in for the interview and told them straight-up: I'm a marketer who is learning how to build applications. I don't have hardly any experience with coding but can learn quickly. They told me that coding experience is secondary to a great attitude and ability + willingness to learn new technologies. Perfect!

They sent me home with a coding test to build a "really simple" app with HTML/CSS and Vanilla JS, not Jquery. (Oh boy, I have never coded in Vanilla JS...)

I went home and got to work on it. In the guidelines, it was supposed to take about 3-4 hours, but it took me ~12 to hack together an app that mostly worked. I sent it back along with a readme explaining my thought process and where my app fell short.

In the following weeks, I followed up with them every 5 days or so and kept being told they were behind in assessing the candidates. In the meantime, I was spending 3-7 hours per day taking VanillaJS courses and practicing on my own apps.

After two weeks, I had learned a shit load. So much so that when I looked at the original app I sent them, I knew I had to redo it. Since they hadn't hit me back yet, I did just that. I rebuilt the app 100x better than the first go-around and carefully documented my code so they could understand my thought process. All together it took me about 6 hours, so I was certainly improving on speed as well as quality.

After I sent it over the hiring manager sent me an email saying they really appreciated my giving it another go and would be contacting me the next week. That was last week, so they have until the end of the day to stick to their word.

It would be amazing and unexpected for me to pick up a dev job with almost no coding experience, but I had to try, so here we are. Building the skills-assessment app was the best learning experience for me so far because building something real for other people with their specifications forced me to learn what I needed to learn to complete the project. The level of motivation doesn't compare to taking courses and building my own apps when I don't have a clear idea of what the end result has to be.

I hope to hear back from them soon with an offer with a solid salary because my marketing business is picking up fast and if that blows up, I'm going to forgo the job idea for now because I have to do what's going to net me the most income.


Marketing Business:
Daily execution on outreach and my own marketing has yielded some results. I now have a healthy pipeline and even sold a decent sized project last week.

I originally started this thread by saying that the niche attempt had failed, but now that I've realized my efforts were not 100%, I've been giving that niche more attention, and it's paying off. It's winter so it's slow season for this niche, which is good for getting business owners to think about marketing. It's also tax season so a lot of folks are getting ready to invest.

I've been doubling down on SEO to try and get more people in my email list without having to invest any dollars. It's working pretty well and giving me breathing room to figure more things out.


The Convention:
I attended a convention in December for a new niche I'm exploring. All-in-all the trip was not a major success. I acquired a huge list of names and business names, but no contact information, so in order to reach out I have to manually find contact info, which is not my style. I prefer inbound marketing.

With that said, I did learn some things about the industry and planted a few seeds with key people.

Then, last week, I was invited to speak at another conference in the same niche. I guess they invited me a couple of months prior but I didn't get the email for one reason or another... So, I found out I was on the speaking list 3 days before the speech. Awesome...

I have never spoken in public before so being in the Main Hall with over 100 people in the audience was a big deal to me. I attended the first day of the conference and listened to the keynote, then went to the local library to put together my presentation. Back in high school I ALWAYS waited until the last minute to do everything, so I am very practiced in busting things out right before the deadline.

I put together an hour-long presentation with Google slides and practiced it about 5 times before my voice started to waver. At that point, I had prepared as much as I could and needed to get some rest for the next morning. I was speaking at 8 am.

Now, up until this point I had managed to keep the nerves at bay by focusing all my attention on visualizing the people in the audience getting value from my speech and going off to implement what they learned in their business. This worked like a charm for occupying my conscious mind and letting my unconscious work on how I was going to achieve that.

But, something happened. As I laid in bed I would start to fall asleep and right before The Zzz's started flowing I would think about the speech and get an adrenaline rush forced me wide awake. This went on all.... night..... long.....

I got a grand total of 0 sleep that night...

I was so tired by the time I had to go present that I just kept telling myself "I'm too tired to be worried." And, that worked! I was calm as a cucumber. With some coffee and some stimulation, I didn't feel all that tired.

As I was waiting for my speech to begin I noticed the president of the organization was sitting at the table next to me so I picked up my breakfast plate and went to sit with him. I introduced myself and asked him about his business. I told him my speech was on marketing and he told me about his experience with marketing. Everything he said about the industry lined up perfectly with what I was about to talk about, and I told him that. He asked if he could record the speech for his son to watch, and of course, I obliged.

This was perfect. The president of the organization just totally agreed and accepted my premise. This paid off big time when he got up on stage to introduce me. He gave me a lot of kudos and helped the audience trust me before I started talking. Since I mentioned I had been at the national conference he assumed I meant as a speaker, so he introduced me as a speaker at the national conference... Whoops. I wasn't about to correct him so that was a little serendipity at work.

When I got up to talk, I started off with a joke about how I got no sleep the night before because of a cat. That wasn't true, it was nerves, not a cat, but the keynote the day before had told a joke about a cat so I linked it to his joke and got a lot of laughs. At that point, I relaxed and gave a great presentation.

The clicker I bought the day before ran out of batteries right when I started, so I had to constantly walk on and off stage while I was talking. I don't know how I pulled it off but I stayed calm and got through all my talking points.

After the presentation, one of the guys that work for the organization came up to me and said, "People are asking me for your business card. Do you have any?"

Did I ever... I had actually printed 25 flyers for the first event but never found a good chance to hand them out, so I gave him the stack.

5 minutes later he came back and said he needed more, so I handed him a stack of 50 business cards. He said, "I will definitely be able to get rid of these."

I also had a few people come up to me to ask questions and request my business card so they could call later.

What a huge success... I didn't try to push my services at all during the talk and I think that paid off. The keynote the day before finished with 10 minutes of pitching and I could tell the audience was not stoked on that.

Another thing I did that helped was I matched my appearance to the audience. I had brought a business jacket and button-up shirt, gel, and my razor so I could clean myself up but the audience a sea of beards and hats with glasses, so that's what I wore.

I went up on stage with a full beard, hat with sunglasses, with a sweatshirt and jeans. I think looking exactly like 90% of the audience helped them relate to me.

All in all, I got a few dozen leads out of it and confirmed my suspicions that this niche could really use my services. I also discovered that I have a knack for public speaking and actually really enjoy it. I plan on finding more opportunities in the future to share my knowledge and spread awareness about my products and services.


Summary:
So, it's been about two months since I hit dire straights and I've managed to crawl out of the hole stronger than before. I learned that taking my foot off the gas can have dire consequences and that it's important to work hard to keep the momentum up even when you feel like it doesn't need help staying that way.

I've got a lot of options moving forward and am excited to see how it unfolds.
 

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